Sunday, November 30, 2008
Apparently, I can't read recipes correctly anymore. I just realized that the previous DB challenge called for browned butter for the frosting... which I didn't do. I just melted the butter down, cooled it slightly then went ahead with the recipe as written. Oopsie.
I've made the cake recipe again, and decided to follow the brown butter recipe more closely. Have to be entirely honest, the "brown" flavor seems a touch overwhelming to me. I made the caramel syrup using brown sugar this time and that changed the flavor of the cake and the frosting, but the butter is so overwhelming, it's hard to pick up the caramel flavor this time. :(
So ultimately, it's up to you. Oh, and the less icing sugar you use, the more glaze-like consistency you will have, which I think is fantastic for this kind of cake.
Just thought I'd throw an extra $.02 in. :-D
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Admittedly, I was hesitant about doing this challenge. I'm not a huge caramel fan and neither is Hubs. I debated sitting this one out, and then thought, "That's not the spirit of Daring Bakers. I joined to be challenged, and I will make this work." So I made the recipe into ever-familiar and much-loved cupcakes and hoped they would be eaten with minimal questioning from Hubs. (He's learned to ask what's in my cooking and baking ever since I snuck roasted butternut squash into his macaroni and cheese. lol)
To be completely honest, he wasn't given much of a chance. Between my mother-in-law eating them drenched in leftover caramel syrup, and me eating a cupcake every 20 minutes... they didn't last long.
Since the basis of this recipe is essentially sugar, I had to cut back on the sugar in the cake itself. I only used 1 cup, rather than 1 1/4 c. the recipe calls for. Another way to cut the sweetness overall was to add salt to the icing (well, mine turned out more like a glaze)- I added almost a full teaspoon. The difference between the icing without salt and with salt is so vast, my teeth are going to go on strike soon.
As you can probably tell, I got impatient during my attempt to photograph these little beauties. Such is the life of a delicious cupcake.
The recipe this month was courtesy of Shuna Fish Lyndon via Bay Area Bites, and was picked by our gracious hosts, Dolores, Alex of Blondie and Brownie, and Jenny. For tips on how to make this into a gluten-free treat, head to Natalie's blog to check out what she has to say. :) And I highly highly recommend checking out Shuna's tips on how to make the cake turn out nicely and not like a caramel brownie texture... which may actually not be a bad ideas now that I think about it...
Monday, November 24, 2008
So I went a little post crazy with trying out some new recipes in the last week or so, and I have a back up of delicious things to share. My procrastination has finally caught up with me- I have quite a bit of schoolwork that I've put off for as long as possible, and can't put off any longer! Boo... :( The only consolation is that the semester is almost over and I'll have more time to play in the kitchen in the new year! YAY!
So the recipe that I wanted to share this time is one that I altered from Eat, Shrink and Be Merry by Janet and Greta Podleski- if you have the book, the recipe is titled "Chicken Pandemoniyum". Like I said before, I'm a sucker for word play and this recipe was too cute and tasty-looking to pass up. I'm sure you can alter it further to use your own wild rice blend or a flavored wild rice or even just plain brown rice. My little twist on this particular recipe (well, I make it differently every time, and this one was one of my favorites, plus it's fall appropriate) was to serve the rice and chicken mix in a roasted butternut squash!
Chicken Pandemoniyum (Eat, Shrink & Be Merry by Janet and Greta Podleski)
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lb)
2 tsp olive oil
3 c. sliced mushrooms (or 1 8 oz. package of pre-sliced mushrooms)
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 package (6.3 oz/180 g) packaged Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice blend (I usually add 1/4 c. brown rice to the mix)
1 1/4 low-fat, low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Cut the chicken breasts into large chunks . Heat oil in a large, non-stick skillet with a tight fitting lid. Add the chicken pieces and cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes, stirring often, until the chicken is lightly browned all over. Remove from skillet and set aside.
2. Add the mushrooms & onions to the same skillet. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to soften (about 3 minutes). If the vegetables start to stick add a small amount of water or broth. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so.
3 Add the rice and seasoning pouch which comes with the rice. Mix well and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the broth and the wine. Return the chicken to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes (or until the rice is soft and the liquid absorbed). Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in the cheese and serve immediately.
To roast a small butternut squash, preheat your oven to 350°. Clean off any obvious dirt from the exterior. Cut the squash in half (VERY VERY carefully- I nearly sliced my finger off doing this)- the easiest way is to put the tip of the knife in the center of the squash and cut through the half closest to you. Then turn the cut end away and repeat with the other end. I find it's easier to cut the squash's butt first, then the neck. Yes, I call the fat end of a butternut squash "the butt." Sue me. :-P Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and the stringy bits in that little hole. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper on the cut side of each half. Place cut-side down on a cookie sheet, and roast for 45 minutes. The only way I know of to check the done-ness of roasted butternut squash is to pierce the outside with a knife- if it slips in and out easily, then it's done. Remove from the oven, and let cool to the touch.
You can scoop out the flesh and mash with a little bit of butter, more salt and pepper and a little extra Parmesan cheese, and serve on the side. Fill up the empty squash "carcass" with the chicken and rice and top with more shaved Parmesan and a little salad on the side.
Happy eating!! :)
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I stumbled across this adorable blog through Tastespotting recently, and the cookies that led me there intrigued me. They resembled my one of my favorite childhood treats- Oreos! I have fond memories of being a little pig with these cookies. We would have a package of Double Stuf Oreos sitting between my dad and me, and he would twist the cookies open so the filling was all on one side. He would hand me that side, I'd devour the filling, then hand the naked cookie half back to him. lol In my defense, I was pretty small. I have since come to love the cookies but only when made almost mush-like with ice cold milk. Yum!
But I digress... back to the recipe!
So I borrowed the recipe for the cookies from Julia at Crazy about Bretzels, but admittedly, I didn't quite follow her directions. It's been a while since I've made cookies, since they're more time-consuming than cupcakes for me, but I still followed my instincts. With her ingredients, I creamed the butter and sugar together, then added the egg and a tiny bit of vanilla. After scraping down the ball and beating the egg in, I added the dry ingredients a little at a time until a brown mass of dough formed.
I baked them the same way she states in her recipe, but, as you can see, my cookies have a crackle appearance. I learned a long time ago that this is due to rolling the cookies into balls. I don't quite remember the science behind it, but something about the dough being in contact with your hands creates a layer of something along the outside that causes the dough to crackle as it bakes and spreads. Oh well. I'm an equal opportunity eater- they are much loved no matter how ugly they are.
Now, the best part of any sandwich cookie- THE FILLING! I've been on the hunt for an Oreo filling recipe for quite some time. No offense to my Canadian friends, but Canadian Oreos just do not have the same flavor in the filling as American Oreos. I refuse to buy Canadian Oreos, because I always end up disappointed. I have to admit- when I tasted the filling for my homemade sandwich cookies, my knees buckled a bit. The secret to the proper texture and flavor? Granulated sugar. Not much, but just enough. I'm a very texture-oriented person (Hubs often asks if I'm regressing to a place in my childhood because I unconsciously begin petting his fleece sweaters when he wears them lol), so trust me when I say 1 Tbsp. of granulated sugar makes a WORLD of difference.
Homemade Oreo Filling
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. vegetable shortening
1 1/3 c. icing/confectioners/powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. clear vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. white granulated sugar
1. Beat butter and shortening together.
2. Add sugar 1/3 c. at a time. Scrape down the bowl after each addition.
3. Add in vanilla and granulated sugar.
Now that I think about it, you might actually be able to add a pinch of salt to cut the sweetness just a bit, but really... it's a treat, so indulge in whatever makes you happy! :)
Thursday, November 13, 2008
... the mouse eats shrimp! (Well, unless that mouse is me- in which case, the mouse inhales everything in sight.) Hubs doesn't eat seafood, so the shrimp is solely for myself and my mother-in-law.
While Hubs was at work today, I was home, instead of in the lab at school for once. So I decided it would be fun to play around with the bag of frozen shrimp I bought 2 weeks ago and shoved in the back of the freezer. As much as I love shrimp, I never know what to do with it! So I looked around at some of my favorite blogs and got inspired by tomato and cream based sauce recipes.
Knowing what flavors I wanted and knowing what ingredients were in my dwindling pantry, lunch was definitely an adventure. Hubs came home for lunch for once, and proceeded to pick on how my lunches are so much nicer and more creative (he usually gets stuck with leftovers lol).
I humbly present Home Alone Shrimp with Pasta. Be warned- the recipe may sound odd, but I was cooking "by the seat of my pants". The proportions are smaller, but the recipe should make 2 servings.
Home Alone Shrimp
2 dozen frozen shrimp (deveined but still in shell is good, & mine were 31-40 size)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. diced tomatoes
¾ c. chopped onions
3 grated garlic cloves
2 tsp. steak seasoning
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
¼ c. chopped green & red bell peppers
1/3 c. light cream cheese (light garden veggie) OR ¼ c. thick plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ box spaghetti (250-300 grams)
1 tsp. salt
Enough water to cook your pasta :)
1. Melt butter and 1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Place defrosted, deveined shrimp in skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes on one side. Flip and cook on the other side for 1 minute, until just pink. Remove shrimp to a plate and let cool. Bring pot of water to boil and add 1 tsp. of salt.
2. Soften onions and garlic same skillet, until translucent. Add tomatoes and cook over medium-low for 2-3 minutes. Add seasonings to taste, then add bell peppers. When water in pot is boiling, add pasta to pot and cook to just before al dente (it’ll finish cooking in the sauce).
3. Peel shrimp. (To remove tail and keep meat in shell, pinch at the very end and twist slightly.) Cut each shrimp into small pieces. Place shrimp back into skillet with tomato mix. Add cream cheese, remaining tbsp. of olive oil and lemon juice. Mix together and turn heat to low.
4. Remove pasta from water and place in skillet with sauce. It’s ok if some of the water makes it in, because the starch in the water will help the sauce stick to the noodles, and it’ll thin the sauce out a bit more.
5. Turn off heat, plate ‘er up and devour like it’s your last meal on earth.
Hope someone else enjoys this as much as I did! Drop me a note and let me know if it works out or if there's a typo or anything. :) Happy cooking and eating!
P.S. I know I use parsley as a garnish like Southerner's use butter- TOO MUCH. I'm still working on my accenting of dishes, so bear with me as I learn. :-D
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Gratuitous cute puppy pictures for the day! The pup decided to inspect one of my reusable grocery bags.
Apparently, the bag passed his inspection. (Ignore the Hubs's "scrubby pants"- he wears them whenever we're home, despite owning a million other pairs of sweatpants. lol)
I've never had the day off for Veteran's Day before, so I was at a loss for what to do all day. I mean, sure I could work on one of the 3 papers I have due by the beginning of December. Sure, I could catch up on the reading for my classes. Sure, I could clean and do laundry.
But in the spirit of a true last year undergrad, what did I do? None of the above.
I chose to browse through my cookbooks for inspiration, something I haven't done in a while. I stumbled upon a recipe I hadn't seen before. It involved chopped chicken breast, cooked brown rice, cream of mushroom soup, and mixed veggies. I was relatively intrigued, and felt I could make a similar "idea" but tastier and with fresh ingredients instead. So I ended up with...
The Chicken Rice Bake Experiment!
3 c. cooked brown rice (I did 1/2 water, 1/2 chicken stock, and undercooked it by about 10 minutes- it will finish in the oven)
2 c. chopped chicken breast
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. chopped celery (the size is totally up to you for the celery and carrots)
1 c. chopped carrots
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. mild curry powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 Tbsp. butter (or olive oil or margarine)
3 Tbsp. flour
about 1 1/2 c. low sodium chicken stock
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar
slices of tomato (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauteé the veggies for 2-3 minutes, until onions are just translucent and the carrots & celery are barely softened. Add the Italian seasoning and curry powder, along with salt and pepper.
3. Add 3 Tbsp. of butter to the veggies. Once melted, sprinkle the 3 Tbsp. of flour over and stir so there are no clumps of flour. Cook for 2 minutes (to get rid of the flour-y taste). Stir in the chicken stock and let thicken. The mixture will resemble the filling of a vegetable pot pie.
4. In a large bowl, mix the brown rice rice, veggies, 1 1/2 c. of cheese and chopped chicken. Spread in evenly in a 9x13 dish, and sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 c. of cheese. (If you choose to top with the tomatoes, layer the tomatoes before adding the cheese.
5. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted, and the rice is bubbly.
For the chicken, I've found searing chicken breasts in a pan and then baking in the oven cooks them without drying out. After searing, place a pat of butter on top of each breast and stick the pan in a 400°F oven(if it's not oven-safe, you can wrap tin-foil around the handle, and it magically becomes ok to go in the oven lol). Bake for 35-40 minutes. I have a bad habit of grabbing one of the chicken booobs out of the oven and cutting it in half to check if it's done. :-D What can I say? I'm not a chef. lol
This is such an adaptable recipe and is so easily suited to individual tastes. You could probably do shrimp or pork or beef and play with the seasonings and veggies.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Louisiana Red Beans & Rice
1 smoked ham hock
3 andouille sausage (roughly 3/4 lb.), cut in 1/2 in. diagonal coins
3 1/2 c. dried red kidney beans (you can soak these if you want, but I didn't)
Tony Cachere's Creole Seasoning
1 large bay leaf (preferably fresh, but 2 dried will work)
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 large yellow onion, diced pretty small
3 celery stalks, diced same size as onion
1 green bell pepper, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced finely (or grated)
8-9 c. water
1-2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I would not advise using olive oil, but that's more of a tradition thing for me)
1. In a LARGE pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Place the ham hock in the pot and "cook" for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove ham hock from pot, and place on the side (you'll need it again later). Do the same with the sausage "coins"- these only need 1 minute or so on each side. This is just to render a bit of fat and flavor from the ham and sausages for the veggies.
2. Dump all of your chopped veggies in, and cook in the oil/fat until soft. Add everything back into the pot (ham hock, sausage, seasonings, beans, etc.) and cover with 7-8 cups of water. (I found that starting with 9 was too much liquid at the end. Like everyone says, you can always add more later, but you can never take away too much.)
3. Boil the whole she-bang for 2 1/2-3 hours, uncovered, stirring frequently to keep beans from scorching the bottom of the pot. Remove the ham hock after 1 hr. of cooking. This can be used again to make soup later, so wrap it up tightly and stash that baby in the fridge.
*(You could probably do a short cut and use canned red beans, but I've found beans don't absorb as much of the smoky flavor from the ham and sausage since they're already cooked.)
4. When the beans are cooked (not mushy but not crunchy), mash about 1/3 c. of them with the back of your spoon, on the side of pot. This adds substance to it, and makes it creamy instead of watery.
Red beans and rice is typically served over plain, long-grain white rice, but I've apparently lapsed in my ability to make it, since I ended up with a gigantic clump of rice instead of individual grains. lol So I ended up eating mine over basmati rice. I imagine you could eat this over brown rice as well, to make you feel better about the ridiculous amount of delicious fatness in this dish, but really... why not just go all the way with good 'ole white rice? :-D