Loving. Learning. Engineering. Life.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dairy Desperado: Buttermilk Cornbread

Generally after a party, the host is left with an abundance of beer or hummus dip (or at least that's how it is here in the desert).  Well, after a recent brunch party I'd hosted, I was left with an assortment of dairy products.  Desperate for them not to reach their expiration date unused, I was on a hunt for some lactose-intensive recipes.  This buttermilk recipe is a variation on a few recipes I found, and while it's not exactly the healthiest variation, it certainly kept my buttermilk bounty from meeting the trash bin.

Buttermilk Cornbread

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoon half and half
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup whole kernel corn, drained (if canned)

Set oven to 400 degrees and grease an 8x8 inch metal pan.  In bowl combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  In separate bowl whisk together egg, buttermilk, half and half and oil.  Gently fold in corn.  Spread in pan and bake for 15-18 minutes.  Let cool 10 minutes, then use butter knife to loosen edges from pan.  Turn pan over and gently tap bottom to release cornbread.  Pin It

Friday, May 25, 2012

50-Day Fitness Challenge

Desert Winters are the perfect time to bump up your outdoor workouts.  Mornings are cool and skies are clear.  On the other hand, late-Spring/Summer in the desert means both heat and the monsoon season.  With this extreme weather comes less motivation to get outdoors and stay fit.  I'm hoping to run my first full marathon in December, but with training beginning in two months, I need to find a way between now and mid-July to stay active.  Que in the 50-Day Fitness Challenge.  Beginning tomorrow, I will workout 5 days a week, and make opportunities (NOT EXCUSES) to enjoy the outdoors.  The focus of the challenge isn't on workout intensity as much as it is on sticking to a fitness routine. 
  • Challenge dates: May 28 - July 17
  • Workout 5 days a week
  • 3 of 5 workout days must be outdoors
  • Include variation in workouts (running, swimming, hiking, yoga, weights, etc...)
  • Publish 7-day training plan every Monday of training week
To kick start the challenge, tomorrow my hunnie and I will be running with friends in a 3 mile fun run through mud and an obstacle course.  Here is this week's training schedule, beginning with the Mud Run tomorrow: 

Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
3 mi Mud Run* 2 mi Hike* 3 mi Run 3 mi Run/5 lap Swim* Rest Spin Core Rest 6 mi Run* Bikram Yoga

The star (*) indicates an outdoor workout. 

To end things on a motivational quote, Ben Franklin once said Energy and persistence conquer all things.  You can thank the inventor of the lightening rod for my 50-day Fitness Challenge mantra. Pin It

Monday, May 21, 2012

Springtime Salsa Verde

We're in the middle of Spring, which means lovely 100 degree days here in the desert.  What better way to enjoy a hot afternoon than with a Mexican beer, chips and salsa?  I've been on the hunt for some truly Southwestern recipes lately, and this Roasted Tomatillo Salsa did not disappoint.  I've never used tomatillos before, and it was actually quite exciting to remove their papery husks and behold their flawless and shiny green skins.  This salsa is so versatile--put it on your eggs, your enchiladas, or for a truly Arizonan experience, put it on your Sonoran dog.  I promise the added work of husking these little green gems is worth it.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
1 lb tomatillos
2 jalapeno peppers
3 pearl onions
4 cloves garlic
1/3 bushel cilantro
1-2 limes, juiced
olive oil, drizzle
sea salt, dash

Set oven to 400 degrees.  Husk and wash tomatillos, and peel pearl onions and remove root.  (Do not peel garlic).  Lay tomatillos, jalapenos, onions and garlic on metal cooking pan.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Use your hands to lightly toss ingredients to help coat them with the olive oil and salt.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, until skins are blistered.  Let roasted vegetables cool for 5-10 minutes, then de-stem and de-seed jalapenos and peel garlic.  Blend roasted vegetables with trimmed cilantro and lime juice. Pin It

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Brown Sugar Experiment and Birthday Blondies

It may come to no surprise to you that the desert is very dry.  In knowing this, I have always ensured that I stay hydrated and water my patio garden daily.  However, when it came time to try out a pecan blondies recipe for my hunnie's birthday (as a healthier alternative to his beloved pecan pie), I realized one of the key ingredients had become a victim of this harsh climate--my brown sugar had transformed into a rock.  After unsuccessfully breaking up this sweet mass by banging on the counter top and stabbing with a knife, I resorted to a more scientific solution.  Saturday afternoon I sealed my brown sugar in an airtight bag with a sliced apple.  Come Monday evening I was ready to do some birthday baking, and to my excitement the brown sugar in the sealed bag was softened.  (Need soft brown sugar in a hurry? Microwave it next to a small bowl of water, checking every 20-30 seconds.)

Pecan Blondies

7 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoon softened, packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon backing soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8x8 baking pan, place parchment paper on bottom of pan, and then lightly grease parchment paper. 

Combine flour, baking soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together egg and brown sugar until creamy.  Then whisk in butter and vanilla to wet mixture.  Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients until just combined.  Using a spoon, gently add pecans to mixture.  Spread in baking pan and use spatula to gently press and smooth the top.  Bake approximately 20-25 minutes, until slightly golden on edges and toothpick comes out clean.

Pin It

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Desert Date Night

After a couple chaotic weeks of exams and work, my hunnie planned a quintessential-Tucson date night: evening picnic at Gates Pass.  With Camelpaks and a cushy ice chest in tow, we hiked into the mountains west of Tucson.  We found a spot behind a rock outcropping where we were blocked by the wind, set up our little travel grill and cracked open a Belgian style ale.  On the menu for this desert date night:
      Water crackers
      Garlic and sun dried tomato hummus
      Herb goat cheese
      Marinated steak and kabob veggies
      Dipping sauces (to suit any man's desires)

What a great way to enjoy some Springtime heat in the Sonoran Desert with my hunnie!  We talked, we grilled, we watched the sun set...and then we hurried down the mountain, because the trail closes at dusk.  Not even my collision with a Cholla cactus could ruin our night out. 

Pin It

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Final Exam: Blackberry Muffin

I'm sensing a trend.  For the second week in a row, I find myself focused on cooking despite having reached the climax of the academic semester.  With a sample size of two, there is not enough evidence to support this conclusion; regardless, I hypothesize that cooking is my stress release.  Sure, I should be focused on the keys to successful international partnerships, or how to numerically determine performance efficiency.  Yet, after hours of "studying", I find that all I've accomplished is the creation of a light and tasty muffin made with whole wheat flour and fresh blackberries.  This muffin was a distraction, but it was also a real ego booster.  Having created it in under two hours from a fruit I've never utilized before, I feel a sense of accomplishment and can now focus on studying for the rest of the afternoon.  Most importantly, I'm actually looking forward to my busy day tomorrow.  This final exam will be...well, as easy as blackberry muffins. 

Blackberry Muffins

1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoon melted butter
1 egg

5.3 oz (single-size container) plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup blackberries

Brown sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and lightly grease muffin tin.  In large bowl, combine melted butter and sugar.  Add egg and stir just until combined.  Add Greek yogurt and lemon zest.  In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add half of dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Stir to combine.  Repeat for second half of dry ingredients.  Gently fold in blackberries.  Fill muffin cups to 3/4 of the way full and sprinkle brown sugar on top.  Bake 20-25 minutes.  Let cool for 15 minutes before removing from muffin tin.  Yields 12 muffins.

Pin It