Saturday, April 30, 2011

Can I just point something out?

Modcloth is selling this dress:

Which to me looks vaguely familiar to one I made last summer, no?

Except I made mine for a lot less than the $160 they're asking for :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

You may have noticed

That I have more or less abandoned this poor thing. That's not to say I've stopped cooking - on the contrary I've done lots of experimenting. I've made this sausage and rice timbale which Garrick said he could eat every day for the rest of his life (it even looked like the one in the picture!). I had my birthday party in which I prepared everything for my guests to make homemade pizzas (and oh they were delicious). I made an eggs benedict pizza which was pretty good but I needed to use a recipe for a thicker crust because homemade hollandaise is just so rich. I made pork and chive dumplings with dipping sauce. I made Star Wars sugar cookies for Garrick for Valentine's day. I may still post about all of these lovely things, but I wanted to take this time to announce a couple of things.

The first is that I'M ENGAGED. Woo hoo!

It happened when Garrick and I went on vacation to St Louis over Spring Break. Our first night there, after dinner and back in the hotel, he popped the question. My immediate reaction was "Are you kidding me?!" But I did eventually say yes. Then completely freaked out - in a good way.

So my head has been swimming with wedding stuff more so than food stuff lately. It doesn't help that I was given like 30 wedding magazines from some of Garrick's coworkers. I can really only focus on anything wedding related for about 30 minutes before I get bored and/or overwhelmed. Thank goodness I have over a year to get everything done. It only took us 3 weeks to decide on colors. We're doing purple, teal, and green. We're getting married June 16, 2012.

The next piece of news is that upon arriving home from St Louis I immediately went on a diet (actually not at all related to getting married, I had planned on doing it before we even went to St Louis). As of this past Tuesday I have lost 9.6 pounds in 3 1/2 weeks on it. Now, the reason I tell you this is because the diet is extremely restrictive during the first (and longest) phase. I can't have fruit or any kind of grain/starch. My vegetables are even restricted. I can only have meat once a day at dinner. Thus, the idea of making, say, a cupcake and then not getting to eat it makes me want to kill myself. So I haven't been doing a lot of exciting or creative cooking because, well, I can't eat it therefore I don't want to be around it. So I probably won't have much new for a while, with the exception of the things previously mentioned.

Back to the wedding. I had originally planned on making my own cake. I was convinced by several people that this is a horribly stupid idea, so I won't be doing that anymore. But I still wanted to have my hand in something, so we decided we are going to make cake pops for our wedding favors! I'm so excited about this idea, I can't even tell you. We're going to have 2-4 different flavors and decorate them as we please. A little homemade touch to show our guests that we appreciate them being there. And of course we're going to have to test out some recipes so pretty much every holiday from now until then I'm bringing cake pops. End of story.

Lately I just want to cook. It's hard to explain, but I want to make things that keep me in the kitchen all day but in the end it's so worth it. Like homemade ravioli. Or 12 layer cake. Or something. I also want to get into canning. I like the idea of having homemade things readily available, and it's cheaper. Love it. But I don't know the first thing about it. I will need to explore this.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Small Diversion

Ok, I do have some awesome recipes and things to share with you, but I wanted to get opinions on something a little more pressing in my world.

I'm teaching 9th grade English next year to my special education kids. This means most of them either have difficulty reading or writing. I'm trying to decide what to cover so I can start working on my curriculum for the class. The trouble is I have too many ideas and I need to narrow it down.

Books I'm considering:
To Kill a Mockingbird
Monster (by Walter Dean Myers)
Out of the Dust
The Secret Life of Bees
Lord of the Flies
Whale Talk
Face on the Milk Carton

I will be covering Night by Elie Wiesel, supplemented with pieces from Maus I and II, and Romeo and Juliet.

The top 5 on the list are books I've read and loved. The bottom 3 are ones I haven't read but I've seen on a lot of 8th grade reading lists.

My question to you all is: what do you recommend? If you've read any of the books on the list and think they would be good for a class of freshmen, let me know, especially if it's one of the ones I haven't read.

I need to narrow the list down to 3 or 4 at the max.

I know this might not be your area of expertise, but I thought I'd ask because I'm really struggling with choosing the right things.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Warm Onion Dip

Another New Year's Eve creation with the help of Cat Cora. Once you try this you will never want store-bought again. It's amazing. Especially since you probably have most, if not all of the ingredients at any given time. The onions are caramelized so they give the dip a little sweetness and it's just...heavenly. I could eat a whole batch right now. You just don't even know.

Warm Onion Dip
 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finley chopped onion (vidalia, walla walla, maui, or yellow)
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup finely grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until it is hot but not shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until it just begins to brown (about 2 minutes). Reduce the heat to low and cover, and cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes
3. In a bowl, mix the mayo, sour cream, cheddar, Tabasco, and salt. Add the onion and stir until evenly distributed.

Spread the dip in a small, shallow dish and bake until bubbling and slightly browned, about 20 minutes. Stir in the chives. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

Even my cat liked this dip. I wish I had gotten a picture but he was sniffing my dip so I let him and he just went to town licking it. So you know it must be good, right?

And you know what this would be perfect for? The Super Bowl! That's what you should do. You should make this dip and invite some people over so you don't eat it all yourself.

Good plan.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Smoked Salmon and Wasabi Tea Sandwiches

A few posts back I mentioned that I would find an occasion to make lobster salad. Well, I thought New Years Eve would be a perfect time, despite that I had nowhere to go and no one coming over. So that didn't happen.

What did happen were these delicious sandwiches.

These are from Cat Cora's cookbook Cat Cora's Classics With a Twist: Fresh Takes on Favorite Dishes. This is one of the 6 cookbooks I got for Christmas.

I don't particularly enjoy watching Cat Cora on Iron Chef America. I mean, I don't dislike watching her, but I prefer the others (except for Bobby Flay. I really don't like watching him. There's nothing original about making a tamale when you've done it for every freaking battle you're in. Ugh.). That said, her recipes are dang good. Like, wow. And simple, too.

Smoked Salmon and Wasabi Tea Sandwiches
8 oz brioche loaf (or baguette - I couldn't find brioche in my grocery store)
1 Tbsp wasabi from a tube or 1 1/2 tsp powdered wasabi (find this in the asian or ethnic foods section of your grocery store)
1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
4-6 oz thinly sliced smoked salmon
1 large cucumber, preferably English, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives

1. Heat oven to 350. Cut bread into 12  1/2 inch thick slices. Toast in the oven for 2 minutes (I actually toasted mine for more like 10)
2. Combine the cream cheese and wasabi.
3. Spread about 1/2 tsp of the wasabi cream cheese in a thin, even layer on each piece of bread. Top with a slice of smoked salmon. Top with cucumber slices. Sprinkle with chives.

The end! For as good as these taste, they should not be this easy. Seriously. I even got someone who doesn't like fish to eat 3 or 4 of them.

These are so great as an appetizer at a party or get-together. But be warned - that wasabi is hot so use caution when you add it and don't add it all at once - add a little and taste. Make the level of heat appropriate for your guests.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Chocolate Mousse Cupcakes

I can't even begin to tell you how incredibly delicious these are.

These are chocolate sour cream cupcakes filled with a sort of ganache whipped cream, topped with ganache. It's incredible.

I got the recipe from a new cupcake bookcalled Cupcakes by Elinor Klivans that Garrick got me for Christmas :)

Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcake Batter
(Makes 18 regular cupcakes)

3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temp.
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water

1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in 15 second intervals in the microwave. Set aside to cool slightly.
2. Sift the dry ingredients together.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until it is blended and creamy.
4. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate.
5. Add the eggs one at a time until each is blended into the batter. Add the vanilla and beat until the mixture is creamy and the color has lightened slightly.
6. Mix in the sour cream until no streaks remain.
7. On low speed, add half the flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate it. Mix in the water. Mix in the remaining flour mixture until it's incorporated and the batter looks smooth.
8. Divide the batter among 18 cupcake cups.
Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Chocolate Fudge Sauce
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
9 oz (1 1/2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and butter over low heat until the cream is hot and the butter has melted. Do not let it boil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate chips and let them sit in the hot cream for about 30 seconds. Add the vanilla and whisk the sauce until it is smooth and all the chocolate has melted.

3/4 cup Chocolate Fudge Sauce at room temp but pourable
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp instant coffee granules

1. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream, sugar, and coffee granules on low speed until the coffee dissolves. Then beat on medium-high speed until firm peaks form.
2. Whisk about 1 cup of the whipped cream into the chocolate sauce until no white streaks remain. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the remaining whipped cream.

To assemble:
1. Bake the cupcakes and let them cool. Make the chocolate sauce and filling while they bake.
2. Cup the tops off of the cupcakes, and spoon or ice cream scoop or pipe some filling onto each cupcake (about 1/4 cup per cupcake). Replace the tops of the cupcakes.
3. Use the remaining chocolate sauce as a "frosting." Just spoon and spread the sauce on the tops of each cupcake.

Refrigerate to firm the chocolate topping, and serve cold. Cover and refrigerate remaining cupcakes for up to 2 days.

I made these for my grandma for her birthday (hence the candles), and I can honestly say that they were probably the best cupcakes I've ever eaten. I know it looks like a lot of work but it is sooooo worth it.

I wish I had more :(

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Peanut Brittle

The delicious sticks-to-your-teeth candy of the holidays.

I had never made it before, but I like it and my dad loves it, so I thought I would try my hand at it. And I failed. But we'll get to that.

Peanut Brittle (taken from Betty Crocker's New Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup light corn syrup
3 Tbsp stick margarine or butter
1 pound shelled unroasted peanuts

1. Heat oven to 200 degrees F. Grease 2 cookie sheets with margarine and keep warm in the oven (this makes it easier to spread the candy)
2. Mix baking soda, 1 tsp water and vanilla. Set aside. Mix sugar, 1 cup water, and corn syrup in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, to 240 degrees on a candy thermometer (soft ball).
3. Stir in margarine/butter and peanuts.

Cook, stirring constantly, to 300 degrees (hard crack).

Immediately remove from heat. Quickly stir in baking soda mixture until light and foamy.
4. Pour half of the candy mixture onto each cookie sheet and spread to 1/4 inch thick.

Cool completely (at least 1 hour). Break into pieces.

Ok, now, I told you at the beginning of the post that I failed at making this. And I did. See, we don't have a candy thermometer at home, so I was using the cold water tests and I had gotten it to what I thought was the hard crack stage (I mean, it was kind of hard, and it had gotten pretty thick and I didn't want to burn it). As it turns out I was wrong. It ended up being more of a tasty peanut taffy.

I tried to salvage it. I put it in a 300 degree oven to try and get it to the right stage of hardness. Didn't work. So I thought maybe if I freeze it that will suck some of the moisture out and harden it up. Which it did, for about 10 minutes. Just long enough for me to take a picture of it in all its brittley goodness. And an hour later it was a mass of impossible-to-get-out peanut...stuff.

Dad tried to eat it, bless his heart. In the end, most of it went in the trash.

The good news is that I now have a candy thermometer. But my ego needs to heal a little before attempting this again.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cauliflower Gratin

Ok, I know cauliflower isn't everyone's thing. It often brings up horrible memories of being forced to eat these goofy mini white tree looking things that remind you of the similarly disturbing broccoli by hearing stories of starving children in China, but this isn't that kind of cauliflower.

Well, I mean, it is, but it tastes much better. And while I can't help you with those memories of your depraved childhood, I can try to give you a new perspective on this often overlooked vegetable.

Because really, it's quite good.

It's pretty simple. We're all familiar with potato gratin, right? Potatoes cooked with a creamy cheese sauce and baked in the oven to give it a golden and slightly crunchy top and often made from a box? Yeah, well, it's like that but you replace the potato with cauliflower and ditch the box.

I use Ina Garten's recipe for this but really it's basically the same as Julia Child's recipe, so if you have her Mastering the Art of French Cooking lying around, you already have this recipe.

Pretty simple: Cut up and blanch some cauliflower. Make a roux, and your milk, let it thicken, add your cheese (she says Gruyere and Parmesan but you can use whatever you have around, though I do recommend using some Parmesan for the saltiness it brings), let that melt off the heat. Put 1/3 of it in the bottom of your pan, put the cauliflower on top, top with the rest of the cheese sauce, then throw more cheese and some breadcrumbs and some melted butter on top, put it in a 375 oven for 30 minutes, and you end up with a delicious side dish that can get anyone to choke down a vegetable.

Doesn't look so bad, does it? It's my favorite way to eat cauliflower. Yum yum yum. And it makes a great substitution for, say, green bean casserole, or some other side dish that you want to change up at the next feast.

Seriously. It will change your mind.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hot Cocoa

Cookies. Hot cocoa cookies.

As in cookies that taste like hot cocoa and taste amazing with hot cocoa.

They even have marshmallows in them. Mmmmmm.

The recipe comes from How Sweet and admittedly her pictures are far better than mine. And it's her recipe. So I guess overall she is superior.

Anyway, these are sinfully delicious chocolate cookies with marshmallow creme and mini marshmallows.

The one thing you have to be careful about with these cookies are those marshmallows. They melt and threaten to break your cookie apart when you try to move them or pick them up. The other thing you have to be careful about is limiting yourself because this recipe makes A LOT of cookies.

But they're soooo gooooooood.

So head on over to How Sweet  and try the recipe, then tell her how awesome she is for creating these.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A year in the making

It's over. After almost of year of on and off work and ultimately kicking myself for taking on a project like this again, the afghan is done.

 Mind you, this picture is only 2/3 of the whole afghan (though it was finished when the picture was taken, I just couldn't fit it all in one picture). And the picture doesn't really do justice to the blue, it's much brighter in person.

I had taken on the project because last year I made one for Garrick for Christmas and his parents liked it so much I thought I would make one for them for Christmas.

And since it was for Garrick's parents, Garrick did the fringe. He did a very nice job.

And his parents were quite happily surprised by it.

So a year later, they have their own hand-made afghan to take home with them to Texas. Where they won't need to use it. Because it's perpetually 60 degrees and above.

I will think this through more carefully before taking on a project of this magnitude again.