Friday, February 28, 2014

Maybe The Best Cookie Ever....

I went for a run the other day.

Pause for reaction.....

I don't run. I am very active. I try to go to the gym on a regular basis. I love to walk for hours around my neighborhood. I do yoga at home. But I do not run. In my opinion, if I can feel my knees and shins screaming at me the whole time, it's probably not good for me.

However, the other day I was just feeling like I needed to run. Don't ask me why, I just needed to do it. Like it would be cathartic or something. So I ran.

Then I came home and made these cookies. So...........Yeah. I guess I felt like I deserved them or something? My brain is weird. Why would  you run and then make cookies? Shouldn't I have eaten vegetables instead? Or a chicken breast or something? Whatever. I made cookies.

These are my new all-time favorite cookies. I'm not a huge cookie person (pausing again for reaction......I told you, I'm a weirdo). But this salty, chocolately, buttery concoction? This would turn anyone into a cookie person. They look like normal cookies right? But wait, what's that crunchy white stuff in the middle? Oh yeah. THAT'S BUTTERED POPCORN! Brilliant! Genius! Four stars! I'm just going to start putting popcorn in everything I bake. Popcorn and whiskey.

Make these cookies. And be sure to eat some of the cookie dough (does that even need to be said?). It's so good. No need to go for a run before.

I got this recipe from Joy the Baker. She's the bomb. Joy pops her own popcorn and adds butter to it. I just threw a bag of microwave popcorn in the microwave. Just use whatever you've got.

Buttered Popcorn Chocolate Chip Cookies (from Joy the Baker)

1 bag of microwave popcorn, popped according to directions

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate (I just used semi-sweet chocolate chips)

coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Add all of your sugars and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat for at least 5 minutes on high speed until fluffy. Add your egg and vanilla extract and beat for another minute on medium speed. Now add your flour, baking soda, and salt and mix on a low speed until just combined. Add four cups of microwave popcorn and fold into the batter with a rubber spatula. The popcorn will break down a little bit, but that's fine. This will seem like way too much popcorn, but just keep working it in. Once the popcorn is evenly distributed, fold in the chocolate.

Eat a big spoonful of cookie dough. This step is very important.

Now, spoon cookie dough onto your cookie sheets in big heaps. I like to shape my cookies into balls and then press them down and shape them a bit. Try and make them all about the same size, they will cook more evenly. Ideally, you should weigh out your cookie dough so that they are all exactly the same size. But, ain't nobody got time for that.

Sprinkle cookies with sea salt. I'm a big salty/sweet kinda girl, so I go a bit crazy with the salt. But this is really up to you.

Bake cookies for 10 to 13 minutes. Always take your cookies out a little bit earlier than you think. I cook my cookies until the edges are BARELY brown. BARELY! But if they look gooey in the middle, let them go for a minute or two more. Crunchy cookies = frowny face. Chewy cookies = happy campers.

Let cool and devour.

This may sound like blasphemy, but I like these better than plain chocolate chip cookies. But, like I said, I'm a weirdo.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Quilted Jacket, Lace Dress

I read an article the other day about how to know when it it time to get rid of an article of clothing. One of the deciding factors was whether or not you've worn the article in the last two  years. If not, then it's time to get rid of it. This coat definitely falls into that category. I wore it yesterday just to spite that article.

I am considering a bit of spring cleaning for my closet. It's a nightmare in there. But I've now officially worn this coat in the last two years, so it gets to stay.

On a side note, I'm getting a hair cut tomorrow and I'm over the moon about it. My hair hasn't been professionally cut in.........hmmmm.......I don't even know. A really long time. I normally just take a pair of kitchen scissors to it every six months or so. My hair actually looks pretty great in these photos (I'm so modest), but I promise you, the bottom 2 inches are totally fried. I'm not really good at styling my hair, so I'm taking notes tomorrow. Literally. I'll let you guys know if I get any good tips.

Jacket: Old, Dress: Anthropologie, Shoes: Target, Sparkly Bracelet: J.Crew Factory, Earrings: Guess, Assorted Jewels.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Beer To Pick Up This Weekend: Lagunitas IPA

The weekend is just getting started for me. I have three days off! THREE! I have a lot on my to-do list: lots of pinning, blogging, and watching Sherlock. I don't know if I'm going to be able to get it all done. It's gonna be tough.

One thing I wish I could do this weekend is drink this beer. I only recently discovered it. Reason: you can't get it in Memphis. I went to visit my brother and his wife (who live in Nashville) and I had it at Burger Republic (a pretty great burger, even better spiked milkshakes, and tater tots with truffle oil. Need I say more?). Then I went to Knoxville to visit some friends and I had it at another burger joint (overrated and not worth mentioning). I picked up a six-pack in Knoxville and I was so sad when I finished it. Why this beer is in Nashville and Knoxville and not Memphis is beyond me. Hurry up Memphis and get this awesome beer (Cash Saver, I'm talking to you!). Memphians want a Lagunitas IPA with their burger too!

It's just a damn good IPA. No fuss, no frills, just good. It's not going to knock you down with it's IPA-ness (a very technical beer term), but it's not wimpy either. It's got a score of 87 on BeerAdvocate which classifies this beer as "very good." I think maybe the reason why I like it so much is that I have to travel to get it (we covered this topic when we discussed Abita Strawberry Lager). But if you happen to live in a city that has it, give it a try. If you do try it, leave me a comment letting me know what you think. And what city you are in. I'd like to know who's got it.

Since I won't be drinking a Lagunitas this weekend, I'll have to try something new to recommend to you guys (my life is so hard sometimes). And I promise it won't be an IPA. I pinky promise.

As always, drink responsibly. Preferably on your couch while watching Sherlock.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A New Round Of Hosting Tips

AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!! I know I'm the worst blogger ever, I haven't blogged since last week! But in my excuse, I started a new job AND threw a huge party, so I think I deserve a round of applause. And a large glass of wine.

With every event that I throw I learn something new. Most of the parties I've had at my house have been on the small side. Just close friends or close family getting together and enjoying each other's company. I did host my grandmother's 75th birthday party, but my mom handled almost every aspect of it. I just cleaned my house (which, at the time, was a huge ordeal). This past weekend I threw a wedding shower for two of mine and my husband's closest friends. The party was a huge success, and I've come away with a few new tips for people who are just starting to entertain.

1). Get someone to help you. My husband and I did most of the work, but I had the foresight to ask my mom to come early on the day of the party to help us out. Of course, she said, "I didn't do anything" but just having her there took a lot of stress off of me. Don't try to do everything alone.

2). Start early. I started planning this party in January. I was constantly making lists about what needed to be done before the party and setting weekly goals to accomplish everything. Therefore, by the time the party came around, all I really had to do was some light cleaning and a little bit of cooking.

3). Don't forget the music! This one was a freebie. About ten minutes before the guests arrived, I panicked and exclaimed, "oh no, we need music!" My brother, miraculously and without being asked, had created a playlist for the occasion. I was so overwhelmingly grateful! If you have a friend that is good at creating playlists, reach out to them (my brother actually did my wedding playlist). But if not, start thinking about the crowd. Older? Younger? Mix of both? Music makes people feel at ease, don't forget about it! And don't just play your favorite songs! Lately, all I've been listening to is K-Pop (Korean pop music, for those who don't know), but I don't think everyone wants to listen to that all night long. You've got to think about your guests.

4). Don't cook everything. This one is so hard for me. I want to make everything from scratch, but that is just too much to put on yourself. I decided to make all of the desserts and to buy all of the dips pre-made. A mix of scratch made and pre-made will make everything easier.

5). If you are serving alcohol, don't skimp on the amount! I'd always rather have too much than not enough. You want people to loosen up and have a good time. Running out of alcohol is a sign that the party is over. We bought what we thought was way too much, but all we had left was half a bottle of wine. So........yeah.

This was the most relaxed I've ever been at my own party. I think it is mainly because I started planning so early. Big parties require a lot of planning, so start way in advance! And have fun! If the host/hostess isn't having fun, no one is having fun.
The happy couple! I just realized they both wore pink. Pretty adorable. Read my last round of hosting tips here. (Sorry my photos are so grainy, my house is so dark).

Friday, February 7, 2014

Spinach, Bacon, and English Cheddar Breakfast Tacos With Homemade Flour Tortillas

Time to switch things up. Lately, it's been all chocolate and sugar and butter here on The Starving Artist. But I promise you that is not all that I eat. I swear I eat my fruits and vegetables! I cook multiple times a day, but I'm definitely a creature of habit. I'm much more experimental with my baking than with my day to day cooking, that's why you see more of it. I make homemade pizzas, Mexican food, or soup most nights. Boring but delicious.

I make pretty much everything we eat around here from scratch. I make bread. I make stock. I don't buy lunch meat or frozen foods. Basically, I have a fear of anything processed. I like to keep things as basic as possible. I'll do the cooking and the seasoning, thank you very much. However, lately I've been buying flour tortillas almost every week. My husband and I have become addicted to tortilla pizzas and I eat a breakfast burrito probably everyday for lunch (I told you, I'm a creature of habit).

So I've been thinking, maybe it's time to try my hand at homemade flour tortillas. 1). They will most definitely be cheaper made from scratch and 2). they will most definitely be healthier. So I gave it a go.

Most of the recipes I found called for lard. I couldn't bring myself to buy lard (I have no problem with Karo syrup, but I draw the line at lard). I searched and searched and finally found this recipe that called for shortening or vegetable oil.

The verdict? Very good but not as soft as the ones that you buy in the store. Possibly I overcooked them, or I need to add a little more liquid. I have found that with corn tortillas practice makes perfect, so I have no doubt that flour tortillas are the same. I'm sure that my next batch will be much better. And maybe I'll try the lard. Maybe.

Oh and I made you a breakfast taco. You're welcome.

Homemade Flour Tortillas

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil or vegetable shortening
1/2 cup warm water or 1/2 cup milk (I used milk. Generally, if a recipe calls for water or milk, go with milk)

Whisk flour, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl. Drizzle in vegetable oil and mix with your fingertips. It should get clumpy and crumbly. This is good.

Add liquid and mix together until you get a sticky ball of dough. Just go ahead and use your hands for this, they're already covered in flour. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Separate dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Cover with a damp towel. Place a piece of plastic wrap down on a flat surface. Place one ball of dough onto plastic wrap and top with another piece of plastic wrap. This will allow you to roll your dough out very thin without it sticking to your rolling pin. Keep the little balls of dough covered with the damp towel while you roll the tortillas so they don't dry out.

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high heat. Cook tortillas for about thirty seconds on each side. They will begin to puff up when they are ready to be flipped (see the little pockets of air in the tortilla below? It's ready to flip.)

Cover your cooked tortillas with a dry towel as you cook the others. This will keep them warm and soften them up a bit. These tortillas are best eaten right away, but apparently you can refrigerate these for up to a week. Just wrap them in plastic to keep all the air out.

Now that we have made homemade flour tortillas (like a boss), let's reward ourselves with some bacon.

Spinach, Bacon, and English Cheddar Breakfast Tacos

Scramble 2 eggs. I have to say, I make the best scrambled eggs of all time (I'm so humble). Here's how I do it:

Whisk 2 eggs with a little water, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Add a pat of butter to whisked eggs. Add eggs to a small pot (this is very important) and place over low heat. The trick is to scramble your eggs slowly. I place them in a small pot so that the eggs don't scorch. If you cook them in a big saucepan with a lot of surface area, as most people do, they cook too fast and the flavor is not as delicate. So, cook your eggs in a small pot, over low heat, and mix occasionally with a spatula until desired doneness. I like my eggs just a little wet.

Grab two tortillas. Place a handful of spinach, a spoonful of salsa, a few bacon crumbles (I used one slice of bacon and crumbled it over both tacos, but feel free to add more!) and some shredded English cheddar cheese on each tortilla. Add the hot eggs on top. This will melt the cheese, which is a must. Garnish with a few sprigs of cilantro. There you have it! A perfect breakfast taco!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fur and Floral

What I love about this coat (besides how fabulous it is) is that, because it is impenetrable to cold, you can basically wear a bikini under it and still be warm. Hence the crop top. And the shoes that should probably be reserved for spring and summer. I bought these shoes for myself the other day. I got them at Target for $34.99, and they had them in black, brown, and nude (and they have a cool blue color online). So.....yeah. You should go to Target.

Fur: Vintage, Denim Jacket: Old Navy, Crop Top: Target, Pants: Hand-Me-Downs, Shoes: Target