Steak Tartare.

It’s the eve of my first day of graduate school, and what better way to prepare than eat a simple meal and write about it? So much better than starting on some accounting homework due in a week.

I don’t have much in the refrigerator and don’t plan on stocking up any time soon since USC is providing all my meals next week. Hey – if I’m tired, stressed, and in debt, at least I’m well-fed. So for my “last supper” of sorts, I decided to make steak tartare. Quick and easy.

BAM!

It turned out to be way too much for one. I’ll turn the leftovers into a burger for a midnight snack.

Good to know I can still prepare food for myself after having the fattiest summer in Maui and NYC.

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Chicken Tikka Masala.

One of the first things I learned about Bill was that he loves chicken tikka masala. So of course I had to make it – or at least attempt to make it – at some point.

Since we had a BBQ to get to, I set out to find a way to make it the simplest and fastest way possible. Obvious solution: slow cooker! A few chops, spoonfuls, and pieces of chicken later, and we were cookin’. The spices were just ever-so-slightly off, but nothing a little bit of practice won’t fix. I’d also like to try this with chickpeas in the future as a vegetarian option.

Not a fan of working while eating at the dinner table, but with the amount of work he has, I’ll let it pass.

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Minty Fresh.

For round 2 of dessert this past week, I made mini mint-chocolate cupcakes for Bill’s Section D BBQ. They were pretty easy to whip up, especially since I used boxed fudge cake mix. It was definitely a welcome break though after making chili and chicken tikka masala – more on that later.

The cupcakes are an excellent balance between mint and chocolate and they turned out to be a crowd-pleaser with Section D. I have a ton of extra frosting and broken cupcake bits. It’s been pretty hard not to make a meal out of the leftovers.

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Snap. Crackle. Pop.

These delicious treats were only the beginning to a pretty intense cooking week. Even though I came back from Miami (finally got to meet Bill’s family!) with a little sick-bug, I managed to make these peanut butter-pretzel Rice Krispies treats, 2 giant pots of chili, chocolate-mint cupcakes, and chicken tikka masala all in the span of 4 days.

I don’t know exactly was spurred me to cook so much this week, but it probably had something to do with the stark realization that I haven’t done much cooking, photography, or blogging after Bill took the liberty of telling his family about this here blog. If he’s going to go around bragging about it, I should have something to show for it. I decided on this variation of the staple marshmallowy treat since I wanted to send some to his fam-bam and needed something that could be easily shipped across the country.

Anyways, the treats are a good combination of sweet and salt – also the reason why I like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups so much – but I need to figure out how to make the chocolate topping less sweet. I cut it with melted peanut butter chips, but I don’t think it made that big of a difference. Something to contemplate for next time. And believe me, there will be a next time.

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Game Day

It’s the start of NCAA football. So what does that mean? Lots of Saturdays filled with food, beer, and football…and possibly more beer.

Even Sawyer’s excited for USC football. But he really doesn’t have a choice.

We even had a beer pong tournament! Three regulation-sized tables fit into one small part of the living room – pretty impressive.

And what’s football without meat? Since I have a tradition of making odd meat-things for Jake’s birthday, I decided to continue and make mini meatloaf cupcakes. Sadly, I couldn’t find mini foil liners, so they didn’t look as “cupcakey” as I wanted – they looked more like meatballs, but oh well. It’s just an excuse to make them again. I was really pleased with how moist and tasty they came out, so I’m tempted to make it normal cupcake-sized or even just as a loaf.

Mini Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Potato Frosting

Ingredients:

2 lbs ground beef

1/2 large onion, diced

salt and pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup milk

1 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Glaze:

1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 apple cider vinegar

3 tbsp brown sugar

Tabasco sauce

For topping: mashed potato, green onion, bacon

Directions:

Pre-heat oven at 350° F. Mix all ingredients together in large bowl. Fill each mini-cupcake mold with meat mixture, forming slight dome since meat will shrink slightly. Combine all ingredients for glaze and heat on low on the stove top until brown sugar melts. Brush glaze on top of meat. Cook for 15 minutes. Top with mashed potatoes, chopped green onion, and bacon.

Note: I cheated and used dried instant mashed potatoes. I thought it’d work well since you can make it super smooth and creamy (and buttery!) pretty easily. Use whatever mashed potato recipe you prefer, of course.

Chicken Karaage

One of my favorite fried types of chicken is karaage. I’ve never thought about making it at home until my friend treated me to some while I was over for a doggy-date.

Johann taunting Saywer with his Kong.

Sawyer got a little jealous of the spooning.

Unlike other fried chicken, karaage doesn’t leave me feeling disgusting and greasy. It makes for a simple, easy dinner and stays crispy for the next day’s lunch. You can enjoy it with just lemon juice – or jazz it up with some dipping sauce like I did.

Chicken Karaage

Ingredients:

1-2 lbs chicken thigh, cut up into bite-size pieces

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp mirin

pinch of sugar

2 inches ginger, peeled and grated

3 cloves garlic, minced

sesame oil

cornstarch

peanut or vegetable oil

Directions:

Combine soy sauce, mirin, sugar, ginger, garlic, and a few drops of sesame oil. Add chicken and let marinate for at least 30 minutes. Coat with cornstarch and fry until golden brown. Enjoy with lemon juice or dipping sauce (below).

Green onion-ginger soy dipping sauce

Ingredients:

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp soy sauce

pinch of sugar

1 tbsp green onion, diced

1 tsp ginger, finely grated

few drops of sesame oil

Directions:

Combine all ingredients and serve with karaage.