Up until a few weeks ago, it had been a really long time since I had eaten at a California Pizza Kitchen. We had some family in town, which meant a girls only shopping trip was in order! We were probably 20 minutes into the outing when lunch became the next inevitable step. When your shopping has barely begun and the food court kinda sucks you can always count on a CPK to be attached to the mall somewhere. And side note: I have mentioned my love for food courts before on this blog, so when you hear me call one disappointing enough for me to ditch it, you know it’s bad. I think my love for food courts has diminished significantly since moving back to Colorado from Boston though. Boston food courts were the bomb! Anyway, this trip to CPK was the first time I didn’t get a pizza and boy was I pleasantly surprised (I replicated my salad too – coming soon!). My mom had the turkey avocado egg rolls for her meal and was nice enough to share because they were so good that everyone needed to experience it. I decided right away to try these at home even though I felt pretty unsure about how well I would be able to replicate the presentation. Really, the most challenging thing was figuring out how to roll them up properly, but after a quick google session I had it down. This turned into a bit of a hybrid recipe where I used this as a guide for proportions and for folding the wrappers, but I did a bit of a different sauce and fried them because, duh. You could of course bake them though! For my sauce I actually used one of those packets of ranch powder in a spicy flavor because for a reason unknown even to me, I hate buying bottles of ranch dressing. If I absolutely need it for something I’d prefer a one-use option. These egg rolls are such an awesome party food/appetizer that tasted even better than the original, in my opinion. They are similar to the guacamole wontons that I made a while back, but with all of the salad like fillings, it could be substantial enough for a full meal if you’d like (I did!).
In case you didn’t know, I’m one of those people that loves things in miniature. And tiny food is pretty much at the top of my ‘things that are cuter in miniature’ list. A few years ago Paul and I had a daylong obsession with buying these themed sets of tiny plastic food. They came in a little set with maybe 5 different types of food. My favorites were the carnival set with funnel cake and snow cones and a fast food breakfast set that even came with the styrofoam tray and to-go lid. So funny! And the part that really sucked us in was that they came in a mystery box so you didn’t know which set you were getting. We bought one each at Urban Outfitters, opened them right outside the store and I think promptly went back inside and bought two more. I can’t remember what they were called and I can’t find them online, but maybe I’ll dig them up and take some photos when I’m back in Colorado! If you have any idea what I’m talking about, please let me know!
Ok, so tiny plastic food is awesome, but tiny real food is of course, even better. As I mentioned in the mac and cheese bites post, we had a tiny food party when I was home and it was so much fun. We all had at least one dish to make – even our brother put together the lovely caprese skewers! It’s always extra fun when everyone is assembling together. We used the Tiny Food Party book for the skewers, mac and cheese bites, crab cake sliders, and mini chicken and waffles. Yes, MINI CHICKEN AND WAFFLES! Can you believe it? Not only is it the cutest thing ever, but they were really delicious and a lot more convenient to eat. Our grocery store was out of mini waffles, so we just cut regular ones into smaller circles. I seriously can’t get enough of this book. I’m sure you will be seeing it make some more appearances in the future! How do you feel about miniature food? Cute or just annoying??
Don’t you love it when a recipe goes way better than you imagined? I doubt it’s a secret that I love frying things (fried guacamole anyone?), but sometimes it can go horribly wrong. Food falls apart, sticks to the pan, burns, doesn’t crisp up, and don’t forget the inevitable oil splatter wounds. My mom often brags about the FryDaddy that she and her roommates had in college. Of course, the bragging always turns to regret about actually using it and how unhealthy that is…If it weren’t for that, I would probably own one right now. I mean, it would be so much easier and cleaner! I could fry everything…and yeah snap back to the reality of why owning one is a bad idea…
I was really excited to make these mac and cheese bites because it came in as kinda sorta my first request on the blog! And also because I had tried them at a restaurant fairly recently and they were amazing! For as much as I love mac & cheese, I can’t believe I’ve only tried it fried a couple of times. Thanks to Pass the Curds for asking me to do a homemade post on these after I mentioned the Trader Joe’s version! I knew as soon as I saw her blog name that I needed to be subscribed!
We made these as part of a “tiny food party” that we had while I was home. The party has become a really awesome memory for me, but more on that later. I promise I will share the rest of the adorable (and delicious) tiny food this week! Since this was a request, I tried to take pictures of every step! I’ve included the recipe from the Tiny Food Party book because it worked so perfectly for me. We didn’t make their mac & cheese recipe, but I’m sure it’s a good one. Check out the step-by-step below!
First of all, you need to use cold mac and cheese for this. A little planning ahead is necessary, but when is mac and cheese for dinner a bad idea? And for two nights in a row? Even better. Just have to show off a bit here. My sister and I picked mac and cheese topping bar for our birthday dinner. See, we really are obsessed. It was a bit of a throwback to another birthday I had with the same theme. New York deli style, buffalo chicken, southwest, and classic. Amazing selection! (Future post, maybe?)Ok, so your leftover mac and cheese should be nice and cold. Press it into your leftover container with a spatula until it’s really compressed. It should stay together in a cube when you flip it onto your cutting board, like this. Then cut the cube into triangle shapes. I got pretty excited when this actually worked! As long as it’s cold and compressed, the triangles should stay together without a problem. Next, roll the shapes in flour. Once again, I was surprised the flour actually stuck to and coated the bites so perfectly! See? Perfectly floured. Now take a bath in the egg. And finally, roll them in Panko bread crumbs until fully coated. And…keep going until they are all coated in crumbs.Fry them in oil until they are a nice, dark golden brown. Sprinkle parmesan over the top. They turned out perfectly crispy and melty in the middle. It really was more than I was hoping for! And much better than frozen. Just a sneak peek of the tiny food party! It was so fun. I say try this! I really didn’t think it was going to go well – just the idea of getting anything to stick to cold blobs of pasta sounded impossible. I promise, it was so easy and a great party dish!
Tiny Mac and Cheese Bites (from Tiny Food Party, which is a new favorite book)
Like I said, we haven’t tried this mac and cheese recipe, but it sounds good to me! We didn’t have bacon in ours – let me know if you’ve tried that!
For the Mac
1/2 pound small elbow macaroni
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 1/2 tbs flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup gruyere cheese
1/4 cup grated fontina cheese
2 tsp dry mustard
2/3 cup cooked crumbled bacon
2 green onions thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1 qt cooking oil
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
Make the mac and cheese, pour in a greased 8 by 8 baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oil to 350. Cut chilled mac and cheese into triangles. Put flour in shallow dish, eggs in a 2nd shallow dish and panko in 3rd shallow dish. Dredge triangles in flour, dip in eggs and then toss in panko crumbs. Fry in small batches for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, season with salt and pepper (I only sprinkled with parmesan).
Appetizer night is probably my all time favorite way to eat. I was prompted to make egg salad sandwiches after Paul and I shared one from a convenience store…it was terrible. We were in a rush! Maybe it’s not fair to say it was disgusting because it didn’t really taste like anything. It was like eating a sponge. Anyway, I promised Paul that I would make some awesome egg salad (mostly because he wasn’t as disgusted by it as I was and I needed to prove that I could do better). We saw a picture of a really delicious looking open-faced egg salad sandwich only to scroll down and realize that it was made from fake eggs…sorry, not really our thing. I copied the look, but used real eggs and added stuff that sounded good to make it more ‘gourmet’. I did a basic (chunky) egg salad recipe with some lemon, chopped mint, paprika, plus a little cayenne, I think. Ah, so simple, but so much better! We cut up a baguette and created a spread of egg salad, burrata, tomatoes, and avocado. We were two happy eaters!
Don’t worry, my mom isn’t mad at me for waiting so long to post about Mother’s Day…at least I don’t think she is! I was so happy to get to go home to Colorado last week. I thought I would be blogging a lot because I finished all of my class assignments and I always find tons of things to blog about when I’m at home with family. I did take tons of pictures, of course. And I started a few posts, but I don’t think I posted…anything. Oops! I just had such a nice time hanging out with everyone and enjoying the sunshine (for the last few days when it finally stopped raining).
I planned ahead way more than usual for this trip because it was an extra special one. My mom’s birthday was on Mother’s Day and I won’t say which birthday, but it was a good one. I already pulled a surprise visit for my dad’s, so I had to be somewhat clever with this one. I kept it a secret for a while, but eventually told her I would be coming…I just told her the wrong day. Yeah, totally not clever, but clever enough to work! I arrived a day before my parents returned from a little trip of their own and then us kids surprised her at the exact same place we surprised my dad – and almost the same exact table. See, so un-clever. And Perfect!
In my family, I’m not alone in the food obsessed department. Most of our occasions revolve around what food will be enjoyed. That was very much the case on this extra special day. And while I have lots of other things I could post about from that day, for now I’d just like to share the food! We had a lovely picnic at the park and then burgers and a milkshake bar (so awesome!) to end the day. I hope that I can always be home for my mom’s birthday/mother’s day. I know that I can speak for both of my siblings when I say that we are all so thankful to have such a great mom and friend. She’s always made every celebration fun for us and I hope that we can return the favor now that we are all grown up (sort of)! Love ya, Mom!
So, everyone at the table was genuinely shocked that I forgot to take a picture of my burger before I ate it. That like, never happens. I was so excited to dig in. And I have to give credit to my dad and his ‘$50 burger.’ Ok, I’ll admit it – you did good.
My flavor creation: vanilla ice cream, Nutella, cookie dough, and rainbow sprinkles. Plus chocolate whipped cream and more sprinkles on top! So good! We looked at the Millions of Milkshakes menu for inspiration (never been, but good ideas!).
Classic chocolate for Dad. And props to my sister as well for blending up and beautifying our shakes! (Yes, they were both campaigning fairly hard to ‘make the blog’) Excellent work, my friends.
With all these other people taking over my blog, I have to end with another picture of my contribution to the day. Breakfast sandwiches! P.S. Have you all seen this pretty amazing invention? No, I didn’t use it, but I wish.
I gave myself a pretty big pat on the back when I thought to make these guacamole wontons. I got a giant pack of wonton wrappers at the Asian market last month and have barely made a dent in the stack. I really didn’t need to buy such a large pack, but they were so much cheaper than the regular grocery store ones! I couldn’t resist. Plus, they are just so versatile. They are definitely one of my favorite ingredients to improvise with. This is probably because it’s nearly impossible to screw up a wonton idea. I’m pretty sure you could stuff a wrapper with anything and it would be delicious fried, baked, or boiled. So, one day I had a sudden inspiration to fill them with guacamole. I was fairly confident that it would be a hit. Cinco de Mayo seemed like the perfect day to try out this festive appetizer. Just like most of my improvisations, these are incredibly easy. I mashed up an avocado, just slightly. I kept it pretty chunky because I didn’t think a super creamy filling sounded as appetizing, but maybe I’ll experiment with it some day. Then I just mixed in a little bit of red onion and jalepeno that I had chopped up for a salsa (more on that later + sneak peak pic below), squeezed some lime and added salt and pepper. I made a separate batch of quac for chips and left the tomato chunks out of the wonton filling. Maybe tomatoes would be good though, I dunno! This is obviously a very scientific recipe. Fry em up and enjoy! Once I bit into these I immediately though, duh, why didn’t I think of these sooner?! The crispy wontons and creamy avocado work so well together. I think when I have a craving for the cream cheese wontons, I might just make these instead. It’s just as good, but doesn’t make you feel sick (and ashamed) afterword. And in case you think warm guacamole sounds really weird, all I can say is, it’s not. Convincing enough?
Homemade Cheez-Its has been on my ‘want to copycat that’ list for such a long time. Recipes and photos have been popping up in my blog feeds for what seems like years! I wasn’t too into Cheez-Its until last year when my Mom, brother and I started an unofficial mission to try every flavor. We would split a big box every week for work/school snacks, discuss where that week’s flavor ranked, and then hunt down a new one. I’m pretty sure I’ve told you guys how weirdly obsessed I am with gimmicky food flavors and novelty releases – I ain’t kiddin’. I haven’t been buying boxes for myself since I’ve been away from home because what’s the fun in that? I guess that’s what made me finally give the homemade version a try! I still can’t believe how easy they are to make and they taste remarkably similar. Now, this doesn’t mean I’ll give up on trying new Cheez-It flavors, but I’ll definitely continue making these when I have a craving. My two tips for if you try this are 1) roll the dough as thin as you can and 2) don’t skimp on the cheese (duh). The first batch I made had a few slightly over puffed and under-cheezed crackers. As always, let me know if you do this too!
And P.S. if you’re wondering what our favorite Cheez-It flavor was…I honestly can’t remember. However, I think I remember being most disappointed by Baby Swiss. Also, did you guys know that this exists? Um, gross? Even my obsession can’t take me far enough to buy Cheez-It lip balm.