Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Royal Icing

As promised, I made just a few millions of little gingerbread cookies with royal icing for some goodie bags John wanted to bring into work. In case the cookies sucked, we sprinkled in some Cadbury chocolate pieces, York peppermint patties, and Lindt truffles. Luckily, they didn't suck. I actually used two different mixes to make these, mostly because I knew I had to make a ton, but also because I can't quite handle the smell of pure molasses in my house after a terrible baking experiment when I was eleven.

The royal icing was homemade. It's pretty easy to make.
  • 3 T. egg whites
  • 1-2 t. vanilla extract (clear if you want pure white frosting)
  • ~3 T. warm water
  • ~2 c. powdered sugar


This one is saying "help meeeeee"
Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl until foamy. Then add in the vanilla and water and gradually add the powdered sugar as you continue to mix on medium-high speed. The amount of water/sugar you add will depend on the consistency you're trying for. I just wanted to pipe a simple design on each cookie, so I did add more sugar to get a stiffer consistency. For the flooding/glazed look method, you'd probably need to double the water. Put the icing in a piping bag immediately, or cover your bowl because this stuff hardens pretty quickly!

5 bags down... only 35 to go... 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Drunk Turkey

I haven't posted anything in awhile because I haven't had much time to cook or bake lately! This makes me sad, so immediately after this, I'm going to whip up a few batches of gingerbread cookies, because John would like to bring in little gifties for his co-workers on Tuesday. 
Even though Turkey is mostly a Thanksgiving food, I know a lot of people who also eat it for Christmas, so I thought I'd share my recipe for the perfect turkey.


I like to cook my turkey in a bag, mostly because I know it speeds up the cooking time, and when you only have one tiny oven and a ton of dishes to prepare, every minute counts. Also because it seems to lock in the moisture of whatever I decide to douse/baste my turkey with. The last few times I've made turkey, I like to get it drunk. You will need:
  • 1 12 lb turkey
  • 2/3 bottle of champagne (go cheap)
  • 1 stick butter, cubed
  • 2 apples, cored and sliced
  • garlic powder
  • salt & pepper
  • oven roasting bag
First, thaw your turkey, get the nasty bits out, and rinse it out and off. Pat dry. Use your index finger to loosen the turkey skin and cube of butter under the turkey skin all over the turkey. It will look like it has a bunch of tumors growing out of it. "It's not a tuma." At some point you have to truss the turkey, and I can never remember if I do this before or after the next few steps. I always use this video for help with trussing. Maybe go ahead and truss the turkey now. I used black string even though it looks sort of crappy. 


Put the apples inside of the turkey. You can use chopped onions if you want. I usually just use whatever extra stuff I have lying around since this is more for flavor/aroma and you don't end up eating the food in the turkey cavity. I certainly don't. Sprinkle the turkey with garlic powder, salt and pepper. 



Put the turkey inside one of those oven turkey bags (follow the instructions for the bag because you need to shake some flour inside so it doesn't explode) and place in a roasting pan. Pour the champagne over and around the turkey, and seal up the bag. It might make the garlic/salt/pepper step seem a little pointless, but I promise that the flavors stay with the turkey. 


Bake at 350 degrees for about 2 hours. Then, remove the bag from around the turkey. I usually do this by making a few incisions with scissors, then I pull on the bag gently until it comes loose from the turkey. Bake for 1 more hour, basting every 15-20 minutes, until the internal temperature is 180 degrees. The last hour outside of the bag is to brown up the skin a bit. It might not be the prettiest turkey, but I think it is pretty delicious. Let stand for 20 minutes before carving. 
I leave the carving up to John. He does a really good job, especially when he has one of those electric carvers at hand. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce

As I previously discussedthis pumpkin cheesecake recipe was the winner in a poll I sent out to my friends. We were all winners on Thanksgiving Day as we chowed down on this yummy treat. 


This is the third year in a row that I've made an alternative pumpkin pie, so I think next year I might attempt something more traditional. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yam Sticks

My first (real) job came at the age of fourteen and was in the culinary department of a retirement community. I started as a server, but over the three years of my employ, took on any job they threw at me. At one point, my job entailed calling the orders on "the line," which after watching several season of Top Chef, I now realize is a really tough job!
One of my favorite things the kitchen served was something called "yam sticks." I am pretty sure that before that time, I hadn't even tasted a yam (or a sweet potato)! It just wasn't something my parents made and/or liked, I guess. You know how that goes. These yam sticks were battered in something... and deep fried. They were gorgeous orange mush on the inside, crispy on the outside, and perfectly sweet.
I have never found yam sticks again. In September, at the LA Fair, I saw a cart that touted "yam sticks" as one of their main attractions. Imagine my disappointment when handed a plate of sweet potato fries. Delicious, but not yam sticks.

I decided to take matters into my own hands. Since I am not the proud owner of a deep fryer, nor does my memory serve me well enough to try to duplicate a batter I haven't tasted in nearly ten years, I decided to go alternative and "bread" these bad boys with sesame seeds.
First, I boiled a couple large yams until they were tender, but not totally soft. Fork tender, I guess. Let them cool, but while they're still slightly warm you peel them and cut into pieces approximately 2 1/2 inches x 1 inch x 1/2 inch.
Then, roll them in sesame seeds, pushing gently to help them stick to the yams. I mixed the sesame seeds with a bit of whole wheat flour, but that basically did nothing (feel free to try it).
After that, you'll pan fry your sticks in some canola oil over medium heat, for about a minute each side, until golden brown and crispy. Let rest on a paper towel.
A lot of mine got charred, but as I've shared in the past, I sort of like burnt food. You'll have a lot of yam sticks on your hands. If you're feeding just two people, you'll be fine with just using one medium-large yam.
Oh, and they're definitely not as good as I remember, but is anything ever? I still like them. Maybe next time I will try panko crumbs.

I won't be making these for Thanksgiving, though. Our sweet potato dish this year will be Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes, a recipe I hope to share in the near future.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Check out this recipe and more on Yam Sticks on Foodista!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pie the People, For the People

We're having a pretty small group of people over for Thanksgiving this year, and I couldn't decide which pumpkin pie to make, so I thought I'd create a poll and let my guests help me choose. So it seems that, with the exception of a mysterious participant named "Turkey Cake," most of my guests prefer I make Betty's Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce, with Paula Deen's Pumpkin Pie coming in a close second. I voted for the P. Deen pie myself, but mostly because that seems to be one that I could easily make a day or two ahead. 
And the winner is...


I'm a little wary to make another pumpkin cheesecake, because I did that two years ago and it didn't seem to be that popular. It could have been because there were multiple pie options, or maybe it just wasn't that good. Either way, this is a new year, and a new recipe. So Pumpkin Cheesecake it is!


Are you searching for some pumpkin pie alternatives? I will also be making Sara's Mom's Pumpkin Cookies, which are always a hit. Or you could bake up some Pumpkin Half Moon Pie Pockets, which are easy to assemble and even easier to gorge yourself on. You could also try the recipe that got the least amount of votes in my poll (sorry, Nick): Bourbon Pumpkin Tart with Walnut Streusel. Looks good to me!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

decided to add the little Sprinkles
dots to cover my mistakes 

For the first time in three or four years, I actually have plans for Halloween, or at least the night before.  Going out on a Sunday night might be a little too wild for me, so Saturday it is!
This year I'm going to be Antoine Dodson for Halloween. I hope my costume looks awesome, people recognize me, and we all have lots of fun. We're going to have a small group of people over here before heading to a bar for karaoke. I made some pumpkin cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese icing. I am in no way a professional decorator, but I think these look cute!

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing (courtesy Sprinkles):
  • 8 oz cold cream cheese
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (firm, but not cold)
  • 3 3/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. vanilla

In a mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, salt and cinnamon on medium-low for a few minutes until creamy and smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar as you beat the mixture on low speed. Once all the sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla and beat just until everything is combined. Do not overbeat. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Candy Corn Cookies

Here's my modified version of these Betty Crocker Candy Corn Cookies. Candy Corn is very weird. It seems to be one of those polarizing candies - you either love it or hate it. I am one of the haters. Like olives, every year I make myself TRY candy corn, thinking maybe my tastes buds will have adapted. Nope. I figure I'm not missing out on much ... just some extra refined sugar that I already don't need. Either way, candy corn is super cute and I was excited to make these sugar cookies.
I followed the linked recipe, except I skipped the chocolate and just dyed that part yellow. It's more traditional that way. I tried to include some pictures (click them to enlarge) that might better explain the process because I think the instructions on the BC site can be a little confusing since they don't provide visuals. Some of my candy corns looked a little deformed, but they still taste good. One way to make them look more corn-like is to use a knife or spatula to reshape any blobby looking ones as soon as they come out of the oven. Also, because it's hard to tell on the BC site, let me warn you that these cookies are very small. I'd say slightly larger than animal crackers. So when you're cutting them from the dough slices, don't be worried that you're doing something wrong. The uncooked candy corns will be around the size of a quarter.
finished product!

         
 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sporadic Product Review/Brief History

So... if you don't know me, or if for some reason I haven't already made you painfully aware, you need to know I love macaroni and cheese. I sort of consider it blasphemy to speak ill of the mac. I find it annoying when people consider mac & cheese simply a side dish. It is a way of life.

I grew up eating the blue box constantly. In fact, in my faster-metabolism, track-running days, I was known to make an entire box for myself after school. If my older brother expressed interest in perhaps having a bowl, I'd gladly throw another box in the pot. But I would not ever, could not ever part with the three-and-a-half servings I was owed.

We ate a lot of Polish food in my house -- kielbasa, pierogies, sauerkraut. Once in a while, my dad would whip up some Kraft as a side to the kielbasa. Umm, no thanks, Pop. I'd have a sliver of the sausage and pile my plate high with macaroni. For some reason, I had to be sort of the Christopher Columbus of macaroni and cheese for my fam. Listen, I'm not saying I discovered mac & cheese. I'm saying I discovered it for my people. Deal with it. I haven't, as far as I'm aware, killed anyone along the way.
We do have a Praz family recipe that is a distant, perhaps Polish, relative to mac & cheese, but it involves onions and cottage cheese. Another time... 

As I got older, I got into something called "baked mac and cheese." The only times I had previously experienced it was via the Stouffer's frozen variety. That stuff is pretty good, too. Once I started working in a restaurant after school, I realized how good mac & cheese can be when it comes out of the oven. Covered in stewed tomatoes... why not? 
In college, I ate a lot of mac. In the dorms, I was mostly relegated to Easy Mac. Not terrible, but simply not enough. Make two. 
I have once or twice fallen prey to the healthy mac and cheese gimmick. 
Dear Lean Cuisine & Smart Ones,
Your mac is no good. Stop trying.

And don't try to tell me that I can fake macaroni and cheese with cauliflower. More blasphemy.

So I've had Delilah's famous mac & cheese in Philly; I've recreated Alton Brown's mac & cheese, one or two of Rachel Ray's, the crockpot mac & cheese; I've tasted gourmet mac & cheese with ingredients like lobster and truffle oil. I'm not going to say I'm an expert, but you could say it and I probably wouldn't disagree. 

So here's where I should probably digress and move on with the product review. I have made this Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Homestyle Deluxe dinner twice. Big fan. I won't go through the instructions, because any dummy can do that. I will recommend using the "oven finish" method for the optimal mac attack. It involves extra cheese and bread crumbs. I recently made this in a pinch when I didn't have enough time to defrost some meat I had bought. Then realizing John needed to have some meat with his mac (yes, he's one of those people), I cut up a couple Hebrew Nationals and served those on the side. That's right, mac & cheese for dinner with a side of hot dogs. Carrying on my dad's laziness tradition.

Out of the oven... after an attack. Don't judge me. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Stromboli 2 Ways


The first time I made stromboli using puff pastry, I chose a turkey/ham variety with shredded cheese and it was super delicious. Then John had the brilliant idea to make a cheesesteak variety, using Steak-Umms and swiss cheese. And tons of ketchup for garnish, of course. Genius! Well, it at least hits the spot for the much-sought-after Philly taste I've been missing the last few years. 


Roll out a thawed sheet of puff pastry to 16"x12". With the shorter end facing you, layer your meat choice (for the steak variety I used a whole box of cooked Steak-Umms --blotted a bit to remove excess oil; for the turkey/ham, I used about 1/4-1/2 lb of each. Lots of meat in that one) on the bottom half of the pastry, coming within 1 inch of the edge. Sprinkle with 1 c. of shredded cheese, or spread out 4 slices of cheese (your choice) over the meat. Starting with the shorter end, roll up like a jelly roll. Place the seam side down and tuck all the ends under to seal. Brush with egg mixture (1 egg beaten with 1 T. water) and bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.


Check this out on 

Steak-Umm Stromboli on Foodista

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Non-Recipe Update

I took another cooking class last weekend. This one was called Brown Baggin' It. During the class, I chopped until I couldn't chop any more... and I got a week's worth of lunches, to boot. It was great to learn the proper chopping techniques, and to use an awesome Wusthof knife. I really don't think at this point I have much use for a $100 knife. I don't do that much chopping, and I have one of those nifty slap-chopper tools thanks to Johnny's need to buy me every kitchen gadget possible. But I do plan on chopping regularly to further hone and perfect my chop skills.


The top shelf of my "baking cupboard"
My brother sent me some cool cookbooks, including one with all sugar-free dessert options. That is not to say everything is sweetened with Splenda or other artificials... it's all about sweetening with natural stuff, like fruit juices and stuff like that. I could definitely get into that. 


Even though I've been itching to move for the last 2 years, since nothing seems to be on the horizon, I decided to make do with what I have. I cleaned out the cupboards and moved my cookbooks to the kitchen, which makes more sense anyway. It's much better than having them scattered throughout the house, though I'm not entirely sure I've actually rounded up all of the books I own, but for now, this will do. You'll also notice a stack of my Martha EVERYDAY FOOD mags, all of which have too many quality recipes to toss. 


While cleaning, I also found NINE flower vases tucked away in various spots. Anyone have cool ideas for what to do with so many vases? There are a couple I definitely want to keep, but the rest are sort of just generic and taking up space. I could just donate them, but the idea of transporting several glass vases does not sound very appealing to me. I wish I knew a local DIY bride or party planner who could use these. I suppose I could just craigslist/freecycle them, but maybe someone has a cool idea for how to use these? 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Peach Upside-Down Cake

Forgive me for yet another Martha recipe, but I've been on a kick. I actually had some other (non-Martha) stuff I was going to post first, but I felt like I needed to add something sweet after a couple of savory posts. So here's a Peach Upside-Down Cake, modified from Martha's Nectarine Upside-Down Cake. You could probably also use pear, or the old standard, pineapple. 



In other news, my mom sent me some cool things for my birthday. Among everything was a Danish dough whisk, for making bread, and a cool bread book. And, as further proof that I'm a very spoiled girl, John got me a Wilton tool caddy with about a million pieces inside. So look forward to some bread and cake posts in the near future!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tomato Tart

Isn't this gorgeous? This is a modified Martha recipe, and you can pretty much do whatever you want with it as well. 
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed 
  • 1 T. sour cream
  • 1 t. grainy mustard (I like Inglehoffer)
  • 2 large leeks, white and green parts only
  • 1 T. unsalted butter 
  • 3/4 lb of your favorite kind of tomatoes, sliced/halved if preferred
  • 2 ounces fresh goat cheese, mozzarella, or your fave
  • 2 t. fresh thyme or basil
Preheat oven to 400. On a floured work surface, roll puff pastry to a twelve inch square and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and mustard and season with salt and pepper. Spread this mixture evenly over the pastry. Fold a half inch border on all sides and press the edges to seal. Refrigerate ten minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the leeks in half and rinse thoroughly. Pat dry and slice into 1/4 inch pieces. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium and cook leeks with salt and pepper, until soft. Reduce heat slightly and continue to cook until very soft, about five more minutes. Arrange the leeks evenly over the pastry. Top with tomatoes and bake about half an hour, until the pastry is golden and crisp. Top with desired cheese(s) and herbs before cutting into squares. 

A few notes:
  • To make with bacon, like I did above, cook four to five slices of bacon until crisp. Cut or crumble over dough before putting into oven.
  • If using cherry tomatoes, I would suggest cutting them into smaller pieces. Sliced tomatoes might work better.
  • You can make this as simple as you want, but don't omit the sour cream or leeks, because they help keep the crust crispy. You can substitute caramelized onions for leeks. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bacon & Egg Toast Cups

A super easy and yummy Martha dish this week...

  • 2 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 slices sandwich bread, your preference
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 4 large eggs
  • salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly butter six standard muffin cups. Flatten the bread slices slightly with a rolling pin, and with a four-and-a-half inch cookie cutter, cut into four rounds. Cut each round in half, then press the two halves into each muffin cup, overlapping slightly and making sure bread comes up to the edges. Use extra bread and crusts to patch any holes if necessary. Brush with remaining butter.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until almost crisp, about four minutes, flipping once. Lay one bacon slice in each bread cup and crack an egg over each. Season with salt & pepper. Bake until egg whites are just set, about twenty-five minutes. The bacon will continue to cook in the oven. Run a small knife around cups to loosen toast cups.

Serves two, IMHO ... love it!

Check out this recipe onBacon & Egg Toast Cups on Foodista

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More Failures

I've just been failing all over the place this last week, culinary-wise. Last week I got it stuck in my head that I just HAD to use my new ice cream maker, STAT! I was so impatient that I didn't let the ice cream bowl freeze for the 15+ hrs recommended. 12 hrs isn't enough? Go figure. I ended up with a sort of ice cream soup. It was delicious, but not ice cream. I used a modified B&J recipe from this book

2 large eggs
3/4 c. sugar
2 c. heavy cream
1 c. milk
2 ripe bananas (I froze mine ahead of time)
1/2 c. peanut butter
2-3 T. lemon juice

Whisk Eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, then whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, until completely blended. Pour in cream & milk and whisk to blend. Take about 1 c. of this liquid and combine with the peanut butter in a separate bowl. Stir until completely blended, then add back to the base and stir again. 

Transfer to your ice cream machine and freeze following your machine's instructions. (seriously...)
Meanwhile, mash the bananas in a bowl and add the lemon juice. Whisk until smooth. 
During the last few minutes of ice cream blending, add the banana mixture to the machine. Freeze until ice cream is ready.

Like I said, yummy, but more like soup. My own fault, totally. 
I have big plans in the works for my next ice cream adventure. The bowl has been in my freezer for the last few days and the temperature in LA has dropped drastically, so no excuses.

Then on Saturday at Jenn's house she asked me to help with a recipe she was doing for a luau the following day. Some yummy sounding S'mores thing that required her to make her own marshmallows. Does anyone besides Martha Stewart MAKE their own marshmallows? Jenn does. Crazy. Anyway, even the most simple task handed to me (toasting coconut) could not be followed through, and I burnt 75% of the coconut! Wahh! Luckily, or weirdly, thanks to my mom, I have a taste for burnt food and I nibbled away at this the rest of the night. 

Even though I have been less than perfect at some of my recent attempts, I am not going to stop! I know that all the greats have run into hiccups on their journeys, and mine will be no different. Lately I'm starting to feel more like Betty Lehn (my mom... hi, mom!) than Betty Crocker, though. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Recipe Fail

Ever follow a recipe to the T and still get it wrong? I do... all the time. I had planned on showcasing a newly-mastered recipe for stabilized whipped cream, that whippy-frosting substance that comes on some cakes and holds up longer than regular whipped cream. I thought I'd squeeze some of it onto some cupcakes and also try my new airbrushy style frosting colors. None of this happened because I did SOMETHING wrong. I don't know what, and it is driving me crazy!


Here's the recipe I used for stabilized whipped cream. If anyone has ever tried this and succeeded, let me know what I did wrong. I plan on trying this again (and maybe documenting it as sort of a "Recipe Re-Do," but for now I'll have to move on.


1/4 c. cold water
1 t. unflavored gelatin
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 T (or more) white sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract (I used my Vanilla Bean Paste)


Put your bowl and beaters into the fridge/freezer for at least 15 minutes. While you're doing this, combine the cold water and gelatin, and microwave for small increments of time until the gelatin is dissolved. Stir and let cool completely (gelatin should be liquid, but not warm when added to the cream). Beat the cream, sugar and vanilla until you start to see the beater marks. Slowly and constantly add the gelatin to the cream as it whips. Whip until stiff peaks form. 


I did notice after I finished whipping that there were small spots of gelatin stuck to the side of my cold KitchenAid bowl... maybe I whipped too fast and not enough of the gelatin got incorporated with the cream? Not sure if you can tell from my photo, but I did NOT get stabilized whipped cream. What a waste! 

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Favorite Ingredient

I learned about this product during a baking class I took about 5 months ago. If you bake a lot, you know that countless recipes call for vanilla extract. Since discovering vanilla bean paste, I have not been able to deprive any of my recipes from using it. The vanilla extract and (for shame) imitation vanilla extract are collecting dust in my pantry. The instructor called this stuff "liquid love" and said only to use it for people you love. Well, I only bake for people I love, so my jar is already nearly empty. It's a 1 for 1 exchange with vanilla extract, but it is 1000x more delicious.

In the past few months, I have noticed this product popping up more and more. You can probably find a good deal online, but I have also seen it in the nicer kitchen supply stores as well as World Market.

John got me the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment, and I can't wait to start adding vanilla bean paste to the ice cream recipes I want to try. Hopefully awesome ice cream blogs to follow this one.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Rosemary Popovers

Popovers are the ultimate comfort food, for me at least. My mom used to make them all the time when I was little. They were the only thing she didn't burn, which I say affectionately.
I recently decided to add some rosemary to the traditional recipe and I loved it. They're just slightly doughy on the inside, i.e., perfect.

1 c. milk
2 eggs
1 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1 T. melted butter (sometimes I use olive oil)
1 sprig rosemary, leaves pulled off

Mix the ingredients on a low speed for about 30 seconds, scraping the bowl as you go. Divide the batter evenly into 8 well-greased and floured muffin cups. Put the pan into a cold oven and set it to 450. After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 350 and cook for an additional 25 minutes. The popovers will be golden brown and puffy. Cut a slit into the side of each popover. Serve warm with extra butter, says my mom. There's really no nutritional value to these guys, but, before the additional butter you slather on, they're about 100 calories apiece, so not too bad.
Check out my recipe on 
Popovers With Rosemary on Foodista

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wedding Test Kitchen, round 2: Marinated Feta Cheese

I don't tend to give star-ratings to the recipes I use on my blog. For one, some of them are personal recipes, and I would feel pompous saying 5 stars or A+ to something I created... and for another, I usually think my vote of "awesome" is good enough. So, using my expansive vocabulary, I'd probably rate this recipe as "pretty good!" ... so maybe it's like 3 to 3-and-a-half stars?

I love myself some feta cheese, but even cut into half-inch cubes, spooning three cubes onto crostini means I'm getting a solid inch-and-a-half of feta. Feta that has been marinading for 5+ days. When I use the word pungent, I don't want you to think I mean "bad," because it is actually "pretty good" (see above). I just want to be thorough in my critique since Sara is thinking about using this recipe at her wedding.

I really enjoyed how soft the peppercorns seemed to get after all that time in the fridge - the pepper flavor was a great aftertaste. I loved the strong rosemary flavor infused into the cheese. But I can't imagine eating more than one serving of this, and we all know that is not the norm for me. That being said, I can't fault the recipe; the cheese is good, just intense. I only had time to put this on crostinis, but I'm sure it would be great on pita, or stuffed into cherry tomatoes, as Sara suggested. 

When John got home, he did have more than one serving, and he really liked it. I'm thinking my initial reaction to this cheese might be based on smelling the jar periodically, but the taste is definitely not as a strong as the smell. So if you love Mediterranean flavors, I say give this one a try. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wedding Test Kitchen, round 1: Blueberry Muffins

A very dear friend of mine is getting married this August! She and her fiancé are having a Camping Matrimonial Extravaganza, and as part of the CME-Team (I will be the officiant at their wedding), I told her I would test out some recipes for the rapidly-approaching CME weekend.

I made these blueberry muffins this week. They turned out awesome. The only thing I did a little differently was only make six muffins, then I took the rest of the batter and poured it into a 9x9 greased pyrex dish, to make a blueberry bread. After it cooled on a wire rack for a bit, I did notice some "holes" where the brown sugar seemed to sink in to the bread. I didn't really mind as it made the bread super moist. The bread did need to bake about 3-5 minutes longer than the muffins, or until a toothpick comes out clean. You know the drill.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Crock-pot Mac & Cheese

Well, the title says it all. I bought myself a crock-pot. Actually, my mom bought it for me as I finally got around to using those Christmas gift cards. I wasn't sure what my inaugural crock should be, so I did a bit of scouring the internet and found this blog. Itching to use the crock and not really in the mood for a "stew," I searched for one of my favorite meals ever and found this recipe. With fair warning from the mixed recipe reviews, I attempted this dish with a few modifications:
1) I used only about 3 1/2 cups milk (1 cup 2% and the rest was skim)
& 2) I used all sharp cheddar (6 oz Cabot Extra Sharp & the rest Kraft shredded). Boy, was this mac sharp. I think next time I might mix cheddar with a better melting cheese, like a Velveeta or something...

All in all, it turned out pretty awesome. I cooked it on low for about an hour and a half, tops. Probably because I am a little spacey and bought a SEVEN QUART CROCK-POT (for a two-person household)!
Right before it was finished I topped it with a bit of extra shredded cheese. It wasn't soupy at all. I know I'm not the only mac & cheese lover out there... I urge you guys to try this recipe if you have a crock-pot, but be warned that this is not a "set it & forget it" type of recipe. I had to stir it every 30 minutes and it was done before I knew it!

^ click for yum ^

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pecan Sticky Buns


Words cannot describe how delicious these sticky buns are. You'll just have to make them to taste for yourself. This is another Martha recipe, but I made it much simpler by using store-bought bread/pizza dough instead of making my own. The recipe below will serve twelve, but I cut everything in half since six buns between the two of us is already a little ridiculous. 
  • 2 lbs store-bought pizza dough, thawed
  • 1 c. + 6 T. unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 1 c. packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 1/2 t. coarse salt
  • all-purpose flour
On a floured work surface, roll dough to a 10 x 18 inch rectangle (5x9 if you're cutting the recipe in half). Spread chunks of the butter (1 cup) over the top 2/3 of the dough. Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter, pulling the bottom 1/3 up and the top 1/3 down. Refrigerate on a baking sheet at least one hour or up to one day.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl combine the sugar, pecans and salt. Leaving a half inch border, spread out the remaining 6 T. of butter in chunks over the dough. Sprinkle with the sugar/pecan mixture. Starting at the long end, roll up the dough like a jelly roll. Cut into 12 pieces. Place each piece, side by side into a 9x13 inch pan (for half recipe I put into an 8 inch round cake pan). 

Bake until golden brown and cooked through, ~ 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Immediately invert the buns onto a serving dish and devour. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Turkey Chili

If you've been following my weight loss progress at all, you've probably noticed that I've been at sort of a standstill. And, if you've been reading this blog, it wouldn't take a genius to realize why. Yes, I want to lose weight, and I am losing weight. But I can not deny my love for cooking and baking. It wouldn't be realistic for me to lose all this weight while completely depriving myself of the things I love, because I'd just end up putting it all back on. For me, it's all about balance.
That being said, there's no reason I shouldn't share some of my healthier recipes. This is one of my favorites.


Kristen's Turkey Chili
20 oz lean ground turkey (beef if you prefer)
1 cup tomato sauce (preferably no salt added)
1 cup fresh salsa (medium or hot if you can handle)
1 can (15 oz?) pinto beans, well rinsed and drained
cayenne pepper/red pepper 
chili powder


In a large pot, brown the turkey for about 5-6 minutes, drain any fat if necessary. Add the remaining ingredients. I used at least 2-3 T of chili powder and I usually throw some red pepper flakes/cayenne pepper in as well. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce your heat to low to simmer for 15-20. Serve in a bowl with a bit of shredded cheese or sour cream on top. Corn bread (not) optional. Serves 4(ish).


The photo I took came out sort of crappy. It just looks like regular delicious chili anyway. Take my word for it.
Here are the stats:


Check out my recipe on
Healthy Turkey Chili on Foodista

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Molten Chocolate Cakes

Another delicious treat from the baking class I took. Excuse the messy plate pictured, this was the last of our many desserts that day and we were re-using our plates. I'm happy to report that this is another recipe that I've been able to "master" post-class and create at home. It's surprisingly easy and you can prepare up to step 5 in advance and freeze for future cravings. 
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces bittersweet good-quality chocolate (I think I used about 72% cacao)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 T flour

1. Grease 4 baking dishes - you can use ramekins or coffee cups. "Flour" the dishes with a coco powder/sugar mixture or just be boring and use regular flour.
2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
3. Chop your chocolate up into small pieces and combine with the butter in a large metal bowl over a pot of near-boiling water (bain-marie). This mixture will melt over time so just give it a stir once in a while.
4. Beat the eggs, yolks and sugar until pale and you can start to see beater marks in the mixture.
5. Combine a small portion of the egg mixture with your chocolate. Then fold this chocolate mixture and the flour into the remaining egg mixture. Do not over mix - just FOLD in until barely combined! Divide the mixture evenly between the ramekins.
6. Bake for 12 minutes, until the sides of the cake are done but the centers are soft. Let the cakes cool for 1 minute and then invert onto a plate.  Let stand for 10 seconds and unmold. The longer they sit the less "molten" they will be, so if you like yours a little more cooked just let it sit for a bit. Top with fresh whipped cream and your choice of fruit. 

^click for detail^


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