Four Cheese Rice Cooker Mac and Cheese

Me: Is it weird that I don’t really like mac and cheese at restaurants?

Brian: No way. You make awesome mac and cheese at home.

Me: You’re so right.

Brian: Can you say that again?

I love mac and cheese when it’s properly crafted. It should be smooth, creamy, cheesy, and packed with flavor.

But it can be a PITA to make. All that time making the roux and cheese sauce, boiling water, cooking pasta. So much work. And I’m so lazy. So I order mac and cheese at restaurants. And my disappointment is inevitable.

So when Hamilton Beach sent me a rice cooker/steamer, and told me to look at the billions of other things I can make in this puppy, I was like WHAAAAAAT? Mac and cheese in 15ish minutes!? I’m in.

I looked at the recipe, as I tend to do…and then I said, “Okay, now how can I Chrissify this?”

And then I made my own recipe.

I even measured it for you.

Ingredients for rice cooker mac and cheese

This is everything you need for a creamy delicious rice cooker mac and cheese.

  • 16 oz pasta shells
  • 1 container of chicken broth (for future reference, I recommend full sodium; this needed a lot of salt to get the taste I wanted)
  • 4.5 oz Cheddar & Gruyere(shredded) If you don’t have Trader Joe’s, do half cheddar and half gruyere
  • 4.5 oz Havarti (cubed)
  • 1 tbs salted butter
  • 1/4 cup half & half
  • 2/3 cup Pub Cheese
  • Salt to taste (this is the most important part. Also, if you have truffle salt, USE THAT)

Okay, so don’t worry about shredding or xubing the cheese yet. First, pop the broth and noodles into the rice cooker. Cook on the heat simmer setting for 13 minutes.

Cooking pasta in a roce cooker

While the noodles are cooking, shred/cube/measure the cheese/butter/half&half. We’re on a time crunch here. I tried to shred the Havarti, but it wasn’t really working for me because it’s too soft.

Using Havarti in mac and cheese

So I hacked it up with a knife.

While that’s happening, make your husband/boyfriend/kids set the table and pour you a glass of wine. You deserve it.

Super creamy homemade mac and cheese

When the pasta is soft, add the rest of the ingredients to the rice cooker (no need to drain anything!). Add salt (I forgot this part and it was a little bland). Stir. Voila. Serve.

Serving creamy homemade mac and cheese

If you’re like me, you’ll serve it with a Sam’s Club rotisserie chicken, because we’re all abour convenience and class, here.

creamy homemade mac and cheese with rotisserie chicken

And BBQ sauce. Because mac and cheese and BBQ sauce is a flavor match made in I’m-a-12-year-old heaven. And this BBQ sauce is from Canada (my Reddit Secret Santa sent it to me)!

creamy homemade mac and cheese with rotisserie chicken and sliced tomatoes

And tomatoes. Because Brian is obsessed with tomatoes in the way I am obsessed with cheese.

Overall, it wasn’t my best work because of the forgotten salt fiasco, which isn’t quite as bad as the one time I tried to make blueberry pancakes for Brian and Cletus for breakfast and used salt instead of sugar…but the convenience made it totes worth it.

So when you’re  a few weeks out from your wedding or any other stress-inducing event, try this easy dinner on for size. And this rice cooker may just be my new favorite appliance.

Want your very own  4-20 Cup Rice and Hot Cereal Maker to make delicious mac and cheese, among other things? Take a look at some of the recipes from Hamilton Beach and leave a comment telling me what you’d make in this beast. 

This contest is now over. And my random number generator picked…Melissa!

Congrats to Melissa for winning! I’m sending an email your way.

While I was given a Hamilton Beach rice cooker and steamer in order to facilitate this post, all opinions are my own. Hamilton Beach is sponsoring the product giveaway.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Escape From Reality…Or How I Could Live in my Couch

This post was sponsored by Starbucks as part of an Influencer Activation. I received compensation and complimentary products to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own. No one paid me to say nice things.

I’ve never loved a piece of furniture as much as I love this couch. It’s a three-piece set that I sat on in the furniture store and couldn’t leave without. Before entering the Art Van, Brian gave me full decision-making power in this purchase, as his choice, when we moved into our apartment four years ago, was not my favorite place to sit. That power, though, didn’t stop him from making me walk through the entire store looking for a smaller, less expensive piece of furniture. The only couch I loved more than this couch, was a designer sofa that came with pink and teal pillows and pretty much matched my entire life.

Cozy Pink and Teal Couch

I don’t think Brian’s quite as on board with our pink and teal life…

The price tag ($6700) made me cry, and it made Brian think much more fondly of the cozy, snuggle-blanket soft couch full of neutral tones and pillows for days that came with a much more reasonable expense.

An hour or two later, we left with a delivery date and the happiest Chrissy that’s ever been. Three months later, I’m still in heaven. The couch was a little too big for one room, so we were able to split it up and create two cozy seating spaces that make me swoon.

I love my couch so much

This is my Netflix corner.

With all the rain we’ve been having here in Chicago, my couch has been home to some serious snuggly nights and afternoons spent watching Netflix, reading books, snacking, and cracking jokes with Brian. But even when we’re tucked away in the most amazing couch ever, we like to embrace the world around us and explore new experiences. I thought I’d hook you up with a couple Chrissy-style pointers to make the most out of those rainy afternoons “stuck” inside and use your imagination to travel to faraway places.

 

Read books

If you’re looking for a change of pace from your regular Netflix binge session, pick up your Kindle/Nook/Hardcopy and devour nourishment for your soul. Travel to new places, meet interesting people, and solve crimes on your cozy couch. I just finished reading Famished, a terrifying rollercoaster of a suspense by Meghan O’Flynn.

Plan a trip

With the wedding coming up quickly, Brian and I are starting to plan our honeymoon. I’m pushing for an international trip, and we keep tossing around a variety of ideas. But the magic in planning and imagining our possibilities and options is what really excites me. I get almost as much enjoyment in the planning as I do in taking the actual trip.

Explore exotic flavors

Sure, it may be summer, but the A/C is cranking, and there’s nothing like a mug full of warm, delicious comfort. Since receiving a box of the NEW TAZO® Chai Latte K-Cup® pods, I’ve been indulging in the creamy delicious black tea and milk chock full of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and vanilla for a sweet and spicy mix that I can only describe as magical. I’ve loved chai lattes since discovering it during my days as a catering manager, and I’m thrilled to be able to make it at home in my Keurig®, now.  I’ve been pairing it with one of my new favorite cheeses, a goat gouda called L’Amuse Brabander, and it’s utterly delightful.

Curl up on the couch with tea

For 5,000 years, chai tea has been an essential aspect of Indian heritage, and because of that, TAZO is working with New York Times Bestselling author and host Padma Lakshmi (who I adore) to celebrate the release of the new K-Cup® pods.

You can learn more about Padma and the new tea at TAZO.com/chai.

Of course, if you’re looking for a few recipes from Padma that pair perfectly with a cup of chai, visit TAZO.com/chai/pairings.

Want to try this magical bevvie for yourself? Look for TAZO® Chai Latte K-Cup® pods at TAZO.com/wheretobuy.

 TAZO Chai Latte

Follow TAZO® on social media
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TAZO® Twitter 

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TAZO® Instagram

 How do you escape when you’re stuck inside during the rainiest days?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Adventures in Babybel Eating

Just like my hero, Chris, in Adventures in Babysitting,  I live in the suburbs of Chicago, and occasionally, I have little hometown adventures. Whenever Brian and I get lost, or take the long way around, we call it an adventure.

I have yet to meet Thor or get stabbed on the El, but not for a lack of trying. I have, on the other hand, been beaten up by a no-parking sign, tripped by an invisible wire, and almost killed by falling ice daggers.

My life here in Chicago is full of adventure. And you know I’m like a gremlin and have all these rules of care…like how I need to be fed at regular intervals.

My daily adventure starts with a commuter train ride.

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A snack pack can be a lifesaver this early in the morning.

I venture from suburbia into the city every day for the job. When you’re hundgry, it’s a long 45-mimite ride. But little snack packs like my favorite on-the-go cheese, Babybel, make the trip tolerable.

Sometimes, if I have time, I’ll even slice it and melt it on some bread in the toaster oven before I head out of the house.

On occasion, after work, Brian and I (or just I) will journey on an adventure after work. We might go out for dinner, do some touristy nonsense, or we may head to a movie.

As we roam through the city, we’ll take a cab or the El (cabs are faster and easier most of the time). I’m a big fan of cab selfies, and they’re even better when I have a snack.

image

Once we get to our theater destination,  I’m ready to put out my buffet of treats to enjoy delicious snacking. This is why large bags are important. So you can bring enough snack packs to share with your people before you kick your feet up.

image

The best movie theater snack packs include a beverage,  something sweet,  savory, and crunchy.

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When I went to see Captain America, I brought bottled water, a candy bar from Dylan’s, a selection of Babybel, and pretzel thins to give me a little crunch. And I was happy.

As I made my way home, I napped on the train, dreaming of more cheese.

What are your favorite movie theater snacks? Do you bring your own snack packs into the theater?

Babybel sent me free samples and some things to make my adventures more fun, but as always, these opinions and thoughts are mine, and mine alone. I eat a lot of Babybel, because I’m always running around town.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Champagne and Mom Go Hand in Hand

There are many wonderful things I love in this world. Cheese. Brian. Brunch. My mom. Being a godmother. My own godmother. (Don’t worry dad. I love you, too!) And, I promise this is in no particular, highly calculated order or anything.

I’ve always loved Mother’s Day, despite the having-never-been-a-mother thing I’ve got going for me. It’s one of the Big Five holidays in our family–Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, Mother’s Day–as we’re largely a matriarchy with loud, confident women (if I told you I was the quiet one, would you believe me?). Which pretty much means feasting, family, fighting, and fun. Now that Brian and I own our own home, we like to host family gatherings. I’m not going to lie, though, I’m using the term “we” loosely.

Last year, I took over Mother’s Day (and Halloween. And Christmas Day). As I’m the lady of the family without kids, I wanted to make the moms in my life feel special. So I invited my parents and brother, my godmother and her husband, and my cousin, the mother of my godson, and her family over for an early afternoon brunch of joy. I have every intention of doing it again this year, because it was ridiculous amounts of fun.

So, without further ado, I’m going to give you everything you need to create a delightfully magical brunch for your fam.

Sometimes, I like to have a bloody Mary bar when I host brunch, but I thought it would be fancy if I planned a glorious mimosa bar.

Everything you need for a mimosa bar

  • Champagnemy preferred drink of choice. Obviously.
  • Sparkling almond champagne – It’s a little bit sweeter for your guests who prefer a fruitier beverage
  • Peach bellini – Trader Joe’s has a really great bottle of this stuff and it rounds out your set nicely
  • Orange juice – Apparently, people add this to champagne. It’s not my bag, but I offered it anyways
  • Pineapple juice – I promise, this is WAY tastier than OJ, but you do you, my friends
  • Sliced peaches, oranges, and pineapples – Go big or go home, guys. If you’re going to all the trouble of creating a mimosa bar, make sure you’ve got the right accouterments
  • Maraschino cherries and strawberries – who needs a proverbial cherry on top when you can have a real one? And come on. Strawberries and champagne? Did you even see Pretty Woman?

For Mother's Day, I like to host a brunch for my mom, my godmother, and the mother of my godson to celebrate the beautiful and wonderful mothers in my life.

Now that we’ve got the drinks covered, let’s talk about food. In my family, we cook to feed an army. So when I make brunch, I make a lot of brunch. But…I’m also conscientious of my time. And so when I think about things like cinnamon rolls, I buy them from a store. Some call it cheating. I call it ingenuity.

With kids and adults, creative palates and traditional tastes, I like to offer a wide range of options for everyone. Here is my list of top food stuffs to include on my brunch menu.

Brunch ideas for the whole family

  • Eggs – if you’re going for gold, you can make eggs to order (I don’t) or eggs benedict in a chafing pan. Me? I make cheesy eggs and throw them in a crock pot half cooked. By the time everyone is ready to eat, they’re fully cooked. I also like to offer options, so sometimes, I’ll also make an egg casserole or strata or something.
Breakfast Casserole

This delicious beast is eggs, broccoli, cheddar, and ham atop a glorious crescent roll crust.

  • Potatoes – Nothing says brunch like a big ole pan of cheesy potatoes. I like to throw in shredded potatoes, whatever random cheeses I have in the cheese drawer, some onions, and whatever cream condensed soup is hanging out in the cabinet. The last time I made it, I used Campbell’s Creamy Gouda Bisque, and it was amazing.
Cheesy potatoes

Bake until there’s a golden bubble, and then add more cheese. Of course.

  • Meat – You’ve gotta have something meaty and delicious, but since my family is all over the place, I tend to have 2-3 different types of meat. We might have smoked salmon (cold or hot smoked – both are delicious), bacon/sausage and turkey bacon/sausage, because that tends to make everyone happy. One year I made bacon-wrapped dates and turkey bacon-wrapped dates and LOOK OUT world, because Chrissy forgot to take the pits out of the dates. Everyone ate them anyway (and had to get rid of the pits, obvi).
  • Yogurt bar – This is always a hit. Just get some vanilla yogurt (don’t get Greek yogurt. As much as I love it, everyone will think the regular vanilla is FABULOUS), fresh fruit, local honey, and granola. It’s easy, and you don’t have to cook anything!
  • Baked goods – Fruit breads, muffins, cinnamon rolls, slices of bread for toast, English muffins, bagels, etc. There’s no need to bake these yourself when Panera or Peapod will do it for you. Serve with jams, butter and cream cheese.

Cinnamon rolls

Invite guests with style

Now, you’ve got a plan; it’s time to send out invites. While paper invitations are great for, like, weddings and stuff (and only because my mom is making me do it), I’m a fan of the digitation. For your Mother’s Day brunch, you can use Evite to create personalized invitations with easy-to-track guest lists. Boom.

Evite Sample

What are you doing for Mother’s Day? Do you host or go out to eat? 

This post was sponsored by Evite. Some links used in the content may be affiliate links, which will garner me a small commission should you make a purchase. This helps offset the costs of running this little ole blog. As always, all opinions, ideas, etc are my own. 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Let’s Talk About Cheese, Baby.

Everyone loves a fully-loaded cheese platter, amiright?

6 easy tips to make the perfect cheese display

I know this because no matter the theme of the party I’m hosting, there’s always a platter of cheese on the buffet. When a girlfriend comes over to catch up, I whip up a quick cheese plate. When Brian and I can’t decide what to eat, we’ll smorgasbord like a couple of mad kitchen geniuses, and make a cheese display that will make your mouth water. But you know what? It’s not such a hard task. That’s probably why I do it so often. I’m gasp a little lazy. And cheese is easy. You don’t have to cook it (I mean, melty cheese is great and all, but when your cheese drawer is loaded with the good stuff, you don’t cook that cheesy goodness; you eat that cheese on its own). You barely even have to cut it.

How to create the ultimate cheese plate

As someone who once worked for cheese, I’ve learned a thing or two about cheesemongering. And it’s high time I shared that knowledge with you. Below, I’ve listed the most important six things you should know about making a cheese plate at home.

  • Always taste the cheese first. This step is crucial. If you have the opportunity to taste the cheese before you buy it, awesome. But if you order your groceries online, like I did last week, you probably won’t get to sample it before you buy. That’s okay. Just make sure you have yourself a little nibble of each offering before you serve your guests. Not only will this make you more knowledgeable when you’re talking about the flavors of the cheese, but also, you’re eating cheese. And what’s better than that?
  • Choose a stylish platter. I have a vast selection of cheese plates and platters to choose from. Wood boards, slate platters, ceramic dishes, glass cheese plates…all of these can give your display serious street cred.

how to make a cheese platter at home

  • Mix and match your cheese. Make sure you choose a variety of different cheeses, varying in color, shape, size, texture, and flavor for a full profile of cheesy goodness. For this plate, I chose Merlot BellaVitano (which is a cross between an aged cheddar and parmesan, and brined in merlot), Amablu Blue Cheese, Saint Andre Brie Triple Cream, and Organic Valley Grassmilk Raw Sharp Cheddar Cheese. I meant to add a manchego, which is a really gritty and delicious hard Spanish cheese that Brian loves, but I kept that one unopened in the cheese drawer with the Boar’s Head Monterey Jack with Jalapeno. My bridesmaids are coming over today for dress shopping, and I want to have some cheese to feed them as well. (But seriously you guys. All of these cheeses were available online. Delivered. To my door.)
  • Avoid cutting the cheese. I mean, if you’re hosting a big party and no one’s going to want to slice into your beautiful hunks of cheese, by all means, cut it RIGHT BEFORE you put it out. Do not buy pre-cut cheese. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Fresh cut cheese is a hundred times better than cheese that’s already been cut.
  • Place the cheese out early. Did you know that cheese tastes its absolute best at room temperature? For the tastiest selection of cheeses, let them sit out for about a half hour to 45 minutes before serving. Just keep in mind that food safety rules say it’s okay to leave food out for four hours…so once you hit that four-hour mark, it’s time to bring out fresh cheese. But honestly, cheese wouldn’t sit out for four hours without getting gobbled up, right?
  • Make the platter look full with accouterments. The best way to make a cheese plate look extra appetizing is to add dimension, color, and design by filling it to the brim with some of your favorite accompaniments. I love adding fresh fruit for the bright colors and tasty combination bites of sweet fruit and savory cheese. These strawberries were so stunning, I couldn’t even stop myself from eating a couple before I placed the rest on my platter. The weird square thing? That’s membrillo (quince paste), which is a sweet, fruit-flavored jelly-like substance made from the quince fruit. It looks bizarre but tastes amazing with sharp cheesy flavors. I like to sprinkle fresh nuts throughout a cheese platter as well to really fill it up (plus, I love nuts. Don’t you?).
Look at that beautiful strawberry!

That strawberry is the real deal, y’all. I can’t even with this fruit. And it was picked out for me by the fine team at Peapod.

These are the basic tricks I use to create decadent displays that I share with my friends and family when they visit our home. Sometimes, we even take these snacks on the road with us to bring to a party. Basically, cheese = friends. You’re welcome.

I want to have specialty cheeses delivered to my front door. Click To Tweet

What tips do you have for making a killer cheese plate? Do you have any favorite cheeses or accouterments? Have you ever experienced the unadulterated joy of online grocery shopping?

This post was sponsored by the wonderful people at Peapod, a grocery delivery service that pretty much changed my life. All food pictured above was delivered to my house without a second of me having to go into a grocery store, stand in line, or impulse buy stuff I don’t need. It may have been one of the most magical experiences of my life. There’s nothing quite like cheese getting delivered to your front door. Links used in this post may be affiliate links, which will earn me a commission should you use them to shop for groceries online. While I was compensated to write this post, all opinions expressed are from my own completely unbiased and cheese-obsessed brain.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

How to Bake the Perfect Cookies

It’s National Cookie Day, you guys. Do you know what that means? Fresh-baked, melty-chocolatey, delicious cookies should get in your belly. Immediately.

This post is sponsored by the fine people at Otis Spunkmeyer, several of whom I met a few weeks ago in Chicago while sampling their delicious snacks. As always, these opinions, ideas, and word babies are all mine. 

We hung out with some giant cookies at the Otis Spunkmeyer Sneak Peak last month.

This is my new blogging bestie Anna from Anna Dishes. If you like food or flowery things, she’s your girl. She’s also DEFINITELY one of my soulies, as we bonded over a lot of food and booze AND she let me stalk her the entire time she was here in Chicago. You’ll note she looks adorable while I don’t have a normal bone in my body. 

I love cookies. I’ve always been something of a cookie monster. C is for Chrissy. And cookie. Coincidence? I think not. I was raised to love cookies. I blame my dad. And grandfathers. They were all cookie monsters too. Well, my dad still is. One of his favorite gifts on birthdays and Christmas (a bottle of Courvoisier, wine, or scotch notwithstanding) is cookies.

When I was in high school, there was a little cookie stand down in the basement by the Driver’s Ed simulator hosted by Otis Spunkmeyer (you remember Otis Spunkmeyer for their amazing cookies, probably in high school or college, right?) One of the teachers – I think he was a teacher – would be there every morning 20 minutes before school started through 2nd period, selling cookies. I think it was like 3 for a dollar or something.

Whenever I had time and an extra dollar, I’d mosey on down and order a triple chocolate chip cookie (chocolate cookie with milk and white chips), white chocolate macadamia nut cookie, and oatmeal raisin. And then I’d eat them in all their melty, fresh-baked glory. I’ve always wished I could make delicious cookies like that.

Alas, it’s been many a years of baking…errors. If you haven’t noticed from previous recipes, I’m terrible at following recipes to a T, which is something you need to do with baking. If you don’t get just the right amount of butter, baking powder, baking soda (don’t even get me started on knowing the differences!), eggs etc…you’re doomed to failure. Just last week, I completely burned the Second Thanksgiving pumpkin cupcakes…More on what I did with that later…

I’ve made some pretty UNPRETTY cookies in my time. Flat cookies. Burnt cookies. Undercooked cookies (okay fine. Those were cookie dough balls and I ate them all). BUT…I’ve discovered the secret to perfectly baked cookies every time.

How to bake the perfect cookies

To make the best cookies, it’s a four step process.

First, you remove the cookies from their wrappers. These Otis Spunkmeyer treats (which will be available in a grocery store near you starting early next year) are made with no funky stuff, so they taste just like Mom made them (but with so much less mess).

Otis Spunkmeyer cookies come individually wrapped with no funky stuff!

Otis Spunkmeyer cookies come individually wrapped with no funky stuff!

Then, you place the cookie on a pan (I used a toaster-oven-size stone baking sheet for added crisposity).

Baking an Otis Spunkmeyer cookie in the toaster oven is easy. Just pop it in at 350 for 5-7 minutes for a warm gooey cookie.

Don’t mind my messy toaster oven…

Bake the cookie for 5-7 minutes until it’s warm to touch and the chocolate starts getting a little melty (wait too long and it’ll be super messy, but probably super delicious).

Otis Spunkmeyer cookies have the perfect cookie craters and delicious chunks of chocolate for a fresh cookie with no funky stuff.

That chocolate chunk is just starting to melt…

The secret to the best fresh-baked cookies on the planet. Click To Tweet
Look at that Otis Spunkmeyer melty goodness

Look at that Otis Spunkmeyer melty goodness

See how easy it is to celebrate National Cookie Day? That was my breakfast. I’ll probably have another cookie for dinner. And maybe one for lunch. Brian usually discourages this sort of behavior…but he’s not the boss of me!

Extra details on the Otis Spunkmeyer retail line of products: So much goodness is coming your way, you guys. They’re launching snack cakes, muffins, mini muffins, and of course, cookies. They’ll be in stores and on Amazon Prime Pantry so you can get your fill of deliciousness whenever you want it. And let me tell you. I tried them all, and you will not want to miss out (especially on the lemon cakes).

What are your favorite cookies? Do you have any cookie memories of Otis Spunkmeyer? Are you as excited for this product launch as I am?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Chefs Say the Darnedest Things | Stephanie Izard & Andrew Zimmerman

I love culinary professionals. My first full-time job was as a catering manager at a small, private college. Our chefs were absolutely fantastic, and I was and am proud to call them my friends. I’ve worked with several amazing chefs over the last decade or so, and I learned so much from them – lessons I’ll remember forever. Of course, even with incredibly talented chefs in my social network, it’s always exciting to speak to the chef or meet the chef of a fine dining establishment (especially when they’re TV famous and stuff…you know how starstruck I can get).

I recently had the pleasure of attending two food demonstrations by Chefs Stephanie Izard and Andrew Zimmerman of Top Chef and Iron Chef respectively. They were hilarious presenters and amazing chefs.

I recently returned (okay fine, “returned”) home from BlogHerFood, which was hosted in Chicago…so really I didn’t go anywhere. Hell, I didn’t even sleep in a hotel. I drove home every night. Well, the first night, I took the train home. Whatever.

At this delicious (actually delicious because SO. Much. Food.) conference, I had the pleasure of attending a couple special events with food demos from local and TV famous chefs.

On Thursday night, I was invited to a dinner hosted by Canadian Lentils to gear up for International Year of Pulses (a celebration of lentils, beans, chickpeas and peas) in 2016. Chef Stephanie Izard (Top Chef Season 4 Winner and Fan-Favorite, who also happens to be a Mom-approved favorite by the world’s toughest critic, my mom) hosted us at Little Goat, which I’ve visited for brunch once before. In the private party space above the chic diner/bar, we were welcomed with cocktails and apps in a demo kitchen space that opened out to a fabulous rooftop patio. We were privvy to a fantastic food demo from Chef herself as she discussed lentils, food prep and more. Of course, I was taking notes of a different kind. Chef Stephanie Izard prepares shrimp at a demo for Canadian Lentils

I’ve realized in my years of hearing people speak and listening in on other people’s conversations, that every now and then someone will say something in or out of context that is truly hilarious or hits home on the perfect spot. And so I wrote them down (slightly paraphrased, perhaps. Those cocktails were freeflowing, if I didn’t already mention that).

Stephanie Izard on doing the dishes

I was doing dishes, which I don’t do at home, but here I found it quite soothing…

I loved this little blurb. Because it made perfect sense to me. When things are stressful, sometimes doing something like washing the dishes can be incredibly calming. And I really love that she doesn’t do dishes at home. Neither do I, Steph. Neither do I.

Stephanie Izard on snacks

Give people snacks and it’ll make them quite happy.

Isn’t that what I’ve been saying forever? Brian found the way to my heart through snacks (which he always keeps in his backpack for me – although it’s likely a defense mechanism to protect him from my hangry…but I digress…). Chef Stephanie nailed it. Obviously, we’re best friends now.

I had the pleasure of meeting and slightly drunkenly fangirling Stephanie Izard.

I may have been drunk when I fangirled poor Stephanie.

Stephanie Izard on finishing your plate

If you’re good and you eat all your lentils…

I don’t even remember what she said after that because I was laughing. Everything at the even had lentils in it. And everything was freakin’ delicious. So yes. Yes, Stephanie Izard, I will eat all my lentils. In a box, with a fox, in a house, with a mouse. Om nom nom.

Stephanie Izard on overeating

We’re going to feed you til you drop.

Other than knowing I was in the right place, I really wanted to tell Chef that she didn’t even know what kind of promises she was making with that statement. I proceeded to eat, drink, and be merry thanks to my friends, Jeremy and Gillian (the world’s best bartender and server).

Jeremy the bartender and Gillian the server.

Honestly, it was a total win, and I stumbled full, drunk and happy to the train with my new found friends. I knew this food conference was the best decision ever.

The next day, exhausted and hungry, I arrived at the conference for Round 2. They started feeding me immediately upon my arrival and didn’t stop until I left Saturday night. It was heaven.

At lunch on Friday, I attended another foodie demonstration, hosted by Foodinsights.org and discussing the importance of protein from the food aspect to the fitness aspect. The demo was with Iron Chef winner and Chicago chef, Andrew Zimmerman.Iron Chef Andrew Zimmerman gives a food demonstration working with different proteins.

Andrew Zimmerman on risotto

Usually, you cram it full of cream and cheese and butter, which is like vegan kryptonite.

Chef had me laughing my ass off with this one, as he was discussing his very much non-vegan restaurant and how he handles vegan customers. He makes them risotto (but, like, a vegan version without all the good stuff).

Andrew Zimmerman on pork

Play with it; it’s fun-all squishy and meaty.

I wouldn’t necessarily consider squishy and meaty fun, but Zimmerman has a point. Sometimes it’s okay to play with your food. Like when I’m making meatloaf and I play with the raw egg for a little bit before mixing it into the ground meat. Everyone has their weird.

Andrew Zimmerman on the cuisine of their restaurants

My restaurant is globally informed contemporary American which is basically my answer for whatever. I. feel. like.

His bullshit level is through the roof with brilliance, and I absolutely love him for it. If I ever had a restaurant, I would totally get behind a “whatever I feel like making” stance.

Bravo, my new chef friends, bravo. Thank you so much for your fascinating demos, your hilarious words, and most importantly, you’re delicious food. Because if there’s any real way to my heart, it’s through food.

Blog friends, have you ever met a TV famous chef? What are some of your favorite culinary moments (Mastering the blue box mac and cheese totally counts)? Ever seen a food demonstration? Who is the funniest person you’ve heard speak?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Jalapeno Cheetos Mozzarella Sticks – Because Everyone Should Try Something Crazy at Least Once

Sometimes, Brian sends me an animated gif of some magic foodie creation he wishes me to make a reality.  Many times, I just laugh it off, and tell him he has two hands so he can make that shit himself (for the last time, BRIAN, I am not making a fucking turducken). But sometimes, like that one time I made an ice cream sandwich cake, I realize he’s discovered gold, and I should go help haul that shit home.

Other times, I look at the project potential and think, I like all those things. That gif is a magical creation sent to the Internet by God, himself. I will make that delicious feast. Such as what happened with Brian’s ice cream cake a few years ago. It’s also what happened when he sent me a gif featuring Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Mozzarella Sticks. Of course, I wasn’t in the mood for the fiery red poops that go along with Flamin’ Hots (come on, you know that happens…) when I decided to surprise Brian with homemade mozz sticks. So I opted for the less flamin’, still kickin’ Cheddar Jalapeno Crunchy Cheetos. Second only to Puffs, these delicious beasts are amazing solo…and pretty damn delish when paired with more cheese.

Cheddar Jalapeno Cheetos add just a hint of kick and added flavor to homemade mozzarella sticks

Cheetos mozzarella sticks ingredients

  • 2 cups crushed crunchy Cheetos (any flavor)
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 sticks of string cheese, cut in half
  • 1 small bowl of flour
  • frying oil

Prep and cooking process

Step 1: Set out your breading station. You’ll coat the sticks with flour first, then egg, and finally the Cheetos.

Set out your breading station. You'll coat the sticks with flour first, then egg, and finally the Cheetos.

Step 2: Begin by coating a stick with flour. Make sure to cover the entire cheese stick.

Begin by coating a stick with flour. Make sure to cover the entire cheese stick.

Step 3: Cover the floured stick with egg, ensuring you’ve completely coated the flour with egg.

Cover the floured stick with egg, ensuring you've completely coated the flour with egg.

Step 4: Quickly toss the egged cheese stick in the crushed Cheetos, making sure to cover every open space so the cheese doesn’t fall out (if it does, it’ll still taste pretty good though…let’s be honest here – you’ve seen my photo).

[There was no way in hell I was taking a photo after my fingers were all eggy and Cheeto-y.]

Step 5: Freeze for several hours. I made them in the morning, put them on a pan (Oh – and before you get started, make sure your pan will fit in your freezer. The pan fit in my freezer, but not Mom’s which is where we ultimately cooked these bad boys up-mostly so we didn’t eat 8 stick of cheese each), and froze them for about 8 hours.

Freeze cheese sticks for several hours.

Step 6: Heat a pan 1/3 or 1/2 filled with frying oil or start your deep fryer. We’re not super fancy, so we just opted for a pan with oil. Mama Bear has specialty frying oil, though, so bonus!
Cook the Cheetos Mozz Sticks in a deep pan filled 1/3 or 1/2 way with hot oil. Cook until the sticks are floating - and try to get them out before the cheese falls out.

Step 7: Cook until the sticks are floating – and try to get them out before the cheese falls out (something we failed to manage because we were fighting over who would get to take them out of the pan. Ultimately, I won that battle, just a minute or two too late).

Step 8: Place on wax paper to soak up the grease, because we learned the hard way the cheese will stick to paper towels.

Place on wax paper to soak up the grease, because we learned the hard way the cheese will stick to paper towels.

Overall review of Cheetos Mozzarella Sticks

After watching an animated gif about turning Cheetos into Mozzarella sticks, I was sold. And made my own batch.

Guys, let me tell you, this is not for the weak-hearted. It wasn’t easy, and I probably won’t do it again. After the fourth or fifth stick, the Cheetos all started gluing themselves to each other with the egg, while the egg refused to stick to the cheese stick and I had one hell of a time trying to get the Cheetos bread crumbs wrapped around the stick. Then, there was the whole, cooking to the right temperature and not sticking cheese to paper towels part of serving that shit…it was a little rough around the edges. But you know, if you’re feeling adventurous, give it a go. It was still pretty tasty, although the over-powering frying oil seemed to overtake the delicious Cheetos flavor. If I were feeling up to the challenge again, I think I might try baking them.

What crazy recipes have you tried lately? Which ones do you want to try? Would you eat these tasty beasts?

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Celebrate with Fajitas and ‘Ritas

I’m dying for Mexican food right now, you guys. My hope is that Brian and I will be going out for tacos and stuff (mostly margaritas, but whatever) if he agrees to it, of course. Otherwise it might be blender ‘ritas and tacos at home for this girl. Either way, it’s fiesta time, my friends. And what good is a fiesta without food that leaves you ready for a siesta (I know. Bad joke. Don’t care)?

Brian: May the 5th be with you!
Me: Huh?
Brian: Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Me: Oh. Yeah. You too. Wait. We should get tacos and margaritas for dinner tonight.
Brian: …
Me: I mean, it’s the only logical thing to do.
Brian: I guess…
Me: Or we could skip the tacos and just get margaritas.
Brian: I’d rather have the tacos.
Me: Okay, we’ll compromise. You can get tacos, and I’ll get margaritas.
Posted by Quirky Chrissy on Tuesday, May 5, 2015

So, if you’re sitting at home thinking about restaurant-quality fajitas for dinner tonight, I’ve got the perfect recipe (although, maybe not quite a full recipe as I’m a big fan of throwing shit in a pan and hoping it turns out). Allow me to light the path to Cinco de Happiness. Taco night and fajita night are both really big deals in our house. Brian loves pico de gallo the way I love cheese. It’s a staple. So any meal that includes his favorite staple is a win in Brian’s book. And I just love stuff with lots of ingredients. So there’s that.

I’ll warn you now, that this recipe isn’t for those who want everything homemade from scratch. That’s a rare occurrence around here, what with our crazy busy schedules. This is designed to be easy. Feel free to substitute the cooking part of the chicken with a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. I’m not saying we’ve never done that in order to save 30 minutes. (Spoiler alert – we do it all the time).

STORIES

Easy Fully Loaded Fajitas

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 Bell Peppers – I use red, orange, or yellow, but you can rock any color combo you like
  • 1 Red Onion – feel free to use your favorite onion – I like red best
  • 3 Tbs Olive Oil – to cook veggies and chicken
  • 1 lb Chicken – you could do steak too, but I’ve always been partial to chicken fajitas
  • Fajita Seasoning – you can cheat and buy a packet from the grocery store or if you’re experimental, sprinkle in a teaspoon or so of each of these (Pro-tip: use the cayenne pepper to preferred heat):
    • Paprika
    • Cumin
    • Chili Powder
    • Onion Powder
    • Garlic Powder
    • Cayenne Pepper
    • Black Pepper
    • Salt
  • 8 Flour Tortillas – Brian prefers corn always, but I prefer flour for loaded fajitas because they hold together better
  • Guacamole – homemade recipe below
  • Pico de Gallo – we usually get ours from Trader Joe’s
  • Tomato Salsa – because sometimes you want more than just pico, amiright?
  • Trader Joe’s Corn Salsa – this stuff is fucking amazing
  • Sour Cream – I feel like it brings all the flavors together

Step 1: Slice peppers and onions into strips

Step 2: Saute peppers and onions in 1 Tbs of olive oil 

Step 3: Slice chicken into thin strips

Step 4: Saute chicken in 2 Tbs of olive oil

Step 5: Once the chicken is cooked all the way through, add the fajita seasoning

Step 6: Combine the veggies and chicken in one pan, allowing the seasoning to cover the chicken, peppers and onions

Step 7: Heat the tortillas in the microwave (wrap them in a damp paper towel and heat on high for 20-30 seconds)

Serve and enjoy.

I love guacamole. I love homemade guacamole even more. And when it all comes down to it, this easy recipe is DELICIOUS!

Homemade Guacamole

We’re big advocates for the simplest recipes. Guacamole is easy when you’ve got fresh avocados and a few key ingredients (lime and pico). I used to get all crafty and creative with the guac recipes, but then we tried this, and it was easy. And fucking magical.

  • 2 Avocados
  • 1 Lime (zest and juice) or 2 Packets True Lime
  • 1/4 Cup Pico de Gallo
  • Salt and Black Pepper to Taste

Step 1: Cut avocados in slices or cubes

Step 2: Mash avocados

Step 3: Add the other ingredients and mix well

BOOM.Fully Loaded Fajitas

What are some of your favorite go-to recipes for Cinco de Mayo? Have you tried making homemade guacamole? Will you be drinking margaritas with me tonight?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

I’m Not Going to Lie…I Throw a Killer Party

So I know I promised months ago that I’d tell you about our housewarming party, but then LIFE happened…and the housewarming party came and went…and definitely got put on the back burner. But here it is in all it’s gaming glory.

I wanted to throw a game-themed party. And actually I wanted to get crazy into it with a different game theme in every room and people playing games everywhere. I had HUGE plans. I was going to set up a whole CLUE scenario. I was going to have little Jenga pieces for everyone to put house tips on. I was going to make cute little favors for everyone. But, as many of you already know…shit doesn’t happen the way we plan it. We closed on our house on October 15. We moved on October 25. And we threw the housewarming party on November 15. We’re lucky the house was clean and there was food to eat.

Throw an awesome housewarming party

Part of the quick turnaround was because I NEEDED to have an organized, put-together house in order to survive. I would have gone bonkers if we were living amidst boxes and bags that hadn’t been opened and organized. (There are still a few of those, but not many…and none of mine). Part of the quick turnaround was the timing. If it was around Christmastime, I would have had to have Christmas up and running perfectly…and then we were hosting Christmas dinner and it would have been a disaster of too many parties in quick succession. If it were after Christmastime…well let’s just say we’re still recovering and Christmas is still lingering in unseen areas of our home.

ANYWAYS. So we threw a party. Pretty quickly. And had about 65 people show up throughout the day (while expecting about 35-40!). We opened our house up to guests from noon until whenever (which ended up being around midnight), and ran ourselves ragged with tours and food replenishing and beverage duty. We had some wins and we had some fails, but all in all it was a total success.

While no one really played games, the theme was pretty evident throughout the house.

How to throw a game-themed housewarming party (without killing yourself or your partner)

Decor

Set up an AWESOME food display in an open area, where people can grab food, mill around and start one of the bazillion tours you’re about to give.If you don’t have a lot of decorations elsewhere, that’s okay (YOUR NEW HOUSE is the decoration that everyone’s dying to see). I was a caterer in another life, so the buffet set up can be super baller if you know how to use levels and fluff the hell out of tablecloths or fabric. (I use milk crates and similar containers to create my levels). Because I have so many Scrabble boards and pieces from my wanna-be-a-crafter box (and that one time I made Scrabble Christmas ornaments for everyone), I thought that using them on my buffet would be a hit! I labeled all the food with tiles (and even used the board to get all the ingredients for my Blue Cheese and Date Spread on Endive. I also pulled a few more game boards and pieces for good measure, adding just the right amount of nerdy gameyness.

Setting up buffet tables is one of my special skills. I used to be a catering manager so this sort of thing really tickles my jollies.

Setting up buffet tables is one of my special skills. I used to be a catering manager so this sort of thing really tickles my jollies.

dice and trvial pursuit

Food

Choose food that is SUPER easy to make and replenish. I’m a big fan of Crock Pot apps and snacks, so I went with BBQ weenies and buffalo chicken dip. I actually had another Crock Pot in the kitchen with more buffalo chicken dip for easy replenishment. My mom made several deli platters for sandwiches and it was cold enough that we could keep the reserves outside.Obviously there was a cheese platter. I like to to a lot of fan faves and choose one crazy concoction that I hope works out (that would be the blue cheese and date spread – which worked out). I made ALL of the food the night before, so the day of I could focus on the insanity of hiding all our crap in boxes and corners and shit.

BBQ weenies

Note the chess pieces, trivial pursuit cards and scrabble tiles for a mix of beloved classics

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Gratuitous cheese photo

Gratuitous cheese photo. Please note. I spelled cheese wring and am completely ashamed of myself. But don’t you love the risk board below?

Dessert

I REALLY wanted to make domino brownies. And I REALLY didn’t want to do a lot of baking. So I baked chocolate chip cookie bars and gluten-free brownies (both from mixes, homies) and picked up a giant brownie cake thing from Sam’s Club. I sliced the brownie in Domino-size pieces and dotted them with frosting. And it fucking worked.

Domino Brownies

I seriously thought these were going to be a huge Pinterest fail. And then they turned out alright.

mint chocolate chip cookie barsDrinks

We had wine galore. We had beer. We had the soda stream. We had two Keurigs. And we had some epic fails in forgetting to get bottled water and cans of pop. Not realizing just how many people would come, we thought that we’d be fine with soda stream and filtered water from the fridge… Go buy cans of pop and bottled water. Save yourself. Seriously.

Oh. And get these shots – which were a HUGE hit.

Twisted Shots Twisted ShotsPlaying HostessI discovered Twisted Shots while at BlogHer in San Jose last summer. They actually sent me a lovely little box of these delicious treats for my housewarming party! After 7, I figured it was time to get the party going (and most of the touring had ended), so I brought out the shots. I played server and convinced almost everyone to try a shot or two. With flavors like Sex on the Beach, Buttery Nipple and Porn Star, you know you’ve got a good thing going. Almost everyone was down with these sugary sweet twisted shots full of colorful booze that tasted mostly like candy. Even my whiskey-loving friends found a few shots that were right up their alleys.

Tours

Plan on basically spending the majority of the time touring and put someone else in charge of food and beverages once the party starts. Even if there are two of you, you’ll be switching off with the tours on a pretty serious cadence…and I think there were a few moments when we ran out of food. But I don’t know for sure because I was racing all over and mingling and busy and reveling and all of the things! (Yes, that sentence is supposed to give you anxiety.)

In the end, though, all you really want is for the people you love to come over and eat your food, drink your booze, and tell you that your house is pretty. And that’s what happened. I heard all sorts of positive things in regards to our first event in the new place (and then we hosted Second Thanksgiving…and then we hosted Christmas. So there was that.)

Blog friends, tell me about your party throwing experiences? What have you learned? What have you done well? What would you have done for a game-themed party?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!