Thursday, July 29, 2010

French Silk Chocolate Pie

This is the dessert Garrick and I brought to Thursday night dinner. And it was incredible. Our friends said it was the best chocolate pie they've ever had and raved about it all night. They even took a couple of pieces for the next day! It's a little involved, but totally worth it. And it's so rich and velvety.

French Silk Chocolate Pie
From The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2010

1 pie crust (I bought a package of 2 at the store and froze the 2nd)
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and softened

1. Move an oven rack to the lowest position, and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll the dough out, place in a 9-inch pie plate, folding the excess under and using one index finger to press the dough into the other hand's pinched thumb and index finger to flute the edges. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
2. Remove the pie plate from the refrigerator, line the crust with heavy-duty foil, and fill with pie weights (dried beans are a classic). Bake on the low rack for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and weights, rotate the pie plate, and bake until the crust is golden brown and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
3. In a large bowl, whip the cream with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and continue to whip until the cream forms stiff peaks, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer whipped cream to a small bowl and refrigerate.
4. Combine the eggs, sugar, and water in a large heatproof bowl set over a medium saucepan filled with 1/2 inch of barely simmering water (don't let the bowl touch the water). With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until the egg mixture is thickened and registers 160 degrees, 7 to 10 minutes (*this will about double the size of the ingredients, so make sure you choose a large enough bowl to start). Remove bowl from the heat and continue to beat the egg mixture until fluffy and cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.
5. Add the chocolate and vanilla to the cooled egg mixture, a few pieces at a time, until well combined. Using a spatula, fold in the whipped cream until no streaks of white remain. Scrape the filling into the pie shell and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours. Serve.

Like I said, it's a little involved, but relatively cheap to make and so very, very tasty. My pie shell ended up being a little too small for all the filling, so poor me had to just put the filling in a container and take it in my lunch for dessert the next day. Boo hoo.

This week it's our turn to host dinner. I'm thinking about doing a 3-course dinner. Course 1: Cucumber Watermelon Soup (refreshing and a palate cleanser) Course 2: Bifteck Saute Bearnaise (Pan-broiled Steak with Bearnaise Sauce)  a la Mastering the Art of French Cooking with potato balls sauteed in butter and green beans Course 3: Dessert and espresso drinks. What do you think? Sound good? I have the day off so I might actually have the time to make this :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Happy Birthday x 2

This week I have two important birthdays. The first one, Tuesday, is my brother's 28th birthday. A couple months ago he casually asked me to sew some bags to hold nails and screws for him (he works in construction), to which I lovingly replied "Hell no!" Well, I reconsidered and thought it might be nice for his birthday. Once I had settled on doing that for him, I asked him how many he wanted. He says "A bunch." A bunch? I said "How much is 'a bunch?' Is it 10 or is it 50?" He says "Somewhere in between there." Oh God. What did I get myself into? I decided I'd get 3 yards of heavy canvas, and whatever that made is what he would get, thinking I might be 25 or so out of it. No, I got 40.

After a few failed tester bags, I spent a good part of my Friday and Saturday afternoons sewing the 38 others.

You can't tell, but there are, in fact, 38 bags in that pile. I haven't put strings in the drawstring, mostly because I don't have any string and Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays.

I'm pretty sure I deserve the "Sister of the Year" award for this. And I'm never doing it again.

Anyway, the second birthday of the week is Wednesday, and it's Garrick's birthday. He already got his present from me. I got him this really awesome espresso machine and some espresso beans. I also talked to a couple other people and got them to give him some necessary accessories (tamper, frothing pitcher, thermometer, coffee grinder). I don't have pictures of it yet, but I will put some up when I get some. Suffice it to say, it's preeeetttttyyyy. It's stainless steel, and I found it on Amazon for about 62% off it's original $240 price tag. I consider it a steal.

I had my first mocha made with it today and it was delicious! It was a good buy, I say.

In other news, Garrick and I have started having dinner with 2 of our newlywed friends on Thursday nights. We switch off hosting and cooking the main meal, while the guests bring dessert. After dinner we talk, play games, or take a walk. It's really nice, and gives me an excuse to try new recipes. My next post will be about the dessert I brought this last Thursday, so look forward to that!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Malibu Chicken Bundles

I know I've been posting a lot of recipes lately. I will get back to crafty sewing things. I currently have 39  nail and screw pouches cut out to make my brother for his birthday, and 3 skirts and 2 pairs of pants and one vest cut out to sew, and 2 more pairs of pants waiting to be cut out and sewn. I am prepared. Now, I just need to find some time...

Also, I think I should tell you that I'll be moving sometime very soon and therefore will not have access to my sewing machine for a bit, so expect a lot of recipes in the coming month :) Oh, and last week is my last week of summer before trainings and teacher report week, and a new round of classes, so my life is about to get a lot more hectic in general, so posting may be a bit more irregular than it is now.

As for today's post: Malibu Chicken Bundles. These little beauties are SO GOOD. I adapted the recipe from on I got in a Taste of Home Healthy Recipes magazine.

Malibu Chicken Bundles:
4 chicken breasts
4 slices swiss cheese
4 thin slices ham (you can see where this is going already, can't you?)
1 small can of crushed pineapple, drained very well
honey mustard
bread crumbs
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 - 1/2 cup low fat sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Clean and trim your chicken breast. Between 2 sheets of plastic wrap/wax paper/parchment paper/anything similar, pound out the chicken breasts until they are 1/4-1/2 inch thick.
2. Spread about a teaspoon of honey mustard on one side of each breast. Top with 1 slice of ham, 1 slice of swiss cheese, and 1/4 of the can of drained crushed pineapple. Roll up the chicken breasts, and put a toothpick in to secure.
3. Rub 1 tsp of honey mustard on the outside of the chicken breasts, and roll them in the breadcrumbs (I use plain, but panko or seasoned would surely be good too). Place the chicken bundles in a square baking dish, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 160 degrees.
4. While the chicken bakes, prepare the sauce. Combine the contents of the can of cream of chicken soup and the sour cream and stir until blended. Heat on low until heated through. Note: Sometimes I add a bit of seasoning to the sauce, like a little shake of Mrs. Dash Original, so if you want to do that you can, though it doesn't necessarily need it.
5. Place about 1/4 of the sauce on a plate, then place the chicken bundle on top, and serve with your favorite veggies. Enjoy!

This really is one of my go-to recipes. I love that you can prepare it ahead of time, then just throw it in the oven when you're ready. Great for weeknight dinners. And so good, too.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gnocchi with Alfredo Sauce

I have this minor obsession with homemade pasta; every time I go to an Italian restaurant I almost always get some kind of filled pasta. It is my firm belief that nothing is better than fresh pasta. So I really want to make my own pasta, except I don't have a pasta machine. And I've tried rolling it by hand - yeah, right, never doing that again.

In come gnocchi. Now, I know that gnocchi is really more of a dumpling than a pasta, but I decided it would do to fill my homemade pasta void.

So I tried my hand at making some. And it was gooooooooood.

I used this recipe from Sugarcrafter as my guide, though it was really more of a rough guide.

I used 6 russet potatoes, and baked them in a 450 degree oven for 45 minutes. They probably could have used a little more time, but I was anxious to get started. Instead of using a potato ricer like you're supposed to, because I don't know any home cook who has and uses one, I used my favorite new toy: my microplane grater.
Can I just comment on what a superior tool this is? I zested a lemon on it, and the lemon moved across it like butter. And I've never gotten that much zest from a traditional round-hole zester. It's amazing.

Anyway, it worked, though it's probably not the most efficient way to get the potatoes all mashed up because they kept falling apart when I'd get the the nub of it.

This is what I did to create the gnocchi:
Bake 6 medium-sized russet potatoes in a 450 degree oven for 45 minutes. Peel while still warm, and grate on a microplane grater. Add enough flour so that, when stirred, clumps form. Add in 2 eggs, and blend with your hands. Add about 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, salt and pepper (and nutmeg if you like it - I don't care for it), and add more flour so that the dough is no longer sticky. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, and let rest for another 5. Pull off pieces about the size of your fist, and roll into a "snake" about 3/4" wide. Cut pieces about every inch. Make the traditional ridges using a fork, and set on tin foil until all the gnocchi have been made. Also, if you desire, you can add fresh herbs to the dough. We added some fresh basil to about 1/4 of the dough.
This is how much gnocchi we got out of it. What we didn't eat for lunch was put in the freezer as you see it, then once it froze, was put into a resealable bag.
These are our basil gnocchi. I really liked having some with, and some without so that neither type got too boring.

The more traditional sauce to accompany gnocchi is a brown butter with sage sauce.

We decided to go with alfredo.

Again, I didn't follow an exact recipe, but it was roughly something like this:
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp garlic, minced
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add garlic, and cook, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, and cook another 1 to 2 minutes. Add milk, and bring to a boil to thicken, stirring often. Off the heat, stir in the cheese until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. That's it!

And it was good.

But I could still go for some four cheese ravioli.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Color me excited

Good things are happening right now.

For one, the plan of study that my contract has been hinging on is finally going to be sent out. I might actually have a contract before new teacher orientation in 3 weeks, and I like that idea. So I'm not, you know, wasting my time.

For two, the $200+ in fraudulent charges from last weekend (lets not even go there - suffice it to say I didn't spend $208 at a Walmart in Nebraska before 9:15am last Saturday) was put back in my bank account. Thank God, I really didn't want to go after someone with something sharp and rusty.

For three, Garrick's birthday present came yesterday and I'm SO EXCITED. I'll write about that after he gets it, since his birthday isn't for another 2 weeks or so.

For four, I just finished the book Sh*t My Dad Says and if you haven't yet, you must read this book. The one-liners on facebook and twitter are good, but the stories behind them are even better. In case you're not familiar with the phenomenon surrounding this book, it has a lot of profanity. But hilarious profanity.

For five, I just found this blog: and I think we should be blog buddies. Because everything her blog is, is everything I want the food portion of mine to be. You should really check it out.

When I told Garrick about Sweet Eats, we had one of our typical conversations, which usually go something like this:

Me: Look what I found:
Perfect for me - a love of food, but making it healthy :)

Garrick (direct quote, spelling errors intact): Looks like poop
Sweet tastey poop.
nom nom nom

Garrick again: bahah *insert shit-eating grin*

Me: You're not funny.

On a different note, I've been wondering: do you like things lumpy with texture, or smooth and creamy? You know, things like mashed potatoes or cream of wheat. My dad likes them lump free, but I intentionally make my cream of what lumpy. The lumps of cereal are the best part.

So pick your side: lumpy or creamy. Let's battle.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Buttermilk Waffles with Cherry Almond Sauce

Since I have Friday's off (for the time being), I decided it might be fun to make a tasty breakfast for myself and Garrick. I just happened to see a magazine at his work that caught my eye: bon appetit. And they had the most delicious sounding recipes, so I stole it. And I'm not even sorry.

Because I got to make buttermilk waffles with cherry almond sauce and it was delicious! So I'm here to share it with you.

This recipe is adapted from the March 2009 issue of bon appetit magazine.

Buttermilk Waffles with Cherry Almond Sauce

 1 12 oz bag frozen pitted dark sweet cherries (don't thaw)
1 cup cherry preserves
1/2 tsp almond extract

2 cups all purpose flour
3 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk*
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

*You can substitute buttermilk by adding 1 Tbsp of vinegar to each cup of regular milk.

For the sauce:
Combine the frozen cherries and cherry preserves in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium high heat, and stir until the cherries begin to thaw and juices form. Boil gently for about 3 minutes, or until thickened slightly. Remove the sauce from the heat, and add the almond extract.

For the waffles:
Heat your waffle iron. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a bowl to blend. Whisk in the buttermilk, then the melted butter. Grease your hot waffle iron, preferably with unsalted butter, and pour about 1/2 cup of batter in each grid, and cook until golden brown and crispy on the outside. Top with cherry sauce and enjoy.

These are amazing, and really easy to make. Do this next weekend. You won't regret it

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sugar Cookies with a lemony twist

These are some of my favorite cookies ever. They're the cookies my grandma used to make when we would have tea parties. We went all out with our tea parties - tiny fine china, full length gowns, make up, little sandwiches, little snacks, and these delicious cookies in tiny form.

Sugar Cookies

2 eggs
2/3 cup oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest (or orange zest)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 400. Whisk eggs with a fork. Add oil and stir to combine. Add vanilla and zest. Add sugar and stir until thick. Combine baking powder, salt, and flour. Add flour mixture to egg and sugar mixture. Drop dough by the teaspoon onto an ungreased (I always grease mine, though) cookie sheet. Grease the bottom of a flat-bottomed cup, and dip it into a bowl of sugar, and press it down onto the dropped cookie dough to flatten. Bake for 8-10 minutes (it took right about 10 for my oven). Let cool on cookie sheet for a minute, then promptly remove to a cooling rack. If you leave them too long, they will stick to the sheet and break when you try to take them off.

This makes about 32 2-3 inch cookies. These are light, crisp cookies, not soft ones. And they're amazing.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Crochet Tutorial, Part 2

Here it is, crochet tutorial part 2, or how to finish your tutorial to make it an actual afghan.

First, prepare your coordinating color.

Insert your hook on the right corner of a short side, and wrap your 2nd color around it.

Pull it through and tie it. You are going to start by doing a single crochet. To review, this is how you do a single crochet:

Put your hook through where it just was. Put your yarn on top of your hook so you can pull it through.

Pull it through to make a loop.

Make a second loop, putting your hook through the next top "braided" part.

Hook your yarn and pull it through both loops.  Continue by making a new loop and pulling your yarn through both loops until you get to the end, like so:

When you get to the corner, do 3 single crochet stitches through the last loop of the row to make a corner. Just make your second loop through the same stitch 3 times.

This is the cool part. You're going to push your hook through a space before your first stitch on the panel (x marks the spot, and the red shows you where my first stitch is).

Ok, I kind of messed up with this picture, but it won't ruin anything if you follow it. Ideally, you actually want to hook your yarn with the hook on top, whereas I have the hook on the bottom in this picture. It's better to hook it with the yarn under the hook.

Pull it through.

See how the right side of the loop is on the top of the hook? What you want to do now is pull your hook out from this loop, and put it back in so that the left side is on the top and the right side is on the underside of the hook.

 See what I mean? This will make sure your design is "made" properly. If you don't do this step, it won't look right; it can actually look a bit tangled.

Now finish it off like it's a single crochet, hooking your yarn and pulling it through the 2 loops.

See how this makes a little triangle?

Repeat the process to make a second triangle.

For the next one, stick your hook through the space just before the third stitch in that row.

The next one should be just before the fourth stitch in that row. So the pattern is: 1, 1, 3, 4, 3, repeat. You'll do this all along the long sides of the panel, and a single crochet stitch on the short sides. Once you've gone around the panel once, you'll just do a single crochet stitch around the whole panel 2 more times.

To put all of your panels together (remember you should make 4 panels of 24 stitches across and 223 rows long, and one panel of 42 stitches across and 223 long) you'll put 2 of your panels with wrong sides (back side) together, and put your hook through the outside corner stitches of BOTH panels, and single crochet it, and continue until your get to the end and you have single crocheted your two panels together. As you might have guessed, you should put it together with the 24 stitch across panels on the outsides, and the 42 stitch panel in the middle.

When all of your panels are done and crocheted together, you'll single crochet around the whole afghan twice with your accent color, and then twice with your base color. You can add fringe on the short sides if you wish. There are several ways to do this, but what I have done in the past is taken 6 6-8 inch pieces of yarn, 3 of the base color and 3 of the accent. Put your hook through a loop, hook all 6 pieces of yarn, pull them through then pull the ends of them through the loop made with them, and pull tight.

If you do this you'll end up with a very warm blanket that is big enough for an adult.

That said, if you want to make one for a baby, you do the same stitches, but use baby yarn and an F hook (baby yarn is softer and thinner than regular yarn). You'll do 4 panels of 28 stitches across and 128 stitches long. To give you a visual, the one I've done ended up looking like this:

 Unfortunately I don't have a picture of an adult-sized afghan. I have made one, but didn't take a picture of it, and I'm not done with the one I'm currently working on. I'll post that when it's done, probably in December haha.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I'm back!

I made it back from Chicago. I promise to get back to crafty type things next time, with part 2 of my crochet tutorial. But for now, pictures.

Garrick and me at Millennium Park.

The bean!

We went to the Taste of Chicago. Want to see what we ate?
Course 1: Steak sandwiches with Bearnaise sauce. Yummmm.

Course 2: "Deep dish pizza." Yeah, right, more like regular pizza with gross overly sweet and bland sauce. We trashed it.

Course 3: Grilled lobster tail and baked potato. Yummmm.

I liked it lots.

Course 4: Sauteed goat with joloff. That's right, I ate goat. It was very tough. I don't know if it's always like that or if ours was way overcooked.
I was nervous about the goat.

Garrick was excited about it.

Course 5: Tequila lime chicken taco with medium hot sauce. This picture was really blown out, and this was the best I could do with my simple photo enhancing program. I loved this. Garrick thought it was just ok.

Course 6: Grilled anjou pear salad with bleu cheese and walnuts. Sounds great, right? It was AWFUL. I don't know what dressing they put on it, but they drenched it and it was so bright that you couldn't taste anything else. And I think they grilled the pair in the same area they grilled the meat because it tasted like meat seasoning. We trashed it.

Course 7: Oxtail with joloff. Garrick loved this. I thought it just tasted like beef.

In all, we tried to pick the most interesting and I guess sophisticated food we could find. There were a lot of placed selling fried foods or basic foods you could get anywhere, and we figured we didn't want to go there to eat food we could get at home. The one thing I wish we can gotten was an apple and gouda stuffed sausage.

Then we went to Navy Pier, where we saw Cirque Shanghai, went on the ferris wheel, and went on a boat tour around the pier.

Cirque Shanghai

Those are stacked chairs, and she is spinning on one hand on top of all of them. And I don't mean smooth spinning, I mean jerky spinning that made the whole tower waver every time she moved.

The finale included 3 motorcycles driving in a cage. It was much more entertaining than the pictures convey, mostly because not a lot of pictures were taken because we were entranced.

This was when we were on the ferris wheel. If you're not familiar with it, it's 1/4 mile high and takes 6 minutes to get around. I flipped out when we got near the top.

This is near the top. I don't like heights.

This is the ferris wheel. To put things in perspective, you can fit 8 people in each car.

The pier from our boat tour.

The city from Lake Michigan.

The lighthouse.

We also went to Starved Rock, a state park in Ottawa, Illinois.

This is us from the top of Starved Rock. I'd show you pictures of the rock itself, but you can't actually stand on the rock anymore. I don't know why, but now it's just a wooden path. The legend of starved rock goes something like this: There are 2 tribes, and tribe 1 kills Chief Pontiac of tribe 2. Tribe 2 chases tribe 1 onto this rock where they could not fight back. Rather than surrender, they decided to starve to death on the rock. Hence the name Starved Rock.

We thought this dragonfly had been caught in a web and was dead. Turns out it wasn't after we had been messing with it for a couple minutes.

This is at the lodge where we had lunch.

At Eagle Cliff - look! You can see the lock and dam!

We turned "Lovers Leap" into "Lovers Shove." The story of Lovers Leap is that a woman fell in love with a guy who professed his love back, but he had to leave and promised he would be back in 3 months. 3 months came and went, and she found out he was with another tribe and in love with a woman there. So the girl went to Lovers Leap and jumped off, committing suicide. The place where you can look out is, we're pretty sure, not the actual place she jumped from because it would have been more of a "Lovers Tumble" but there's a place really close that is a straight drop into the water.

And we found Bambi, if you look hard toward the middle of the photo you'll see him.

I have tons more photos, but that generally covers it all. I had a lot of fun seeing my grandparents and I wasn't ready to leave, but at the same time it's nice to be home.