Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Toni's Post-Session Stew

This stew has a few Japanese ingredients like seaweed, sake, and panko bread crumbs thrown into a pot with potatoes, crimini mushrooms and (!) chickpeas. This was another 'whatever's in the kitchen' experiment that became a cold weather favorite! It's very filling and satisfying, especially after mountain biking or surfing when I'm feeling hungry enough to eat my own leg.

2 cups vegetable broth
3 red potatoes, cubed
1 can chickpeas
4 sliced crimini mushrooms
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 pound tofu, pressed (optional) not necessary to deliciousness but more filling if you have it
1 large carrot, sliced
1 cup sake
1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1/8 cup shredded dried green seaweed
1/4 cup bonito (fish) flakes (optional)
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. Asian chili oil (optional)
freshly ground black pepper

put a large pot of the veggie broth to a boil. add the potatoes and carrots. Meanwhile saute the mushrooms. after about 15 minutes add everything but the panko. simmer for about another 15. stir in the panko and serve.

serves 4-5

Lemon Chicken Penne with Braising Greens

At first glance, this dish doesn't seem very mad science-y. Come on, chicken and pasta? The reason I am posting this is to make you all use your noodles (pun intended) whenever you think you don't have enough in your pantry to cook a kickass meal.
I thought I had no food in the house and was about to go waste 20 bucks at Saturn Cafe when I remembered the braising greens I had just bought at the farmers market. I didn't really know what to do with them and had bought them simply because they contained something called "dinosaur kale". I'll admit I didn't and still don't know what "braising" means, but to me it sounded like quickly stir-fried or something along those lines. I remembered then I had a bag of frozen thighs in the freezer I bought for a (failed) teriyaki chicken attempt. The best idea seemed to be to throw it all on top of penne pasta and see what happened. I loved the outcome and hope you will too!

2 cups dry penne pasta
2 chicken thighs
1 1/2 cup braising greens (or just use kale)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. salt
black or lemon pepper

boil a pot of salted water and add the penne. While it's cooking, heat a skillet with a little oil and add the chicken. squeeze the lemon juice onto the chicken during the last 5 minutes of cooking. once the chicken is cooked add the braising greens, pepper, marjoram, and salt to the skillet. Cook for only about a minute and a half longer; you want the greens to be a little crunchy. serve on top of penne with a drizzle of olvie oil and parmesan cheese.

serves 2

Friday, October 8, 2010

Raw Ahi Tuna in Coconut Milk

This is a delicious, boyfriend/girlfriend-pleasing mixture of raw Ahi Tuna, coconut milk, and spices. I had just enjoyed yet another Ahi Poke from Aloha Island Grill and was looking up recipes for Fijian Kokoda when I knew I had to make this.

1/2 pound raw Ahi Tuna, preferably sushi grade
1 "mini" can coconut milk or half of a normal-size can.
2 green onions, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1/8 cup crushed Macadamia nuts
1 Tbsp. curry powder
Sea Salt
Sriracha Sauce
1 cup Jasmine Rice

On a clean, smooth surface and with the sharpest knife you can possibly find, cut the tuna into small cubes. Mix with the coconut milk, curry powder, green onions and salt. Cover and refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the rice. When it's done, serve the tuna on top of the rice topped with carrot, macadamia, and Sriracha.

I found this tip for cooking with Ahi Tuna on someone's blog. I wish I remembered the name so I could credit this person. "Serve with the receipt from the Tuna."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Plantain Soup

I tore this recipe out of a copy of Latina magazine at the doctor's office about 2 years ago and have just now tried making it. I was so overcome with grief over my entire life spent without this soup that I could barely eat it! Hopefully you're better about keeping the floodgates closed because really, it's delicious!
The article outlined three ways to make it: Traditional, healthy, and fast. I combined healthy and fast (traditional calls for frying the plantains instead of baking them, and fast just means buying pre-packaged soup base veggies and using a food processor instead of a mortar and pestle.

2 large ripe Plantains
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 medium rib celery, finely chopped
(again, you can speed up the process if you buy pre-chopped "soup base" veggies. It includes all three of these)
Nonstick cooking spray
6 cups chicken or veggie broth
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lime cut into wedges

Peel and thinly slice plantains. Place slices in a large bowl of cold, salted water for 30 minutes, then drain and pat dry.
warm vegetable oil and saute the veggies until the onion wilts, about 3 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350, spray a baking sheet and bake plantains about 20 minutes, turning them once halfway through. Mash them into a thick paste with a food processor or mortar and pestle.
In a large pot, heat broth over medium heat. Add the sauteed veggies, then stir in plantain paste gradually. Add salt and pepper and simmer until smooth and creamy.
Serve with a lime wedge and some salsa or hot sauce. The recipe doesn't say this, but I like to warm some flour tortillas for dipping.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


If you don't think you've ever had popovers, you're probably wrong.

Now that we've gotten that initial harshness of reality out of the way, I'll let you know you've probably had popovers except they were called Yorkshire Pudding. It's seriously exactly the same thing except popovers are more commonly associated with breakfast, at least for me. MAKE SURE ALL THE INGREDIENTS ARE ROOM TEMPERATURE BEFORE BLENDING!

Preheat oven to 400. You will need:

6 eggs
2 cups milk
3/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. butter
2 cups flour

beat eggs and milk until blended.
combine flour and salt, cut in butter.
add flour to egg mixture and gradually blend.
fill well-greased custard cups or popover pan (looks like a really deep muffin tin) a little more than halfway full.
Bake for 1 hour. serve with strawberry jam or whatever you want because once again they're your creation! MUHAHAHHA!

TIP: Place cups or popover pan on top of a baking sheet before putting it in the oven to protect against the inevitable spillage.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

how to make infused olive oils

I read something about spruce tip-infused olive oil and thought I would try it since there are a lot of evergreens in santa cruz. I found a "christmas" tree on my bike ride home one day and harvested a couple handfulls of the bright green new baby tips. The oil turned out amazing! you can make this with just about anything fragrant that you want your oil to smell/taste like. I've been going through a homemade pizza phase lately and I must say this spruce-flavored olive oil tastes just right sprinkled on top of a pizza! I'm also excited to try it on salmon some day.

You will need:
1 bottle extra virgin olive oil
enough spruce/evergreen tips (or whatever herb you want your oil to taste like) to fill the bottle about 1/3 full. if the spruce tips have any papery brown skin stuck to them, remove it.

pour all the olive oil into a pot and heat slowly.
meanwhile, rinse pine tips/herbs and dry thoroughly. stuff it down the neck of the bottle.
Once the oil reaches about 130-140 degrees, pour it into a glass/pyrex measuring cup with a pouring tip.
Pour the oil into the bottle until it's full again. Screw the cap on and refrigerate for 2 weeks, shaking the bottle gently every couple days or whenever you think of it. Use it in salad dressings, marinades, or whatever you feel like using it in because it's YOUR CREATION!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fried Plantains with Cinnamon-Sugar Cream Cheese Topping

So this morning I was frying up some plantains for a snack and watching Paula's Home Cooking on the Food Network, mostly just for background noise. I was just going to eat them with some cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top, but then my selective hearing caught Paula saying two words: "cream cheese". After switching off the light bulb that had just appeared over my head, I went to the fridge for the cream cheese I knew was lurking somewhere near the back of the cluttered college house black hole of food storage. I had never tried mixing cream cheese with anything before today, but it turned out quite well which is why I'm choosing to share it!

1 Plantain (aka "cooking banana"). Let plantains get a little riper than you would bananas, about half brown and half yellow.
3 Tbsp. olive oil for frying
1/8 Cup Cream Cheese
Cinnamon/Sugar mixture. Buy it in a pre-mixed shaker or make your own!

Peel the plantain and slice it at an angle so the slices are longer. Heat the oil and fry the plantain pieces on medium-high heat, about 4-5 minutes per side or until golden brown. Meanwhile, heat cream cheese in the microwave for about 6 seconds. No really, only 6 seconds. We want it soft but not melted, so the cinnamon and sugar will mix in evenly. Add a tablespoon to the softened cream cheese and blend with a spoon, then taste it to decide whether or not to add more. Spoon the topping over fried plantains and sprinkle more cinnamon and sugar on top. IT'S SO GOOD!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Yam Gnocchi with Zang! Sauce

I thought I was the first one ever to think of making orange yam gnocchi, until a quick google image search proved me wrong. But oh well, I was so excited to have thought of it on my own that I couldn't wait to try it! Zang! sauce is made from a few of my most favoritest things (dried cranberries, olive oil, and of course macadamia nuts) and the clever name was conceived by my friend and housemate Aliyah Cline. I made this recipe using guidelines from a regular gnocchi recipe, but even with regular potatoes I found it needs a lot more flour than the recipe says because it always ends up too sticky and hard to deal with. So make sure you have a lot of flour lying around =]

2 pounds garnet yams
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups flour (at least)

Another 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 Cup dried cranberries
1/3 Cup macadamia nuts
2 cloves garlic, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 400. Pierce yam skins and bake for about 45 minutes, depending on size. If you can stick a knife all the way through with no "crunchy" feeling, then they're done. Let them cool completely, then peel the skins off with your hands (they'll come off easily).
Mash together the cooked and peeled yams, salt and olive oil. Add the flour in small amounts and mix it in. This is where it starts to get messy, so I like to take the whole project outside at this point. Once you're able to touch it without it sticking to your hands too much (add flour to your hands periodically to help with this), transfer the dough ball to a cutting board. Hopefully you'll be outside, so keep adding flour until it feels like bread dough.

Chop the dough ball into three equal parts. Roll each section into a 1/2 in. thick rope. `Cut each rope into pieces about 1/2 in. long.

Boil a large pot of water. Roll dough pieces into balls and drop them into the boiling water in batches small enough so that they don't pile on top of each other. Wait for the gnocchi to rise to the top, then let them cook about a minute longer. Remove with a slotted spoon.
Meanwhile, cook the garlic, dice the macadamias, and mix with the rest of the Zang! ingredients. When the gnocchi are done, toss in a bowl with the sauce and serve. Yum!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Baked Oatmeal

Anthony loves baked oatmeal! Do you?

No, not oatmeal cookies, but just as good! This is my friend Jeanne's recipe that I enjoyed for the first time a couple weeks ago. I modified it for the sake of using stuff I already had around the house (Apples and dates instead of pears and apricots). And really, what kind of culinary mad scientist would I be without a little experimentation here and there? My version is also vegan, if that means anything to anyone reading this =P. It was absolutely amazing and would be perfect for a sunday brunch or potluck, because it's good any time of day. I should know since I made mine around ten at night. For comparisons' sake and since I didn't even use eggs in mine, I'll put Jeanne's recipe first, followed by the one I used:

2 cups regular rolled oats
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped apricots
1 ½ cups milk
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped almonds
1 firm-ripe pear, stemmed, cored and chopped into 1/4"
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp. oil

2 Cups Rolled oats
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup chopped pitted dates
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/ 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1 apple, cored and chopped into 1/4"
2 flax seed "eggs" (2 Tbsp. flax seeds, crushed in a blender and mixed with 6 Tbsp. water)
3 Tbsp Oil

"Preheat oven to 325. In large bowl, mix oats, baking powder and salt. Stir in almonds, apricots and pears (macadamias, dates, and apples).
In another bowl, whisk together (almond) milk, (flax seed) eggs, brown sugar, oil and cinnamon. Pour over the oat mixture and stir to combine.
Pour mixture into a Pam-ed 8” or 9” square baking pan. Bake until liquid is absorbed and top is light golden, about 45 minutes. Spoon into bowls and serve warm. Serve with the usual choices of sugar, brown sugar, raisins, milk…whatever."

"To prep the night before, mix the oats, baking powder, salt, almonds and apricots in a bowl; cover and let stand at room temperature. In another bowl, combine the milk, eggs, brown sugar, oil and cinnamon; cover and chill. Next morning, mix the two together and stir in pear and bake."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kale Chips

So who likes chips? I guess a better question would be "who doesn't like chips?". But these are no ordinary potato, tortilla, or even those delicious guacamole-flavored chips. These are veggie chips that are actually MADE FROM VEGGIES!
If you're not familiar with Kale, it's like curly spinach that's a little more bitter when it's raw. It's on the "superfood" list (?) so that means it's good for you, right? The baking process and spices take the bitterness and toughness away, leaving you with perfectly crispy little green chippers. These are really easy and fast to make, and I guarantee they'll be gone in a flash!

You will need:
-1 bunch Kale
-2 Tbsp. Olive oil
-2 Tbsp. Lemon or Lime juice
-1/2 tsp. Cumin
-1/2 tsp. Coriander
-1/2 tsp. Salt

Preheat oven to 250.
Rinse the Kale and let dry completely. Tear the leaves from the thick center stem to make "chip-size" pieces.
Mix all the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice in a large bowl.
Add the Kale to the bowl and mix with your hands until all the leaves are completely coated. Rubbing individual leaves together helps with this.
Place the Kale on a large baking sheet. Make sure every leaf is flat against the sheet; they won't get crispy if they're piled on top of each other. You may need to use 2 baking sheets.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on crispiness. Turn the leaves over, sprinkle the lemon juice on top and bake for another 10 minutes.

Ohh...gee, Billy, these Kale Chips are so tasty, I just can't stop eating them! mmmm...
Me either! mmmmmmmmm........mmmmmmmmmmad spatula!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sweet & Spicy Yucca

At first I wanted to call this "Yucca Surprise", but then thought it sounded too much like mystery meat they would serve in a grade school cafeteria, So I decided on "Sweet and Spicy". Despite the spicy part, this is really more of a dessert because it's still so darn sweet. I've eaten Yucca at Salvadoran restaurants and was disappointed with its' blandness. This was my first time cooking it myself, and I was determined to grab blandness by the neck and throw it against the nearest brick wall with my spicy super-strength.

If you don't have maple yogurt (which you should because it's amazing), just use plain yogurt and some maple syrup!

1 Yucca root, peeled and cubed
1 Cup Maple Yogurt
1/2 Cup Apple sauce
2 tsp. ground Coriander seed
1 tsp. Cinammon
1 1/2 Tbsp. Sriracha sauce or any hot chili sauce
1 tsp. salt

Boil the Yucca for about 20 minutes until soft (Just pretend you're cooking potatoes) and drain.
In a deep frying pan, heat the yogurt and spices. Add the drained Yucca and stir until coated.

Turn down the heat and let it cook for about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the apple sauce. I guess I could say you're done.

Oh yeah, and Yucca roots make excellent mustaches.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Orange Devil Curry

This demonic curry will send you to hell and back! Well, not exactly. It didn't come out as spicy as I expected, but it was still absolutely delicious!
For those of you who don't know, I'm a hopeless curry addict. That's not going to change any time soon, so I decided to make a curry dish with an "orange" theme, meaning using as much orange-colored food as possible! The stars of the show are yams, butternut squash, and kumquats (you know, those sour little orange citrus things)! You can get kumquats at the health food store, or if you're me, off a bush in grandpa's garden when you were little.
This is unlike any curry I've ever made. It's like a summer vacation spot where sweet, spicy, and tart all hang out on the beach and become best friends! DIETERS BEWARE: you'll be back for seconds before you can say "How many Weight Watchers points is this?"

1 can Coconut milk
1 tsp. Chinese Five Spice powder
1 tsp. Curry powder
1 tsp. Garlic powder
1 dried California chili pepper, stem removed.
1 small Garnet yam, peeled
1 cup cubed Butternut Squash
1/2 cup whole Kumquats
3 green onions
1/4 Cup Macadamia nuts
Any kind of long pasta or noodle (I used spaghetti)

Heat the Coconut milk and spices in a frying pan. Tear the chili into pieces, add to the mixture and stir.
Cut the yam into quarter-inch cubes and add to the pan.
Cut the Kumquats into circles, squeeze over the pan to release the juice, and add to the mixture.
Cover the pan, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the squash, stir and cover again, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta, crush the Macadamia nuts, and slice the green onions.

Serve the curry on top of the pasta, sprinkled with green onions and macadamia nuts

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Spanish Tortilla

Repeat after me: eggs and potatoes! eggs and potatoes! eggs and potatoes are all I need, ever!
Well, almost. You will also need olive oil and onions. If you don't know what a Spanish Tortilla is, I'll tell you it has nothing to do with mexican food, nothing to do with bread (except for being really good on sandwiches), and you most definitely can't wrap a burrito in it.
I guess the best way to describe a tortilla is to call it a flat-ish, mixed potato and onion omelet. Be prepared to use lots of eggs!

1 medium-sized non-stick frying pan
2 large dinner plates
1 large mixing bowl
5 large eggs
3 russet potatoes, rinsed and diced small
1 onion, diced
4 Tbsp. Olive oil

Heat the olive oil and fry the potato cubes, adding the onion for the last five minutes of cooking.
Meanwhile, scramble the eggs in the mixing bowl. When the potatoes and onions are done, add to the mixing bowl and stir, then let it sit for about ten minutes.
Heat one more tbsp. oil in the pan, then pour in the egg mixture.
After about two minutes, turn the heat down to low and cover for ten minutes, occasionally un-sticking the bottom with a spatula (do NOT try to flip it yet).
When you are able to free the entire bottom and the top looks almost set, place the dinner plate on top of the tortilla and flip the pan upside down.
Lift the pan off, then sandwich the tortilla between the two dinner plates and flip again. Lift off the top plate to expose the uncooked side, then flip back into the pan.
cook for another five minutes, then flip onto a plate, then cut into pie-shaped pieces and serve.
good on top of small pieces of crusty bread with or without ketchup, or on sandwiches (tortilla and bacon on a sandwich is heavenly). But this is not to say that tortilla is no good by itself!
Other good things to add to your tortilla mixture (to be cooked inside): bell peppers, ham, sausage, or cheese!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Salmorejo Cordobés

Salmorejo is a cold, tomato-based dip/soup from the Córdoba region of Spain where I lived for 4 months last year. It's easy to make and tastes really healthy and refreshing. I guess it's more of a "summery" food, but I hope that you all, like me, think the idea of seasonal food is outrageously stupid. Does anyone know what I mean? Sometimes it's scorching outside, and all I want is a fat bowl of chili or a chicken pot pie. Or sometimes it's freezing and stormy, like now, and all I want is a milkshake. Seasonal fruit is different, though. Well, before I get started rambling again, I'll promise you that Salmorejo is delicious year round. I made it last week for a potluck and it got rave reviews!

You will need:
3-5 large, ripe Beefsteak tomatoes
1/8 C olive oil (maybe a little more if you're using 5 tomatoes)
1 1/2 Tbsp. White Wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 egg (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1-2 slices toasted sandwich bread
Baguette Bread

Cut 2 of the tomatoes into quarters, then move into a blender with the olive oil, vinegar, and garlic. Blend, gradually adding the rest of the tomatoes, until smooth. Tear a piece of toast into smaller pieces and blend with the tomato mixture until smooth. If it still looks like a melted fruit smoothie, blend in more pieces of toast until it starts looking "creamy". In the meantime, hard-boil the egg if you're using one (10 minutes on a full boil), and toast the baguette in the oven at about 300 for about 5 minutes.
Pour the salmorejo into a bowl and sprinkle with the sliced hard-boiled egg. Diced, pan-fried ham is also good to sprinkle on top if you're a fan of ham. This is best eaten out of a small bowl, using your bread more than your spoon. This recipe makes a lot, but trust me It'll be gone before you can say "Ciencias Locas" (Mad Sciences, if I'm not mistaken).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Two Bean Falafel

This recipe is modified from the one I usually use, which is from a vegan cookbook ("vegan with a vengeance" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz). The differences here are that I used pinto beans along with the usual garbanzos/chickpeas, left out the onions (just because I didn't have any) and baked the falafels instead of fry them like the book says. They're delicious fried as well, but I find it's hard to keep them from falling apart, plus they're healthier and there's not as much of a mess to clean up.
It looks like a long list of ingredients, but these are actually pretty easy to make. I mixed all the dry ingredients together in a bag the night before, and then all i had to do was pour it in!

1 3/4 C cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed if canned.
1/3 C canned pinto beans (reserve 1/8 C of the juice)
1/4 C bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/3 C flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
a few dashes of black pepper
pita bread (the pocket kind)

Chop the beans into a paste in a blender or food processor. transfer to a bowl and add the dry ingredients. mix lightly with a spoon. cut the stems off the parsley and chop it up really small. add to the batter and stir. wet your hands and knead the batter until mixed well. If my psychic powers are correct, the batter will be a bit dry, so add the 1/8 cup of bean juice for some extra moisture. (don't say "eewww" that's not polite!) spray or rub a baking sheet with olive oil. roll batter into golf-sized balls, then flatten with your hands until you have patties about 2 inches in diameter. place on baking sheet and spray with more olive oil.
bake 15 minutes, then turn the patties over and bake for another five minutes. cut the pitas in half and serve with your favorite falafel toppings (cucumber, lettuce, tomato, etc.).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Spicy Persimmon Chutney

While riding my bike, I found a box full of free persimmons in front of someone's house and proceeded to go persimmon crazy for the next 3 weeks or so (yeah, there were that many). Having never really cooked with them before, I saw this as a true mad science opportunity. I thought I would try making a pie or pudding, but my friend suggested I try making chutney and the rest is history. The thing to remember is the four C's: Cardamom, Coriander, Cloves, and Chili Powder. This chutney is good with almost anything! Try it on samosas/Indian food, or with cheese and crackers. I actually really like to put it on pancakes.

-7-10 VERY RIPE fuyu persimmons
-1 3/4 C sugar
-1/2 C water
-2 Tbsp. Chili Powder
-1 1/2 Tbsp. ground Coriander seed
-1 Tbsp. ground Cardamom
-1 tsp. ground cloves

Pull the stems off the persimmons and peel off part of the skin from the opening under the stem. Scrape out all the pulp into a large saucepan and discard the skins. Mix the persimmon pulp, sugar, and water over medium heat. Add the spices and bring to a low boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the mixture thickens to a "jammy" consistency (about 15-20 minutes). If you think it's too thick, add more water. Remove from heat and spoon into a large jam jar. It should keep for about a month in the fridge, but I really can't be sure since it never lasts that long =]


FYI: If you've never eaten or cooked with persimmons before, just know they have to be EXTREMELY ripe, or they'll be grainy, bitter, and all around vile. Try squeezing one gently. If it feels the teensiest bit firm, it's not ready yet. Wait until it's squishy all the way around.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"Wooden Bird" Coffee Liqueur

Like Kahlua? You'll like this better! I made this for Christmas presents this year and it was a big hit! I found it in my mom's old recipe box and added my own pizzaz, in the form of Chinese five-spice powder. It gives the liqueur an interesting little kick without it being overpowering. This stuff makes a great gift and and even better White Russian.

BEWARE: This recipe makes 1 and 1/4 gallons, so be prepared to either give a lot of it away as gifts or live on it for the next couple months.

-6 C sugar
-6 C water
-1/2 cup instant coffee crystals (like Folger's)
-1/2 cup vanilla flavor OR 2 vanilla beans
-1/2 gallon vodka
-1 Tbsp. Chinese five-spice powder

Mix sugar, water and coffee crystals in a large pot with the vanilla beans, but reserve the vanilla extract if you're using that.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 hours, then remove beans or add extract.
Tear open a tea bag, remove the tea. Add the five-spice and sew it shut. Hang the tea bag into the death brew. (You can also use a coffee filter, but it will eventually dissolve if it sits in the brew too long). A piece of t-shirt would probably work too. You get it, anything that filters.
Let it sit for at least 6 hours, then stir in the vodka and let it sit for at least another 6-12 hours (I think this is called "marrying")
Remove the tea bag and pour the finished liqueur into pretty jars or bottles. Your friends will think you're a genius!

Cous Cous Salad

I have this scrawled into my lab manual as "Yummy Cous Cous Dinner" but the only reason this should ever be a dinner and not a snack or a side dish is if you are either one of my lab rabbits or are on a diet, and we all know dieting is for losers.
This is easy, fast, weird hippy comfort food that I invented one day from random things I found in my cupboard, so don't be afraid to get creative, or should I say "don't be afraid to go all mad science apeshit" with this one.

1 cup Cous Cous
Pinch Salt
1/2 Tbsp. Butter or Buttery Spread or whatever you kids are using these days
1 cup water
Chopped fresh apricots (dried is okay too)
Chopped parsley
Chopped roasted almonds
1 Tbsp. Toasted Sesame Seeds

In a small saucepan, bring water, salt, and butterstuff to a boil.
remove from heat and stir in cous cous.
cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
Uncover and stir in remaining ingredients. I find it's best to enjoy this right out of the pot. It's a good "lazy food"

Oh, and here are some cute onion animal babies I made with my Lox N' Bagel leftover at Café Pannini. Ain't they the darndest? Who needs pets when you've got something this cute, and this EDIBLE? Kind of reminds me of that Shel Silverstein poem about the kid who had the pet hot dog. Or maybe I'm taking this too far.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe it goes something like this:
I have a hot dog for a pet
The only kind my folks would let me get
He does smell sort of bad, and yet
he absolutely never gets the sofa wet
We have a butcher for a vet
the strangest vet you ever met
guess we're the weirdest family yet
to have a hot dog for a pet.

Special thanks for this post go to hunger, Shel Silverstein, and the fourth grade.

Veggie-friendly chili with blueberry cornbread!

Good for those cold winter nights or anytime you need to get your chili on, which for me is all the time, year round! The blueberry cornbread idea comes from a restaurant I go to back home in Orange County called the Beach Pit BBQ. If you've never had blueberry cornbread, you're seriously missing out and need to make this right now! I don't actually know how to make cornbread, so I use the boxed kind and just add blueberries. I know, I know, not very mad science-ey of me, but now at least I feel like I HAVE to learn how to make it from scratch (future post!??!?!)
Also, I have never measured the spices I use to make this, so keep taste-testing it along the way to see if it needs more of anything)

-1/2 of a large onion or 1 smaller onion, diced.
-3 cloves garlic, diced.
-1 large can tomatoes, or 4-5 itty bitty cans tomato sauce (run the tomatoes through the blender if you want it smooth)
-1 15 oz. can Kidney Beans
-1 1/2 cups water
-1/2 tube Soyrizo (fake chorizo available in the produce section of supermarkets or the fake meat section of trader joe's)
-2 Tbsp. Cumin
-3 Tbsp. Chili Powder
-1 Tbsp. Cayenne Pepper
-1 tsp. Red "hot" pepper
-1 Tbsp. Black Pepper
-1 tsp. Cinnamon
-1/2 tsp. Liquid Smoke (optional)
-1 block Mexican chocolate or 1 Hershey bar
-Salt to taste
-Oil for frying

Heat oil and fry onions for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic until brown. Pour in tomatoes/sauce and beans with juice and stir. Add Soyrizo and stir.
Bring mixture to a boil. Add spices and chocolate. Turn down heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to dissolve the chocolate. If it's too thick, add the water gradually until it's just right. If it's too soupy and you want it thicker, mix some corn starch or Masa flour with 1/2 cup water and stir into the chili.
Remove from heat and serve with shredded cheese, chives, sour cream, or anything that tastes good with chili. I've also tried this on top of baked potatoes and it's wonderful!

1 box cornbread mix (I use Jiffy, which asks for 1 egg and 1/3 cup milk They don't call it Jiffy for nothing!)
about 1 cup blueberries.

Prepare cornbread according to directions. Once batter is ready, stir in blueberries. Put into greased baking dish or muffin tin and bake. Voila!

Breakfast Potatoes!

After hours and hours of trial and error in the lab, I think it's safe to say that my breakfast potatoes are worthy of your stomach lining. These are the only breakfast potatoes you will ever need, I promise. So if your mom or boyfriend or girlfriend has their own special potato recipe, you might want to skip this one, because it just wouldn't be fair to them.

-3 medium-sized russet potatoes; rinsed, rubbed, and cubed (but not peeled).
-pinch salt
-1/2 tsp. black or mixed pepper, preferably fresh from the grinder.
-1 tsp. paprika
-1/2 tsp. dried dill, or a couple pinches of torn-up fresh dill
-dash of lemon juice
-olive oil for frying

heat oil until bubbles gather around a small piece of potato dropped into the pan. fry potatoes until they start to brown, then add the spices. turn heat down to medium and continue to cook until golden brown (and of course a little red from the paprika). add the lemon juice and cook for another minute, then remove from heat. I prefer to eat these with ketchup and over-easy eggs.