Monday, May 31, 2010

{travel} los angeles, california

I've been so busy unpacking and getting back with my work schedule that I haven't had time to update my blog about my trip to California! First of all, it was absolutely beautiful there. I may be thinking about applying to graduate schools out there. (Hey, a girl can dream right?!) It was everything I remembered and more. The weather is absolutely perfect and the food is amazing. I could live without having to deal with California drivers however. Have your turn signal on? They definitely will not be letting you over! 

I'm going to describe my trip in pictures because the text would be way too much to read at once! :) Click read more below to see them!

Monday, May 17, 2010

{travel} dreaming of california

Up at the top of my "Favorite Things To Do" list is traveling; along with cooking, trying new types of food, shopping, and watching Glee! Thankfully for me, my destination Wednesday will include ALL of the above! I am traveling to California with my mom this week. It all started with finding a post on Perez Hilton's blog about the Glee cast performing live in three cities in the United States over the summer. One show in New York City, one in Chicago and one in Los Angeles.  My mom and I are Glee fanatics. I called her and jokingly told her we should go see a show. To my great surprise she not only agreed, but started making plans immediately to go see it in L.A!!

As my cousin put it, "Why would you travel the furthest to go see the show when both Chicago and NYC are so close?" I get to see my family in L.A. this way (and go to Chinatown and eat Dim Sum and be able to lay on the beach and stare at mountains and ... should I go on?) Most of my mom's family lives in California and we rarely get to see them, so this trip is a real treat. I hate how Americanized the Chinese culture is in Florida. Buffets are usually heaping mounds of deep fried and heavily sauced meat, noodles and rice. There is nothing even CLOSE to a Chinatown and a very small percentage of Chinese people have settled here. California is a completely different scene. My grandmother is fluent in Cantonese and immigrated to the United States from China when she was 16 years old to marry my grandfather. This being said, I get the real deal when we go visit her in L.A. :) I can't wait to update my blog with pictures I take in California of the food, the scenery and the Glee concert-thing (of course!) when I get back. Until then, here are some pictures I keep looking at. They are making me even more excited to go!

I went to a beach similar to this when I was in California last. 

I can't wait to go to Chinatown!

Their live show is going to be AMAZING!

xox, Jen

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

{recipe} summer cookout

There is nothing like cooking out once summer comes along. I decided to make baked beans, potato salad, corn-on-the-cob and barbecue chicken on the charcoal grill [I had a guy help me with that part (: ] Since I am not quite experienced enough to create my own recipes, I went to trusty Google and started searching. I found a ton of amazing recipes, but decided on the ones below because they had the most attainable ingredients for a college student to afford and find. I did change the recipes slightly based on what I had in my pantry, but I'm sure the recipes would have been just as delicious by following the original!
Barbecue Grilled Chicken
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
12 tablespoons barbecue sauce
6 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chives
1. Boil the chicken in hot water for a few minutes before you place it on the grill. This will help make sure the insides are cooked before you finish it on the barbecue for the great grilled flavor.
2. Arrange the chicken breasts on the grill over medium heat. Generously baste them with barbecue sauce and honey, and sprinkle with the spices. Turn once while cooking and cook for four to five minutes on each side. (We grilled on the tiny charcoal grills in my apartment complex and the chicken turned out PERFECT.)
**Side Notes: 
- Recipe is from this site.
- I added a bit of All-Seasoning Salt and did not add the chives to the recipe.
- You also need to use a bit more than the recipe suggests of the spices. 
**Another side-note: I learned this from my dad. Instead of buying the main stream spices in the spice aisle, go to the ethnic aisle in your grocery store. They carry the same exact spices (in a little bit of a smaller portion) for 1/3 of the price. Instead of paying $3.80 for each of these spices in the McCormick brand, I paid $0.69 each for the Badia brand.

Baked Beans
Baked beans never look very good to the eye, but they always TASTE so good!
1 (28-ounce) can baked beans, drained
2 (16-ounce) cans butter beans, drained
2 (16-ounce) cans navy beans, drained
1 (10-ounce) can barbeque beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup prepared mustard
1/4 cup barbeque sauce 
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Spoon into a lightly greased 3-quart baking dish.
3. Bake uncovered for 1 hour, stirring once.
**Side Notes:
- Recipe was found at this site.
- The Publix by my house for some reason did not carry butter beans or navy beans so I substituted the four 16 oz cans for two 28 oz cans of different kinds of baked beans. (So there were 3 cans of beans in total, drained). I was worried that the baked beans would not turn out but they still got rave reviews regardless! So if all else fails, Bush's Best Baked Beans in different varieties works just as well!

Potato Salad

1 1/2 lbs. red potatoes (about 5 medium)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use regular Hellman’s)
1/4 cup light sour cream (I use Daisy)
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard (you may like a bit more, add to taste)
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
3 tsp. fresh dill, snipped (plus additional for garnish)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
1. Wash and scrub potatoes, but do not peel. Add potatoes to a medium pot and cover with water. Add some salt. Bring to a boil. Cook for approximately 20-25 minutes, just until fork can pierce the surface. Do not overcook. You want them firm when cut. Cool. When you are able to handle the potatoes, cut them into bite size pieces.
2. Whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper. Gently fold in potatoes, celery, onion, eggs and dill. Check for seasonings. Chill for at least 6 hours or overnight. This is best served after the flavors have time to meld together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with snipped dill to serve. 
**Side Notes:
- The recipe was found at  this site.
- I am not a fan of hard-boiled eggs in my potato salad, so I did not include them.
- I also cut corners a little bit and did not use fresh dill. I instead used the tube of dill that comes right below the fresh dill in the produce department (at least in my grocery store!) It probably would have tasted better with fresh dill, but I couldn't afford to buy the dill and it to go bad within a few days. The tube of dill will last until next month! 
I had never made corn by myself before so I looked up some tips on how to pick the perfect ear. I found these at Publix and they were amazing! Best part? They were on sale... 8 corn ears for $2.00!!!
"The single best way to choose the perfect ones are to look at the silk hanging from the husk — it should be thoroughly brown.  If not, the corn was picked too soon, and it’s not ready!  Further, feel the husk, which should be tightly wrapped, and the inside should feel firm." (Thanks to Dreamy Dish)
We tried to put some of the corn on the grill but we did not leave them on there long enough. I was also told by my mom that we should have soaked the ears of corn (husks and all) in water before putting them on the grill to keep the moisture. The corn was moist and cooked but did not have the sweet grilled flavor I love. 
I also boiled some corn just in case the corn on the grill did not work out.
Here is the recipe (also from Dreamy Dish):
Just before cooking, husk the corn, pull off the silky threads, and cut out any blemishes with a pointed knife. Drop the corn into a large pot filled with boiling salted water. Cover the pot and let the water return to a boil again, then turn off the heat and keep the pot covered. After about 5 minutes, remove the ears from the water and serve with lots of butter and salt.
All of the food tonight was fantastic.
I am so excited to cook more this summer and share more recipes with you :)
Have a great night!
xox, Jen

{travel} st. george island


 Now that school is over, it seemed only appropriate to head over to the beach for a little bit of R&R. I went to St. George Island and discovered absolute paradise. It is a small island off of the coast of the panhandle of Florida.

It is one of Florida's State Parks and it is definitely kept up very well. The best part is that it is a dog beach as well, so there were puppies with their owners everywhere! I didn't catch any pictures of the puppies, but seeing all of them playing in the sand and water made me want to go to the pound when I got home and rescue one! There is a gorgeous lighthouse at the entrance of the park. It was $5.00 to climb up to the top. Seeing as I am a poor college student, we did not decide to go up, but we took a bunch of pictures of it.

The island is only an hour and a half away from Tallahassee, and for 23 miles you are driving right along the seawall, so all you see is water. It was 80 degrees and breezy without a cloud in the sky at the beach, much better than the somewhat hazy sky that has been hanging over Tallahassee for the past two weeks! Also, it is free to enter the park and free to park for the day, much better than my hometown beach, Clearwater Beach, where you are lucky to find $10.00 parking! Here are some pictures from the trip, I hope you enjoy them! 

xx, Jen