Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stalena's Birthday

Good Morning! I'm currently listening to Justin Timberlake & Matt Morris sing "Hallelujah". Go to iTunes right now and buy it. Right now! You'll thank me. Plus, it'll benefit Haiti.

A few days ago (okay, 9 days ago), we celebrated Stalena's birthday. Her favorite cake is ice cream cake, so I volunteered to make it. I've never made an ice cream cake and I couldn't find a recipe that I really liked, so I took the idea for an Oreo base from one and did my own thing for the rest of it. I mean, it's an ice cream cake, so it couldn't be too complicated, right? Right.

Ice Cream Cake

1 package Oreos
1 stick butter
1 half-gallon of ice cream (I used peanut butter cookie b/c Leen loves PB.)
1 Ghiradelli 60% cacao chocolate bar (She also loves dark chocolate.)
1/2 half-gallon of ice cream (I used French Vanilla just because we had it on hand.)
Spring-form pan

I started by putting all the Oreos in a gallon Ziploc and crushing them with my rolling pin. (It's a good idea to have your ice cream sitting out to help soften it.) Melt the stick of butter. Combine the melted butter and Oreos (leave a bit of the crushed Oreos in the bag). Once your Oreos have soaked up the butter, put the mixture in the bottom of your spring-form pan. Press the cookie/butter mixture firmly into the bottom. Place in the freezer while you're working with your ice cream. Take the half-gallon that will be your base and place it in a big bowl. Mix the ice cream until it's the same consistency throughout (soft, but not melted). Pull the spring-form pan from the freezer and place your soft ice cream on top, spreading it evenly. Return to freezer. I then cut up the chocolate bar into fine pieces. Sprinkle on the cake as a "layer". The chocolate adds some bite to the cake. It shouldn't actually look like a layer. That would be too much chocolate and probably break the teeth of those eating the frozen cake. :) Soften and mix your second ice cream (I used 1/2 of the half-gallon since that's what it would take the reach the top of my pan.) Spread across the top. I used leftover chocolate bar to make the S on the top of the cake and the Oreo bits I put aside around the border. Return to freezer. About 20 minutes before serving, place in refrigerator to soften. I used a butter knife to run around the cake to make sure it wouldn't stick to the pan when I remove it.

Happy Birthday, Stalena!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Cake That Wasn't

I had a major cake fail the other day. I was so excited to make the cake for a work lunch the next day. Everything went well until I inverted my pan onto the cooling rack and lifted up only to see part of my cake contents in a puddle. Whoops. I had even poked four different spots to see if it was done and all the toothpicks came out clean. I'm not sure what went wrong, but I'm taking it as a personal challenge to make this cake perfectly.

Mama Mia!

I am absolutely giddy! Why? Because our internet is working again! Hooray!!! My hero for the day is Colby who rushed in on his white steed (okay, he came in a white truck) and slayed the problem. I have so much to do today. It's the fair Stalena's birthday!! However, I wanted to catch up my blog a bit because I'm two recipes behind and I'll be making a tasty treat today for Leen.

I'm still on my quest to find my favorite tomato sauce. This is sauce #2. The flavor was nice, but it was thinner than I like. I have one more to try, but I have a feeling that I may end up morphing the recipes together.

Italian Tomato Sauce (Betty Crocker's Cookbook: Bridal Edition-- I'm telling you, this is my go-to cookbook! Married or not.)

2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) whole tomatoes, undrained
2 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed (I didn't have any, so I skipped it.)
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic in oil 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining ingredients, breaking up tomatoes with a fork or snipping with kitchen scissors. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 45 minutes. Use sauce immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 weeks or freeze up to 1 year.

I wanted to make homemade bread to go with the spaghetti and then I learned that French bread would take around 4 1/2 hours. Instead, I pulled out the trusty bread machine and compromised. I don't count this as one of my 20 recipes since I didn't do any work, but it was fun, easy, and delicious. It made our house smell like heaven. :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Neiman-Marcus Cookies

Neiman-Marcus Cookies aka cookies I'll likely never make again. This receipe came from Tressa Yinger from the church cookbook. Here's thing thing about me and cooking: I want a product that tastes good and that isn't overly complicated. This recipe was more labor intensive than I want for a cookie recipe. And while they're good, I think there are other cookies I prefer.

Neiman-Marcus Cookies

1 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
2 1/2 c. blended oatmeal
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
12 oz. chocolate chips
1 (4 oz) Hershey bar, grated
1 1/2 c. chopped nuts (I didn't use. I never add nuts to my recipes.)

Measure oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder. Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

This recipe was actually double the amounts, but I didn't want to make that many cookies so I halved it. Also, it's a stiffer dough so it was harder to work with. If I had used the full amounts, I would have probably gone mad by the time I finished mixing it. Here are a couple tips for you: grate your chocolate bar first. It's a time consuming step. I did mine the night before and I'm so glad that I did!!! Using a grater is my least favorite thing in the kitchen. I'm terrified that I'll grate my fingers. I used a knife to cut up the last bits that were to small to grate and yet too large to just toss into the cookies. Also, we don't have a blender, so I put my oatmeal in the food processor. A couple spins and it was ready. This recipe takes some muscle. Frankly, it wore me out. I was tired of the whole recipe by the end of it.

Can you believe this is all one of those giant chocolate bar equals?!!

This may be the best advice I can give you: while the first batch is baking, use that 10 minutes to roll the rest of the dough. Hand-rolling dough isn't hard, but it's another time consuming step.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Try These!!

Today I baked Crazy Cupcakes. The church I grew up in put a cookbook together a few years ago and this recipe comes from the pastor's wife, Joyce Nogalski.

Crazy Cupcakes

3 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa
2 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. oil
2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. water
2 tsp. vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla

Add all ingredients together and mix well. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and drop 1 teaspoon of the following filling into the center of each cupcake.

1 (8 oz) pkg softened cream cheese
1 egg
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. chocolate chips

Blend together until smooth.

There were no directions for baking, but I used an oven at 350 degrees and baked for 18 minutes.

Cupcake Batter


Before baking, they'll look like this:

Fresh from the oven:

They're really light and airy!

These are possibly the most amazing cupcakes I've EVER had! So delicious!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Surprise

This is not a new recipe for me. I've actually been making it for close to a year, possibly longer. It's for chocolate chip cookies with chickpeas. Don't stop reading yet!! I don't generally watch Oprah, but one day I happened to stop when she was interviewing Jessica Seinfeld, author of Deceptively Delicious. The cookbook has ways to sneak vegetables into foods so that you're giving your family healthier options. They talked about the cookies and I didn't really believe them, so I had to try the recipe for myself. The result: cookies that Stalena, Sesha, and I LOVE. I mean it, we love this recipe. The chickpeas give a little bite to the cookie and I think they pull out the sweet a bit with the juxtaposition of the salt. I know you're still skeptical, but give them a try, just once.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Chickpeas (from Deceptively Delicious)

Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup margarine (If you'd prefer, you can use butter.)
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed (also called garbanzo beans)
12 oz chocolate chips
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar and margarine with a wooden spoon or on medium speed until smooth. Beat in the egg whites and vanilla, then the chickpeas and chocolate chips. Add the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt, and mix on low speed until a thick dough forms. Drop the dough by the tablespoonful onto the baking sheet, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. Press gently with a fork to flatten. Bake until the cookies are golden brown and just set, 11 to 13 minutes; do not overbake. Transfer to a cooking rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Tonight's blogging music: The Kill/30 Seconds to Mars, Helena/My Chemical Romance, Tranquilize/The Killers, Mr. Brightside/The Killers, September/Earth, Wind & Fire, Don't Stop Believin'/Glee, Lovers' Carvings/Bibio, Misguided Ghosts/Paramore, Rosyln/Bon Iver & St. Vincent, Possibility/Lykke Li, Fly One Time/Ben Harper & Relentless7, Her Morning Elegance/Oren Lavie, Falling Slowly/Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova, Lies/Glen Hansard, Say It To Me Now/Glen Hansard

One of my favorite things about making new playlists/cds for people is rediscovering music I love, but have perhaps forgotten about. :)

Hot Chocolate

We recently had a very lovely snow fall. Stalena and Sesha, being the hardworking outdoorsy girls that they are, shoveled the driveway. I, being the not-at-all outdoorsy girl, made hot chocolate to help warm them back up. Am I lucky or what? Then again, the week before they were very lucky because I literally cleaned the entire house. So....I guess we're even. Anyway, when the idea hit me to make hot chocolate for them, I wasn't thinking of trying anything new. And then I realized that if I tried Curtis Stone's hot chocolate recipe, I would be one recipe closer to my goal. The trick was that I didn't have any measurements, just a video to help me guess at amounts.

Hot Chocolate (from Curtis Stone)

3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup (plus) of Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips
Ice cream

Combine the milk, whipping cream, and sugar in a saucepan. Heat gently, being careful not to boil the liquid. If you boil the milk and cream, you'll separate out the fat. I've not made this mishap, but I'm guessing it might lead to a lumpy (and not very tasty) drink. The tip is to use half the amount of whipping cream per the amount of milk. (So, one cup of milk to half cup of cream, 2 cups of milk to 1 cup cream, and so on.) Once your liquid is hot, remove from the heat. The heat from the liquid will melt the chocolate. If you leave it on the heat, you'll cook the chocolate instead of melting it. Once the chocolate is completely melted and no lumps remain, you can put the hot chocolate into mugs. Curtis suggests topping with ice cream which I did since we just so happened to have some available. Have you noticed a theme with my cooking yet? I try to make use of ingredients I have on hand. Now, Curtis said to use whatever kind of chocolate you like. He used the 70% cacao, I think. I'm not a dark, bitter chocolate person, so I went straight for the milk chocolate. Use whatever makes you happy. He also talked about mixing other flavors like mint into the hot chocolate, but I don't really like mixing things with my chocolate.

The girls' treat for their hard work:

The lovely snow :)

It sounds like we'll be getting more snow in the upcoming days, so I'm sure my chance at shoveling will be coming soon. I wonder if a hot chocolate fairy will come to visit me?

Coffee Marshmallow Crispy Treats

This is another easy, delightful recipe from George Duran's cookbook, Take This Dish and Twist It. If you know me, you'll know that I'm not a coffee drinker. At all. However, I know quite a few people that love coffee, so I thought I'd make them for the wonderful people in my life.

Coffee Marshmallow Crispy Treats

3 TBsp butter
10.5 oz package of miniature marshmallows
2-3 TBsp instant coffee or espresso powder
6 cups rice krispies

Lightly butter an 8x8x2-inch baking pan. In a large pan melt the butter over very low heat. Stir in the marshmallows. Cook, stirring frequently, until the marshmallows are melted and smooth. Remove the pan from heat. Stir in the instant coffee (2 tablespoons for a rich coffee flavor, 3 tablespoons for a real kick) and mix well. Gently stir in the rice cereal. When it is completely coated, use buttered hands to lightly press the mixture into the prepared pan. Cool and cut into bars.

**I used 3 tablespoons of Sumatra coffee since that's what the girls had on hand.

Isn't it pretty?

Nacho Mama's S'mores

Isn't that just a fun recipe to say? This recipe was also made on New Year's Day. I was organizing my food in the cabinet, trying to figure out how to make the best use of what I had. Lo and behold, graham crackers! We also had some Christmas marshmallows hanging around, so it just seemed like this was an obvious recipe to try. I did end up purchasing a chocolate bar, but since I had already planned on going to the grocery store it wasn't really a hassle to pick one up.

Nacho Mama's S'mores (from George Duran's Take This Dish and Twist It)

1 (14 oz) package graham crackers
3 (5 oz) milk chocolate bars (George recommends Hershey's)
1/2 of a 10.5 oz bag of mini marshmallows

** I couldn't remember the amount of choclate when I was at the store, so I bought one of the giant Hershey bars, about 7 oz., and that was plenty. I used one wrapped package of graham crackers, but I have no idea if that's 14 oz or not. Finally, I just guessed on the marshmallows. Basically, I'm telling you that I didn't measure this recipe at all. :)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Break the graham crackers into pieces and place one-third of them in an 8x8 pan or pie plate. Break up the chocolate and put one-third on top of the crackers. Add one-third of the marshmallows. Add two more layers in the same order. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes until marshmallows are a light golden brown and the chocolate is melted.

Red Sauce #1

Oh dear friends, my brain is tired. Today was full of nurse orientation, a medication administration test, and signing up for NCLEX (the test for licensure). However, I want to catch up my blog with all the recipes I've tried so far. So here we go.

On New Year's Day, I decided to make a red sauce for angel hair pasta. I had successfully created the alfredo sauce the night before, so a red sauce seemed to be the logical next step. Plus, after having made the alfredo sauce and seeing that it was butter, whipping cream, and cheese I thought it wouldn't be wise to have that as a routine sauce. I'd prefer not to die at age 35. Thanks, though. Once again, I consulted my Betty Crocker Bridal Edition cookbook and was given three different options for a tomato sauce. I'll be trying all three, but I decided to start with the one that I had the most supplies for already.

Red Sauce

1 pound lean ground beef
1 large onion chopped (1 cup) [I didn't end up using a full cup.]
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, undrained
1 can (8 oz) mushroom pieces and stems, drained
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 TBsp chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt

Cook beef, onion, and garlic in 10-inch skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until brown (about 8-10 minutes); drain. Stir in remaining ingredients, breaking tomatoes with a fork or snipping with kitchen scissors. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.


Finished Product

Monday, January 4, 2010

Alfredo Sauce and New Year's Eve

This year (or I suppose last year now that it's 2010) the roommates and I decided to stay in for New Year's Eve and celebrate with a dinner and some friends. I think there's just something so nice about simply being with friends to start out a year. Especially when you know the wonderful people that we do. Anyway, Sesha recommended making fettuccine alfredo like they do on The Holiday. That afternoon the thought occurred to me that I should make the sauce from scratch. And then I thought, why not make creme brulee too. (However, I don't count this as one of my 20 recipes by May since it was an organic box mix. True, I still had to add ingredients and do the work, but since it's not completely homemade, I'm not going to count it.) I used Betty Crocker's Alfredo Sauce recipe from the Bridal Edition cookbook. Now, I know that I've never actually been a bride, but guess what, it's not actually a qualifier for buying the cookbook. Plus, it has a bunch of great, basic cooking info. So if you're newer to cooking and want solid information, check out the cookbook- single, engaged, married, whatever.

Alfredo Sauce

1/2 cup butter or stick margarine (I used butter. We always have unsalted butter.)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper

Heat butter and whipping cream in 10-inch skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until butter is melted and mixture starts to bubble. Reduce heat to low, simmer 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; stir in cheese, salt, and pepper.

Since I was making fettuccine for five, I increased the amounts to make more sauce. It was a really easy recipe and delicious. So much better than a jar! I'd love to show you a picture of the fettuccine, but when it uploads it's rotating it and I have no idea how to fix such a problem. Sorry.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gillian, a friend and fellow baker, told me about a chocolate chip cookie recipe that she loved. This past summer, I had been searching for my favorite chocolate chip recipe. I had combined two recipes and found one I was pretty happy with, but how could I refuse to try what I was told was the BEST chocolate chip cookie recipe? I couldn't. I mean, what kind of baker would I be if I didn't at least try what could revolutionize cookies as I know it?

So on December 16, the lovely (and very pregnant) Jessica Donn came over and we baked cookies. It was the day before my graduation and the day before Finlay was to be born. We had a wonderful lunch and successfully made the new recipe. The cookies were delicious and even made their way to the hospital a couple days later for the new parents to enjoy.

Gillian's Recipe (from America's Test Kitchen)

1 3/4 Cups floor
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 Tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) butter
1/2 Cup white sugar
3/4 Cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (real vanilla, preferably)
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 Cups chocolate chips (I generally use Ghiradelli's milk chocolate chips.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Mix flour and baking soda in a medium bowl, set aside. Heat 10 Tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium high heat until melted. Then continue cooking the butter while swirling the pan until the butter is dark, golden brown with a nutty smell (about 1-3 minutes longer). Remove from heat and transfer the browned butter to another large bowl. Stir in the remaining 4 TBsp of butter into the hot butter until it has melted. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to the bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the egg and yolk and mix until smooth with no lumps. Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes, then mix again for 30 seconds. You'll repeat this process twice more. So you'll mix for 30 seconds, let stand for 3 minutes, mix for 30 seconds, let stand for 3 minutes, mix for 30 seconds, let stand for 3 minutes for a total of three rounds. Stir in the flour mixture until combined and then add your chocolate chips. Spoon onto your prepared cookie sheets and bake for 10-14 minutes.


The finished product



"Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon or not at all." -Harriet van Horne

I love to cook. There's just something delightful about being in the kitchen making something that you can later tell people, with pride, "I made it from scratch". For me, the most exciting part of cooking is having others try my food. I love giving the food away. It's like I've giving them a bit of love...wrapped in food.

My love for cooking and baking has significantly increased over the last six months. I mean, it's increased to the point that I don't even mind kitchen cleanup. And so I have jumped into baking with abandon. I think I've cooked, baked, and thought about recipes more in the last six months than I have in my whole life. I even added it to my 28 by 29 list. I have to try 20 new recipes by May 11. I've made six new recipes- from scratch- so far. And so begins the blog. I want to chronicle the recipes I've made and will make. I want to share the successes and inevitable failures of my kitchen and hopefully pass on recipes that will be loved by others.

Today's blogging music: Misguided Ghosts/Paramore, I Miss You (Acoustic)/Incubus, Breakin' Me/Jonny Lang