Scary Movie Nights




I love scary movies.  But they terrify me.  Everytime a commercial comes on for a new stupid scary movie I immediately want to see it.  It doesn’t matter that they are all basically the same movie, with the same freaky demon, and the same lame heroine.  I have to see it.  Having a friend who will watch a scary movie with you is the best thing ever.  When Sharon and I planned to have a scary movie night, we decided it had to be on Friday, the 13th.  Every single time that Friday was a 13th.  Of any month.  It started in October, but it occurred again in April.  And in August.  It didn’t matter when it was, but it had to happen.  And what do two girls do when the have a scary movie night?  Drink wine, make cocktails, and freak ourselves out.

Oh.  And these.

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Every occasion is a time for brownies.  Since our first scary movie night was in October, the addition of Reece’s Pieces was meant to be a reminder of Halloween.  But then they all melted into the brownies, not a candy coating was left.  So what started out as a brownie fest turned into a brownie fest with super-secret peanut butter flavor.

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Who doesn’t love a good brownie mix?  It kind of goes against everything I stand for in a baker and blogger.  I was torn about whether to start from scratch or resort to a box mix.  I love brownies.  They are definitely my favorite and it is kind of shocking that I have not had a from-scratch brownie on this blog yet.  I promise to have one soon.  Actually, I promise to have 10, at least.  There.  I said it.  Please stand by for future delicious brownie posts.  But this week is all about Sharon.  And 2 girls use a box mix.  Because it’s easier.  And it makes it possible to eat the entire pan much quicker.  Because let’s be honest: two chocolate-loving girls + lots of alcohol = massive brownie consumption.

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Naturally these became a tradition. Peanut butter x chocolate x bottomless drinks x horrible scary movies = finest tradition ever concocted.  Along with Friday The 13th, Cabin Fever, and The Decent, just to name a few.  Of course.

 

Scary Movie Night Brownies

INGREDIENTS:

  • Brownie Mix (I prefer Giradhelli because it is the fudgiest)
  • ½ a cup Reece’s Pieces, plus more for sprinkling on top

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Prepare brownies as directed, adding reeces pieces before you put in pan.

Cucumber Mojito

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Summer on the Upper West Side of Manhattan is dead.  Students are home for the summer.  Restaurants are empty.  Lines are shorter.  Crowds diminish. Manhattanites leave this island and venture to The Hamptons, or Europe or nearby beach destinations, leaving the neighborhood to locals.  It’s one of my favorite times of year.  Sharon and I had made an event of going to restaurants and taking advantage of their stellar weekend happy hours.  Or late night chocolate cake eating feasts.

One day it was really hot, and we wandered into a new restaurant that had a 2 for 1 happy hour deal.  This turned out to be the best thing we could have ever done.  It was summer and it was hot.  What else seemed like the perfect thing to have but a mojito.  Not just any mojito, a cucumber mojito.

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Campo had a really extensive cocktail list and while we did have our fair share of Columbia University-themed drinks, I always seemed to come back to this.  It is refreshing and light.  Oh.  and it’s made with gin.  Gin, not rum.  I like rum a lot, but I loooooooove gin.  So much.  Maybe more than whiskey.  Haha.  Ok.  Just kidding.  But I really really like gin a lot.

So now, this how I like my mojitos. It’s kind of different.  Definitely delicious. And will get you ready for spring and summer.  I am definitely ready for that.  Like, right now.

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Who wants a drink?

Cucumber Mojito

  • 4 slices of cucumber, broken up
  • handful of mint, about 8-10 leaves, ripped up
  • 2 oz. lime juice
  • 2-4 oz. gin

Directions

  • Add cucumber, mint, and lime into glass.
  • Muddle or mix together
  • fill glass with ice
  • add gin

Linguine & Clams

I embraced the budding foodie in me when I lived in New York.  There are too many fabulous restaurants and there are so many that are not astronomically expensive.  As a struggling grad student, nothing seemed more important than good, cheap food.  Sharon and I discovered this place  (which is now closed) since it was across the street from our starbucks and a few block from campus and my apartment.  My first instinct here was pizza.  Creative, flatbread, tuscan-style pizza.  Pumpkin and prosciutto on my pizza?  Mmmm yes please.  While I stuck with pizza and caprese, Sharon chose linguine and clams.  Best.decision.ever. From then on whenever we came to Campo — which was often — one of us ordered this.  And it always made our night.
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In my attempt to duplicate it, I turned to The Great Stanley Tucci, and his most amazing cookbook.  Besides trying to figure out how to kill the little clams — they are alive before you cook them-WHOA — this is one of the easiest dishes I have ever made.  It takes no more than 30 minutes.  But I do recommend a kitchen slave helper.  Luckily, my personal chef was ready to assist me.
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Sharon and I came back to Campo many many many times, and sometimes we changed it up and just ordered fried green tomato caprese and wine, but we usually came back to this.  Because it is delicious. And there is nothing quite like having dinner with your best friend.  Especially when pasta and wine is involved.

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Linguine & Clams
*adapted from The Tucci Cookbook by Stanley Tucci
* serves 4-6 people (or 2 very hungry people)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound linguine
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 18 littleneck or chowder clams
  • ½ cup of pancetta, sliced
  • salt + pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italiain, flat leafed parsley

Directions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta, al dente.
  • warm ½ cup of olive oil in a high sided saucepan set over medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook until softened, 2 minutes.  Add wine, cook for about 1 minute.  Add clams and their juice, add season with salt and pepper.  Cook until broth froths to 1-2 inches.  Remove from heat, stir in parsley.
  • Drain pasta and toss into a serving bowl with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Top with sauce and serve.

Vegan Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes

Sharon is a health counselor and a total inspiration to make me eat healthier. But I really like butter so vegan cupcakes were never in my repertoire.  Sharon’s foray into vegan baking really sparked my interest because I never knew that non-butter baked goods could be so — well — delicious.  I decided, in honor of Sharon, to jump on the bandwagon, and develop my own version, with a kick.

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These have a little kick, in the form of cayenne pepper.  So I call these my Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes.  We both come from California and mexican food is a favorite.  As is chocolate and frosting.

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Sarah and Sharon Bond Over Coffee Tasting

It all started with a latte.  Not in a cute, lonely city girls sipping on lattes, lazing about in a cozy Brooklyn coffee shop, kind of meeting.  We were both baristas.  At Starbucks.  On the Upper West Side.  In the best Starbucks in the city.  Seriously.  Our store won awards.  And the morning crew was the best there ever was.

I started working at Starbucks as a way to get free coffee, maybe meet some people, and get paid.  Cause you know, paying a bajillion dollars in rent is my most favorite thing ever.  I decided to take the morning shifts, since I was desperately missing waking up at 5 am to jump in a pool.  Waking up at 5 am to be surrounded by coffee seemed like a great idea.  Actually, it is.  I met Sharon the first day, as she was my shift manager, and we became fast friends.

Besides being hilarious and making a latte in under three minutes — yes, I had skills — one thing the morning crew loved to do was coffee tasting.  As a barista at the best store in the city, we had to know all the coffees, how they tasted, what they paired with, and where they came from.  It’s like wine tasting, but instead of 10 wines in a store, there are about 30 different coffees.  Tasting every one and noting it in my coffee pasport (yes, that’s a thing) to become a coffee master (yep, that too) was a lot more time consuming than I thought.  But it is so much fun.

So, how does one do an official coffee tasting, you ask?  Allow me to show you:

Step 1. Choose coffee
I am starting with Starbucks Gold Coast, since this was the first coffee I ever tasted as an employee at Starbucks and it is my favorite.  I was immediately drawn to this because it is dark, it referenced “the coast,” and I was a little homesick.  The fact that this is a dark coffee and goes well with chocolate, as most bold brews do, completely sold me on this. This one has a little kick about it, which I love too.

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Step 2. Brew coffee
If you really want to taste each an every aroma of coffee, basically the point of a coffee tasting, you really need to use a french press.  This is the coarsest grind and the seeping allows the flavors to remain, more so than if using a coffee pot.  This is definitely the tool to get the job done.

Grind coffee, so the beans are the freshest.  Scoop coffee into french press until it fills the line, add hot water to the upper line, pouring over the ground coffee in a circle.  Wait for 4 minutes, exactly, then push top down.  Viola!  Coffee.

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Step 3. Taste coffee
Tasting coffee is similar to tasting wine, so take in the aroma first.  Some coffee buzz words I refer to are: earthy, acidic, nutty, sweet, spicy, bold, medium, chocolatey, just to name a few.  Once the initial aroma is recorded, it’s time to slurp the coffee, on the tip and sides of the tongue.  This is where sweetness and acidity come out.  Then, take another taste incorporating all the senses and notice any differences from the first and last taste.

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Step 4. Pair the coffee with some food.
This step is definitely not necessary, but obviously the most fun.  The rule at Starbucks was if there is a broken pastry, sample it out or do a coffee tasting.  No wonder our customers loved us!  Based upon the type of coffee and the notes you detected, choose an item that is not completely similar, but has elements of it.  Most darker coffees pair well with chocolate, but they might have nutty or fruity characteristics too.  Pair your coffee with a food that has most of the aromas, some, or even just one.  The choice is up to you!  I have tasted the same coffee with different foods.
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Gold Coast is described as an extra bold roast.  Starbucks describes it as “full-bodied and intense” and boy,   is it ever! It has a nutty aroma, with a slightly sweet aftertaste.  There are notes of tangy fruit (like cranberry), caramel, nutty sweetness.  This would be so delicious with a caramel cheesecake, Cranberry Bliss Bar, or custard fruit tart.  I chose to pair this with a blondie, enhanced with toffee and browned butter.

I refer to my friends at Trader Joe’s for their Blondie Mix, which I changed up up incorporating browned butter and toffee bits sprinkled on top.  Simply make the blondies as directed on the box, except brown the butter instead of melting it.  End result?  The most amazing coffee tasting I have ever done ever.  I am not even kidding.  The true sign of a great pairing is where you pick up different notes of the coffee after pairing it with food, notes that were very subtle become an exploding flavor sensation in your mouth!  The browned butter lends a nutty sweetness and the toffee finishes off the flavors.  After adding the element of the blondie, the coffee suddenly becomes heavily nutty, more complex, with a hearty sweetness that wasn’t there before.

See?  A lot goes into coffee tasting.  I’m so glad I left New York City with so many essential skills.  Oh.  And the greatest NYC BFF, too.