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? 
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