Friday, October 29, 2010

Not Quite Qdoba

I love the seasoning and flavor of Qdoba's shredded beef. I have no idea what they do to it, but I want to replicate it. I've tried a couple variations with no success. The dishes have been delicious, but not like Qdoba.

This week I tried using the Williams-Sonoma Chili-Lime Rub to see if the seasoning would get me any closer.

The flavor may not be Qdoba's, but I still liked what this rub offered.

I love cooking meat in my crockpot. It's easy and allows for longer cooking. Since I buy higher quality meat with less fat, a longer cooking time allows the meat to become more tender.

Five hours later. A fair amount of the water is gone and the roast has shrunk considerably. Even though it was cooked at this point, I left it in for a couple more hours to tenderize. At some point I switched the setting to warm to prevent it from drying out.


Roasts always make good meals, but they also make fantastic leftover sandwiches.

What to Cook & How to Cook It

This cookbook stole my heart at Barnes & Noble the other day. Then I looked at the price tag. Even with my coupon, I wasn't willing to pay the price. However, that evening I looked online and found it for less. Coupled with my coupon, I saved like $15. Nice!

Things I Love

1. Jimmy Fallon

2. Starbucks' Chai Tea Lattes. Hot or iced. They're simply delightful.

3. Count Chocula. A cereal from my youth which now only comes out at Halloween. I bought five boxes when I saw them on display at Target. No, that was not an exaggeration.

4. Discovering a hidden stash of brown sugar just when I realized I didn't have quite enough for a recipe.

5. Nielsen-Massey vanilla. Each time I open the bottle...oh geez. Pure heaven.

The Prize

Now that Alissa has received her bake-off prize, I can share the contents. I did not end up giving her a pony though the temptation was strong. As I pondered possible prizes, it occurred to me: what could be better than a food themed box of goodies? It was a bake-off, so that just seemed to make sense. The contents may not be logical, but my brain is a place full of mystery, ponderings (not a word- ponder, pondered, pondering, yes, but not ponderings), and Gilmore Girl quotes. It's a miracle I am able to function each day.

Orbit Peach gum: !!!!!! If a product is peach, I'm 98% likely to try it. I'm a sucker for peach.

Kashi Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies: Yum. Jenny introduced me to these. I am forever grateful. (Hi, Jenny! I love you, I miss you, and you're the best sister ever!)

Pocky: Stalena lived in Saipan for a while and discovered Pocky. If our roommate situation had never evolved past sharing an apartment, it would still be worth it because she taught me about Pocky. (For the record, I'm sooooo happy that Stalena has become one of my best friends. I'm eternally thankful that the Lord brought her into my life.)

Two coffees: I can't be any more detailed than this because I have no clue what I bought. They smelled good and that was why I chose them. I don't drink coffee, so I don't really pay attention to it. Some names sound vaguely familiar because of the girls talking about it, but that's the depth of my attention to coffee.

Halloween Oreo: They're orange. That's the only reason.

Lip Smackers: I'm addicted to chapstick. I can't even tell you the number of times I apply it each day. I hate dry lips. These Lip Smackers are food/drink flavors. Spreading the addiction, it's what I do.

Measuring spoons: I loved the color. I loved the color a lot. However, I have three pairs of measuring spoons. I have to limit myself...mostly because at some point I'll see yet another set that I love (hello, Anthropologie), so I can't buy every set that I think is cute. So Alissa gets to be the recipient of them. I was happy because I knew they were going to a good home.

The best part about the prize box: I forgot to include a card. Thankfully, I had put my return address on the box, so she knew where it came from. Seriously. How do I forget a card? Me? The person that could personally support Hallmark. I'll blame it on the fact that school is sucking out my brain, focus, and time.

I just had a brilliant thought: I should have made a cooking cd full of songs that are delightful to listen to as you cook. Bummer. Sorry, Alissa.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bake-off Winner

After much baking, tasting, and deliberation....okay, I baked, we tasted, and scored and it certainly was not a painful process, I'm ready to announce the bake-off winner. I've actually known for days because we scored instantly and I've kept all my notes, but a little thing called life has kept me busy. Plus, I had to come up with a prize. After all, what does one buy a bake-off winner? A pony? A cookbook? (I did like the cookbook idea, but I have no clue what the winner already owned or would enjoy.) A year's supply of monthly jams? A box of Count Chocula? Well, my friends, I finally decided but I'm not going to tell you. I'll let it arrive to the winner first and then I'll share a picture and an explanation of my choice. The logic that rattles around in my head is my own, so I feel the need to provide commentary for my decision.

But first, a word from our sponsor...

Okay, there was no sponsor.

But if I had to choose one it would be Count Chocula. Man, do I love that cereal. Expect a post dedicated to the Count very soon.

Okay, fine, I'll get back to the winner.

With a 1 point advantage, the winner of the MW bake-off is....

TravelingAlissa116's Banana Pineapple Muffins!!

It was such a close race with only 1/2 to 1 point separating the entries. Each recipe had its strong point and appeal. And if I hadn't used a point system, I have no clue how we would have chosen a winner. Thank you to the wonderful women that entered!

So to all you awesome cooks out there, ask yourself this: Are you ready for a throwdown?....Sorry, I've been watching too much Throwdown with Bobby Flay lately.

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Homemade Oreos

This is the final bake-off recipe. I don't know how I feel about that. It's always nice to accomplish a project. Yet, it has been fun to see what other people are making. I wish, wish, wish I could have had some mega-baking weekend with guests galore. I enjoy cooking, but I love it more when others are involved. It's the sharing that makes it the most fun.

The final recipe is for Homemade Oreos, submitted by alwaysanadventure.

Alwaysanadventure loves to bake (which makes me like her instantly) and she has fantastic taste in music. If we ever spent time together in person, I'm pretty sure we'd be friends...though I'd likely spend the first couple hours mute because she's just that fantastic. I'd say that I want to be her when I grow up, but we're the same age...I don't know what that means for me. Maybe it means that since we have some commonalities that I'm cooler than I perceive? Yeah, yeah, I like where that's going. I bet if she met me in person she'd be mute too. I have that effect on people. [Insert swagger and head bob here.] Actually, I don't. I'm too silly to be intimidating. Okay, enough talk. We came here to bake! Well, you came here to read, but who cares about the details?

Here's her recipe for Homemade Oreos (originally from Smitten Kitchen):

1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. Dutch cocoa
1 tsp. soda
1/4 tsp. powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. sugar (can be decreased to 1/2 c., which I would recommend)
1/2 c. + 2 Tb. unsalted butter, room temp.
1 egg

1/4 c. unsalted butter, room temp.
1/4 c. shortening
2 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla

1. Stir together flour, cocoa, soda, powder, salt, and sugar.
2. Add butter and mix thoroughly, then add egg and mix until dough comes together.
3. Spoon small teaspoons of dough onto parchment-lined or lightly greased cookie sheet and flatten slightly with the heel of your hand or the bottom of a cup.
4. Bake at 375* for 7-9 minutes. Watch them because cookies this small can burn quickly.
5. For filling, blend butter and shortening, then add powdered sugar and mix until crumbly. Add vanilla and mix until smooth.
6. Transfer my filling to a large ziploc bag and cut the corner off as a makeshift piping bag. Pipe about a tablespoon of filling into the middle of a cookie and top with another cookie. Press together gently until filling reaches the edges.
7. Store between layers of parchment or wax paper in an airtight container.

alwaysandadventures' results:
For the record, I think my cookies are too thin. Actually, I know they're too thin. Whoops. I was overzealous with my flattening. It didn't alter the taste, but it made it slightly tricky when pressing the cookies together for the filling. Don't be like me. A slight flattening will do. I love how these cookies actually look like Oreos minus the imprinting. The filling actually tastes like Oreo filling! I've never made a homemade version of a brand item before and this was a really fun start.

Keep your eyes peeled in the upcoming days because I'll be announcing the bake-off winner. I need to come up with a prize. I'll scrounge around my house and see what discarded item I can find. Kidding! Maybe. Sorta. No, I'm kidding. Kidding-ish. Stop it.

So what's ahead for my blog? Well, thank you for asking. That was very polite. I suppose I'll be starting on a list of items I'm wanting to try. Monster cookies, a new sugar cookie recipe, crockpot turkey, soft pretzels, pumpkin roll. It's fall now (!!!!), so I'm wanting to venture into some warm foods like soups, chicken pot pie, perhaps a quiche. Basically, it'll be a free for all depending on what strikes me. I really do wish I could invite you all over when I cook. One day, friends, one day.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chocolate Raspberry Layer Bars

Whew, so today's recipe is #5 for the bake-off. I believe I officially started the bake-off last Tuesday....five recipes in one week and with 4 1/2 of those days being spent out-of-town...I am a baking machine. Or insane. Probably both. I have one recipe to go which I'm going to try to conquer before Thursday. The results thus far have been fascinating (and tasty). My roommates are very appreciative of this project.

JessicaM submitted today's recipe. She's just oozes sweetness, majored in Chinese, and I will admit to instantly liking her because she likes Gilmore Girls.

I need a moment here. The Gilmore Girls are my most favorite show of all time. That's a bold statement I know. And I dearly loved shows in my youth, but the Gilmore Girls... I'd add more clips if I weren't so uncertain about the legality of it.

Here is JessicaM's recipe:

Chocolate Raspberry Layer Bars
Makes 2 dozen bars.

1 2/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
2 cups (12-ounce package) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 2/3 cups (7-ounce package) flaked coconut
1 1/4 cups (14-ounce can) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup seedless red raspberry jam
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)
1/3 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter in medium bowl. Press firmly onto bottom of an ungreased 13 x 9-inch backing pan. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, then coconut; pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over top.

Bake in preheated 350° F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned; cool completely in pan or wire rack.

Spread jam over cooled top; sprinkle with walnuts (optional). Place remaining semi-sweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips in separate heavy duty plastic bags. Microwave together on Medium-High (70%) power for 45 seconds; knead bags to mix. Microwave at additional 10-second intervals, kneading until smooth. Cut a small hole in corner of each bag; squeeze to pipe over bars.

(I can never pipe the chocolate to make it look pretty, so afterwards I take a fork and using straight lines across the pan, spread the chocolate out evenly over the top. The tines of the fork create lines of chocolate that can look good without being perfect.)

Refrigerate for 5 minutes to set chocolate. Cut into bars.

JessicaM's results:
The roommates went back for seconds. That should indicate how much they loved it. It was so simple to make. Since it's a rich dessert, you can serve smaller portions which means you get more servings out of something like this. Jessica said it was a staple dessert in her home when they have people over and I can definitely see why it does so well.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Peanut Butter Granola

I'm a peanut butter purist. I like simple things with my PB. For example, apples & PB, PB & honey sandwich...that's probably all. I'm not a huge peanut butter person. Now, here's where I make a confession that usually rocks the socks off people. I don't like peanut butter and chocolate together. At all. It grosses me out. I mean it severely grosses me out. It's so rich; I can't even handle it. Stalena, on the other hand, loves peanut butter. I mean, if she can add it to something, she will. My peanut butter hesitation is known by her. So when I told her that bake-off recipe #4 was peanut butter granola she was pumped, but then worried about me. I assured her that this recipe falls under my peanut butter purist ways. And it does. It has numerous ingredients that I love all compiled together. And, by golly, I wouldn't mind a home version of granola instead of buying it at the store.

Pamela submitted this recipe. I'm going to adopt Pam and her family. She has been a cheerleader for me and I am so thankful for her. I can't wait for my next trip to KC, so that I can meet up with her to soak up her joyful wisdom. She's also part of the redhead club, so I love her all the more for that. Here's her recipe:

Peanut Butter Granola

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 -1/4 cup oil
1/3 cup honey
2 - 4 Tablespoons peanut butter
1 - 2 Tablespoons vanilla
5 cups oatmeal (old fashioned is what we use)

Mix brown sugar, oil, honey and peanut butter in a saucepan. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.

Stir in oats and mix well.

Spread into jelly roll pan and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Let cool in pan.

Baking for 10 minutes will give a chewy granola. Bake longer for crunchy. We love the chewy version; sort of like a peanut butter oatmeal cookie. Tasty!

Optional: replace some of the honey with maple syrup.
Cinnamon is also an option.

Pam's results:
I like it! It's a great basic granola with a ton of possibilities. I'm looking forward to trying it in my yogurt tomorrow morning, assuming Stalena leaves some for me. It was super simple to make. I always love it when recipes consist of staples I have around my home. I did not try the optional maple syrup or cinnamon, but I think the maple sugar would be fantastic with this. I now have another "like" to add to my peanut butter list.

Strawberry Pizza

You say strawberry, I'll say yum. I love strawberries. I have noticed from time to time that I'm partial to red things. Strawberries, red Skittles....hmmm. I guess I'm not as partial as I thought. I'm was going to bring in the psychology of being a redhead, but it appears I have no real case. Oh! I have red and beige kitchen towels. My cell phone is red...though that's more because I didn't like the blue and the black had yet to come out. I love, love, love my friend/sister Jenny who has red hair. Wow. I feel like my world just turned upside down. Who am I? What does it all mean? Are you my mother? (Yes, it is official. I'm a nutcase. I embrace it, you should too.)

Anyway, this is bake-off recipe #3 from eameyer.

What can I say about Mrs. Meyer? She's encouraging, supportive, and enjoys pirates. It's so invaluable to have mentors like Mrs. M and Pam. I always appreciate and try to soak in their wisdom. Case-in-point: Strawberry Pizza. Here's her recipe:

1 roll of Pillsbury Cookie Dough
1 pckg of Strawberry Glaze
2 qts strawberries (cut as much as you like should spread over entire pizza at least 2 layers of strawberries thick)
1 pckg of creamed cheese
1/2- 3/4 cup sugar (less sugar leave more kick in cream cheese)
1-2 tsp of vanilla to taste.
1 med container of cool whip. (light is option)

Roll out cookie dough on a pizza pan. Bake 10 min at 350 (or whatever package says) til just golden brown.

Mix cream cheese, vanilla and sugar. Spread over cooled cookie dough.

Cut strawberries mix with glaze. Put on top of cream cheese layer.

Top with Cool Whip. Chill. Tastes great on day one but day two is better.

You can make this in less calorie version by getting sugar free glaze, going easier on the sugar and using light cool whip.
[This recipe] came in the shape of a giant heart on my first ever "I have a fiance" valentines day.

Important note: As I was previewing the text, I remembered that I used to like red Skittles the best. I don't eat them often, but I would say the orange and purple are my preference. I'm an even bigger fraud than I thought, but I digress. (Okay, I guess that was more of a note rather than an important note. Eh.)

Here's the result for Mrs. M:

I'm at a loss on this one. I bought a glaze that I had never tried before and, frankly, will never buy again. Luckily, I tasted it before mixing with the strawberries. So what's a girl to do? The recipe calls for glaze and yet I feared that since I didn't like this particular glaze that it would skew the results. I was torn. I whimpered, I wailed, I danced a jig, and then I decided to make a small portion with the glaze and the rest without.

I (along with the roommates) scored both. We were even selfless enough to try a bite with and without the Cool-Whip. I was happier without the glaze as was Stalena, but Sesha loved the one with glaze. This is why I'm happy to have three voters. I love strawberries, so this pizza was absolutely delightful.

I must say that I have not purchased pre-made cookie dough in a loooooong time. I think my soul cried a little when I did. Okay, that's dramatic, but it did feel weird. I felt like a fake. I have somewhere, somehow placed myself into the "homemade" category. I like cooking from scratch. It makes me happy. I never would have guessed that I would end up loving cooking and being in the kitchen as much as I do. It's funny how life works out.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Turtle Tassies

ShannonB is the contributor for the second bake-off recipe.

Shannon is a nurse (no, that doesn't give her an least not consciously). She also likes Anne of Green Gables (that does give her an advantage--anyone that loves or supports redheads gets an instant gold sticker in my book). She's adorable as can be and has such a sweetness about her.

Here is her recipe for Turtle Tassies:

3/4 cup finely chopped pretzels
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 12-oz bag Rolos (milk chocolate covered caramels)

Chop approximately 1 1/2 cups pretzels in a food processor (should yield 3/4 cup finely chopped pretzels). Do the same with 1 cup pecans (should yield 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans). Mix pretzels and pecans with the flour in a medium bowl. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until creamy. Add the egg, beating until blended. Mix in the dry ingredients. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven 350°F. Spray a mini muffin pan with non-stick spray. Remove the foil wrapping from 48 Rolos. When the dough is done chilling, remove it from the fridge. Take a tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball. Place the ball into a slot in the mini muffin pan. Repeat until all the slots have a ball of dough in them. Next, press a Rolo into the center of each dough ball. Do this with the narrow base (the one with the circle impression) facing down and the wide base facing up. Press each Rolo into the dough until the dough reaches the top edge of the Rolo (essentially a level surface across the top of each tassie).

Bake 11-13 minutes or until edges are golden. Allow to cool before removing from tins and eating (the caramel is really hot when first removed from the oven, so be sure to let them cool before tasting!). Makes about 48 tassies.

Before I announce Shannon's results, can I just say the fact that she knows how to place the degree symbol in her text is super impressive to me? I know how to add symbols in Word, but anywhere else I have to type out "degrees".

The tassies were good. I'm a fan of Rolos, so I enjoyed the chocolate/caramel center. The cookie or whatever you want to call the substance surrounding the Rolo is soft yet dense. These little guys pack some sweetness. They're rich and a certain nameless roommate may have popped a couple past the one she judged. I love that these little cookies are so adorable. Plus, it was fun to put the Rolos in. I have issues and trivial things please me.

Banana Pineapple Muffins

I'm helping with a little bake-off. That's a little embarrassing to admit because I'm pretty sure I'm not qualified for such undertakings. Am I enjoying it? Absolutely...I just feel a little silly. I mean, I'm just a girl that loves being in the kitchen and I have a little blog. But secretly? It's super fun and I could do this every day. I'm not going to mention my part in it from this point on because it's not about me, it's about the recipes. I just figured I should do a little explaining so people understand what's happening over the next few entries. I haven't flipped my lid or created imaginary people (well, that I'll admit to). Now, let's bake.


Alissa is an absolutely delightful young lady....I don't know at what point I started calling 21-year-olds young ladies. I mean, I'm 29. Maybe it's simply because 21 feels like it was so long ago. A lot has happened in the last 8 years. Anyway, she's delightful, full of joy, and always encouraging others.

Here is her recipe for Banana Pineapple Muffins:

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups mashed bananas (approximately 6 bananas)
1 cup crushed pineapple (include the juice)

1. In large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt.
2. In small mixing bowl, combine everything else. Bananas and pineapple last. Mix it up good, but not too much there buddy.
3. Then mix the wet and dry ingredients until everything is wet.
4. Pour into greased muffin tins.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-23 minutes or until done.

Makes approximately 45 muffins.

I was pretty certain the girls and I didn't need 45 muffins hanging around, so I halved the recipe.

First, let me explain how I'm judging. I've created a point system. My roommates and I will give each recipe a 0-5 based on taste and 0-5 based on desirability to eat it again. I will also award a score 0-5 based on ease of the recipe. I will not reveal the scores because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Instead, I'll keep a record of the scores and the highest score will simply be announced as the winner.

Alissa's results:
The muffins are moist and light. They have a nice hint of banana while the pineapple provides texture. You don't really taste the pineapple, but I'm sure the juiciness of the fruit is why the muffins are moist. It's definitely a recipe I'd try again. Delicious and super easy to make!