Monday, May 30, 2011

More cake...

Well here I go again, ignoring my poor little blog!  haha  Anyway, it's been very busy which is why I haven't had much time to cook, and thus no blog posts! 

Recently I made a chocolate cake.  Very easy recipe found here from the Fine Cooking magazine.  No quips or problems at all with this recipe!  :) 
I'm afraid my photography skills don't do the cake justice.  But it tasted amazing, if I do say so myself.  ;)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cooking ideas...

Sorry for not posting!  It's been busy with work and studies.  :)
Instead of blogging about what I've cooked, I decided to make a 'to-do' list of things I'd like to cook.  {Not like I need yet another to-do list, but these recipes looked yummy}.

I found this Chicken Gyros with Cucumber Salsa and Tsatsiki on the Gourmet Magazine website.  Doesn't it sound scrumptious?  I love gyros, but I've only had it with lamb. 
While browsing the Gourmet magazine website, I also came across these frozen delights--Lemon Ice Cream Sandwiches with Blueberry Swirl, which I thought sounded like a fun and different dessert.  The only thing I might do differently is make my own ice cream, instead of using it 'ready-made.' 

Back to my favorite Fine Cooking magazine, I found this recipe for Oreo cookies.  I told my mom the other night that I wanted some Oreo cookies next time she went grocery shopping, but then I thought "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if I could make those?!"  Soooo I found a recipe!  These are definitely a priority.  :) 

One last recipe:  Pop-tarts.  Anyone out there had any luck with these?  I've seen them here on Fine Cooking, as well as on the Food Network website here, and of course Alton Brown has a video clip from his show Good Eats here.  I'm thinking I'll go with A.B.'s recipe. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More Adventures with Ice Cream and Cupcakes...

This Sunday my mom announced she wanted some sort of dessert to go with our lovely turkey dinner Dad roasted.  I listed several options--a cake, pie, torte, cookies...but we finally decided on ice cream. 

I chose the Hazelnut and Chocolate Chunk ice cream option from the Fine Cooking magazine.  It's hard to believe the last time I made ice cream was over a month ago!  Check it out here.  Very easy, except I think the hardest part was waiting for the ice cream to finish churning! 

Also a couple of side-notes.  I used a 4-oz. bar of Girardelli chocolate.  The family thought this was too much (I don't understand how you can ever have too much chocolate, though!), so next time I'll only use about half as much.  This recipe also calls to infuse the milk/cream/sugar mixture with the nuts.  I did this, and afterwards I saved the hazelnuts.  I plan on making oatmeal within the next day or two and stirring in some of the nuts--I mean, you can't go wrong with hazelnuts cooked in sugar and cream!  haha  Next time I make this recipe, I'll probably leave some of the nuts in the mixture simply because everyone agreed it would have been even better with some extra crunch.

Finally, I have 5 egg white sitting in the fridge, since the ice cream recipe only uses yolks.  Any ideas what to do with them?
And no pictures, due to the fact the entire batch of ice cream was eaten immediately following dinner.

Now on to the cupcakes.  My friend came over last Saturday and we made dessert for the family dinner.  We chose bright, cheerful colors because it was pouring down rain/extremely windy/chance of tornados.  Very depressing weather.  Anyway. 

Our sunflower cupcakes.  :)

We used Abigail Johnson Dodge's chocolate cupcake recipe and made a simple buttercream recipe for the frosting.

All 12 cupcakes.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dear me.  I haven't posted in a while, have I?  It's been rather hectic, between trying to finish my last 2 classes and starting a second PT job.  And I really haven't had time to cook--last week I wasn't home for dinner AT ALL.  *sigh* Oh well.  I'm working on that.

So two weekends ago (flasback time!) I made cake pops with a friend (we also made blondies and pancakes).  I got this book out of the library for inspiration (all of the designs are really cute!!).  You basically make a cake, crumble the cake all up (horrifying, really, ruining a perfectly good cake that way), then mix in frosting (which acts as 'glue'), then roll it into one- or two-bite sized pieces of cake.  Then you cover the cake with melted candy coating.  We chose to use a ganache (after we figured out why it kept seizing up) instead, but it didn't give us that pretty, smooth finish.  It tasted better, though!  :)  We also decided to go with a homemade cake and frosting recipe, instead of a box-recipe. 

Ta-da!  Our lovely cake pops.  :)

And this week I did have time to bake a cake.  I don't normally bake cakes, but I thought "I can handle cookies, brownies, and cupcakes, so a cake can't be that hard...".  I made this Butter Cake with Browned Butter Frosting, from the Land 'O Lakes website.  The recipe was very easy, but my cake seemed a little flat around the edges...of course, I don't think that was helped any by the fact I almost forgot to add the baking soda...

Now on to the frosting.  I browned the butter in a small pan (I did have to let it cook more than 5-6 minutes...more like 8-ish), then let it cool.  After beating in the sugar and vanilla, I tasted it.  I was really surprised to taste--caramel!  It tasted like caramel frosting to me.  Very surprising.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What to do with...bamboo rice

Remember I said in the Grilled Chicken Tacos Alambres post there'd be more to come?  Well here it is, the beginning of an occasional series about "what to do with..." a certain ingredient, the ingredient's origin, and maybe a recipe or two.

Anyway, one of my best friends and I browsed through Fresh Market looking for things we'd never heard of or eaten before.  The first thing we came across was bamboo rice. 

After Googling and reading about bamboo rice, it seems to simply be a short grain white rice infused with bamboo juice.  Easy enough.  Anybody cooked bamboo rice before?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Coconut and Chocolate Cupcakes

Yep.  I'm back to cupcakes--for the moment anyway.  I used Abigail Johnson Dodge's Emergency Blender Cupcakes from her cookbook, The Weekend Baker (New York: 2005).  If you remember, I also made these earlier this month here.  This time, however, I tried a different flavoring and the frosting was once again successful.  :)

I made these into mini cupcakes, and instead of 12 regular sized cupcakes the recipe made about 42 minis.  I also chose to flavor the buttercream frosting with coconut.  I beat 1/4 butter (room temperature) with about 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar.  I then added about 2 tablespoons of coconut milk and beat that in.  Voila!  After topping the cakes with frosting, I sprinkled coconut flakes on top (sweetened of course). 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

more dessert

Spiced cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  Hungry yet?  I've made this scrumptious recipe from the Gourmet magazine two times now, and they're a huge hit. 
{Please ignore the Christmas/holiday cupcake wrappers...they were the only ones handy.}
This was a very easy recipe from the something-er-rather issue of the Gourmet magazine.  They remind me of my Molasses cookies, but a very tender cake version and with a lovely cream cheese frosting.  And this time I followed the recipe and didn't mess up the frosting!  yay!  The only thing about this recipe (which I'd noted from last time) was the original recipe didn't make nearly enough frosting to frost all 12 cupcakes.  So I made 1.5x which worked well. 

I also made Mocha Cupcakes (on a different day, of course) from the Wild about Cupcakes cookbook by Rachel Lane.  These were very yummy, too.  I didn't like that the cupcakes sank, though.  They're not supposed to be poufy cupcakes like the spiced cupcakes above, but I was still rather disappointed.  Also, the topping is a flavored whipped cream so instead of "frosting" them all I stashed the cream in the fridge to be dolloped on top when dessert was served. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Family dinner adventures

Last Tuesday was a very productive evening--cooking-wise.  The parents had a "date night" at home, with cheese fondue and homemade bread.  Dad and sis worked on that and the final result was a wonderful loaf of bread: Crackly crust and airy interior.  Mom made spiced nuts for a snack.  Quite tasty--they had sugar, salt, a bunch of spices, and some dried fruit.  It was more of a savory snack, and not as sweet as it might sound.  A slight kick of spice, too.

The addictive nuts on the left and the beautiful loaf of bread on the right.

Since the parents were having their own meal, I made dinner separately for the sibs and I.  It was a simple pasta dish with spinach, roasted red peppers, canned artichokes, and parmesan.  I sauteed 2 cloves of garlic in a little olive oil then added the spinach.  After that cooked down I added the thinly sliced pepprs and diced artichokes to the mix.  I added a little chicken broth, let that and the veggie juices cook down, then seasoned to taste.  In the meantime, I got a pot of water boiling and cooked approximately 8 ounces of pasta.  I drained that and added it to the veggie mix.  Dinner time! 

It was fairly easy, but I still need to work on my proportions.  I forget that I have a lot of pasta and that there really aren't as many veggies as it seems!  Still, it was tasty and there weren't any leftovers.  :)


Okay so I finally made a savory snack--pretzels!  Sorry cookies, but pretzels are my new thing.  I made these Hot Buttered Pretzels from King Arthur Flour.  Super, super easy recipe.  They have a wonderful soft chewy texture and a beautiful browned outside that's buttery and salty.
Only a couple comments.  First, they only needed to bake for 7 1/2 minutes instead of 8-9.  Secondly I found I didn't need to work on a greased surface area as the dough wasn't as sticky as the recipe implied.  But other than that the recipe seems to be a hit!  I'll definitely make these again, maybe experiment and see what variations I can come up with. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Grilled Chicken Tacos Alambres

The weather was rather warm Saturday, so I spent the afternoon with a friend eating a picnic lunch, going out for coffee, and browsing through Fresh Market.  More on the latter part, but basically we decided to photograph certain ingredients we hadn't eaten/cooked before, and I would research the ingredient and find a recipe.  But like I said, more on that to come.

After the day's excursion I made dinner.  I hadn't planned on cooking but I'd started the prep work and somehow ended up actually cooking dinner (Mom was quite okay with that! haha). 

Anyway, I made Grilled Chicken Tacos Alambres from the Fine Cooking Magazine (surprise, surprise!) issue 64 page 69. 

A few modifications:  First, I didn't use a whole cup of vegetable oil for the marinade.  Instead, I only mixed a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  I also didn't use the guacamole, pico de gallo, or tomatillo salsa they called for, so to keep things simple.  The recipe called for oazaca cheese, but we didn't have any, so a little cheddar sprinkled on top tasted just as good.  :)  
The beautiful cilantro!

End result
And finally, everyone agreed the dish could have used a little less lime juice but more chile powder.  Overall, a big hit.  :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More...chicken! (and you thought I was gonna say cookies)

Last Thursday I still had a whole leftover cooked chicken breast from dinner on Sunday.  What to do?  Well it was all rainy and icky outside so I made CNS.  And no, I'm not talking about the central nervous system from biology.  I'm referring to my absolute favorite lunch: Chicken noodle soup. 

Anyway, it's really easy and I made 3-4 servings in under 30 minutes (now I sound like Rachel Ray...).  Basically I chopped on shallot, carrot, and a couple of mushrooms.  Then I sauteed them in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  I also added a bit of thyme and a couple bay leaves.  After the veggies were softened, I added about 3/4 of a carton of chicken broth and seasoned it.  Then I brought that to a boil and added a couple handfuls of elbow macaroni pasta and cooked that for 7 minutes.  I chopped the boneless skinless chicken and threw that in after the pasta was finish cooking.  And there you go--instant lunch!

Usually I use celery in place of mushroom, but there wasn't any to be found so this changed things up a bit.  Most any or all herbs could be used (i.e., oregano or basil) but I liked the thyme.  Same for the pasta--the macaroni was just what was on hand.  And finally, I didn't use all of the chicken as it really doesn't take much.  I ended up making chicken salad with the last little bit.  :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

More cookies...

Ok, so I'll try to stop baking so many cookies.  I've decided I need to look into more savory snacks (suggestions?) or find more time for actually cooking a meal.  But in the mean time, here's a yummy sugar cookie recipe I made about 3 weeks ago and forgot to blog about...

Chewy Sugar Cookies:  (source:  Fine Cooking Magazine, issue 109)
A couple of things.  First, I'm not big into colored sugar, so I didn't use any.  I also chose not to use the almond extract.  Thirdly, I actually have pictures!  yay! 

Friday = Pizza and movie night

For the past month or so, we've had a weekly pizza and movie night.  As my mom jokingly puts it, we "eat the movie and watch the pizza."  Some of my favorite recent movies include "The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer" and "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House," both starring Cary Grant.  I also enjoyed the original version of "The Shaggy Dog" and the classic "Lawrence of Arabia." 

Anyways, we rarely order pizza out, preferring to make it ourselves.  Mom and/or Dad make the crust, I make the pizza sauce, and my sibs help with grating cheese or slicing toppings.  It can be quite a production sometimes!  ;)

For the pizza sauce, one 28-oz. can of diced or crushed tomatoes is more than enough for 2 large pizzas.  Here's how I generally make the sauce:

Heat a pot on medium-high on the stove.  When it's hot, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sautee either 2 cloves of garlic or 1 small, finely chopped shallot.  Then add about 2 teaspoons of basil, oregano, and/or thyme, and one pinch of red pepper flakes.  Add one can of diced/crushed tomatoes and bring to simmer.  Cover partially and cook for about 10 minutes.  Taste and season with salt, pepper, and sugar as needed.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Voila!

Very simple recipe.  I like it because it's fairly quick and there are boundless variations.  Plus, if there's any leftover sauce, we freeze it.  Awesome for those nights we don't feel like making sauce. 

(bad picture, I know, but the lighting was poor and this was best pic of the bunch)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Molasses Cookies

Back to sweets again.  Oh well...these are too good to not share. 

Anyways, this is part two of Sunday's cooking adventures.  I made a batch of these cookies because there weren't any sweets in the pantry and I had nothing better to do (haha).  This is my aunt's recipe and I've used it many times.

Molasses Cookies:

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

350 degrees for 10 minutes.
*   *   *   *   *

And yes, those are all the instructions.  I usually mix the shortening and sugar together, then add everything else except the flour because the spices will often be unevenly distributed if added them after mixing in the flour.  Then I'll add in the rest of the ingredients; usually the flour is last.  Generally I add heaping teaspoons of the spices. 

I've tried a couple of molasses/spiced cookie recipes, but this one is, by far, the best.  I also like Abigail Johnson Dodge's Ginger Crackles from The Weekend Baker cookbook.  Her recipe is very similar to my aunt's, making roughly x1.5 more cookies, and uses butter in addition to shortening.

Once again, sadly no pictures. 

Monday, March 7, 2011


This Sunday I made dinner for the sibs.  A pretty basic menu--roasted chicken, spinach, and rice.  Oh and my famous molasses cookies (recipe to follow). 

For the chicken breasts, I seasoned both sides with salt and pepper and browned them in a cast iron skillet at medium high with a little olive oil for approximately 4 minutes per side.  Then I put the entire skillet in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.  Maybe a little long, yes, but I'm not about to eat undercooked chicken.  I topped it with a simple compound butter composed of butter (real surprise, right?), lemon zest, olive oil, salt, garlic, and rosemary. Voila.  Pretty simple and very flavorful.  I smeared some of the butter on the chicken about 10 minutes before it finished cooking, and then added more right before serving. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011


This past Thursday I made cupcakes with my little sister.  It seems I'm on a baking spree, but that's because sadly I don't have as much time to cook full meals.  But that's been remedied this weekend with posts to come. 

I've made several batches of cupcakes (especially last year when I went through a cupcake frenzy), but my favorite remains Abigail Johnson Dodge's Emergency Blender Cupcakes from her cookbook, The Weekend Baker (New York: 2005).  They're quick, easy, and--you guessed it--can be made in the blender. 

The recipe makes about a dozen regular sized cupcakes.  I only made 9, however, because I wanted to experiment with mini cupcakes which I hadn't done yet.  The leftover batter made about 6 of the minis and I found they bake very nicely for 9 minutes at 375 degrees.

I also skipped the chocolate fudgy frosting because my sister insised on traditional "sugary frosting...either pink or blue" and we didn't have any sweetened condensed milk on hand anyway.  So I attempted making butter cream frosting but I apparently looked in all the wrong cookbooks for a basic recipe.  I knew it had butter and confectioner's sugar, and maybe a little milk.  So I went with that and made it up as I went along.  The first problem, though, was I didn't add enough sugar.  Apparently a half stick of butter can hold a LOT of sugar!  Secondly, the frosting was lumpy.  Not cool.  So next time I'll try sifting the sugar.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

World-Famous Roast Chicken

Okay, so maybe it isn't "world famous," but everyone I know loves it. 
*One 3-4 lbs. whole chicken, rinsed, patted dry and innards removed

*about 1/4 cup of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

*about 1/4 cup of olive oil

*chicken broth or water

*a couple tablespoons of butter

What to do: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the chicken in a large roasting pan (using a rack is optional; I usually use it though). Brush olive oil all over the outside and inside of the chicken. Then smear the salt and pepper mixture all over. Annnd into the oven for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours (until the juice runs clear)!

About halfway through cooking, watch for chicken bits smoking in the bottom of the pan. Add some water or chicken broth (~1/2 a cup).

During the last 20 minutes of cooking, melt the butter and brush it onto the upper half of the chicken and baste a couple of times. This will give it a yummy, crispy skin.

My dad taught me how to roast a chicken all by myself when I was 12, and this recipe hasn't changed much.  I like it because the prep work is fairly quick, and I can just throw it in the oven and forget about it until the last half hour of cooking.  Some variations include stuffing the bird with garlic and fresh herbs.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Everybody loves brownies

This weekend I revisited a favorite recipe of the fam's, a very simple brownie recipe from the 12th ed. of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (New York: 1979). 

Since the recipe didn't specify, I just used salted butter which didn't affect the end result.  Also, the total baking time ended up about 35 minutes instead of 40.

And unfortunately, I couldn't get a picture of them because they were all gone by the time I could get my hands on my brother's camera!  Oh well...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ice Cream in February

Last summer, I discovered this phenomenal ice cream recipe from the Fine Cooking magazine, issue 99.  I've made it multiple times and the family usually gobbles it down by the end of the day.  I liked this recipe because it's flexible and no two ice creams are the same. 

This Monday, I made a Nutella-inspired ice cream for myself and the sibs since the weather's been warmer.  I added melted chocolate to the custard-base then mixed in ~1/3 cup roasted/chopped hazelnuts and ~1/3 cup Nutella.

I have made a few modifications to the custard-base recipe.  The original recipe calls for 2 cups heavy cream and 1 cup of whole milk, but I discovered this gave the end result a rather unpleasant and odd, waxy texture.  So instead I've been using 1 cup of heavy cream, 1 cup half-and-half, and 1 cup of 1% milk (which is what's normally on hand anyways), for a total of 3 cups of liquid. 

Adding chocolate to the custard is also tricky.  I've only made chocolate ice cream 2 times and the melted chocolate always seized up when I added it to the custard.  The recipe--in very small print--says to add it to the custard BEFORE cooling.  Well, I missed that the first time I made it, so of course it seized up and gave the ice cream a grainy texture.  The second time, I added melted chocolate to the custard base right before the cooling process, but it still yielded a grainy texture.  Next time, I've decided that I need to add the chocolate at the beginning of the custard cooking process to ensure it melts evenly.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Baking for fun...

First blog posts always seem awkward.  *sigh*  So I'll just skip the introductions and jump right in.

Last week I had the rare opportunity to make cookies just for the fun of it.  They're the Peanut Butter and Chocolate Sandwich Cookies from the Fine Cooking magazine (issue 89, p. 77).  I wanted to make something a little different from my family's favorites and plus it's hard to go wrong with Abigail Johnson Dodge's recipes. 

I thought it was interesting the recipe didn't have any flour in it but that it still had the same texture and look as "normal" cookie dough.  The chocolate filling was very easy, too--I think the hardest part was waiting for both the cookies and chocolate to cool so they could be eaten!