Thursday, May 29, 2008

WC Spring Gift Exchange!

For those of you that don't know, I frequent a message board on The Nest called What's Cooking. A spring gift exchange was announced so I signed up....sounded like fun! Basically, everyone who signed up was put into a pool and then you were given a name of another girl. You would not know who had your name until you received your gift in the mail. The coordinator uses Elfster for the exchange which allows you to ask questions anonomously to the person you got. Very cool. I was very happy to be assigned a girl named Carrie and I started shopping right away. I got her a loaf pan, cookie scoop, Paula Deen DVD, cupcake baking cups, a cupcake mix...I think that's everything. Carrie, hope you liked it all and have lots of fun with it. :-)

Needless to say, I've been waiting very patiently for my gift. The mailing deadline was this past Friday so I knew it was coming...yippee. When I got home today, the package was here...woohoo! It had a sweet little note in it saying that she hopes I have a wonderful spring and summer. As you can see in the picture above, the gift is awesome. I was blown away and so excited about all of it. I'll list it all just for fun: a 9" springform pan (here I come, cheesecakes), 2 cookie scoops (small and medium), cupcake baking cups and cupcake sprinkles from Crate & Barrel (they are red, white and cute), the 500 Cupcakes book and a framed plumeria (my favorite flower) picture. Really great gift...the plumeria picture really topped it off...made it super special and I knew that she had done it just for me. So, thanks Stefany (TPOX) for the awesome, thoughtful gift. This made for a wonderful experience with my first WC gift exchange. I've already started looking through the book and I'm stoked to use the cookie scoops. I've decided I'll be baking cupcakes with my cousin and her son when they come down to visit for July 4th! Thanks again, this gift rocks! Click here to check out Stefany's blog, Proceed with Caution.

Salad + Scallops = Super!

This is a quick, easy dinner. Mike talked me into a nap and out of the gym when I got home from work so it's a good thing that we had a nice light dinner.

Scallops Salad

Greens (I had romaine on hand)
Goat Cheese, crumbled
Pecans, chopped
Scallops (pan seared for about 5 minutes in a little olive oil and white wine vinegar, with salt and pepper)
Dressing (we used the Good Seasons Italian)
** I would like to have added grape tomatoes, but we didn't have any! :-)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Sticky Tuesday...

I'm back for my second week of TWD. I was a bit intimidated by this week's recipe because of the yeast involved...yea, never worked with that stuff so I'm clueless. I waited until Monday to get started and realized it would have to sit and rise and chill and all of that good stuff. I didn't have time for all that...I was tired, my stomach hurt...and well, that scared me (you know, like Meredith on Grey's Anatomy...scared of life, scared of love, scared of failure....yea, I was scared of the sticky buns). Oh, and did I mention that the cookbook warned that if you don't have a stand mixer, you should use your own hands because the motor will probably blow if you use a hand mixer. HA! If the motor would give on my hand mixer, how in the heck were my poor little hands going to make it through it?Wimp, wuss, whatever... but I didn't want to give up entirely so I picked up a can of crescent roll dough and made my life easier. Hey, I didn't give up, that's good for something, right? Here is the recipe straight from the Dorie cookbook...and I'll throw the dough recipe in here too, just for sh*ts and giggles.

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

For the Glaze:
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces)

For the Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Buns (assuming you want to take the easy way out - the all out way is below):
1 can of Pillsbury crescent rolls

Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).

To make the glaze: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissovle the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out asbest you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinkle the pecans over the glaze.

To make the filling: Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.

To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. (If using the store bought dough, just roll it out and pinch the seams together. Using your fingers or a pastry brush (I used a spatula), spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months . . . . Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the glae recipe accordingly).

With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll if they're very ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. (Because you trim the ragged ends of the dough, and you may have lost a little length in the rolling, you will get 15 buns, not 16 - using the store bought dough, it made exactly 12) Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.

(No need to do this step if you bought the dough) Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wax paper and set the pan in a warm place until the buns ahve doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.

Getting ready to bake: If you used store bought dough, just pop them in and bake according to the package directions.

Using the brioche recipe - when the buns have almost fully risen , center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily. Pull the pan from the oven.

**Just before being popped into the oven

The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven (I used a spoon to pick them up and flip them over, then I spooned excess glaze and pecans onto the top). If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or buttered foil. Be careful - the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.
**Right out of the oven
For the Buns (assuming you want to really go all out):
1/2 recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)
2 packets active dry yeast (each packet of yeast contains approx. 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

What You'll Need for the Glaze (you would brush this on brioche loaves, but not on the sticky buns):
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight. (After this, you can proceed with the recipe to make the brioche loaves, or make the sticky buns instead, or freeze all or part of the dough for later use.)
The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.

Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)
Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.

Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

**You will most likely have some of the glaze and pecans left over even after covering each bun generously, so just take a spoon and dig in! Don't forget this part, it's important, ok?

My Life as a Blondie...

Just a few months ago, I changed my hair color for the first time. I have been a blonde all 28 years of my life and decided it was time for a change. I went darker, not too dark, but a nice caramel color. Most people said I was still blonde, although it didn't seem like it to me. Anyways, that's not the point. The point is that I love me some brownies, but it was time to test my hand at blondies...I mean, afterall, they do have more fun, right? I found this recipe at both Joelen's Culinary Adventures and Amber's Delectable Delights. They had different sources listed but the recipes were very similar. Check them out to see both of their used caramel and one used white chocolate. Here is what I did:

Chocolate Butterscotch Blondies

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Then line the pan with parchment paper (one going long ways and the other laying perpendicular across the first one). This will help with the removal of the bars. Then spray the parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Whisk the melted butter and brown sugar together in a medium bowl until comined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold the morsles (choc chip and butterscotch) and the nuts and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula.

Bake until the top is shiny and cracked and feels firm to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Place the pan on a rack and cool completely.

**Highly recommend serving warm with some caramel swirl ice cream on the side

Good Ol Comfort Food

So, I bought all of the ingredients for chicken pot pie over a week ago and never got around to making it before Mike left town for the week. His flight arrived at 5 p.m. on Saturday so I prepared the pot pie and stuck it in the fridge before leaving to pick him up. When we got home, I popped it in the oven. I can't ever remember how I make it from one time to the next so this time I found a basic recipe online and went from there. I had a few mishaps, like usual and thought that my pot pie was ruined. I must have let the pie crust get a little too comfortable at room temperature because when I went to remove the one to put on the top, it crumbled in my hands. I was devastated. I didn't give up and just pieced it together.. no need to make any slits in the top, there were already several. Not the prettiest thing I've ever seen but.... It was delicious and we love having the leftovers too. The recipe came from AllRecipes and you can find it here. The one below is exactly how I made it which differs slightly from the original.

Chicken Pot Pie

2 chicken breasts, cubed
2 cups frozen peas/carrots
2 cups potatoes (I used 4-5 red potatoes, peeled and cubed)
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion (I used 1/2 large shallot which was exactly 1/3 cup)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 3/4 cup chicken broth (I used low sodium)
2/3 cup milk (I used fat free)
2 9" unbaked pie crusts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a saucepan, combine chicken, potatoes, peas and carrots. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

In the saucepan over medium heat, cook the onions in the butter until soft and translucent. Slowly stir in flour, salt and pepper. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place half of the chicken mixture in bottom of pie crust. Pour half of hot mixture over. Then repeat one more time. Cover with the top crust, seal the edges and cut away excess dough if necessary. Make several small slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape.

Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until top is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who would've thought...

...that I would ever join a baking group? Let me tell you about Tuesdays with Dorie. It's an online group of people who have committed to baking once a week from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours. Each week a different member picks the recipe for the group to bake. Then, each of the members will post their finished product on their blog each Tuesday. I thought this would be a good way to start finding my way around the kitchen a little better, trying new things and also having something great for my blog each week. Well, today is my first day of posting my TWD entry. This week's pick was for Madeleines but it required a special pan so they said that if you didn't want to make that then you could just pick any recipe that has already been made this year that you missed. Well, this is my first week so I haven't made anything from the book yet. I picked the Peanut Butter Torte, which I saw a lot of blog entries about a few weeks back. I had offered to take a pie to Angel's shower (see posts below) and knew this was the perfect opportunity to make this beautiful thing. So, here is my first TWD entry. There will be a few pictures because I was very proud of this one. Enjoy!

A little bit about this torte: it's so creamy and the oreo crust is amazing. Warning: it's insanely rich. I could only take a bite or two at a time. There was no way I could get a whole piece down. You must love peanut butter for this one. And excuse the crust. I really thought I had been careful to make sure it was even all the way around. Guess not!

Peanut Butter Torte

1 ¼ c. finely chopped salted peanuts (for the filling, crunch and topping)
2 teaspoons sugar½ teaspoon instant espresso powder (or finely ground instant coffee)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
½ c. mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semi sweet chocolate)
24 Oreo cookies, finely crumbed or ground in a food processor or blender
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
2 ½ c. heavy cream
1 ¼ c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ c salted peanut butter – crunchy or smooth (not natural)
2 tablespoons whole milk (I used fat free organic)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
Getting ready: center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch Springform pan and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.Toss ½ cup of the chopped peanuts, the sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chops together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Put the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in another small bowl and stir with a fork just until crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the spring form pan (they should go up about 2 inches on the sides). Freeze the crust for 10 minutes. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a rack and let it cool completely before filling.
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks. Beat in ¼ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks. Scrape the cream into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Wipe out (no need to wash) the bowl, fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment if you have one, or continue with the hand mixer, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth. Beat in the peanut butter, ¼ cup of the chopped peanuts and the milk.

Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about one quarter of the whipped cream, just to lighten the mousse. Still working with the spatula, stir in the crunchy peanut mixture, then gingerly fold in the remaining whipped cream. Scrape the mouse into the crust, mounding and smoothing the top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight; cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse firms.

To Finish The Torte: put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave the bowl over the water just until the chocolate softens and starts to melt, about 3 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan. Bring the remaining ½ cup cream to a full boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and , working with a a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and glossy.

Pour the ganache over the torte (I let it cool for a few minutes before pouring it on), smoothing it with a metal icing spatula. Scatter the remaining ½ cup peanuts over the top and chill to set the topping, about 20 minutes. When the ganache is firm, remove the sides of the Springform pan; it’s easiest to warm the pan with a hairdryer (I did this and it worked great), and then remove the sides, but you can also wrap a kitchen towel damped with hot water around the pan and leave it there for 10 seconds. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The love of my pie form!

Mmmm mmmm good...chocolate chess pie! Although this was made along with the other desserts for the baby shower, this deserves a post all of its own. Why? Because I said so, that's why! Just kidding. This is my favorite pie of all time. It's so simple but I just love eat it, of course. I've never made it until now but my great-aunt Jeanne always hooks me up when I'm visiting the fam in VA. It's a southern pie...or at least that's what I like to think. Since I do enjoy it so much, why not try my hand at call to her and I had the recipe. It was one of the easiest things I've ever made....but I was so nervous that it wouldn't turn out like hers...oh but it did and I was so happy about that. I had no idea that something so good would be so simple. What are the things I love most about it? The not too-sweetness, the ooey gooey chocolate texture, the way it melts in my mouth. I've never had it with ice cream on the side but I swear I'm going to try that one day soon. So, here goes...I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

How could you not want some of this??

Aunt Jeanne's Chocolate Chess Pie

1 9" single pie crust
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 stick of butter (I used light)
2 eggs
1 small can of evaporated milk (5-6 oz)
1 tsp of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Mix cocoa with sugar; add melted (but cooled) butter and stir well. Mix in 2 eggs, then evaporated milk and vanilla. Beat for 5-6 minutes. Pour mixture into pie crust. Bake on 350 for 40 minutes or until set in middle. Let cool and chill until ready to serve. It's best served chilled.

It was all about Desserts!

As I mentioned in the previous post, the baby shower was desserts only. You should have seen the could easily go into a sugar coma just looking at it all. I'll give you a quick rundown before I tell you what I made....fruit (ok, that's not so bad!), 3 or 4 types of cookies, brownies, candy, baklava, lemon squares, apple cake, chocolate fondue, cheesecake bites, cupcakes, strawberry cake, eclairs....have you had enough yet? I haven't even mentioned the desserts I made. I know, I know...overload!

Let's start with the Grape Salad (hey, it has fruit in it at least...yea, keep telling yourself that). This stuff is 100% deliciousness. No other way to describe it so let's get right to the actually have to make it sometime. It's perfect for a brunch (I actually had it for the first time at my friend Ashley's bridal shower brunch)! I got the recipe from her sister but I found the exact one online, so you can go to Recipezaar to see it.

Grape Salad

2 lbs of green grapes
2 lbs of red grapes
8 oz of cream cheese, softened (I used light)

8 oz of sour cream (I used fat free)
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tsp of vanilla

for the topping:
1 cup of brown sugar, packed
1 cup of chopped pecans
Wash and stem grapes. Set aside.

Mix cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and vanilla by hand until well blended.
Stir grapes into mixture and pour into a large serving bowl (I used a trifle/parfait dish).
For topping: mix brown sugar with pecans. Sprinkle over grape mixture until covered. (I put 1/2 of the grape mixture, then 1/2 of the topping and then did another layer like that).

Chill overnight.

They were very easy to make and the dough was so yummy (yes, I tasted it...ok, a few times). The recipe on the oats container said to bake for 12-14 minutes. I baked for about 10-11. They were a little too crispy for my tastes as I prefer my cookies chewy. For 1/2 the batch, I added chocolate chips and those cookies turned out a little better. Overall though, tasty but not chewy and moist enough for me. Anyways, here's the recipe:

Quaker's Famous Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup of packed brown sugar
3/4 cup of vegetable shortening
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup of water
1 tsp of vanilla
3 cups of Quaker oats (I used Old Fashioned oats)
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 tsp of salt (optional)
1/2 tsp of baking soda

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, beat brown sugar, shortening and sugar until creamy. Add egg, water and vanilla; beat well. Add combined oats, flour, salt and baking soda; mix well. (I split the batter in half and added 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to one half of the batter).

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 12-14 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool completely. Makes approx 5 dozen cookies.
More to come in another post....

Babies bring out the sweetness...

This weekend was a busy one. I'll start by giving you the reason for it all....a little bun in the oven, whose name will be Hayden. His mommy and daddy (our good friends, Zach & Angel) came down from Tennessee for their baby shower here in Florida. It was going to be a coed shower (which Mike wasn't too thrilled about - after attending, he said 'those definitely aren't for guys'...haha) and they were expecting about 65 people. Wow! I offered to help and was recruited to help bring food....oh, did I mention it a was a desserts shower? Yea, I'll get to that in a following post. Back to the baby. I just wanted to show off the sweet little gift we got for them...really I'll just show you the great little box (which they can use in his room) and the cute teddy bear ribbon. Anyways, I filled it with small items from the registry...burp pads, onesies, socks, pacifiers, rattles, etc...and a bottle of wine for the new mommy and daddy to celebrate with after he is born.

Time for BBQ, baby!

Mike had a flag football game tonight so I knew it would be a good day to throw some chicken in the crockpot. I started with some thighs that we had in the freezer (Mike would like those) and a big chicken breast for me. I dumped a bottle of Jack Daniels bbq sauce in there and added some water (enough to almost cover the chicken), set it on low for 8 hrs and off to work I went. For mine, I thought I would have a bbq sandwich so I shredded my chicken breast and put it on a delicious potato roll. The bbq taste wasn't distinct enough so I chose to add more to my sandwich. Mike preferred to just eat his right from the bone. I went simple with the sides since he wouldn't be home until 9:00. Corn....a favorite in our house..was the choice. I used frozen yellow corn. I always cook it the way my grandmother always did and it's always a hit. Simple!! In a saute pan, add some butter/ margarine of your choice (a tbsp or two, depending on the amt of corn)...then add the corn. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (use a generous amount of pepper)...once the corn starts to cook, add another tbsp of butter. Stir occasionally while cooking on medium for 10-12 mins then turn to very low until you are ready to serve. And dinner is served!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Crispy Fishies

I won't go into a lot of detail here. This was a simple meal that I threw together in a matter of minutes. I had some fresh tilapia and shrimp and I didn't feel like finding a good recipe. So, here is what I did. For the tilapia, I sprinkled them with Emeril's Fish Rub and a little Old Bay, dipped them in an egg and rolled in crushed corn flakes then I baked them on 350 for about 15 minutes. For the shrimp, I put some butter (in my case, Smart Balance Light) in a pan on the stove and sprinkled with garlic powder and Old Bay...cooked until nice and pink. I steamed some frozen broccoli and made a batch of Jiffy corn bread (added just a bit of sugar to the mix). Easy and delicious meal!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cinco de Bake-o!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!
Once again, I was feeling overly ambitious in the kitchen this weekend. For Lani & Chad's Cinco de Drinko festivities on Saturday, I had decided to make cupcakes and brownies, both from scratch. I should probably stick to one thing at a time from now on. If it could go wrong, it probably did...but I did manage to come out with two edible desserts so I guess it could have been worse. Right?

I baked the cupcakes on Friday after work so they could cool and then I would ice them on Saturday morning. I found the recipe at Cooking, which was for a 9x13 cake. So, it said to bake for 45 minutes. Well, I cut that down to 20 minutes for the cupcakes. I probably should have cooked them for about 16-17 minutes though. Oh well, a little dry but totally edible. First up on Saturday was the brownies. Got them mixed up and in the oven ... no mishaps there. Baking time was for 35-45 minutes. I checked in on mine after about 25 mins and the toothpick came out clean so I took them out. Didn't want to burn them. After letting them cool and cutting them, I realized they could have baked a little longer. They weren't runny but they were definitely nice and soft inside. No one complained though! Ok, now comes the cream cheese frosting. Disaster! It was too bitter and too runny. I cut the bitterness down by adding more vanilla extract and more confectioner's sugar. I never did get the flavor or consistency I was after, but once I ran out of confectioner's sugar, I gave up. Because it was thin, I could only do a thin layer on the cupcakes because it was just run right off...needless to say, the piping I had intended on doing was definitely a no-go. Out of time and out of sanity, it was time to put these on pretty platters and at least pretend they were perfect. So, off we went...baking fiascos and all...I have to say that they were both good though.

Chocolate Chipotle Brownies
Source: Emeril/Food Network

1 tsp plus 1 cup butter
1 tbsp plus 1 cup all-purpose flour
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground chipotle chile pepper (I used about 1 1/2 tsp)
4 eggs
1 cup chopped Mexican chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate morsels (I used morsels)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Grease and flour an 11x7 inch baking pan or dish with 1 tsp of the butter and 1 tbsp of the flour. Heat the remaining butter and the unsweetened chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted. In a medium bowl, stir together remaining flour, sugar, cinnamon, and ground chipotle. Add sugar mixture to melted chocolate mixture, stirring to combine. Add eggs, mixing until smooth. Stir in chopped chocolate or chocolate morsels.

Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake until the center is set, 35-40 minutes (I only baked for 25 mins-should've done 30). Cool completely and then cut into small squares. I sprinkled with powdered sugar!

Next up.... Cinco de Mayo themed cupcakes

Applesauce Spice Cupcakes

Source: Cooking Light

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

1/2 cup chilled light butter

1 1/2 cups chunky applesauce (I used non-chunky)

1/4 cup apple butter

2 large egg whites

1 large egg

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup raisins (I omitted)

cream cheese icing (see below)

1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted (I omitted)

Preheat oven to 350. Beat sugar and butter at medium speed until well-blended (4-5 minutes). Add applesauce, apple butter, egg whites and egg; beat well. Add flour and next 4 ingredients (flour through salt); beat well. Stir in raisins, if using. Pour batter into muffin tins. Bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Frost and sprinkle with pecans, if using.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Source: Cooking Light

1 1/2 teaspoons chilled light butter

1/2 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese

2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter and cheese at high speed of a mixer until fluffy. Add sugar; beat at low speed until well-blended. Add vanilla; beat well. Yield: 1 cup (I doubled it and made enough for 2 cups)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Had to go shopping for this one....

Is it a parfait or is it a trifle? I have no idea. Both sound good to me so call it whatever you'd like. In either case, I had to go buy a pretty little dish to serve my first one in. Thank goodness for Bed, Bath and Beyond. I had seen this simple little dish a hundred times and knew it was only $9.99. Not to mention, that 20% coupon that was burning a whole in my pocket. Fun times, I tell ya. Anyways, tonight we are invited over to a former knottie's home (Steph, are you a nestie yet??)...anyways, she just had a baby girl a few weeks back and she and Rob have invited a few friends over tonight. I decided to take a strawberry trifle...strawberry parfait...ok, whatever. You get the point. Before starting to make last night's dinner of scallops provencal, I took an ever-so-wonderful boxed cake mix and a can of sprite zero, mixed them up and threw it in the oven. By the time, I was finished with dinner, the cake had cooled so I broke it up into small pieces and started layering in my pretty new dish. Not much to say as these are pretty darn easy, but boy does it look good...just look past the ugly was getting late and I was getting tired! Can't wait to dig in tonight. I will comment on the choice of boxed cake mix. YUM! I chose Duncan Hines French Vanilla. It's light and airy like an angel food cake but has a bit more flavor...absolutely perfect for this kind of dessert.

Strawberry Trifle/Parfait

1 boxed cake mix (white or yellow)
1 can of diet sprite
1 large package of instant vanilla pudding
3 cups of ff milk (to make the pudding)
2 8oz tubs of ff cool whip
1 lb of fresh strawberries (They were big so I quartered them)

Mix cake mix and can of diet sprite. Bake according to directions. Let cool completely. Whip up the instant pudding according to directions using the milk. Crumble or cube into appox. 1 inch pieces. Layer 1/3 into bottom of dish, followed by 1/3 of the pudding, 1/3 of the cool whip, and a little less than 1/3 of the strawberries. Repeat 3 times...using the remainder of the strawberries on top. Yum, Yum, Yum!

Succulent Scallops...

The motivation behind this dinner was a picture from another nestie's blog. Saw it, wanted it, made it last night! This was so easy to make and it had a really great flavor...a subtle sweetness almost (some of which came from my choice of wine to use in it, I'm sure). Really good, nonetheless. I planned to serve it with some orzo and a small salad but I got a bit of a late start and then realized I didn't have any orzo. So, I whipped up some pasta noodles...threw in some butter, garlic and parmesan and then topped with the scallops. To serve over pasta, you need a bit more of the sauce that the scallops are cooked in though and it didn't quite make enough for that. I think these would be great with wild rice (didn't want to wait 50 mins for the rice to cook). As you can tell, it wasn't the best planned meal ever. Oh well, Mike didn't get home to eat until10 p.m from his flag football game so I really wasn't worried about it because I knew he would be starving and would eat whatever there was. Enough rambling, here is the recipe with some of my changes (mainly due to only having certain things on hand). I got the original from the Sing for Your Supper blog.

Scallops Provencal

1 lb of fresh bay or sea scallops (I used a 1/2 lb of sea scallops)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
4 tbsp of butter (I used Smart Balance Light)
1/2 cup of chopped shallots (2 large) (I used 1 large)
1 garlic clove, minced (I used 2)
1/4 cup of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (I used dried)
1/3 cup of dry white wine (I used 1/4 cup of Riesling and 1/8 cup of white wine vinegar)
1 lemon, cut in 1/2 (I omitted because I didn't have one)

Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper, toss with flour, and shake off the excess.

In a very large saute pan, heat 2 tbsp of the butter over high heat until sizzling and add the scallops in one layer. Lower the heat to medium and allow the scallops to brown lightly on one side without moving them. Then turn and brown lightly on the other side. This should only take 3-4 minutes. Add the rest of the butter to the pan with the scallops, then add the shallots, garlic and parsley and saute for 2 more minutes, tossing the scallops with the seasoning. Add the white wine (and vinegar if you use it), cook for one minute. I let it simmer for just a bit longer, stirring slowly. If you have lemon, squeeze the lemon on the scallops and serve hot.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ooey Gooey...Chicken Pasta

This recipe comes all the way from my peeps up in VA. Actually, it comes directly from my 'uncle' Mark. He's a down home southern boy through and through and although his food isn't fancy, it sure is good! He told me about this easy baked pasta he made with baked chicken and now it's on heavy rotation at our house. Well, like twice a month....close enough. Anyways, this seems like a very plain baked ziti type dish but there is just something about it. I think the chicken really changes the flavor of it all together. And for all of you foodie goddesses out there, this can be a blank slate for you...although I would suggest you try it as is first. And I don't measure anything for this dish...sorry...but I'll give it my best guess. But, here is for a big lasagna pan, which I usually half this amount when it's just me and Mike.

Baked Chicken Pasta

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large jar of spaghetti sauce (I used Newman's Own Tomato & Basil)
1 lb box of penne pasta
3/4 cup of ff ricotta cheese (sometimes I add cream cheese, cottage cheese or sour cream too)
1-2 cups of shredded cheese (I use a mix of ff cheddar with 6 cheese italian)

Bake chicken (covered) on 350 for one hour. I literally take it out of the package, plop it in a baking dish, cover with foil and throw it in the oven. Let chicken cool and then pull apart with fingers. I usually cook the chicken the night before, shred it and throw in the fridge. Cook pasta as directed. In a sauce pan, add shredded chicken and spaghetti sauce (I put enough to cover the chicken plus some) and whatever spices you like (I use garlic, onion and crushed red pepper). Simmer on low-med until warmed through. Drain and pour pasta into your baking dish. Add ricotta cheese and mix into hot noodles. Pour spaghetti sauce mixture over pasta and mix in. Top with shredded cheese. Bake on 350 for 20-25 minutes. Enjoy!