Spicy Tri-tip Skewers with Garlic Rice Pilaf for My Mom’s Birthday

My mom and brother both had their birthdays this past week, and I was able to be home with them for both!  I asked my mom what she wanted for dinner, and she told me to surprise her.  I wanted to make her something she wouldn’t expect, and something she would never take the time to make for herself.

I had found this recipe for tri-tip skewers at Tasty Trials, and new it was perfect.  Especially because I don’t have a grill at my apartment anything like my moms!  I needed something to pair with them, so I modified this pilaf recipe from Pennies on a Platter.  Both were fantastic, these recipes are definitely keepers and I highly recommend them!  Oh, and not only was my mom surprised, she loved it! However, I couldn’t have done this without my boyfriend, and grill master, Matt!  Here he and my mom are!


1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons Sriracha hot chili sauce
1/3 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 1/2 pound tri-tip, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
Dipping sauce:
1/2 cup red wine
6 tablespoons pineapple juice
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1-2 tablespoons Sriracha hot chili sauce (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
pineapple chunks
red onion pieces
6 inch bamboo skewers, soaked in water
Garlic Rice Pilaf:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice
For marinade:
Mix first 8 ingredients together. Pour into a zip-top bag and add tri-tip. Place in refrigerator and let marinate for at least 24 hours.
For skewers:
When ready to cook, thread skewers with one chunk of pineapple, one piece of red onion, a cube of tri-tip, then another piece of onion and another chunk of pineapple. Repeat until all the meat is used up.
Heat the grill to about 375 degrees and place skewers over direct heat.
Grill for a few minutes per side, to desired doneness. (Beware: They cook fast!)
For dipping sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat to a simmer and reduce for about 20 minutes, until thickened.
Serve skewers with dipping sauce on the side.
For Pilaf:

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Melt butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat.  Sauté the garlic and rice for about 3 to 4 minutes, until golden brown.  Stir in 1 cup of the chicken broth, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.

Once boiling, turn off the heat and pour the mixture into a casserole dish.  Cover and bake for 25 minutes.  Stir in the remaining chicken broth and bake, covered, for another 30 minutes.  Stir in a splash of lemon, cover, and bake a final 15 minutes.




Chicken Cacciatore Risotto

If you ever find yourself hosting a dinner party where you really want to impress your guests… MAKE THIS.  I took one bite and literally said out loud “this tastes like it’s from some gourmet bistro or something!”  I couldn’t believe that I had made it, it was so good, and so impressive with its complexly delicious flavors.  This recipe is adapted from Elly Says Opa! who I thank for sharing it with the world.


  • 1 large chicken breast
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 3/4 cup grated Peccorino Romano cheese


Season the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence.  Heat a large saute pan or wide/shallow saucepan over medium heat, and add the olive oil.  Add the chicken and cook 4-6 minutes per side, or until cooked through.  Remove chicken and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock, diced tomatoes, and crushed red pepper to a simmer.  Keep at a low simmer.
Add 1 Tbsp. butter to the pan where you cooked the chicken.  Once melted, add the onion and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, and mushrooms and cook an additional minute.

Add the rice to the skillet, and cook, stirring continuously, until the edges are translucent.  Decrease the heat to medium-low.  Add the red wine, and stir continuously, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is mostly absorbed.

Add 1-2 ladle-fulls of the chicken broth/tomato mixture to the rice, stirring constantly, until almost all the liquid has been absorbed.  Add another 1-2 ladle-fulls.

Continue adding liquid until the rice is cooked al dente.  Taste to check doneness—it should have a slight bite in the center.  When cooked to al dente, add 1 more ladle of chicken broth, and remove from heat.  Stir in the remaining Tablespoon of butter, and the cheese.

Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, and add to the risotto.  Serve immediately and impress those guests!

Chocolate Stout Cake for Matt’s 22nd Birthday

Matt, my boyfriend, LOVES beer.  So for his birthday I obviously had to make him some kind of treat with beer in it, and he chose this cake, which I adapted from The Beeroness.  The cake has Rogue Double Chocolate Stout in it, and the ganache has Maui Brewing Co.’s Coconut Porter.  This cake takes a very long time to make, but it’s worth it.  It was a moist and positively delicious cake!


For the Cake:

  • 3 cup flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 sticks (16 tbs) unsalted butter
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cup Rogue Double Chocolate Stout
  • 1 cup of brewed coffee, cooled

For The Filling (Brown Sugar Buttercream):

  • 1/4 cup very hot water
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 12 tbs of butter softened
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar



For The Ganache:

  • 2 cups of dark chocolate chips
  • 2 cups of Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter






  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and the cocoa powder in a bowl and whisk until well combined.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat butter and sugar until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg.
  4. Put the dark chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, remove and stir. Repeat until the chocolate is melted.
  5. Add the melted chocolate to the sugar/egg mixture and blend well.
  6. While the mixer is on a medium-low setting, add the stout and then the coffee, continue to combine until well mixed.
  7. Add the flour mixture a little at a time until well combined.
  8. Grease and flour your cake pan(s). I used 8 inch square pans. Bake for between 25 and 35 minutes (depending on your cake pan size) or until the cake is set in the center. Remove from oven and allow to cool.


  1. While the water is still very hot, add the brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature. Microwave it if you need to.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, salt and powdered sugar until combined.
  3. Add the brown sugar mixture and mix slowly until mostly combined, then turn the mixer on high and then whip until the frosting is fluffy and well combined.


  1. Place chocolate chips in a heat safe bowl. In a pot on the stove, cook the beer over medium heat until reduced by half, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
  2. Pour the beer, that you have reduced to 1 cup, over the chocolate chips and stir until well combined.
  3. Place in the fridge and allow to cool completely about 30 minutes.


  1. Place the first layer of your cake on a a cake plate.
  2. Top with  your brown sugar butter cream.
  3. Add the second cake layer.
  4. Pour the warm ganache over the top and allow it to run down the sides. Spread with a knife if necessary.

Pink Champagne Cake for my 21st Birthday

I knew for my 21st birthday I had to make something with alcohol in it, so I turned to Booze Cakes, a recipe book by Castella and Stone full of cakes containing alcohol.  I decided to go with their recipe for a Pink Champagne Cake, because it was very girly, and I love champagne and though champagne was appropriate for a celebration such as this big birthday!  Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out as I expected.

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 egg whites
  • a few drops red food coloring
  • 2 cups champagne

Ingredients for the frosting:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup champagne
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • a few drops red food coloring




  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans (I don’t have round pans so I used a square one).
  3. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  5. Add vanilla and egg whites (one at a time) to butter and sugar.
  6. Mix in food coloring to reach the color you desire.
  7. Beat in flour mixture and Champagne in three alternating additions, starting and ending with flour to prevent curdling.
  8. Pour batter into pans and bake 35 minutes.
  9. For the frosting: In a mixing bowl, beat butter 1 minute.  Gradually add the confectioners sugar, champagne, milk, vanilla, and food coloring; beat until smooth and creamy.


I followed all of these instructions EXACTLY, but the frosting was a horrific mess.  It was the runniest frosting I have ever seen, thinner even than a glaze.  I tried every trick I knew for thickening frosting, but it was hopeless.  I was so disappointed and frustrated that I gave in and went to the store and bought frosting (which I then made pink with food coloring).

My frustration may have caused me to go overboard decorating, but what girl doesn’t want her birthday cake to sparkle (from pink sugar crystals), be covered in flowers (wilton sugar flowers), and have strawberry slices on it?

The cake ended up being good, though I hate the artificial taste of store-bought frosting.  I will never use this icing recipe again, and I will never recommend it to anyone.  This is the first recipe I have made from Booze Cakes, and I hope that they don’t all turn out to be as disappointing.


Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day

This past summer I went to Ireland with my siblings and our dad for 10 days.  We learned a lot about our family history, and drank a lot of Guinness.  And a little bit of Jameson.

My best friend is currently studying abroad in Dublin, and based on what she has told me as well as the things our relatives told us while we were there, St. Patricks Day is really more of an American holiday than something the Irish actually celebrated.  Well, I’m in America, and I’m celebrating with these DELECTABLE cupcakes.  I can’t stop eating them.  And washing them down with Guinness, though it isn’t as yummy as it was in Ireland.

I adapted this recipe from Will Cook For Friends, but you can find it just about anywhere at this time of year.  Many have been asking, “can you get wasted from them?” and I would have to say no.  When they were really fresh they tasted like alcohol, but after 25 hours you don’t taste it at all, and you NEVER feel the alcohol.  You could try eating the whole batch but I think at that point you would have so much food in your belly it would just soak up all of the alcohol.  However, you should have enough Guinness, Jameson, and Baileys left over to make some real Irish Car Bombs which are sure to get you wasted.


For the cake:

  • 1 cup Guinness stout, or other dark beer. fill so that the head begins at the 1 cup mark- this will die down and you want to make sure you have the full amount of beer.
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups (loosely filled, not packed) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream

For the ganache:

  • 8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped or in chip form (semisweet, bittersweet, use what you like)
  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 TBSP Irish Whiskey

For the buttercream:

  • 6 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream




For the cupcakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 350f and line 2 cupcake trays with liners.
  2. In a pot over medium heat, combine the butter and stout and bring to a simmer.Once the pot simmers, the head from the beer will get very frothy. Add in the cocoa powder, and whisk until smooth.
  3. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Be sure there are no lumps of sugar or baking soda left.
  5. In another large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the eggs and sour cream. Beat together until blended
  6. Pour the cooled Guinness/butter/cocoa mixture into the eggs/sour cream. Beat to combined.
  7. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl, and mix on low speed until well incorporated.At this point you should really taste the batter. It was the BEST tasting cake batter I have ever had in my life.
  8. Evenly distribute into the lined cupcake trays. They should be filled no more than 3/4 of the way up. Tap the tray 2-3 times atop the counter to help remove any air bubbles.
  9. Place one batch of cupcakes on the middle rack of the oven, reduce the temperature to 325f., and bake for 12 minutes.
  10. Rotate the pan from front to back to ensure even baking, then bake for another 10-12 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  11. Remove from the oven and let cool 1-2 minutes. Remove cupcakes from the tray, and set on a cooling rack.
  12. Bring the oven back up to 350f., and repeat with the second batch.

For the filling:

  1. Place chocolate into a heat-safe bowl.
  2. In a small pot, warm the cream over medium heat until just simmering.
  3. Pour cream over the chocolate and stir, starting from the middle and working out, until all of the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
  4. Add the butter and stir until melted.
  5. Stir in the Irish whiskey, and set aside until ready to fill.
  6. To fill, use a small knife to remove the center of each cupcake.
  7. Using a piping bag, or a spoon and your fingers, fill the center of each cupcake with the ganache.





For the buttercream

  1. Beat the butter for 2-3 minutes or until light, fluffy, and pale.
  2. Add 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, and beat until smooth. Repeat until all the sugar is added.
  3. Once all of the sugar is added, pour in the Bailey’s and mix to combine.
  4. If the frosting is too thick, add another tsp. of liquor (or milk or cream) to thin it out. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar until the desired consistency is reached.
  5. Ice your cupcakes!
  6. EAT!!!!! And be merry, of course.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Everyone!

Mom’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

Everyone thinks their mom is the best cook.  But seriously, when it comes to spaghetti and meatballs, if there was a contest held, my mom would win.  She makes the sauce and meatballs all from scratch, and lucky for me, this weekend she taught me how to do it.  I don’t think I’m willing to share this recipe, but I know the pictures will make you drool (and maybe give you some hints how to make it).

Have I mentioned how much my cat loves food? In fact, I think she’d kill for it.  While things were simmering, we found her, whiskers and all, covered in tomato sauce.

Beer Cheese Chicken Pot Pie

If there is a man in your life… you must make him these. They contain the two ingredients necessary for sustaining man life: beer and bacon.  These were great, except the beer I used was a bit strong and some bites were really bitter as a result of it.  I used Sierra Nevadas Ruthless Rye IPA, the original recipe which I got from The Beeroness used Mission St Brewery’s Blonde Ale. I altered the original recipe on a few other ingredients as well Next time, and for anyone interested in making these, I would reccommend using a light beer, and I don’t mean light beer like something crappy, I mean light in color, such as a blonde ale!  You’ll see in a photo later on how dark this beer was and something lighter would have worked much better.

Aside from the poor beer choice however, these were great.  The crust was phenomenal and the consistency of everything else was PERFECT for a pot pie.

Did I mention this was the first time I ever made a pot pie?  I’ll admit, I was nervous that I was going to do a horrible job, but the instructions in this recipe were very clear and I was very happy with how they came out.


For the Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 5 tbs butter cold, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 tbs vodka
  • 2 tbs cold water

For the Filling:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • ½ cup onions, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 3 cups mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 cups raw chicken, cut into cubes
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  •  1 1/3 cup beer
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ cup corn kernels
  • ½ cup peas
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  1. Combine 1 cup of flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor, pulse a few times until combined. Add the butter and the shortening and process until it forms a ball around the blade, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining flour and process until well incorporated, about 1 minute.
  3. Move to a bowl and add the water and the vodka, combine with a spatula or wooden spoon.
  4. Form the dough into a disk. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and chill until very firm, about two hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 400.
  6. In a pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and the garlic, sauté for one minute.
  7. Add the bacon and cook for 2 minutes.
  8. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft and darkened.
  9. Add the chicken and sauté until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  10. In a separate bowl, add 2/3 cup of broth and the flour, stir until combined. Pour mixture into the pan through a small mesh strainer to remove any lumps.
  11. Add the beer to the pan and stir to combine.
  12. Add the peas, corn, cheese, salt and pepper. Stir until the cheese has melted and is well combined with the broth.
  13. Pour into small, portion sized, oven safe ceramic or glass dishes-I used Pyrex. Makes about 4.
  14. Once the dough has chilled, place disk on a very well floured surface, add flour to the top of the disk as well. Roll out into an even thickness.
  15. Cut out circles that will cover the dishes with at least a one inch overhang on each side.  My Pyrex are very wide so in order to have enough for each disk I did not have any overhang.  They fit perfectly on the top of the dish however and cooked fine despite not having the over hang.
  16. To prevent sticking, spray the rim of the baking dish with cooking spray. Top each dish with the dough circle, cutting a slit to vent at the top. Then brush the dough with melted butter.
  17. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool a bit before serving.
  18. Dig in!