Caramel Chocolate Popcorn

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What happens why you make popcorn on the stove, but do not measure the amount of popcorn kernels involved? You get too much popcorn and get sick of eating it.

This happened to me. As a cure, I took the left over popcorn (already salted, mind you) and turned it into dessert. This will be happening regularly from now on.

Caramel Chocolate Popcorn

1/2 stick of butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups popcorn (I did mine on the stove and added salt to it)

1/4 cup chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees. In the meantime, put tin foil on a cookie sheet and spread already popped popcorn on the sheet. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. As soon as it is melted, add the brown sugar. Stir until that is melted and the mixture is bubbly. Remove from heat. Spoon evenly over the popcorn, tossing with the spoon to coat evenly. Bake for about 15 minutes. When you remove it from the oven, sprinkle chocolate chips over top. The popcorn must still be bubbly and hot, otherwise the chocolate will not melt. Stir with a spoon to coat with chocolate and to help the chocolate to melt evenly. That is all.

Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce and Venison

They say necessity is the mother of invention.

Indeed. I needed to eat a meal, and I have very little food at my house right now. Since I return to the land of northerners in less than a week, a trip to the grocery store seemed like a bad idea. Thus began tonight’s journey with a simple can of tomato paste dangerously nearing its expiration date, some ground venison in the freezer, and a box of pasta.

Then, it occurred to me that I also had cream, garlic, and olive oil. Apparently, that was enough to do the trick. I’ve never made a tomato cream sauce, so I didn’t know what would happen when I poured cream into the saute pan. It was a terrifying moment. What if I ruined the whole concoction? I had a ramen noodle packet looming at me from the back of the cabinet, but the thought of eating it gave me goose bumps.

Perhaps I am being melodramatic…

This pasta with tomato cream sauce and venison turned out to be really, really good, much better than the meals I put time and energy into. Except for cheesecake. Cheesecake is always worth the time and energy.

Unfortunately, the camera on the old Android has deteriorated to the point that my pictures stink. Trust me on this one, though, this is a delicious and comforting mid-week meal.

Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce and Venison

1 6 oz. can tomato paste

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/2 pound ground venison

1/2 cup to 1 cup heavy cream

Salt, pepper, thyme, and sage to taste (about 1/2 tsp. each)

1 box of whole wheat penne pasta

In a saucepan, brown the defrosted ground venison. Boil water in a separate pot and cook the pasta. As the venison browns, add the garlic. Once the garlic and venison are cooked, add the tomato paste and stir. Add herbs to taste and heavy cream, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain the cooked pasta and add the pasta to the saute pan, stirring to coat with the sauce. If you have cheese, that would be a lovely addition. Evidently, I went cheese-less and still enjoyed the meal.

Mint Coffee Truffles

A festive gift truffles on plate close up

It’s a little late for these. Maybe this would have helped in time for the holiday season, when I first made them. Or, I could have used the excuse of Valentine’s Day to give you a chocolate recipe.

Luckily, these involve mint. Stock up on the green mints and add a green bow, and they will be a perfect St. Patrick’s Day gift. Yes.

Mint Coffee Truffles

Ingredients:
1 lb. dark chocolate, broken into pieces the best quality you can afford
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon shortening
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 cup very strong, fresh espresso
Starbrites Peppermints, about 1/4 cup crushed

Directions:

In a double boiler, melt broken pieces of the dark chocolate. If you don’t have a double boiler – I don’t – you can use a saucepan and put a mixing bowl in it, like so. In a separate sauce pan, heat the cream until it is very hot but not boiling. Pour the cream over top of the melting dark chocolate and stir with a spoon as you add it. Stir with spoon until the mixture is smooth. Now, if you want to make a batch of coffee flavored truffles and a batch of plain chocolate ones with a hint of vanilla, you can pour half of the melted chocolate mixture into another bowl at this point. Add vanilla to BOTH mixtures. To ONE mixture add the espresso. Put both bowls in the fridge to cool. Usually this takes about an hour to an hour and a half, but basically you want the chocolate to be hard enough to form small truffle balls.

Once the dough is hard, form the balls and arrange them on a plate or baking sheet. Chill each filled plate/tray as you prepare the semi-sweet chocolate for dipping. Melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips in the double boiler. Be sure that the water is hot, possibly simmering but definitely not boiling. Stir the chocolate until it is smooth and add the shortening. The shortening makes a shinier finished product that looks prettier, but it is not a required ingredient.

Roll the cooled truffles in the melted chocolate over the stove. This is the trickiest part. I use a spoon and kind of flip the truffle in the chocolate, then I carefully remove the truffle with clean hands and place it, dripping with chocolate, on the cookie sheet. They won’t look perfect, but you can try different methods to get them to look as nice as possible. Do this quickly; the longer you take the more difficult the chocolate chips become to work with.

Once you have your truffles, you can sprinkle the chopped mint over some or all of them.

Beer Risotto with Butternut Squash, Cheddar Cheese, Shrimp, and Cayenne

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I debated whether or not to add shrimp to a beer risotto with cheddar cheese. That ability which some people have to understand intuitively which flavors mesh well often fails me. But I had shrimp in the freezer, and it felt only right to rework it sooner rather than later (it was originally used for A-MAZ-ING shrimp tacos that I can take zero credit for).

Leftover beer from my brother’s continual wedding celebration.

Carrots I bought the first weekend I moved here. Yeah. Close to gross.

Squash from the farmer’s market.

Here it is. Perfect for someone who often has beer on hand but not wine. Later in the semester we’ll see how this tastes with something cheap like Rolling Rock. The only sad part about this is that, if you’re like me, you’ll be out of beer by the end.

Beer Risotto with Butternut Squash, Cheddar Cheese, Shrimp, and Cayenne

*Inspired by Cooking This and That

1/2 small onion, diced

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups Arborio rice

1 12 oz bottle of beer (I used Sierra Nevada Pale Ale)

5 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 carrots, diced

2 cups diced butternut squash

1 garlic clove, diced

2 cups shrimp

1 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper

In a saute pan, heat butter, diced garlic, and shrimp. Cook until lightly brown on each side. Set aside. Heat 5 cups chicken broth in a saucepan. In the meantime, cook onion in large saute pan with olive oil until tender. Add rice and stir until coated in olive oil. Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, stirring gently until the rice absorbs the liquid. Continue to add broth, stirring each time until the rice absorbs the liquid (probably should use low heat at this point).

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After most of the chicken broth is absorbed, gradually begin to add the beer and stir. Add carrots, butternut squash, and rest of broth. Stir until the rice is puffier and only has a little bit of a bite when you try it. Add cheese, cayenne pepper, and shrimp.

Serve warm. Add salt and pepper to taste.

It goes well with this song.

Penniless Pancakes

These probably are not worth blogging about. Then again, what is worth blogging about? Yeah. Answer me that. You’ll have solved the Internet.

I’m not gonna sit here and tell you I’m fancy. I’m not.

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I had a box of Mrs. Buttersworth pancake mix that my mom sent me to school with, leftover oatmeal, butter, and cinnamon. This is not atypical. A trip to the grocery store is a luxury for which I do not have (or make) time. I’ve got novels to analyze, people! You think those characters wait around for just anyone? Exactly.

But I digress.

The point is, if you haven’t added oatmeal to your pancakes before, you should try it. It’s good.

Pennyless Pancakes

1 cup pancake mix

3/4 cup water

Dash of cinnamon

1 cup cooked rolled oats

Butter

Heat saucepan over medium heat. Mix pancake mix, water, cinnamon, and cooked oats. Make pancakes on hot pan with butter (I am not going to explain this). Serve with butter.

I did not even have honey, sugar, or syrup to sweeten these, and I still ate more than I’m going to tell you.

Dark Chocolate And Parmesan Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Dark chocolate and Parmesan: A Scientific Pairing? I was skeptical, but you can’t argue with science. The bitterness of parmesan compliments the deep flavors of dark chocolate, and gluten free bread actually serves as a great (flavorless) backdrop. I give it an A+. It’s certainly more interesting than the classic Velveeta.

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients:

2 slices country bread
2 ounces dark chocolate (64%), coarsely chopped
6 thinly shaved slices Parmesan cheese
Butter

Directions:
Layer one slice of bread with the chocolate and then with Parmesan cheese and top with second slice of bread.

Heat a panini press, grill pan or skillet. Butter the outside surface of the bread. Grill until bread is golden brown and chocolate and cheese are oozing. Serve immediately.

Best paired with red wine and music. We experimented with white wine, and it didn’t work well, so go with a red (syrah was nice).

8 Ways Other Than Baking To Spend Your Month

Hi, guys. I’ve been MIA lately. The past month I ate an entire fish, traveled home for my future sister-in-law’s bridal shower, existed during Memorial Day but forgot what I did, and found a new home in my new home of Harrisonburg. Here’s how to spend a month doing things other than baking.

1) Make one “real” dish – aka something other than cereal or eggs – all month. Be sure that it’s something traditional with a twist, like Turkey Chilli with Kale and White Beans. Proceed to eat the entire bowl each time you serve yourself before you manage to take a picture of said bowl for that blog you write. Wallow in full-bellied remorse.

2) Allow friends to reciprocate your baguette and bruschetta dinner (oh yeah, and lasagna, but that was also eaten before we could take a picture). Realize that, considering that two are from Kurdistan and one is from China, you may encounter food outside your comfort zone. Tonight you will be eating fish for dinner. As in, whole fish.

Feel a sense of strength as you recognize that your mind has been broadened and you are a more seasoned person because of this experience. Feel appreciative for kind and fascinating friends.

3) Make sure your brother is about to marry a girl you absolutely adore. Take a bus home to Pittsburgh on a Friday night for the bridal shower. Forget a blanket and jeans even though you’ve done this trip many times and know the Megabus is freezing. Buy curly fries and a hot chocolate at the rest stop in West Virginia for comfort because you can’t stop shivering, and the guy beside you is drunk and asked to look at your Chuck Palahniuk book because he loves Snuff and thinks Palahniuk is the king of transgressive fiction. Although he kind of likes Burrough’s Naked Lunch better, but whatevs. Arrive in Pittsburgh and host the bridal shower. Everything is beautiful. The bride is happy. The Strawberry Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting are the icing on the cake (ha).

4) Let Memorial Day pass. Forget what you even did that weekend. Something about…oh, right. Something about a live band and a drag queen brunch. That weekend was interesting; you should remember it. Miss your friends in DC just thinking about this.

5) Find a home in your new home. Get excited about the move. Look at an apartment right next to the best coffee shop, the one named after a character in Oliver Twist.

6) Fall in love with the apartment next door. Spend the following weeks scouring apartment blogs on how to decorate a studio apartment. Decide that you want to decorate your living room like Ernest Hemingway’s writing studio in his Key West house. Pause to acknowledge how very untalented you are compared to Hemingway. Pour yourself a glass of Jack Daniels on the rocks. At least you two have that in common.

7) Visit a lavender field near your new hometown. Feel at peace. Remember that you are about to move to a new life, and day dream about all the bread and scones you will bake in grad school.

8) Promise yourself and your readers (hi, Mom!) that you will resume regular posts. Make another cup of coffee. Time to go to your day job like a real person.