Thursday, December 31, 2009

One Cold Night

Last night was kinda an intense night and BP II was not feeling well. Actually, he said, “It feels like my eyes are going to explode.” Anyway, we have guests coming in from out of town tonight for New Year’s and I have nothing in the house. Also, I have all the ham still leftover. With BP II in bed I forged out into the cold alone to figure something out for dinner. I thought I would be a good girlfriend and make some soup to warm him up. I wanted something simple and quick; I didn’t want to be spending my night watching this soup on the stove. I bought some carrots, celery, egg noodles and chicken stock. I have onions and garlic at home. That is the great thing about soup, you can just throw in some really good ingredients and it will taste great.


I came home and chopped the onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Added some olive oil to a big stockpot and sweated the veggies for about 15- 20 minutes. Seasoned with salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary. I also, happened to have some leftover cheese rinds and randomly threw those in as well. Then added the chicken stock, some water and a couple of bouillon cubes. When the veggies were soft, I added the noodles and some of the leftover ham. The result was really good. I think one of the best soups I have made. With a baguette it was a hearty and satisfying meal.

Next, I have to think about what to make for New Year’s dinner. UGH!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Poor Paula




I know this is terrible, but I love seeing people fall or get hit in the face.

New Year's Resolutions








I am not typically a person who makes New Year’s resolutions. I mean if you want to do something, just go out and do it. You don’t need a “new year” as motivation.  That logic has always bothered me. However, I look at everything 2009 has brought me and as bad as it is out there, with recessions and all the celebrity death’s, I thought it might be positive to set some new goals for 2010. I have made such strides with my cooking and I want to continue to learn and grow as a more experienced cook. I mean I have crossed major bridges, like the pie dough incident and the German potato salad incident.  Each one making me a little better or a little bit more knowledgeable. Now I know that it is always a good idea to have a back up pie crust in the freezer for just in cases. Sometimes things just don’t work out. And French onion soup. I have always wanted to learn to make a French onion soup and I thought it was going to be difficult and such a process, but really it was great. I guess learning to just try things is half the battle. Anyhoo, I have compiled a list of things that I would like to make in 2010. Well, it started out as dishes that I would like to make but then that became too difficult so I broadened the parameters a bit.


1.)Learn to make gnocchi 
2.)Make a real ragu that you have to simmer on the stove for hours 
3.)Find a really good pan sauce that works with all kinds of meat 
4.)Make a homemade pesto without a food processor 
5.)Make my Nana’s perogies 
6.)Learn to make bread 
7.)Find some healthier alternatives for my cooking 
8.)Make ravioli 
9.)Make something that requires real ginger root. It has been sitting in my kitchen forever  
10.) A real good lasagna

Be Prepared



This was my Christmas gift. 

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Domain Name!

Please set your favorites to Becomingafoodie.com

Is Your Meat Done?

We have all wondered when is my meat done? You don’t want to cut into the meat o all the juices run out before resting and it leaves you with a dry piece of meat. But you also done want to be serving uncooked meat and run the risk of making people sick. The more and more I cook, it becomes easier for me to tell when something is done. I do have a meat thermometer to take the guess work out entirely but it is not digital and takes FOREVER. Therefore I tend to leave it in my utensil drawer. I find beef is the easiest to tell by look and touch. The firmer the meat, the more done the beast is. I found a great video on how to tell with your hand and have embedded it below. Happy cooking!



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hello Neighbors

Every year I like to make a little something for my neighbors. In New York, you live so close to people but never talk to them. I have 3 neighbors but really have no idea who they are. Where do they work? Are they married? Where are they from? Completely unknown. Anyway, I decided to make some cookies and say hi. And would you believe that not one was home.

I figured that the ginger snap cookies, butter cookies and chocolate cover pretzels would be a good mix. I also decided to do this last Saturday, you know the day of the BLIZZARD! I thought I would be snowed in and maybe never see my family again. Well, this was a complete overstatement and everyone and fun of me for going to the store and buying $120 worth of food and not venturing outside.


I started with the chocolate covered pretzels because I thought they would be easy. WRONG! I do not have a double boiler so I thought I didn’t need one and instead up a Pyrex glass bowl over a pot of boiling water. The bowl didn’t exactly fit correctly but I went with it anyway. Needless to say water started boiling over and was a mess. I then switched to a smaller pot but that ended up being too small. A tried a 3rd pot which worked but the chocolate was not melting. Then I remembered seeing the barefoot add some cream to the chocolate and it worked. The chocolate started to smooth out. I was afraid the chocolate wouldn’t harden but after letting them sit out for an hour and then putting them in the fridge, they hardened right up.

Next time I think I will use milk chocolate instead of semi sweet.





I tried the butter cookies next because I thought sugar cookies are a bit overdone. These were plain but I liked them and I got make shapes- if I hade some cookie cutters. Unfortunately, I don’t have any cookie cutters so just a plain unimaginative circle for these. :)





Ingredients

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sifted sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Sift together flour and salt into a bowl.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the butter and mix on medium-high until fluffy and light. Add the sugar and the eggs, 1 at a time, until and mix until combined. Add vanilla and cinnamon. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour to the butter, sugar, egg mixture. Mix until batter looks smooth. Place dough onto a flowered cutting board and cut the dough into quarters, flatten and wrap with the plastic. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

With a rolling pin covered in flour, roll out dough quarters 1 at a time, on a floured work surface to 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick. Use a variety of cutters to cut out cookies. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment and space cookies about 1 1/2-inches apart.

Bake cookies until they are golden brown, about 8 minutes. Using a using a spatula, transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Pan Roasted Tomatoes



Finally, was the pan roasted tomatoes. I think these would have been really good if it was summer and tomatoes were in season and my basil did not brown so damn fast. But I really like tomatoes so I might be biased.


Garlic and Herb Tomatoes

Ingredients
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 pints cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan large enough to hold all the tomatoes in one layer. Add the garlic to the oil and cook over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to loose their firm round shape. Sprinkle with a little fresh chopped basil and parsley and serve hot or at room temperature.

Cheese Biscuits





Next, was cheese biscuits. These were ok but I will probably not make them again. They were a little too floury or something. Biscuits might be something to stick with Pauls Dean on. I bet she makes great fattening biscuits.

Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup cold buttermilk, shaken
1 cold extra-large egg
1 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water or milk
Maldon sea salt, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Place 2 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the butter and mix until the butter is the size of peas.

Combine the buttermilk and egg in a small measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork. With the mixer still on low, quickly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix only until moistened. In a small bowl, mix the Cheddar with small handful of flour and, with the mixer still on low, add the cheese to the dough. Mix only until roughly combined.

Dump out onto a well-floured board and knead lightly about 6 times. Roll the dough out to a rectangle 10 by 5 inches. With a sharp, floured knife, cut the dough lengthwise in half and then across in quarters, making 8 rough rectangles. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with the egg wash, sprinkle with salt, if using, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the biscuits are cooked through. Serve hot or warm.

Mac and Cheese




Next up Mac and cheese. This was good but I think I should have used more salt. Did you get what I was doing? Ham and cheese? Get it? Ok I know I am a huge nerd.

I used store bought bread crumbs instead of making my own. Also, cooked bacon the regular way- in a pan. I tried to save the bacon fat like I saw BP II’s mom do only to have the glass container break in half from the heat.

Grown Up Mac and Cheese (thanks Ina)

Ingredients:
4 ounces thick-sliced bacon
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 cups elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
2 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven - there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into 2 individual size gratin dishes.

Place the bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Christmas Ham



I have never made a ham before but thought it would be something good to try for Christmas dinner. It is traditional and BP II turns out is a huge ham fan, although he did not tell me this until I already planned the menu. Anyway, I looked for a good ham recipe and came across this on from Emeril. Again, I think it would have been much better if I had scored the ham correctly but that is a lesson for next time. BP II thought it was very good but I realized that I do not like ham.

The other reason I wanted to make a ham was now I have all these leftovers to make soup with. Yay!

Ingredients

1 (12 to 15-pound) fully cooked bone-in ham
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 (2-liter) bottle cola
3/4 cup cherry preserves or jelly
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons orange flavored liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier) ( I left this out)

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Trim rind and excess fat from the ham, leaving a 1/4-inch thick layer of fat. With a sharp knife, score the fat in a diamond pattern. Place the ham in large roasting pan and sprinkle with the allspice. Pour the cola into the pan and bake uncovered 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting every 15 minutes with the pan juices.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the cherry preserves, orange juice, and liqueur over medium heat and cook, stirring, until melted, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove the ham from the oven and brush the top and sides with the cherry glaze. Return the ham to the oven and bake, brushing with pan juices and glaze every 15 minutes and tenting the ham with foil if browning too quickly, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of ham without touching the bone registers 140 degrees F, about 15 to 30 minutes.

Remove the ham from oven and let rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I also got this article from Bon appetite for scoring a ham:


Whole, fully cooked ham comes with the rind partially trimmed and a white layer of fat covering the meat. Don't remove the fat layer—it flavors the roast and keeps it moist during cooking.

However, the fat does need to be scored, or lightly cut, before cooking so that it crisps up as the meat roasts. The easiest way to do this is with a small chef's knife. Make crosshatches about 1/3 inch deep and spaced an inch or so apart, creating a diamond pattern over the entire surface.

The crosshatches will help the fat to crisp up, and a pretty diamond pattern will emerge during roasting. It's easiest to slice the ham roast with the fat still on, and let diners work around the fat. Also, if there are leftovers to be stashed in the fridge, the cap of fat will keep the meat moist. If you do choose to remove the fat, pry your fingers underneath the cap of fat and pull gently

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Dinner



BP II and I will not be spending Christmas together and therefore we decided to celebrate Christmas this Sunday, just the two of us. I wanted to make a big dinner with all the trimmings to celebrate. I was so excited. We woke up super early (like 8:00 and anyone that knows me knows that I do not get up at 8:00) and opened our gifts under the tree. (I received a pretty blue Dutch oven… yay!) I completely understand if you are nauseated at this point because I know it is completely obnoxious how much we got into this but bear with me.


I started dinner around 3:30 for a 7:30 dinner and the menu was ambitious: Cherry glazed coca-cola ham, grown up mac and cheese, cheddar biscuits, pan roasted tomatoes and Pecan pie. I thought I had planned it out well and things would all be done around the same time, ending with me popping in the pie before we start dinner. OMG!

The ham needed to be scored and in the oven for 3 hours and basted every 15 minutes. I have never scored a ham before but saw Alton Brown do it once on the food network. It looked easy enough. In hindsight, I think I scored a little too deep because the ham was dry in those parts. Lesson Learned. I also had to call my aunt to find out what it meant when the recipe says “remove excess fat.” The whole ham looks a little fatty. Anyway, the advice given to me was - you would know what excess fat to remove. If it doesn’t look right, or you see something that you wouldn’t want your food to cook with, remove it. Ham is in.

The 2 hour timer mark goes off and now it is time for the heavy cooking. The next thing to start is the grown up mac and cheese. I brown the bacon and move on to the cheese mixture. I start heating the milk in one pan and melting the butter in another. I was so afraid that the milk would begin to boil, I added the flour to early and the butter mixture was a little lumpy. I added the warm milk anyway, because I am the kind of person that just goes for it. The milk mixture never fully thickened and there were lumps of butter and flour that would not go away. I decided to cut my losses and strain the milk into a bowl and try the roux again. This time success. I removed from heat and added the cheese and bacon. Popped this bad boy in the oven with the ham and on to the pie. I take the pie crust out of the fridge to let it soften a bit. (I made the pie dough the night before) All of a sudden I hear this sizzling sound and smoke coming from my oven. WTF! I open my oven and see the mac and cheese is boiling over! Quickly, I put a sheet pan under the mac and cheese pan and this stops the sizzling. My oven is still smoking.

It is right about now that I cut my finger. It is small but continues to bleed non-stop!




Back to the pie dough. I am rolling this dough and it is just not coming out right. It gets too sticky and I can’t get it up from the board or it keeps ripping into pieces. I am starting to freak out. Why can I not get this to work? BP II comes over and asks if he can help and in my Linda Blair Exorcist voice I scream that I am fine and leave me alone. He persists and simultaneously the pie crust falls apart yet again and for a single moment I just loose it. I throw pie crust everywhere. Two big heaping handfuls of pie dough go flying threw the air and hit a kitchen wall. Yes, I threw a temper tantrum at the age of 23. BP II tired to console me but I just needed a minute to wallow. I cleaned up my pie dough and threw it all away. After a minute of regrouping, I started again. Made a whole new pie dough and put it in the fridge to chill. Then went over to BP II to apologize, he just laughed and said, “I always knew you were a little crazy.”

I would just like to mention that during all of this, I am basting the ham every 10 minutes.

On to the cheese biscuits. I have 30 minutes until it is time for my ham and mac and cheese to come out. The plan is to rest the ham while the biscuits bake and just cover the mac and cheese and hope for the best. The recipe states to use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, which I don’t have and therefore resort to using my hand mixer. Needless to say biscuit mixture flew all over my kitchen – On my front door, the bedroom, like everywhere. I had already had my mental breakdown, so I just continued on. At this point, I have also run out of bakeware. I have nothing to cook these damn biscuits on. I have to wait for the mac and cheese to come out of the oven before I can start these biscuits. Timer goes off, I rest the ham and wash the baking sheet for the biscuits. Pop in the oven. 30 minutes to dinner.

Pie crust, round two is next. I am not sure why the pie dough was not cooperating this day. It could have been how hot my apartment was at this point or how dry the air was. I am not really sure. BP II wanted me to note that because of these unforeseen circumstances; it might be good to keep a ready made pie shell in the freezer at all times. For everyone’s sanity. This pie dough was a little better this time but not much. I did manage to get it in the pie pan and piece together the breaking parts. After that it was pretty easy to combine and get ready to pop in the oven.

Finally, the pan roasted tomatoes. The only real issue was the basil went brown on me. I am not sure how or why but I bought bright green basil on Friday and by Sunday, it was brown. I tasted it and it was fine just not very pretty or as crisp. Luckily these were really easy and I could just coast. Dinner is finally ready.

I had planned to put on a dress and make-up for this dinner. You know make it special but by the time it was done, I just wanted to eat. You know what I mean?

Cooking Club Pics without Recipes


Kristen K.'s Little Sister's Lasagna



Karen's Spicy Mac & Cheese



KLamp's Mac and Cheese


Kristen C.’s Sloppy Turkey Joes



Ingredients:

2 TBLS extra virgin olive oil
1 package, 1 1/3 lb of ground turnkey breast or lean ground turkey
½ red onion
½ red bell pepper
2 TBL of brown sugar
1 TBL or Worchester sauce
1 cup of tomato sauce
4 crusty sandwich rolls, split
Seasoning blend of equal parts black pepper, ground mustard, onion powder, garlic powder

Directions:

1.) Heat oil in the pan and brown turkey. Chop red onion and bell pepper, add to meat

2.) In a small bowl, combine seasoning blend, brown sugar, Worchester sauce and the tomato sauce. Then pour over meat and veggies.

3.) Simmer for about 10 minutes on low. If the mixture looks a little thin, add some ketchup to thicken.

4.) Serve on buns.

I thought the Sloppy Joe was a super cute idea. The picture does not do it justice. I am so sorry I forgot my camera and had to use my stupid phone. Well, it is a sloppy joe and it is hard to make pretty but these were yummy and very comforting.

Cooking Club: 2nd Meeting




Please don’t hate me; I know that I have been away for awhile. I don’t really even have an excuse, just absent and maybe a little hungover. Anyways, I have so much to blog about. First there was the second cooking club meeting. Which went off spectacularly. Comfort food was delish and even the double mac and cheese was fantastically different and comforting. Unfortunately, I did not get everyone recipes this time around so I will just have to show the pic.


I will start with my cinnamon buns. This is a great recipe to have in your repertoire. Make the dough ahead and in the morning just pop them in the oven. I actually made these twice. The first time was after ice skating, a couple friends came over to hang out. ( I made them play monopoly with me) I knew I had cooking club the next day and wanted to try my recipe out to see if I had to make any tweaks. I must say the only downside was the waiting. I had to wait for the yeast to rise and then wait for the buns to rise. Lots of waiting. That’s why if you make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate; it should be so bad.

Also, this was the first time I used yeast and I was a little unsure of how it was supposed to work. I put the little guys in a bowl with sugar and lukewarm water and waited (yes lots of waiting) for the bubbles to form. The first package, the yeast kinda stuck together and was clumpy. I figured that was not correct so I tried the second package. That combined a little more nicely.

The first time I made these, they turned out perfect. When I made them for the cooking club however, they were a little dry and burnt on the bottom.

Cinnamon Buns

Ingredients

For the dough :
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
3.5-4 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the filling:
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecan nuts, lightly toasted
 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Icing:
/3 cup icing sugar
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
3 teaspoons lemon juice 1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

To make the dough, dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Set aside for about 5 minutes until foamy. Meanwhile, warm the milk in a saucepan. Add the butter, remaining sugar, and salt, and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat.

Sift 3 cups of flour into a large bowl. Add the yeast, warm milk mixture, and the egg, and stir to make a dough. Knead for 10 minutes on a lightly floured board, incorporating more dough as necessary, until the dough is soft, silky, and pliable. Form into a ball. Place in a buttered bowl and turn to coat the dough all over. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise until twice its original size. This will take about 2 hours. At this point, the dough can be left overnight in the fridge, ready to use the next morning. When well risen, punch down the dough, then leave to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, butter a baking sheet. Prepare filling by mixing the sugar, cinnamon, and nuts in a small bowl.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle measuring about 12 x 9 inches. Brush with the melted butter. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, pressing it in slightly. Roll up the dough like a jelly roll, starting at one long side. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll across into 12 equal slices. Arrange the rolls, cut-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Allow to rise, covered, for at least 40 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until well risen and golden. While the buns are in the oven, prepare the glaze. Sift the confectioners' sugar into a bowl. Whisk in the melted butter and enough milk to make a thick but pourable mixture. When the buns are ready, remove from the oven. Pour the glaze over them and leave to set for a few minutes before devouring.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Butterscotch Cream Cheese Blondies



I began with an Oatmeal Cream Cheese Butterscotch Bars recipe from the foodnetwork and in the end made something of my own due to lack of equipment and incorrect ingredients. I was looking for a treat to bring into work because once again I was being harassed. Everyone always wants my Guinness cupcakes but I like to try and make different things. It is so boring to keep making the same thing and besides haven’t they figured out they are my guinea pigs? Anyway, I found this recipe on foodnetwork.com that was supposed to be a butterscotch cream cheese cake. I love cheese cake but I am hesitant to make one because I am afraid that I’ll eat the whole thing and that is no good for anyone. So I have tried some different recipes that sound promising, like chocolate chip cheesecake bars but they always leave something to be desired. Anyway, I decided to give this one a go.


I went to the store and picked up everything I needed. When I got home, I started the oven and was getting everything ready and then I read the directions. This recipe needs a food processor. I determine that is can not be too difficult without one and I was correct, the hardest part was chopping the butterscotch chips with a knife. (which BP II took care of for me) I think the idea was to make a crumble like mixture and use it as a crust as well as a topping. I thought it would be better to melt the butter and really make it like a cheesecake crust, which turned out incredibly well if I do say so myself. The error was in buying evaporated milk instead of condensed milk. Sadly, I didn’t even realize my error until I mixed it with the cream cheese and saw the consistency. It was like whole milk. I am pretty sure it was supposed to be thicker. I figured I would just go for and see what happens. I tried putting the topping on this liquid mixture but it just sank. (I bet it was because I melted the butter and made this non-floating concoction)

When I took the bars out of the oven, I thought things had gone terribly wrong. It looked odd. I let it cool for a bit and figured I would just taste a bit to see what it tasted like – awful. I was soo disappointed. After that it was time to call it a night. On my way to bed, I put the pan in the refrigerator. The next morning I decided to try it again and see if the cooling had helped at all because after all it was loosely based off a cheesecake recipe which tastes better cold. I was pleasantly surprised. The crust turned out really well and because it was sooo thick it was brownie consistency. I did think that the cream cheese filling could use some sugar but I brought them to work anyway. I told them these were a mistake and not to judge but the reaction was surprising. People thought they were good and didn’t need anymore sugar. I will be honest, they did grow on me a bit. These blondies were a pleasant surprise. I don’t think I will make them a staple like my Guinness cupcakes but definitely something different to keep things interesting.

My Butterscotch Cream Cheese Blondies

Ingredients:

1 bag of butterscotch chips
8oz package of cream cheese
2 cups of flour
¾ cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
14 oz of evaporated milk
1 cup of butter, melted
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 ½ cups of rolled oats

Directions:

1.) Chop butterscotch chips until very fine.
2.) Combine flour, oats, cinnamon and brown sugar in a bowl. Add the butterscotch chips and then the melted butter. Stir until butter is fully integrated. You might need to use your hands.
3.) Press half the “crumble” mixture into a 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 350º, remove and cool for about 10 minutes.
4.) In another bowl, combine cream cheese, vanilla, lemon juice and evaporated milk.
5.) Pour cream cheese combination on top of the crust. Slowly sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture on top.
6.) Bake at 350º for 5 minutes or until brown. Cool and REFRIDGERATE before eating.

Interestingly enough, I googled the difference between condensed milk and evaporated milk and it turns out these is no difference between evaporated milk and unsweetened condensed milk and they can be used interchangeably. There is a difference; however, between evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. Apparently, sweetened condensed milk is super sweet. I think if I would have put sweetened condensed milk in my blondies, it would have turned out toothache sweet. So this accident might have been a blessing in disguise.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

French Onion Soup




French Onion soup is one of my favorite soups. I always get it at diners and I must say there is always variation on how good it will taste. Sometimes it is really good and warms your bones and other times it leaves something to be desired. I guess it is one of those soups that can be made several different ways. I have been hesitant on trying to make it at home because I wanted to be able to melt the cheese on top like they do in the diners and I was unsure whether or not my bowls were oven safe. After a quick stop to crateandbarrel.com I found out they were indeed oven safe, now all I needed was a recipe. I looked at a couple and saw one from the barefoot and we know everything the barefoot cooks is delish. However, the recipe called for cognac which I do not have on supply. So I continued to look and found one from Tyler Florance. I was unsure but decided to give it a go. OMG was this soup amazing. Better then I have ever had in a diner. I highly recommend it. The only thing was that the soup was like molten lava hot. The meal was very satisfying if I do say so myself.

French Onion Soup

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, about 1/2 bottle ( I used like 3/4 of a bottle)
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts beef broth
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 pound grated Gruyere

Directions

Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn't burn, and cook for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Now add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

When you're ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the slices with the Gruyere and broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Ladle the soup in bowls and float several of the Gruyere croutons on top.

Alternative method: Ladle the soup into bowls, top each with 2 slices of bread and top with cheese. Put the bowls into the oven to toast the bread and melt the cheese.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Donation Jar at Work


Carrot Cupcakes



It was my co-worker’s birthday last Friday and since I have been away (jury duty… ugh) I completely missed it. I actually didn’t even know except it was brought up when I was out to lunch yesterday. I thought it would have been fun to bring in something to celebrate. Also, I was told they felt slighted because I never bring treats to that side of the office. Originally, I thought about making a cake but the thought of transportation scared me a bit. (I really need one of those cake carriers from BB&B) Then I thought about making little carrot cake cupcakes. I have never made a carrot cake and it was definitely something I wanted to try. I found a recipe on foodnetwork.com with a 5 star rating and decided to give it a try. The only problem was that the recipe used apple sauce and I have never used apple sauce as a substitute for oil. I am also not a huge fan of trying to make treats healthy. That is why they are treats, right? Despite my reluctance, the 5 star rating won me over and to tell the truth I have been eating so bad lately, making things a little lighter could do me some good.

I have never wanted to own a food processor so bad in my life. Grating carrots was a very tedious process and a number or times I ended up grating my fingers. Very annoying. I also did not feel like buying whole wheat pastry flour and used all purpose flour instead.

I thought the cupcakes came out a little dry and plain myself, but BP II seemed to like them. The icing was amazing as always so I was fine using the cupcake as a vehicle for more icing. So much for eating lighter.

Carrot Cupcakes

Ingredients

3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup natural applesauce
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrots (about 2 medium carrots)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Directions

1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

2.) Sift together the first 6 ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, brown sugar and eggs until well combined. Whisk in the applesauce, vanilla and carrots. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in 1/4 cup of the chopped walnuts.

3.) Divide the batter between the muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

4.) With an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and lemon zest until smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts. The cupcakes should be stored in the refrigerator.

Spiced Cream Cheese Icing

4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
¼ teason of cinnamon
4 TBL of room temperature butter
1 package of cream cheese

Combine last 5 ingredients with a hand mixer. Then, slowly add powdered sugar until smooth.

Also, for a pretty application, spoon icing into a Ziploc bag. Snip corner and squeeze icing towards the opening. It is the poor man’s pastry bag and better yet, no cleaning afterwards!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Follow up Post

Chicken Stock

Despite the aesthetic disaster that was the roast chicken, the taste was very good. I also, could do so much with it. I first made some home made chicken stock by covering the bones with water in a large pot. Let it simmer for (well, I let the chicken simmer in water for 6 hours. But it was not on purpose; I went to a concert on Saturday night and ended up staying wayyyy later then I intended. Yes, with my stove on low heat and all things flammable removed. Not that I would have anything flammable by my stove anyway. When I cam back there was not much left of my stock and all that was left was a concentrated chicken concoction. I do not recommend making stock this way.) about 3 hours. Strain out chicken pieces and you have a beautiful stock left. If you happen to have some root vegetables and fresh herbs, throw them in too with the chicken bones. Then again discard after straining.


Chicken Pot Pie

On Monday after jury duty, I made BP II a chicken pot pie. The great thing about chicken pot pie is that you can throw all your leftovers in and make them taste like new. I love when that happens. I didn’t have much but I was digging around in my freezer and found some frozen broccoli. This is how you make it:

Ingredients:
1 medium onion
1 TBL of butter
1 ½ cups of vegetable (could be anything from broccoli to carrots to peas, your choice)
2 cups of chicken stock
3 TBL of flour
1 puff pasty sheet
1 clove of garlic
Egg wash

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350º. Melt butter in medium sauce pan. Chop onion and add to butter and place on medium heat. You do not want to sauté these onions, instead sweat them for about 5 minutes or until tender. Chop garlic and add to onions. Cook for about 1 minute.

2.) Stir flour into onions and garlic. Add chicken stock and stir until sauce becomes thick. About 5 minutes.

3.) Stir in broccoli and scrape into baking dish.

4.) Roll out puff pastry and lay on top of baking dish. Make sure to crimp the puff pasty to the sides of the dish

5.) Add 3 slits on the top and brush with egg wash

6.) Bake for 1 hour and cool for 30 minutes.

Chicken Salad

On the last day of jury duty, I was done at 12. I came home and decided to make a chicken salad sandwich with rest of the chicken leftovers. (I know, finally I am done with this chicken) I stopped at Food Emporium and bought a chibotta roll for $.75. I love bread! I am a complex carbohydrate junkie and bread makes the sandwich. Anyway, when I arrived home, I combined the leftover chicken, cranberries, celery, just enough mayo to cover and a drop of lemon juice in a bowl. Then, placed in the roll, coverd with 2 slices of white American cheese and whalla! The best chicken salad sandwich you ever had.

Ok, I am now done with this chicken.

The Roasted Chicken Incident


I apologize for not posting but I had jury duty and no access to a working computer. Anyway, this has been an interesting couple of days. First off, Saturday BP II came home from visiting his family for Thanksgiving. I was so happy to see him and wanted to make a special welcome home dinner. I knew he did not have a turkey on Thursday, so I thought making a roasted chicken would be well received. When I went to Food Emporium I bought a whole bird because I thought it would be special and I can use the leftovers. I get home and get ready to roast the chicken, take chicken out of the wrapping, cut veggies, place in the cavity, melt butter and spread on chicken. As I am spreading the butter I noticed something odd. What is that sticking out of my bird? A NECK! WTF what is a neck doing still attached to my bird. Naturally I screamed. BP II comes over to investigate. I am freaking out and screaming for him to remove it. He tries but the bird is already stuffed and buttered (A very slippery little sucker) and of course still attached to the vertebrae, which is not easily cut without a cleaver (which I do not have). It was awful. I had this big beautiful bird with a little penis hanging off. Terrible.


The roasted chicken actually tasted really good. I sautéed up some spinach and mashed up a roasted butternut squash to finish the meal. It was almost perfect but this is my life.

Roasted Chicken


Ingredients:
1 Whole Chicken
¼ cup of butter – ½ cup depending on size of bird
1 medium onion
3 cloves of garlic
3 thyme sprigs
3 rosemary sprigs
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 325º

2.) Roughly chop veggies and place in bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and combine. Place inside the cavity of the bird

3.) Melt butter and with a basting brush, rub all over bird

4.) Season with salt and pepper and tie legs together with twine. Tuck wings.

5.) Place in 325º oven covered with tinfoil for 30 minutes and then raise temperature to 425º and cook for 60 minutes or until chicken reaches 165º F. This time could be longer or shorter depending on the size of the bird. Periodically baste bird with juices. It is important not to overcook because you will end up with a dry bird.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Brownies



I spent Thanksgiving alone in the city last night. BP II went back to his hometown and I was stuck working on Black Friday. My market isn’t even open. Anyway, the commute would have been too long for me to go home and then come back on Friday. So, I was just going to treat it like a day off and relax. Which is exactly what I did. I caught up with all my reality TV shows, watched Nights in Rodanthe, called my parents and cleaned my apartment; however, I was bored by 6. Normally I like some alone time but this was too much. I had no where to go. All the stores were closed and everyone was having fun with their families. I was getting hungry but didn’t exactly feel like eating. I decided I was going to try and bake something. I went though all my cookbooks to see if it was possible to find something sweet to bake with what I had in the house. I figured that I could swing some brownies. I didn’t have chocolate but I had coco. The result was good but the brownies were a little too cakey for me. I think next time I will try adding some vegetable oil. But they were good and definitely served their purpose.  Chocolate makes everything better.


Brownies

Ingredients:
¾ cup of granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp of salt
4 oz of coco
½ cup of butter
1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup of flour
1 TBL of brewed coffee

Directions:

1.) Melt the butter on the stove top. Add coco and combine.

2.) In a large bowl, mix together the two sugars, vanilla and salt

3.) Add coco and butter combination to the sugar bowl. Stir until ingredients are completely integrated.

4.) Add the 4 eggs and stir.

5.) Slowly add the flour

6.) Add the coffee at the end and stir to incorporate

7.) Bake at 325º for 40- 50 minutes until center is set.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ginger Snaps



I wanted to do something special for my Dad because I will be missing Thanksgiving this year. Thanksgiving has always been his holiday (my parents are divorced split holidays) and I will be relaxing at home while he runs from appetizer to dinner to dessert to cocktail. His favorite cookie is the ginger snap and around this time, he keeps the familiar orange box in his car around the clock. I wanted to bring a batch for him when I went home last weekend but I hit a slight snap in the recipe. I printed one off foodnetwork.com courtesy of Alton Brown only to discover that the measurements are in ounces. I don’t have a food scale. (Although on a side note, I do have some friends who might have a food scale but they use it for very different reasons) I understand why AB wanted people to weigh the ingredients because it gives a more precise measurement and with baking precision is key. However, I did not want to go and buy a food scale so I opted for a different recipe.

During this process, I made t he mistake of mentioning to my portfolio manager that I was making ginger snaps. Turns out that ginger snaps are his favorite cookie as well. Everyday I came to work, “where are the cookies?” And everyday I would come in with a different excuse but finally last night a got around to making them. I was surprised because no butter was involved and I do not think I have ever made a cookie without butter before. I decided to try a test batch on the people from work and yes, my portfolio manager before I send them home to my dad.

The result was phenomenal. I am normally not a fan of ginger snaps. I prefer chocolate and sweet in my cookies. When they came out of the oven, the smell of fall filled my apartment. (and smoke because for some reason my oven is smoking) When I brought them to work, one of my co-workers said it was the best ginger snap she ever had. The only thing is that I wish they stayed soft a little longer. I know that ginger snaps are supposed to be a firm cookie but that is just my preference.

Mom’s Ginger Snaps

Ingredients
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup white sugar for decoration

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

2. In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, oil, molasses, and egg. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger; stir into the molasses mixture. Roll dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. Roll each ball in white sugar before placing 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in preheated oven, or until center is firm. Cool on wire racks.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Infamous German Potato Salad



I really like German Potato salad. I think it is a nice change from the typical potato salad that is smothered in mayo. However, perfecting this recipe eludes me. Sometimes it turns out well and other times it is a disaster. It seems so easy, a couple basic ingredients added to a hot pan, stir, add to potatoes and voila! But no, this is my moby dick.


Take the first time I tried to make this dish. (Wayne’s World Time Warp inserted here) BP II and I had just begun dating. It was a weeknight and I was making my polish kielbasa and sauerkraut dish. I thought a German potato salad would really bring the dish together. I found a recipe online and thought this would be great. Everything started off fine, browed the bacon and reserved the fat. When I added the water, vinegar and cornstarch the lumps would NOT go away, no matter how hard I stirred. I thought it was a fluke dumped the bad batch and tried again. I was out of bacon grease so I used butter as the fat to make a roux. I did everything the same and again the lumps of cornstarch would not go away. I am starting to panic now. BP II is in the living room waiting… the kielbasa is done… the sauerkraut is done… what am I going to do? I try the sauce one more time and it happens again. In a fit, I take out my roommate magic bullet and try and blend these lumps away. But the sauce was too hot and when I tried to remove the blending bottom…..POP… the sauce went everywhere. I started to cry. I felt so defeated. BP II came over and saw the disaster that was my kitchen and the tears. The jig was up. He now knew what an unstable crazy person I was. But he wiped away my tears and together we made another sauce for the potato salad. It was not that great, but it worked. When we sat down to eat, he quietly whispered in my ear, “After this is over, I will make fun of you relentlessly but for now I will let it go because you are obviously unstable.” Now isn’t that the man you want to marry?

That event will forever be known as The German Potato Salad Incident. Since then however, I have made the dish several times and it comes out great. I really like how the vinegar adds that savory element. I am telling you really good. Anyway, I made this dish last night. And like I said, sometimes it turns out well and sometimes it turns out ok. I do not know why. Last night was an ok German potato salad. I did not add bacon because I feel like I have been eating a lot of bacon. I save my bacon fat now, so I just used a little of that for the fat element. It probably would have been fine except I did not cook the potatoes enough. What an elementary mistake. How did this happen? The curse continues.

Here is the recipe. See if it works for you.

German Potato Salad

Ingredients:
4 potatoes
4 strips of bacon
1/3 cup of chopped scallions
1/3 cup of water
¼ cup of vinegar
1 TBL of cornstarch
1TBL of sugar

Directions:

• Boil potatoes until tender, but still a little firm. About 15 minutes. Let cool and cut into 1 inch cubes

• Combine water, vinegar, sugar and cornstarch to a bowl and set aside

• Cook bacon in a pan until crispy. Remove and set on paper towel to drain.

• Add vinegar and water mixture to the hot bacon grease. Stir until the sauce begins to thicken. About 3-5 minutes

• Add potatoes, chopped scallions and bacon to pan. Stir until sauce is evenly distributed. Season with salt and pepper.

Seems easy right? HA!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Apple Honey Spice Cake

Karen made apple honey spice cake but unfortunately was too sick to make it to the club meeting. Her co-workers benefited on Monday though because they got to eat it. The reviews were good so I can’t wait until the next meeting to sampler her food. She was kind enough to share her recipe.

Sorry, no pics.

Apple Honey Spice Cake

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp table salt)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup apple cider
1 cup honey
2 cups grated apple (about 2 medium apples)
Butter for greasing 9 X 13-inch baking dish

PROCEDURE:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Use a large mixing bowl to combine 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour with 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp kosher salt, 2 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/2 tsp each of ground ginger and ground cloves.

Then add 1 cup of light brown sugar to that and use a whisk to mix that up.

Use another mixing bowl to combine 3 large eggs with 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup apple cider and 1 cup of honey and whisk it up.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies




Kristen K. (yes, if you have been counting there are 3 Kristin’s in this cooking club) is one of the cutest people ever and has a knack for meeting every person on the food network. She got this recipe from runners kitchen and these little cookies are power packed with good things for you. BP II loved these cookies, so much so that when I suggested we bring the leftovers into work, he propositioned I bring in the muffins I made for his breakfast instead. (Sad face)


I got to give it to Kristen K. She hit a home run. Even after a couple days in a Zip top bag these cookies are still moist.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Ingredients:
1.5 cups whole wheat flout
.5 cup of all purpose flour
½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
¾ teaspoon of ground ginger
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
¼ cup of wheat germ
½ cup of canned pumpkin
¼ cup of molasses
1/3 cup of canola oil
¾ cup of granulated sugar, reserving ¼ cup
2 tablespoon water

Directions:

• Preheat oven to 350º, lightly grease a large cookie sheet

• Sift together dry ingredients (flour through wheat germ), set aside

• In a medium bowl, whish together pumpkin, molasses, canola oil and sugar

• Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients, add 2 tablespoons of water near the end to help dough come together

• In a small bowl, mix together ¼ cup of sugar and dash a dash of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg

• Roll tablespoon size balls of dough (use your hands) lightly into the sugar mixture

• Place dough ball on cookie sheet and flatten slightly using tine of fork

• Bake for 10-12 minutes, cool for 1 minute on baking sheet, then finish cooling on a wire rack

• Enjoy

Apple Pie



Sue’s apple pie was amazing. She had never made a pie before and wanted to practice for her boyfriend’s birthday dinner this weekend. Sooo cute. Anyway, I think the pie was really good and she will knock his socks off. This recipe is very similar to the apple pie I made a couple weeks ago.


Apple Pie

Ingredients:
2- 9 inch pie crusts
½ cup of unsalted butter
3 teaspoon of flour
½ cup of granulated sugar
½ cup of brown sugar
6 granny smith apples, cored and sliced into wedges
¼ cup of water (1 TBL spoon less if you add vanilla)
1 teaspoon of vanilla (optional)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon of nutmeg (optional)
Directions:

• Preheat oven to 450º

• Melt butter in saucepan, stir in flour to form paste. Add water, sugars and bring to a boil. Add spices if you like. Reduce temp and simmer.

• Place pie crust in bottom of pie dish and fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with lattice crust. Pour sauce over

• Bake for 15 minutes at 450º , then lower temp to 325º and bake for 35-45 minutes or until apples are soft

Butternut Squash, Apple, and Onion Galette with Stilton



My dish was a butternut squash, apple and onion galette with blue cheese. I wanted to do something different and well let’s be honest, if I talk about food all the time and start this cooking club, I feel like I had to rock out something good. This dish was good but I would not say amazing. Honestly, I thought other people’s food was better. However, it was different and I got to try something new, which is what the cooking club is all about. I made my own dough again by hand and I must say that I am starting to get the hang of it. I think I forgot the salt though. So that is an unknown. I got this recipe off the food network website and I did not make any deviations, except not use a food processor.


I also got a lot of flack for not making a turkey. But in my defense, what am I going to do with an entire turkey? Yes, BP II offered to help by eating turkey sandwiches and all things turkey but truth be told he is already bored of the leftovers we have! Sweet potatoes again? Yes, sweet potatoes again because I got 5 lbs of them and someone has to eat it. Also, this is not the THANKSGIVING. It is a small gathering of thanksgiving themed items. Therefore, I believe there has been no crime committed by me hosting this event and not making a turkey.

Butternut Squash, Apple, and Onion Galette with Stilton

Ingredients

Dough :
 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced (1 stick)
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Filling:
1 large baking apple, such as Rome Beauty or Cortland
1 small or 1/2 medium butternut squash (about 3/4 pound), halved, seeded, and skin on
1 small yellow onion, peeled, root end trimmed but intact
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1/3 cup crumbled Stilton or other blue cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)

Directions

For the dough: Pulse the flour and salt together in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse about 10 times until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few bean-size bits of butter in it. Add the egg and pulse 1 to 2 times more; don't let the dough form a mass around the blade. If the dough seems very dry, add up to 1 tablespoon of cold water,

1 teaspoon at a time, pulsing briefly. Remove the blade and bring the dough together by hand. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

For the filling: Halve and core the apple. Cut each half into 8 wedges and put them in a large bowl. Slice the squash and cut the onion into wedges so that both are as thick as the apple wedges and add them to the apples. Add the butter, rosemary, and thyme and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper and toss again.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch disk. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet and brush with mustard. Starting 2 inches from the edge, casually alternate pieces of apple, squash, and onion in overlapping circles. If you have extra pieces of one or another, tuck them in where you can or double them up to use all the filling. Fold and pleat the dough over the edge of the filling. Bake until the crust is brown and the apple, squash, and onion are tender and caramelized, about 55 minutes. Scatter the cheese over the filling and bake until melted, about 5 minutes more. Cool the galette briefly on a wire rack. Cut into wedges and serve.

Roasted Cauliflower & Brussel Sprouts



 Kristen C.’s made Roasted Cauliflower & Brussel Sprouts dish. I have never had a brussel sprout before and I must be honest, they frighten me a little. What do you do with this little ball of leaves? Well, the answer is roast them. Although, this proves my point that if you roast anything it is delicious. Plus, they are in season so I might have to make some little green leafy ball of my own.


Roasted Cauliflower & Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients:
1 Medium Cauliflower (florets only)
1-1.5 brussel sprouts, halved
3 Shallots thinly sliced

Directions:
Preheat Oven to 400º. In a roasting pan, mix cauliflower, brussel sprouts and shallots in a large bowl. Sprinkle with olive oil and mix until vegetables are coated. Season with salt and pepper. Place in oven and cook for 45 minutes or until vegetable are tender.

Baked Corn




Kristen L. (or Klamp to me and forever on this blog) made a baked corn dish. I thought it was a really great new twist on a corn dish that can be used all year long. This dish looked really great and actually, her boyfriend texted halfway through the event to ask if he could start nibbling on the extra one she had at home for their dinner. Unfortunately, for him that one contained raw eggs and would probably end with a Salmonella spell. I am sure he enjoyed it when she cooked it for supper that night.


Baked Corn

Ingredients:
2 Eggs
1 cup of sour cream
½ cup of melted butter
16 oz of canned corn (do not drain)
16 oz of creamed corn
1 package of Jiffy corn bread mix

Directions:
•Mix all ingredients together and pout into a greased baking dish. Bake at 350º for 35-45 minutes or until lightly browned on top and firm in the center.

Whipped Sweet Potatoes



We will start with whipped sweet potatoes by Christine. She claimed that the traditional marshmallow topping was left off by accident; however, I kinda like a simple sweet potato dish. They are sweet and perfect just the way they are. No need for the candy on top – in my opinion.

Whipped Sweet Potatoes

Filling
2 LBS of sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
¼ cup of dark brown sugar, packed
¼ cup of butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ of condensed milk
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tsp of cinnamon

Directions:
• In a large pot, combine sweet potatoes with enough cold water to cover; over high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, simmer until potatoes are tender, 30 minutes.
• Drain, mash, let stand until slightly cool, 15 minutes

• Preheat oven to 350º and butter baking dish

• In a food processor, whip potatoes, eggs, sugar, butter, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour mixture into baking dish and bake until top is browned and mixture is set in the center. About 40-45 minutes.



The First Meeting

On Sunday was the first meeting of my cooking club. The theme was Thanksgiving and I was very impressed with what everyone brought. Everything was so good and not one repeat. I thought for sure that there would be a double pumpkin pie or sweet potato. We even had someone bring vegetables! I don’t even think anyone had any disasters either. Well at least none were shared with the group.

The event started off with champagne punch drinks- which is pretty much just rum and orange juice topped with champagne. But when we ran out of champagne, I just kept drinking the rum and OJ concoction without skipping a beat. Nothing better then getting a little tipsy on a Sunday afternoon before you eat some delicious treats.

Friday, November 13, 2009

When you are to lazy to cook

Lately, I have been so run down and have absolutely no energy. I get home from work and all I want to do is sleep. As you can imagine cooking as become a low priority on weeknights. I just want to make something quick and easy, not spending my entire night slaving over the stove. Usually, I will just make a big pot of soup once a month and freeze the leftovers. Then on weeknights buy a loaf of bread, take the soup out of the freezer, simmer on the stove for 30 minutes until hot and call it dinner. However, that routine has become a bit tired and then I saw my crock-pot. It has been sitting on this lone shelf in my kitchen since I moved into my new apartment. Of course, the shelf is so high I need a ladder to reach it but one ambitious morning I had BP II take it down for me. (Yes, a weekday morning before your boyfriend goes to a bank meeting is the best time to ask him to do things for you< insert sarcasm here>) I decided to make a quick and easy pot roast in the crock-pot so when I got home, dinner would be ready. I happened to have left over chuck roast from the red wine stew I made awhile back in my freezer. The previous night I had cut up and onion, celery and carrots to make the morning easier. (As we all know, I am NOT a morning person. The less I have to do in the morning the better.)

I placed the chuck roast in the crock-pot, followed by the cut of veggies. I then added one can of cream of mushroom soup, ¼ cup of water and a package of onion soup mix on top of that. Placed the lid on top and went to work. When I came home, the whole apartment smelled of pot roast. I gave it a quick mix with a spoon and saw how the pieces of chuck roast were just falling apart. I happened to have some mashed potatoes leftover from a previous night, so I just served them alongside the pot roast. (If, I did not have the mashed potatoes, I probably would have added some boiling potatoes in with the veggies to cook with the pot roast.)

This was so yummy. It made so much food and was able to make a casserole with the leftovers another night. That’s right, I made a dinner out of leftovers and then another dinner out of those leftovers.

On another note, I am hosting the cooking club this Sunday. Totally freaking out about what to make. BP II told me I had to make a turkey because I was the host; however, this is not THANKSGIVING. So we will see what happens.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thanks Mark



I really like Mark Bittman's blog on the New York Time's website. I think he is fun, witty and makes me feel like cooking is accessible to everyone. I think everyone can relate to the quote below. 

Worry Less, Cook More

By Mark Bittman

I recently did an interview with Time Out New York, and I thought that cooks who worry about perfection might find this part of it useful.

Question: “What would you say is the most important skill to develop in the kitchen?

Answer: “The ability to go in there and start. I am the least impressive cook you will ever see. I am completely without knife skills, I screw things up all the time. When I’m in the kitchen I’m not obsessively trying to create the perfect dish; I’m trying to put dinner on the table. Comparing yourself to the people who cook on television is like comparing yourself to Andre Agassi. If you can drive you can cook.”

Classes for Amateur Cooks


I have wanted to take a cooking class for some time now, just to learn some basic skills to build upon. The problem is they are just so darn expensive. The French Culinary Institute looks like it has some great courses but the knife course  is $540 for 15 hours. Sure, I would like to learn how to bone a fish or prepare a rack of lamb but I think 15 hours would be a bit much for me. And the food technology course is 3 hours for $150. They sound great and I bet I would really enjoy them but it just seems like a lot of money to spend. Maybe I am just cheap. But I am lucky that there are so many great programs for amateur cooks in New York City. It is also pretty amazing to be taught by some of the best chefs in the world. Well, If you have a spare $200. (This is a recession people) I really like this one from The Institute of Culinary Education. The Mastering Pan Sauces class looks really fun. In 8 hours you could learn so much. I know how to make some very basic sauces but I wonder how I could make it better or just something different. I want to be able to cook a pork loin and have a variety of options of what to do with the juices. I eventually want to not need a recipe and just be able to just wing it. Knowing what flavors work together and how to build off of a basic roux. I prefer my food simple. I like to taste the meat and that is why I generally don’t use sauces. However, sometimes a piece of meat will come up a little dry and a good sauce would be beneficial. If I do not have a recipe, I freak out. How much wine or vinegar? How much chicken stock? I think just having two or three sauces down could do wonders for my cooking. Maybe I will ask for a gift from BP II? :)

The City Cook

Monday, November 9, 2009

Butternut Squash Mashed Potatoes



I love mashed potatoes. I am really a complex carbohydrate lover. BP II is not a huge fan. He prefers his potatoes roasted or baked. I was really craving them and thought they would go perfectly with my pork loin that I was serving that night. I decided to “compromise” by trying to spice them up a bit and see if we can teach old dogs new tricks. The result was a beautifully colored, yummy mashed potato that pleased everyone in the household.


1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
3 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
¼ cup of sour cream
3 TBL butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1.) Boil potatoes for 15 minutes, add butternut squash and cook for an additional 15 minutes of until potatoes and squash is soft.
2.) Drain and return to pot. Add sour cream and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

And best of all, I can make a whole new potato dish tonight with the leftovers.


Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes


I have had this unfulfillable craving for all things pumpkin. I think it is the time of year. I want to get all the fall I can before it turns to winter and eventually Christmas. I feel like the past couple months have just gone by so quickly. So I am trying desperately to hold onto the little bit of fall I have left. Even my pumpkin spice candle ran out and now Bed Bath & Beyond only has evergreen and gingerbread scents. Anyway, back to the food. I happened to buy 2 cans of pumpkin puree during my whole foods excursion. I used one for the pumpkin pie and I have been hunting for the perfect recipe to use the second. When I came across the chocolate pumpkin cupcakes I knew that this was the one. It had everything I wanted. Chocolate, icing and PUMPKIN! The result was a huge hit. It had a lovely note of pumpkin in the chocolate that was something different and a bit unexpected. Obviously I knew there would be a pumpkin taste but I was surprised how well the two flavors went together. Also, the cupcakes turned out soooooo moist.


I added a tablespoon of coffee to the batter after everything was combined. I learned from The Barefoot that coffee “awakens” the chocolate flavor and makes it more complex. I thought this was just rubbish and then one time I was making my Guinness cupcakes and I forgot the coffee- everyone noticed. There was just something missing. Now, every time I make something with coco I add the tablespoon of coffee.

This recipe makes 24 cupcakes. You can find the original cake recipe here. Country Living
 
Ingredients:
 
1 1/2 cup(s) flour
2/3 cup(s) cocoa
2 teaspoon(s) baking powder
1 teaspoon(s) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
1/2 cup(s) buttermilk
1 cup(s) canned pumpkin
2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
3/4 cup(s) butter, softened
1 cup(s) dark brown sugar
1 cup(s) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375º

2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Stir the buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla extract together in a small bowl. Beat the butter and sugars together using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and yolk, one at a time. Reduce mixer speed to low and alternately beat in the flour and buttermilk mixtures in thirds.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake until a tester, inserted in the center, comes out clean--about 15 minutes. Cool completely before icing.

Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting


• 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
• 1/4 C. unsalted butter, softened
• 2 C. powdered sugar
• 1/4. t. vanilla extract
• 1/8 t. ground cinnamon
• 1/8 t. fresh ground nutmeg

In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. If frosting is too soft, chill in fridge for 15-20 minutes.

I also spoon the icing into a Ziploc bag and snip off a corner. It turns into the poor man’s pastry bag.

Editor's note: Thank you BP II for the wonderful photography

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mom’s Nuts and Bolts




For as long as I can remember my mom has made nuts and bolts for family events. I have a big family and we always get together on special occasions. We gather and my grandmother’s house, sit in the kitchen, laughing and talking. Some of my best memories are at those family functions. My cousin Kristin and I were inseparable. We would tease my younger brother insistently and put on these ridiculous plays in the foyer that the adults would watch from the stairs. I would always know it was time to go to Gram’s when my mom was finished making the nuts and bolts. As soon as they came out of the oven, I would sneak the hot pretzels into my mouth. Later, my mom had to start adding more pretzels to this mixture because I would eat them all before we left the house. When I left to college, after a weekend at home my mom would send an entire batch of pretzels with me to share with my roommate.


I was getting ready to go to a concert in Connecticut my cousins (Kristin and her brother) this past summer and was looking for camping food for the weekend. I immediately thought of nuts and bolts. Perfect for finger food snacks but also a great throwback to a time that seems light years ago.

The Traditional Recipe

3 TBL Worchester sauce
1 cup of butter
1 TBL or paprika
1 TBL of garlic salt
1 TBL of Onion powder
3 Cups of rice chex
3 Cups of corn chex
2 Cups peanuts
3 Cups of pretzels

Bake at 250º for 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes.


This is great to use up leftover snacks in your pantry. When I went to the concert I added some Sunchips and almonds. I have also made batches with just pretzels (because they are my favorite).