Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Everybody Loves An Irish Girl...And Shepherd's Pie.

So I'm sitting in my room staring at Roscoe

A typical Tuesday...

 when suddenly a horrible thought comes to mind: "MY POTATOES!"

See, a couple of weeks prior I bought potatoes because potatoes are delicious. After busy weeks and two weekends away I still had not used my potatoes. It was a "now or never" situation and since I HATE throwing away food, the time to use my potatoes was now. I frantically peeled and cubed my potatoes with no clue what I was going to do with them when I thought about the veggies and ground beef in my freezer. Shepherd's Pie it is!

This was without a doubt the least organized cooking I've ever done. I usually prep all my foods beforehand, the French system "mise-en-place" meaning "everything in its place" but this time nothing was in its place. Also, I'm usually able to wash dishes as I dirty them, preventing a giant pile of dirty dishes when I'm done cooking, but on this day I was not so fortunate. It was totally worth it though...even though it was like 85 degrees in Chicago I was so happy to have my warm winter comfort food.

2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup green onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup frozen carrots, thawed
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup beef stock (broth would work too)
Worcestershire Sauce

Paprika, to garnish
Fresh or dried parsley, to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Boil potatoes until a fork goes in easily when you lightly poke. Drain potatoes, put back in the hot pot, and set aside.

 Add olive oil to preheated pan, add ground beef once oil starts to "ripple"

When beef is mostly cooked through, add onions, garlic, and carrots.

While the meat and veggies are cooking, melt 2 tbsp of butter in a pan and add 2 tbsp of flour to make a roux. Let it cook for a couple of minutes to get the pasty taste out of the flour.

Keep an eye on your meat! Slowly add the beef stock and whisk until smooth. Mix in a couple shakes of Worcestershire sauce. Pour gravy into your meat and veggie mixture.

Prepare mashed potatoes to your liking. I mash mine with butter and milk until smooth and then mix in cheddar and green onions

 Put meat/veggie/gravy mixture into a casserole. Pile mashed potatoes on top. Stop halfway through to admire your handiwork.

She's ready for the oven!

Bonus potatoes for the chef!

 Bake at 400 degrees until top is lightly browned and sides are deliciously bubbly. Garnish with Parsley and Paprika.

Let it sit for a few minutes before you go in for the kill, otherwise you'll end up with a runny mess!

**If you you want the top to brown more, you can put it under the broiler. I baked mine because I used a Corningware casserole and Corningware is not safe to use under a broiler, nor is Pyrex.**

Monday, August 27, 2012

What do you call a nosy pepper? Jalapeno business!

Jalapeno poppers are an appetizer, so naturally I adore them. You can imagine my joy when I found this recipe for jalapeno popper dip on Pinterest. 

Using this recipe as a jumping-off point, I made a few changes. I tend to avoid dips with mayonnaise like the Plague. The idea of cooking mayonnaise doesn't sit right with me, and I don't really care for the taste of mayonnaise. It's unnecessary in the dip, it's less forgiving to heating/reheating, and it adds extra fat and calories to an already calorie-laden dish. Also, the recipe that I linked to above includes a breadcrumb topping which is not needed, especially when you get the crunch factor from your dippers. Plus, think of how much more dip you can eat by omitting calorie bombs like mayo and breadcrumb toppings. In order to be objective, I put the topping on half of the dip. Trust me, you won't miss it.

With these tweaks, I can safely say that Jalapeno Popper Dip is now part of my regular dip rotation. Yes, I have a regular dip rotation.

Super Duper Important: Wash your hands about 30 times after you handle jalapenos (or just wear gloves) and don't touch any part of your face while you're handling them. Your eyes will probably start to itch as soon as you touch a jalapeno...the mind is a powerful thing. Don't give in. Seriously, your whole face will burn. It's not important for me to share how I know this.

2 8oz blocks of cream cheese, room temperature, whipped
1 1/2 - 2 cups of Mexican Blend or Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
8-12 oz of pickled jalapenos (think concession stand nachos), diced
2 fresh jalapenos, diced
1 4oz jar of diced green chiles

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees
 Combine all of the ingredients.

Put into a casserole dish (you can see I prepared half with the breadcrumb topping)

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until edges bubble and top barely browns.
I reserved some of the fresh jalapeno to garnish...doesn't the right side just look so much more inviting?)

I chose to enjoy mine with a cold Dos Equis and some pita chips!

My roommate tried both sides of the dip (with tortilla chips) and agreed that the breadcrumb topping is unnecessary. 


Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Confession and a Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Rolls

Back again. This entry means that this blog is already more successful than my first attempt, a few years ago when I was a junior in college. Woo!

Confession time: I have an addiction. Appetizers, dips, veggie platters, crackers: anything that wouldn’t normally be considered a meal, I try to make into a meal. By “make into a meal” I mean eat a ton of it until I’m a full, self-loathing shell of the woman I once was. If I continue down this path, I’ll probably die of a heart attack by age 33 because my arteries will be blocked by cream cheese, but what a way to go…

So last week I decided to finally try some of the delicious-looking recipes I’ve been finding on Pinterest. This actually required me to reorganize my Pinterest boards because I had SO MANY pins on my “Recipes I Want to Try” board (which no longer exists) that things got lost in there. So once I made a board just for dips and appetizers (and one for main dishes, just for good measure) I decided to make Buffalo Chicken Rolls. Since I hate, Hate, HATE blue cheese, I omitted it and just for funzies I tossed a little bit of cheddar into a few of them. I thought it might be a nice cheesy surprise (I was wrong; I couldn’t even tell which ones had cheese.) 

Poached and shredded chicken
Hot sauce (about 1/2 cup)
Cabbage or Broccoli slaw
Egg Roll Wrappers
Blue Cheese (if you are so inclined)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
Add hot sauce to poached, shredded chicken and stir to combine. 

Put a little bit of slaw in the bottom corner of the wrapper
Mine are super tiny because I already had egg roll wrappers, so I just decided to use those

Add chicken on top of the slaw (notice the cheddar cheese!)

Put the rolls on a rack over a baking sheet. Spray or brush with olive oil and bake for about 12-15 minutes.

I made these on a Sunday and actually brought these to work for lunch all week. 7 rolls was a filling and satisfying lunch, and these little guys are actually pretty healthy (especially if you omit the cheese!)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hey Tracy, why is your blog called Apps and 'Zerts?

The name of my blog was inspired by the TV show Parks and Recreation and suggested by a friend who reminded me that my favorite foods are all appetizers and desserts. 

If you don't watch Parks and Rec, you're missing out on some of the greatest comedic genius of our time. Quotes, anecdotes, and synopses will likely make their way into my posts. I apologize in advance, although should I really apologize for being awesome?

Here is the complete list of Tom Haverford's Nicknames for Foods (and other things):

'Zerts = Desserts
Tré Trés = Entrees
Sandwiches = Sammys, Sandoozles, or Adam Sandlers
Air Conditioners = Cool Blasterz (I don't know where that came from)
Cakes = Big 'Ol Cookies
Noodles = Long-Ass Rice
Fried Chicken = Fry Fry Chicky-Chick
Chicken Parm = Chicky Chicky Parm Parm
Chicken Cacciatore = Chicky-Catch
Eggs = Pre-Birds or Future Birds
Root Beer = Super Water
Tortillas = Bean Blankies
Forks = Food Rakes
Go-Go-Mobile = Car


Monday, August 20, 2012

Oh, Hey There!

One of my best friends recently started a blog, inspiring me to do the same. I’m not as crafty, fashionable, clever, or creative as she is, but I can cook. Oh man, can I cook (does that sound braggy?)

While my friends can look at a pile of junk and see the potential (and then actually make it into something beautiful and functional) I just see a pile of junk. But when it comes to food, I can open up the fridge, pull out some random ingredients and make something that is at the very least palatable, and at most an absolutely delicious, filling (and sometimes even kind of healthy-ish!!!) meal. I figured that since I already take pictures of the food I make, I may as well put them somewhere and share my vision (again, too braggy?) with the internet.

Over the past week or so, I’ve been gathering ideas, cooking up a storm, and taking pictures to build a nice backlog of entries so that my adoring fans (you) are not kept waiting to read about my latest creation.

Whenever possible I will link to my original source or inspiration.

I hope you like what you see here!