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Entries in garlic (5)

Saturday
Oct152011

Spicy Pumpkin Taco Dip

Spicy Pumpkin Taco Dip

The last week has been a study in the long-term effects of sleep deprivation. The truth is, after two solid months of waking up at five am every morning to get myself to work, I can't adjust to going to bed earlier. I average between five and five and a half hours of sleep every night and there's no one to blame but myself.

Trust me, I've already tried placing the blame on everything else.

I read a study recently that claimed women who consistency got less than six hours of sleep a night have the mental and physical capacity of a drunk person. I initially thought this claim was very bold. Are they operating less than 100%? I'd absolutely agree. But drunk? I'm not so sure about that.

Well, not until I started noticing the signs on myself.

Spicy Pumpkin Taco Dip Spicy Pumpkin Taco Dip

It started with forgetfulness. I'd sit down to write out my to-do list for the day, knowing it was going to be endless, and suddenly not be able to remember what was supposed to be on it. I'd scribble down a couple items, but most of it had simply disappeared from my memory box of a brain. Luckily, I'd gradually remember things as the day went on, but rarely was a pen and paper handy and the tasks were lost in my head once again.

Then the forgetfulness turned into very real short term memory loss. Truth be told, I now find myself with the memory span less than a goldfish. It stands at roughly three seconds, if I'm lucky. Don't believe me? Let me give you a couple examples.

I was working in the Patisserie and needed both sprinkles and a cake board to finish the cake I was working on. The sprinkles were exactly ten steps away. Since I already knew I had forgetfulness issues, I reminded myself three times that I was going to grab the sprinkles and pick up the cake board on the way back. Three times. Ten steps. I could do this.

I couldn't. I forgot the cake board. In fact, it was so bad that I stood in front of the unfinished cake for a few seconds before I even remembered what needed to be finished. I went back for the cake board with a proverbial tail between my legs.

As for the second example? Well, I've already forgotten. How's that for memory loss?

Spicy Pumpkin Taco Dip Spicy Pumpkin Taco Dip

It wasn't until the last week that I began to notice the physical side effects. I went apple picking with my family at my grandmother's house. Most of the apples had already been picked, but the highest ones in the tree still remained. My father braved the ladder and, as soon as he'd get a handful, he'd toss them down to me so I could place them in the boxes. It was a good system, in theory. In reality, I couldn't catch an apple to save my life. My body knew the task, but my motor skills had slowed down so drastically it was impossible for me to catch any of them. It would have been comedic had I not been so concerned for myself.

Now I have several boxes of bruised apples. The only good to come out of this is that I will now be doing a lot of apple baking which I will, of course, share with you.

So, sleep. It's important. Maybe even more important than you (or I) ever gave it credit for. This next week, I'm going to force myself into bed at a decent hour. The sleeplessness (and drunkenness) needs to stop. I want to be able to walk through the grocery store without running into shelves and people or forgetting my entire list the moment I walk through the automatic doors.

Let's eat some of this pumpkin dip and get a full eight hours tonight. It sounds like a plan to me.

Spicy Pumpkin Taco Dip

My Aunt Nancy made this Spicy Pumpkin Taco Dip for Thanksgiving one year and I barely strayed away from it long enough to eat my turkey dinner. Though the base is cream cheese and pumpkin, the dip still manages to be spicy with that classic taco flavor you look for in a taco dip. The dip is stuffed with vegetables including red and green peppers, olives, and a bit of dried beef (which can be omitted for vegetarians). Served in a bread bowl or small pumpkin with a side of vegetables or crackers, this dip is sure to please any crowd.

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Wednesday
Aug242011

Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings

Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings

Growing up in the Midwest, spices weren't necessarily used frequently and with great abandon. Well, at least not in my home. In fact, I had only two spices in my repertoire—salt and pepper. The salt was brought out whenever anything needed extra flavor. Butter noodles feeling a bit bland? Salt. Mashed potatoes need a little flavor? Salt. When I was feeling very adventurous, I'd break out the pepper. Pepper was the special occasion spice—to be used sparingly and with great respect.

You see, just a few years ago pepper had too much heat for my poor taste buds.

Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings

As someone who loves food, I also love flavor. Unusual flavor combinations, new profiles, new experiences—I'm all for it. In restaurants, I like to choose dishes with bold flavors. Chicken and mushrooms served with a Marsala wine reduction? Mmmm. Scallops in a rich sun-dried tomato butter? Yes, please.

Though I love flavor, I don't always practice what I preach when I cook at home. The sad truth is that I could subsist off of unseasoned noodles and plain oatmeal without complaint. And I do. I often find myself falling into a routine of making and eating bland food so much that it seems unusual when I sprinkle my eggs with a bit of pepper. Perhaps there is some truth to the Midwest stereotype that we love our bland comfort food.

Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings

Nevertheless, I've been trying to break out of my flavorless cooking shell. When my friend Frances urged me to try to replicate a recipe for Thai Peanut Chili Chicken Wings that she happened upon at a food truck, I jumped on the idea. Despite the fact that I had no idea what the original even tasted like (and thus had no right to even attempt to replicate a recipe), I was intrigued by the idea of a spicy peanut chicken wing. Spicy, salty, and sweet all at the same time? I needed to know what these tasted like. I needed to have them in my stomach. And now, after making these, I know you need to have them in your stomach too.

Hello, flavor! It's been too long.

Do you ever find yourself in a flavor rut?

Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings

These Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings are exactly that—sweet and spicy. Chicken wings are marinated in garlic and ginger before being baked (not fried!). The wings are then coated in a peanut chili sauce. Peanut butter lends a sweet quality to the dish while the chili keeps your taste buds awake. Believe me, it really is a bold, beautiful flavor combination. I love that not only the coating of the wings holds bold flavor, but the chicken itself does too, thanks to the marinade. If you are looking to add a little spice into your cooking life, these chicken wings definitely fit the bill.

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Wednesday
Jul062011

Black Bean Salsa

Black Bean Salsa

My mother decided to throw a dinner party last weekend to celebrate the arrival of summer/Fourth of July with a few of her skiing friends. Naturally, I stepped in and had a few things to say about what was going to be on the menu. My mother listened politely, but respectfully disagreed. You see, my mother and I have very different ideas about what a dinner party should entail.

I love to throw dinner parties. I'll use any excuse I can find to bring a few friends into my home (and into my kitchen). Many days in advance, I like to plan out the menu. The food must be seasonal, fresh, and homemade. I'll run through a list of ideas for dishes in my head. Over the next few days, I may add a few here and remove a few there. I try to make the menu cohesive. Will the appetizer complement the dessert? Is there a theme? Did I plan to make too much food again?

I have been known to go a little, well, overboard every once in awhile.

(For those of you who also love to throw a good dinner party, you should check out The Table Set podcast. Fun and informative!)

Black Bean Salsa

My mother, on the other hand, likes to keep things as simple and easy as possible. The least amount of work she has to put into the planning and execution of her party, the better. While I can completely respect her minimalist style, it just isn't mine. I love elaborate meals. I love cooking or baking every component from scratch. And, perhaps most unlike my mother, I love to have a reason to spend hours in the kitchen.

When it came to planning the menu for this particular dinner party, my mother and I were able to find middle ground. A Mexican theme was decided upon, with chips and salsa as the appetizer and tacos as the main course; dessert was all mine (it was so good, you can bet I'll be sharing it with you soon). Knowing myself, I wanted to make the tortilla chips from scratch. My mother put that idea to rest in the blink of an eye. Nevertheless, I insisted the salsa should at least be fresh and homemade. The rest is history.

Following the "simple and easy" approach of my mother, this Black Bean Salsa has flavors complex enough for me—the perfect compromise.

Black Bean Salsa

This Black Bean Salsa is bright, colorful, and delicious. The flavors are complex, with hints of bell pepper, tomato, lime, and red onion to round out the heartiness of the black beans. This definitely isn't a salsa from a jar. Make this the night before eating to allow the flavors to meld and bring out the best flavor. While this salsa rests somewhere between mild and medium, you could add more heat by including the seeds from the diced jalapeno or by sprinkling in a few red pepper flakes. Serve with tortilla chips or as a topping to your next taco or burrito.

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