Pesto Parmesan Popcorn

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I am a brand ambassador for Parmigiano Reggiano and this post is in collaboration with them!  They provided the cheese, and I came up with the recipe.  

I used to think that all food was created equal.  I always bought store brand everything, and was very unwilling to purchase organic and natural foods, because I felt like it was all a scam.  Some of it might be a scam to get more money from customers, but these days, there are certain foods for which I insist on paying a little more, in order to get a higher quality product.  

For example, a few years ago, I went to the grocery store and decided to splurge on a more natural bacon.  The kind that is $6 for 12 thick-cut, applewood slices.  I was worried that it would end up being a total bust, and that I would quickly learn my lesson and be back to my $2 for 24 slices variety.  However, this bacon really was different than its cheaper counterpart.  It was incredibly good, with a great chewy/crispy texture.  I found that when I used this nicer bacon, I needed less bacon per recipe, with greater results.  The bacon was more expensive, but I was totally getting what I paid for: better!

Not every natural product is like this of course, but I have found that the other area where I tend to splurge is cheese.  Cheap cheese tends to be rubbery, flavorless and just plain cheap-tasting.  If you go for a slightly more expensive cheese, you almost always get a significantly better flavor and texture.  

A few years ago, I started buying Parmigiano Reggiano® and was astounded by how long it would last and the intense flavor it would give my dishes.  I would usually buy a small block (maybe 4-6 oz), and then use it for a month or so in a variety of dishes.  It was great for a few tablespoons here and there to top a pasta, or for a little added something on a salad.  It really made such a difference in my recipes.  

Parmigiano Reggiano® isn't a brand exactly; it is a group of 350 cheesemakers from Italy who have trademarked and protected their cheese so that they are the only ones who can make this specific kind of cheese.  This means that any true "Parmigiana Reggiano®" that you purchase comes from Italy and has been certified as a spectacularly high quality cheese.  Trust, me, it is fabulous.  You can tell that it is the real deal from the pin dots on the rind (you can see them below in a few of the photos).  

This 'true Parmesan' can be purchased at good cheese shops, Whole Foods, and most large grocery chains.  In fact, when I was in California last weekend, I saw some giant Parmigiano Reggiano® wheels in the cheese department at a local Ralph's grocery store, and had a little glowy moment when I thought of all the delicious food that could be made with that much cheese.  

Happy cooking!  

Pesto Parmesan Popcorn: 
Makes about 4 cups

4 cups popped popcorn (my favorite way to make microwave popcorn)
2 Tbs good tasting olive oil
1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
2-3 Tbs toasted pine nuts
1/8- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (I used a microplaner, for super fine cheese grates)

Pop your popcorn, put it in a bowl, top with a wire cooling rack, and shake it over the sink to remove unpeopled kernels (this is optional).

Drizzle the olive oil over the top, tossing with a fork while you pour, so that the oil is evenly distributed.

Quickly add the parmesan so that it will begin to melt over the still-warm popcorn.

Toss in the basil leaves, and the pine nuts, and serve immediately!

Weekly Menu Plan #6

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

We have really had a pretty great week.  Adam and I got to go out for our first date night in a quite a while this past weekend.  One of our friends has a daughter who wants to learn how to sew, so I am teaching her, and she is babysitting once a month for me!  It is really a pretty great trade-off.  It is fun to be able to pass on a life skill, and wonderful to be able to save myself the cost of a babysitter.

In other news, Fox is becoming more and more delightful all the time.  A few favorite moments from this week include Fox learning how to say "tasty," closely followed by the time he was yelling from his crib (post-nap) "I need tasty!"

He also has started squeezing my hand when we walk down the stairs together.  I started it a few weeks ago, and would squeeze his hand to remind him to keep walking, and he now tilts his little head up at me, gives me an impish look, and squeezes back.  It is totally darling.

He also recently discovered that his ikea cart is big enough for him to sit in, so we have spent a lot of time running up and down the hall pushing him in the cart.  Our neighbors downstairs probably hate it, but Fox is a huge fan.

I also made a fabulous batch of applesauce this week.  The apples were super cheap, so I bought like 4 pounds and turned them into a delicious chunky applesauce.  If you can promise you will ignore the horrible photo, you can see the recipe I used in this post.

It has been a good week.  I hope you are having a great week, too!

To Use Up:
Lemongrass stalks
Butternut Squash
Sweet Potatoes
Red Pepper

Weekly Menu Plan: 
Coconut Curry (Vegan/Vegetarian/Gluten Free) - I love a good curry, and this one was pretty decent, particularly since I just used curry powder instead of curry paste.
Butternut Squash Tart (Vegetarian) - This recipe is still a work in progress, but that just means I get to eat it a lot more often.  And it is delicious, so I am not complaining!  Hopefully I will get it just right the next time!
Cashew Corn Chowder (Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten Free) - I have posted about this one before, because it is one of my very favorites.  It has a large amount of tumeric in it, which is supposed to be great for you, and is vegan for all those vegan eaters (and non-vegan eaters.  Fox and Adam loved it!).
Beet Chickpea Wraps (Vegetarian) - There are a lot of parts, but each part is easy to prepare and delicious when put together.   I used spinach this time around, but it is better with arugula.
Peanut Stir Fry over Quinoa (Vegetarian) - I have mentioned this at least 3 or 4 times on this blog in the past.  It is SOOOO good.  The sauce is just marvelous.  And I like to eat it straight off the spoon.  Yum!
Spinach Sweet Potato Noodles with Cashew Cream Sauce (Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten Free) - I got to test out my new spiralizer for the first time.  It had a learning curve, but in the end, I was really happy with the result. This dish was delicious!
Carrot and Beet Soup (Vegetarian, Gluten-Free) - Another classic.  I keep making it because we keep getting beets in our CSA share, and I haven't had a lot of time to think outside the box lately, so we keep having beet soup!


Cinnamon Roll Twists

Monday, October 17, 2016

You know the book "The Five Love Languages?" I think the author ought to consider adding an additional language.  Food.  I feel loved when I am brought food, but more than that, I show my love through making food.  When I want someone to know I care about them, I make them food.

I made these as a birthday gift for a friend a few weeks ago, and they were so much fun to make.  They look way prettier than a normal cinnamon roll, so the recipient feels extra special when you show up on their doorstep with these beauties.  Also, you feel totally awesome when you pull them out of the oven, and they are all knotted and cinnamon-y.  Making them is really gratifying.

They would make a fabulous holiday breakfast or a delicious Christmas Eve treat (dip them in hot chocolate!!!). The cinnamon smell coming out of the oven will make your house smell divine and really get you into the holiday spirit :)

If you make them and post a photo, tag me on social media @measureandwhisk so I can see them!  Happy Baking!  

Cinnamon Roll Twists:

1 cup warm water

2 tsp active dry yeast
sprinkle of sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/6 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbs butter, melted
3-4 cups flour

3 Tbs butter, melted
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

2 Tbs butter, melted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs hot water

In a large bowl, combine the active yeast, the water and the sprinkle of sugar.  Let it sit for 10 minutes, until your yeast is puffy.  Once the yeast is puffy, add the salt, sugar, egg, vanilla, butter and 2 cups of the flour and mix until a rough dough has formed.  Add 1/4 cup of flour at a time until the a nice soft dough has formed (as your dough takes shape, you may need to reduce the amount of flour you are adding to 1/8 cup or a tablespoon).  You want the dough to be soft, and just have passed the point of beings sticky.  If you add too much flour, you will get dry cinnamon rolls.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl, and cover with a damp towel.  Let it sit for 1 hour, until it has just about doubled in size.

While your dough is rising, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl to make your filling.  And melt your 3 tablespoons of butter.

Gently press the risen dough back down in the bowl, and set it on a clean, floured surface.  Cut the dough into 16 pieces.

Roll the pieces out, one at a time, into a 8-10" oval or rectangle.  spread it with butter, and sprinkle an even layer of brown sugar and cinnamon mixture over the top.  Next, slice two parallel slits into the dough, lengthwise.  Pick up the two short ends of the dough, and twist the dough like taffy, twisting the two ends in opposite directions, then tie the twist into a knot, The slits you cut in the dough should allow the cinnamon to show, but if they don't, peel the slits open a little so that you can see the cinnamon (For a slightly different technique with similar results, see this post here).

This recipe makes 16 rolls, so split the rolls into two cookie sheets, and let the first batch rise for 25 minutes or so, while you roll out the second batch.  While you are rolling out the second batch, preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake the first batch for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are slightly golden.  Try really hard not to over bake these, because they do have the potential to dry out.  Once they are out of the oven, bake the second batch.

While the second batch is in the oven, make your glaze by combining the melted butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in a small bowl.  Add the hot water to thin it out, then pour it over the top of your warm cinnamon rolls.  ENJOY!


7 Easy Ways to Implement Minimalism in Your Life

Friday, October 14, 2016

The minimalism movement is really quite trendy right now.  I think a lot of people are leaning toward simplifying, but don't really know where to start, and feel like they can't give up shopping, or get rid of all but the essentials.  And I totally get that.  Big time.

After recent reflection, I have decided that I am not a true minimalist.  I really do like shopping, getting new stuff, and sometimes I really struggle to get rid of old stuff, especially if I think I might want it in the future. 

I do my best to be practical, but occasionally I give in to my emotional side and hang onto that dress that I picked up in London that shrunk in the wash or all 8 pairs of jammies that Fox wore as a newborn. 

So I have decided to call myself a 'practical minimalist,' and live in a way that is true to my life, while still striving to simplify. It is a constant struggle, but one I am willing to take on.

I think everyone is capable of being a practical minimalist.  And it can be easy!  Here are a few things that can help you start on the path, whether you just want a taste of this lifestyle or you need a way to dive in.  They are things you can do today, that will bring more meaning, purpose, and simplicity to your life.

(the ultimate minimalist: an all-in-one outfit and a stick.)

7 Ways to Implement Minimalism in Your Life Today:

1.  Start with something easy.  Pick out 7 of your favorite shirts.  Wear only those tops for the next two weeks.  Simplifying your wardrobe can both bring a lot of peace and simplify your morning routine.

2.  Take 5-20 minutes to catch up with someone you haven't talked to in a while.  That might be your mom or a friend from high school.  Someone who has changed your life for the better that you want to keep a good relationship with.  

Give them a call, and spend some time really listening to them.  Developing deeper relationships brings a wonderful breadth to your life.  

3.  Say no to a life complication today.  Maybe that is an unnecessary last minute errand or an invitation to something that you don't really have time for.  Be willing to say no to it, and don't stress about having said no.

4.  Choose to forgo one unnecessary purchase.  If you stop by Target, leave behind that cute winter scarf, or the junk food you started craving in the checkout line.  You probably don't need them anyway.  Skip them, and save your money for something better.

5.  Choose an enriching activity today over an entertaining activity. There is a place for entertainment, but maybe pick a non-fiction audio book, a relevant news article, a classic book, or a religious book to engage in, rather than scrolling through instagram one more time today.  Choose something that will edify and challenge your mind.

6.  Invest in the future.  Bring your reusable bag to the store today. Turn off the light when you leave a room, turn off the water when you brush your teeth.  Invest in the planet's future and maybe save yourself a few pennies. Also, I really dislike plastic bag clutter under my kitchen sink. 

8.  Get rid of one thing today.  It doesn't have to be something big, but clear out one thing that is broken, cluttering your space, or just not your style anymore.  If you don't have one thing you can throw out, pat yourself on the back, or re-evaluate what you want to keep, because most of us could get rid of at least one thing.

7.  Focus on what you have, rather than what you don't (this always gets mentioned whenever I talk about minimalism, but it's just so crucial).  Next time you find yourself wishing you had the latest and greatest electronic or trend, think about what you already have and try to be grateful for it.  

It might not completely diminish your desire to get that trendy item, but let the gratitude fill your heart, and, generally, you can be satisfied with your life just the way it is.  Somehow, gratitude turns what seemed like a little into a lot.

Raiding My Sister's Closet: Trying out the Velvet Trend

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

(dress: ASOS//shoes: old (similar and similar)//necklace: francesca's but old (similar)

Merrick is always the person who keeps me up to date on my style trends, so naturally, she picked the velvet trend for Raiding My Sister's Closet this month.

I used to have a number of velvet clothing items, so I figured it would be a piece of cake to find something gorgeous and reasonably priced.  Then I spent the next month scouring the internet for anything less than $400.  And couldn't find a thing.  Everything was hideous or a ball gown for $1,000.  Or it looked like it would fall apart in 3 days.  For someone who is trying to buy more quality items, this didn't appeal to me at all.  

Finally, I told Merrick and Janssen that we needed to pick a different trend, because I was completely failing at finding something that I actually liked in velvet.  Then the next day, I headed over to ASOS (per Merrick's suggestion, although I had actually checked their stock before), and they had updated their fall stock to include a bunch of lovely velvet items including this beautiful green dress. Good thing I checked again.  

So, I had to send that embarrassing "sorry I told you I couldn't, but now I can" email, and I ordered the dress.  And it is gorgeous!  Such a stunning color, and not so sexy that you couldn't wear it to the White House.  Actually, I felt a little like a first lady in it (maybe it was the pumps and the gold necklace?).  Oh so classy, but in a contemporary way!  

It really would be perfect for just about every occasion you can think of going to this Fall (except maybe the pumpkin patch).  Thanksgiving dinner?  Stunning.  Christmas party? So appropriate.  Date night?  You will be the best dressed one there.  It really is the perfect fall to winter dress.  

Check out what velvet items Janssen and Merrick are wearing!  


Measure & Whisk: Real food cooking with a dash of minimalist living © . Harlie Ave Design .