Balsamic Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

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Ladies and gents, I love Brussels sprouts. Ever since two years ago when my cousin brought a dish of balsamic braised Brussels sprouts to Thanksgiving, I’ve discarded my presumptions about this dense mini cabbage-like vegetable and embraced its leafy goodness. When cooked down in the oven in a bit of balsamic and oil, the acidic vinegar melds with the sprouts’ natural sugars to create an almost thickened glaze, that caramelizes the crispy exteriors and helps create a sweet, tender inside. Fry up some smoky bacon bits in a pan, and toss in the Brussels sprouts at the last minute to crisp them up even more and let the bacon fat infuse its flavors. Top with a fried egg to make this dish a meal. My egg pictured above was a bit overcooked; I recommend going sunny side-up for a gooey yolk that will unite all the flavors wonderfully.

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Balsamic Braised Brussels Sprouts

Servings: 1

Ingredients:
5 Brussels sprouts, halved
2 strips of bacon, diced into “bits”
1 egg, sunny side-up
5 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.

2. Cut off ends of Brussels sprout stems and halve brussel sprouts vertically down its stem.

3. Toss in baking pan with a drizzle of olive oil and enough balsamic to coat and a little more (about 2 and a half tablespoons).

4. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes.

5. After 20 minutes, take out pan. Toss the sprouts around and pour in about 2 more tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and another drizzle of oil and toss to coat again. Place back in oven for about 10 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, fry up bacon bits in skillet until crispy. Take Brussels sprouts out of oven, toss again in pan juices and vinegar, and spoon the sprouts into the skillet. I tilted the pan so that the rendered bacon fat would slide under the sprouts and the flavors would meld together.

7. After about a minute, the bacon should be crispy and the Brussels sprouts have caramelized a bit on the outside. Transfer everything to a clean plate.

8. Wipe down skillet quickly or get a new one and fry one egg, sunny side-up. Or over easy, whichever you prefer.

9. Top plated Brussels sprouts and bacon with fried egg.

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On what it means to be “home”

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It always feels a little bit lonely when I return to school. Entering an empty apartment and having no one really to call up and hang out with is a sobering experience. For some reason, it happens to me often, despite having roommates. When I’m back at home, I never feel the same sense of loneliness even as I spend days by myself cooped up in my room. I suppose that is the blessing of sharing a house with your family – that consistent sense of home, of company, reminded to you by the leftover plates lingering from breakfast, my brother’s video games strewn across the family room floor, the half-filled laundry basket at the top of the stairs. Even when there’s no one home, I never feel truly alone. It is a little different in an apartment with roommates.

Even beyond “home,” I realized during finals week in December that I didn’t really have many friends to call up and hang out with at my whim. Once the bustle of daily classes were gone, my days became empty, boring, lonely. In some ways, I suppose that’s a good thing – having solitude. It teaches you things, a lot of things, about yourself, about life, about how things are and about how things could be instead. But a little too much of that starts wearing out your soul and the stamp of loneliness begins to look more permanent than ever. I wonder if my life will ever change and one day I will have friends to call on just for fun, just because I’m bored. This absence in my life probably causes my dependence and attachment to Chris in a strong way – he is the only constant, the most reliable source of company, affection, attention. As I write this I’m realizing that maybe it’s a little pathetic of me. And that I should probably just grow up and move on. As Peggy’s mom said to Peggy in Mad Men after her daughter revealed she wanted to move in with her boyfriend, “If you’re lonely, get a cat.”

Creamy Tomato and Tuna Penne (Recipe adapted from foodwishes.com)

Does this recipe sound a little unnatural to you? I didn’t think it was that weird until a few friends said it was. But I promise you this is one of the most delicious pasta dishes I’ve ever made. Can you believe it? My “most delicious pasta,” made from canned tuna and tomato soup? I’m not sure if that’s really a good thing…but nonetheless, if that doesn’t give you a little faith to make this pasta then I don’t know what will. It’s super cheap and super easy to make – perfect for a big batch dinner for company.

Ingredients:

6-7 ounces of canned tuna (or preferably tuna in a jar packed in olive oil)
4-5 tablespoons of olive oil (if not using jar tuna described above)
3 cups of good quality cream of tomato soup (I used Pacific Organic Creamy Tomato Soup, found at Whole Foods)
14 and a 1/2 ounces of penne
3 cloves of garlic, minced
A big pinch of dried oregano
A big pinch of red pepper flakes
Two big handfuls of fresh arugula
Freshly grated parmesan

Directions:

1. Sauté tuna, minced garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes in olive oil until the garlic becomes fragrant. If using canned tuna, used 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil, if using tuna packed in oil, use all the olive oil from the jar.

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2. Then, pour in the tomato soup and let simmer until the sauce thickens a bit.

3. Add in the pasta and arugula and toss together gently until the sauce has coated the penne and filled in the tubes. The arugula will naturally wilt in the heat as you do so.

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4. Serve with a generous grating of fresh parmesan (not the pre-packaged stuff!)

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Cheddar Biscuits

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I realized today that I have reduced my blog to writing posts for the readers and not myself. Getting a few views from Facebook can only be gratifying for so long. So, I’m going to start writing for myself (and no longer post on Facebook). Stop filtering all the honest things about my feelings and my life, and talk about all of it. And this post, I suppose, is unnecessary, and I should simply start writing the way I want to without any announcements, but then again, I’ve promised myself to regain this blog as my own and I know that I need something like this to motivate myself. I’m hoping that by writing down all my jumbled feelings, eventually I will learn to organize them. Even if this means sacrificing grammar, eloquence and structure. After all, if no one is reading this shit who really cares?

Moving on, let’s talk about cheddar biscuits. These biscuits are good. Cheesy, buttery, light and tender, good. Especially straight out of the oven? Oh man, it was hard not to eat all of them, although I did a good job gobbling down three of them in a row, all without pause. The cheddar is strewn throughout but never overpowers the biscuit, and the dough is tender and soft. For the next few days, my mom and I kept eating them as breakfast, as lunch sandwiches, as snacks – basically in any way we could create an excuse for. And the visual testimony to how good they are? The visible flecks of butter studded across the dough.

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Yeah, it’s that kind of recipe. Enjoy.

Cheddar Biscuits

Recipe adapted from Food52 (found HERE)

Servings: 20 biscuits

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg

Directions:

1. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stick it in the fridge for 20 minutes. While waiting, cut the butter into small chunks and let them warm to room temperature.

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2. Combine the dry ingredients, the cheese and butter in the bowl and mix until the chunks of butter are no bigger than pea-sized. If you have a standing mixer, do this in the mixer bowl on low speed until you achieve the same results.

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3. Add the buttermilk and mix (on low) until the dough just comes together – don’t over mix. Transfer the dough onto a floured board, flour your hands and knead it lightly a few times. Then pat the dough into a large rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.

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4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Then, use a 3-inch round cutter or simply use a cup, dip whichever you are using (I used a cup) into flour and then cut the biscuits. According to the original recipe you’re not supposed to twist the cutter or cup but I did.

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5. After cutting out the first batch, pat together the remaining dough into another 1/2 inch thick shape and cut more. Throw away the leftover bits or use them – the recipe advises against a third shaping which will make the biscuits tough.

6. Beat the egg with a small splash of water and brush the tops of the biscuits with the egg wash.

7. Bake the biscuits for 20 minuteson baking sheets lined with parchment paper, rotating them halfway through. Serve them warm (or I enjoyed them still piping hot and steaming).

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