Thursday, June 23, 2011

bridal-stravaganza dessert trio

One of my very good friends recently married.  This was not her first marriage so she decided to keep the ceremony short and sweet and very very small.  I was one of two non-family members invited.  But even though this was the second time around and she and he were already living together in a well established, well furnished household, some of my work friends and I decided to hold a bridal shower type event for her.  Initially, I was planning to bring a pasta salad (which in retrospect would have been SO much less work than what I did), but I found out there was going to be a green salad and a potato salad and probably wouldn't have been much need for a pasta salad.  So I fell back on dessert, which is where I always seem to end up with these types of things.
It did not help that the week of the shower eastern Massachusetts weather decided to be around 80-90 degrees with 70% and up humidity.  And my kitchen has almost no ventilation of any kind.  It was like baking in a sauna.  I would hurriedly sweat my tookis off and shove something in the oven and quickly retreat to the dark cool of my bedroom.  It took me the better part of two days to make three desserts this way.

First were key lime cupcakes with blackberry buttercream.  I ended up making both of these on day one and decided to assemble right before leaving for fear of melting (which I was ultimately right to fear).  Day two I made red velvet cake truffles and strawberry brown butter bettys.  The truffles sounded SO easy, but were a pain.  The bettys sounded painful, but ended up being so so simple.  Go figure.  Initially I wasn't going to make the bettys, I had the ingredients for a no-bake chocolate mint bar, but realized at the last minute that I might want to make something that wouldn't melt.

So the cake truffles.  I had SUCH high hopes for these, but they seriously left me wanting.  Maybe it was because I cheated and used canned frosting?  Who knows?  I felt ok in using box cake mix (I actually have no issues with box cake mix, though I will go from scratch 60% of the time, I have HUGE issues with canned frosting as I have mentioned before.  BLECCCHHH!!!!)  Basically all I did was bake the cake, cool the cake, crumble the cake up into a very fine crumb, mix the cake with a can of frosting so that it was moist-ish and would hold a shape, roll cake balls, chill and set cake balls for several hours in the fridge and then dip cake balls into melted chocolate.  I think my first issue was that I needed more chocolate than I had; I think it would have been easier and neater looking if I was able to completely submerge the cake ball.  My second issue was trying to cut corners and melt the chocolate in the microwave (which I find never works as well as a double boiler).  My third issue was kind of a generalized problem I have when it comes to baking (especially when making cookies) - when I have to form things by hand I get really lazy and start making things too big.  My final issue was something I should have recognized before even attempting this - my chocolate melting issue.  Any time I am in a hurry to do something my chocolate NEVER EVER EVER tempers/melts properly.    If I can take my time with it, it comes out beautifully.

So clearly bridal stravaganza is complete.  I have sufficiently celebrated them (for the time being - they are having a much larger reception/party in August).  And I'm happy for them.  I am the one, after all, who forced them to suck it up and get together in the first place because I knew they were both interested in the other and I was tired of chasing sketchy guys away from her when we would go out to the bar.  I told him to man up and get off his ass and if he wanted her to do something about it already.  And here it is almost a year later and they're married.

The man in my life of course accompanied me to the wedding and pointed out that while I am happy, I will probably not be sincerely happy for anyone getting married until I do the same.  This is probably truer than he realizes as I've lost out on the whole wedding/marriage thing once before when my ex-fiance had a mental bipolar breakdown.  And as much as I love my guy and believe that good things are headed for us down the road (we're moving in together by August 1st), I have kind of lost or given up or buried that idea of a wedding, etc.  I honestly don't care if I ever get married as long as I feel like he'll always be there and be reliable and love me and father my children someday.  I've given up the dream of the white dress and the party and everything that goes with that because last time I was that excited and happy and secure in something I lost it.  Not only did I lose that, I lost almost everything else in my life structurally speaking.  It has definitely taken me sometime to come to terms with that and accept the fact that my path will be bumpier than I anticipated.  I'm actually really scared of getting engaged this time around, even though I can picture the two of us having a strong marriage.  Almost like, once that happens I'll lose everything again.  Put it this way: I want the marriage, the strong permanent relationship and everything good and bad that goes with it.  The idea of a wedding scares me and just seems too surreal.  I mean even after I was engaged the first time, my ex basically flat out refused to discuss any tangible wedding plans with me, no date, no location, no number of guests, etc.  To the point where I had given up trying to get him to talk about it and anytime I told anyone that I was engaged I was almost more embarrassed than had I been single.  We were engaged for over a year before he ultimately broke it off.  I had actually reached the point of thinking "What's the point of being engaged if we're never actually going to get married?"  I was actually the first among all my friends to get engaged.  Now they're almost all married, and I'm not.  Very, very rarely this fact bothers me.  The vast majority of days I'm thankful I'm not married to the other guy (and bound to a lifetime of stress and trouble and his mental illness that he refused to properly address) and that I have found my current guy - someone who has told me that I am his soul mate and better half.

Monday, May 23, 2011

.i am tired.

I am tired of  alot of things.  Tired of not having enough money.  Tired of feeling like crap.  Tired of hiding things from people (and no it is nothing like an affair - suffice to say my boyfriend is one of a handful of people who knows the whole story and has supported me through it).  Tired of trying to make things in my life better and getting stonewalled at every turn.  One step forward and two steps back.  Something like that.
Now I know it is not an attractive quality to constantly engage in your own personal pity party.  And I know that there are oodles of people that have it worse than I do.  I openly acknowledge that I am not facing starvation, natural disasters, or third world death squads.  Further, I don't even have to live at home with my parents and listen to them harp on my "wonderful" life choices.  But I do know that everyone is allowed to really feel and perhaps wallow in the various burdens and stresses in their lives.  And I recently dealt with circumstances that has given me pause to really feel bad for myself and examine the various misfortunes I've either invited into my life or that have otherwise befallen me.
Don't get me wrong, I love my life and despite floundering and struggling as I have in the past three or so years, I would probably not choose another way.  My family is always there, my friends (some of whom I've met through this nontraditional path) are tremendous, and the man in my life loves me and accepts me no matter what and pretty much always will; he is a pillar of strength, love, and support.  He is my light in even my darkest hours, and trust me the hours have been pretty dark these past couple of weeks.
But here is to hoping that I am slowly pushing through to the light, and there is a new apartment, a new job, and a more serious romantic relationship waiting for me on the other side.  Because let me tell you.  I deserve something good right about now.

And I never did tell you about my cake, did I?
Check this place out for the general gist of the recipe.  Seriously so good if you like a light and sweet cake.  And non chocolate.  Also majorly labor intensive, but very impressive looking.  Definitely a celebration cake.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Letting them finally have some cake.

So, my brother's wedding has come and gone, and yesterday was my birthday, so the cake fast is officially broken.  Though there was some slight bending of the rules last weekend when I had Sunday dinner with the boy's parents.

The boy is a choc-o-holic, and firmly believes that there is pretty much no point to cake unless it is chocolate (he told me my birthday cake, which I'll get to, was a waste of cake), so I decided to rally up and make some cupcakes for Sunday dinner.

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

-1 Box chocolate cake mix (devil's food, milk chocolate, your choice)
-3 Eggs
-1/3 cup veg oil
-1 1/4 cup chocolate milk
-1 bag of semi sweet chocolate chips
-1/2 cup  heavy cream

Mix together cake mix, eggs, oil, and chocolate milk (I made mine with dark chocolate syrup) and set aside.
Melt half a cup of the chips in the microwave and then stir in 1 cup of the cake batter, transfer this batter to a ziploc bag (quart size or larger)
Place a spoonful of the regular cake batter in your paper lined cups.  Snip a corner off your ziploc bag and squeeze a layer of the extra chocolate-y batter over each of the cup cakes, top each off with more of the regular cake batter.  Bake 20-25 min (although the original recipe claims it will only take 12 minutes, no freaking way).  Let cool 10 minutes before moving onto the ganache portion of our show.

For the ganache put the heavy cream into a sauce pan and heat on very low and add in the chips until they melt, stirring continuously.  Be careful not to turn things up too high or you will burn this mixture very easily and it will not be tasty.  After it is melted, take each of the cupcakes and dip them into the chocolate & cream mixture.  And let cool (preferably in the fridge).  Definitely store these in the fridge if you're making them when it's warm out because I can see the ganache getting very melty.

The birthday cake story will follow shortly.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

everyone i know is getting married and having babies. i'm just making ridiculous cookies

Oh boy.  I am totally going to have to go on a healthy [cooking] kick after this recipe.  Because this is some serious uber indulgence going on right now.  And I have to give credit where credit is due: I am totally cribbing from Peabody.  She is definitely my go to girl for seriously indulgent sweets.  And I felt like I needed/deserved a little indulgence in my life (especially after making the fat free muffins this morning - which are actually seriously good.  I have to give a plug here for Krusteaz fat free muffin mixes.  So tasty, you'd never know there was no fat in it.)  So I made cookies and cream cookies.  Now I know it seems like a waste of perfectly good cookies (double stuff oreos to be exact), but it just sounded so good and perfect.  And I like cookies and cream flavored things (like ice cream) but actually kind of hate cream filled cookies - oreos, specifically.  I think it originated from a fear regarding my appearance after eating them (hello, being thirteen with black junk stuck in your braces.    Totally embarrassing.).  But, never the less, there will be some heading over to my parents' house tomorrow night to be judged by the connoisseur of cookies, my father.

Cookies and Cream Cookies

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
10 Double Stuff Oreos
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour

Peabody calls for a bag of Hershey's Cookies 'n' Cream drops, but my local grocery store didn't have them.  I substituted that for 3/4 of a bag of cookies 'n' cream miniatures which had both white chocolate with cookie pieces and milk chocolate with cookie pieces.  Basically the only part I didn't use was the plain milk chocolate  miniatures.  And I chopped each one into thirds.

I am fortunate enough to have access to a stand mixer, which makes life infinitely easier.  Basically the way I listed the ingredients is the way they go in.  Start with your butter at room temp, if it's not nuke it for 30 sec or so to soften it just a little.  Cream butter and sugar and vanilla until it is fluffy.  Add in Oreos and mix until they are broken down into small pieces.  I didn't necessarily believe that they would break down in the mixer, but low and behold they totally did.  Then add your eggs one at a time and allow them to mix in between.  Then toss in your dry ingredients.  Finally remove your bowl from the mixing stand and fold in your chocolate, be it drops or miniatures.  Honestly, the batter on this one is almost better than the actual cookie - it reminded me of super concentrated cookies 'n' cream ice cream flavor.  So good.

This recipe is kind of beautiful because it is a one bowl wonder.  I LOVE stuff like that.  Especially when I am the primary kitchen cleaner in my apartment.    That is pretty much my domain where cleaning comes into it.  The dining room is the female roommate's domain, their bedroom is up to them, the bathroom is shared between she and I, and for the most part the living room is all them.  So yeah, the less stuff I dirty in the kitchen, the better.  And trust me, I dirtied plenty of stuff when I made dinner.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cake Doctoring

So I know I called a moratorium on cake eating a little while ago, at least until my birthday/my brother's wedding, but I forgot something - one of my very good friend's birthdays.  I found out last week that nobody was planning on making a cake for the party that she was having this past Wednesday.  So I felt that this was a tragedy and offered.  She requested red velvet cake and as I am pro from scratch cake I figured piece of cake (hahahaha, see what I did there?).  Until I checked my bank account.  (Yikes, that is a scary place).  And so I was going to compromise, I was going to do box mix cake and homemade frosting, because honestly I don't have too many bones with box mix cake as much as I find frosting from a can to be utterly revolting  (which considering how much I've been accused of being a sugar addict is kind of strange).  I went to the store only to discover that my particular store of choice does not carry a red velvet box mix, and I really couldn't muster the motivation (or the gas in my car) to go on a multi-store search.  So I re-evaluated.  I found a chocolate mousse cake mix.  Now there was something I could work with because there would be no canned frosting involved (!!!).  And because I felt guilty that I wasn't delivering exactly what was asked of me I compensated by also making two dozen funfetti cupcakes which did unfortunately get the canned frosting because I know some people like that junk.

So the chocolate mousse cake was pretty much your standard chocolate cake mix although I couldn't for the life of me get it to release from the pans.  I found a handy tip/trick from Bon Appetite online and totally warrants sharing.  Now this only works for metal or non stick pans (do NOT do this with glass pans unless you would like them to shatter or otherwise get ruined).  But if your cake was stuck (like mine were), you can turn a burner on your stove on (gas or electric works, but if it is electric give it a chance to heat up).  And pass the bottom of the cake pan through the flame or on the hot burner for several seconds.  Then when you flip it and shake it should finally release (though still slightly unwillingly).  So the cake gets made, the mousse mix gets made and as I'm inspecting my mousse mix and the cake mix box I realize that there is only enough mousse to go on top of and in between the cake layers.  I consider that this will probably be fine and then I consider that my cake had some stickage problems and is a little unsightly.  I want to put mousse mix on the outside edges too I decide, which means one of two things - I can run out and by another box of just chocolate mousse mix and hope that it matches in flavor and consistency to the one I already have or two I can find something else to put in between the layers, thus giving me enough mousse mix to put around the sides and hiding my cake's flaws.  I opt for door number two.  So I open the fridge and stare blankly into its portents and unearth some "fancy" jam (I call it fancy because it is a) not Smuckers and b) costs around 7 or 8 dollars a jar) which is my favorite type of jam to bake with (hello jam cookies!) because it is usually thicker and stands up to heat better than say Smuckers.  So I now have the better half of a jar of fancy red raspberry jam (I used Stonewall Kitchen jam, I love love love this stuff).  I dump the entire contents of the jam jar onto the bottom layer of the cake and spread it around with an offset spatula.  Now bear in mind this jar was not full, although I think an entire jar of jam would work well on a 9" cake, because I ultimately found myself wanting more jam when I had a piece.  Then I slapped on layer number two and slathered the whole thing with chocolate mousse et voila a chocolate raspberry chocolate mousse cake!  I grabbed a bottle of raspberry wine that was sitting around my room (which paired PERFECTLY, don't knock fruit wines until you try them) and served that up for a semi homemade cake doctored birthday dessert.  It was definitely a huge hit.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


So it is currently very early.  Or late.  Either way really.  But I should have guessed that I would be awakened by my bladder at such an's what I get for consuming three cans of fresca right before bed.  The worst part is I technically need to be up in two hours to shower and get ready for work.  And I'm pretty sure I won't get back to sleep until maaaaybe a half hour before I have to get up.  Silly really.

But that is not why I'm writing.  You ever have a culinary moment where you are just like "Arrrgghh!  Why didn't I write that down?"  Last night in my post boyfriend, post work tiredness I made some chicken that was delicious.  And I have no idea how to re-create that deliciousness.  I stuck the chicken in a ziploc with some marinade that I concocted on Friday and it was so good.  All I can remember are ingredients, but the ratios, forget about it.  Oh, and the boy was indeed victim of the waffle maker and my need to feed (others).  And it was something he actually ate and seemed to enjoy.

Tasty Chicken Marinade
(amounts....who freaking knows)
-soy sauce
-white vinegar
-peanut sauce
-basil pesto mustard
-frank's buffalo wing sauce
-a very small amount of bbq sauce
-a small amount of agave nectar
-canola oil

-I do specifically remember that there was nothing dry in the salt, pepper, garlic powder, nothing of that nature.  I do remember thinking....ok, I have my acid, my oil, some heat, some salt, and some sweet to balance it....all the major components of a marinade.  I know that this made tasty tasty chicken, so I'll probably use these things again, but in completely different amounts.  And it will still probably be tasty.  And I will still probably not write it down.  Because I almost never NEVER write down marinades, I never seek out other people's recipes for them, I just follow that basic equation (acid + oil + flavor ...and in this case I made sure my flavor was balanced between salt, heat, and sweet).  And usually as long as you keep them in relatively similar amounts (like do not have waay more acid than flavor) you should end up with something pretty tasty

Thursday, March 17, 2011

.waffles and family.

Just so you don't think I've been slacking, there have been things happening in my kitchen.  Most of those things involve cleaning and running the dishwasher, but there have also been some culinary achievements.  The greatest thing I think that has happened is my on going affair with my waffle iron.  I received said waffle iron from my brother and SIL to be this past Christmas and had left it at my parents' house for a little while.  Then it made it's way over here, but I could never convince myself to break into it.  Until last week that is.  Last week we had cinnamon waffles (which needed more sugar and maybe some vanilla from my point of view, although my roommates contend that I am just sugar crazy), and yesterday I whipped up a batch of banana waffles which were delightful.  Now I have some more bananas sitting on my counter getting browner by the hour, which leaves me trying to figure out the next baked good I can shove them into.  As I recently discovered that the man in my life hates bananas (it's a textural thing for him) but loves banana baked goods.

Speaking of the man in my life I was introduced to the parentals last night.  From my perspective everything went well and they were really nice.  Reminded me alot of my own family in many ways, which though slightly unnerving was ultimately endearing.  But one thing his mom revealed/confirmed my suspicion of is that he is an INCREDIBLY picky eater.  And I thought I was bad with my aversion to raw tomatoes, goat cheese, and meatloaf.  The boy is anti veg, mostly anti fruit, anti food mixtures (like no meat in sauce, and I would guess no casseroles), anti mexican food, and anti pasta (!!! probably the most concerning of all to me).  And he is pro fast/junk food.  This does not bode well for my waistline.  Either that or I will slowly convert him to the beauty of the home cooked meal and the wonderful flavor combinations that you get from casseroles or putting sauce on things.  I suspected he was picky when I had offered numerous times to cook for him and he refused all offers.  That is an unusual occurrence in my experience.  And admittedly I was a little miffed by the rebuffs.  I love cooking for people.  The more elaborate the request the better.  For me it's like "Look at all this hard work and effort I put in just to satisfy you.  See, I can take care of you."  When he rejected my offers it was a little like rejecting my offer of love, and while I didn't really take it to heart (and there are many men/women that would be thrilled to not cook for their significant other) I now understand it so much better.

So now I really have a challenge.  How do I, the queen of sauces and casseroles and composed bites where you get a little bit of every flavor on your fork at once, either adapt my cooking style for him or try to slowly convince him to come around to my style of eating?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Let them eat cake!

Ok, so it HAS been almost a month since my last post but in my defense I have yet to get a tart pan.  And I really really want to get one because I have a chocolate gingersnap tart recipe that I'm pretty sure the boy will go crazy for.  There has definitely been some cooking happening in my kitchen as of late...roasted spiced sweet potatoes (have I mentioned how addicted I am to sweet potatoes?  They are just so freaking perfect) and a strawberry blueberry cake are noteworthy.  I'm also planning on another batch of buffalo chicken soup today.

Oh, and speaking of which...(there is some back story here, but I promise it is TOTALLY related to buffalo chicken soup).
So my baby brother is getting married (again).  And I am very happy for him, truly.  A couple weeks ago his lady to be had her bridal shower for which I brought what has to have been the most complemented (and expensive) fruit salad in the history of fruit salad.  Seriously.  $50 for a bowl of chopped fruit.  But because I got stuck with fruit salad and was not able to flex my culinary muscles for everyone to admire (which is admittedly the only reason I agree to bring things to events) I had to make it the most amazing fruit salad ever.  So there were strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, pomegranate, plum, pear, pineapple, blood orange, kiwi, and star fruit.  It doesn't hurt that I am very close to this gem and am unbelievably spoiled by the most amazing produce year round.  But fruit salad aside, I also brought a gift for the bride to be.  Now I'm not exactly raking in the dough these days and I already spent $50 for fruit salad, not to mention the bridesmaid dress and shoes I had to get.  So I was trying to come up with something that was a little frugal.  What I ended up with was a bakeware set and some cookie sheets and measuring cups.  But this gift was NOT impressing me in the way I wanted it to.  I wanted my gift to be special and set apart.  So I did something that as the sister of the groom, only I could do.  I started a recipe book for her.  Now I know she's just getting her culinary legs so I started a notebook full of recipes that are popular in my family as a way to welcome her into it.  It included my mom's banana muffins and peppermint brownies, my nana's meat stuffing, my gigi's chocolate cream pie, and my raspberry white chocolate cheesecake which the bride has been after for a while, and my recipe for buffalo chicken soup.

So the thing with the soup is this - it is definitely an instant classic, but is relatively new to me so no one else in my family has experienced it.  I wasn't sure how it would be received and if the bride to be would ever bother making it.  My brother is a notoriously picky eater and has been known to do things like cook up an entire pound of bacon and sit around and eat that.  How he maintains a physique thin enough for skinny jeans is beyond me.  Regardless, I guess it was something that sounded good to them so they cooked it up and they LOVED it.  So bully for the buffalo chicken soup.  It is definitely a winner.  And now you should totally go try it out.

Tart pan aside, my next monumental undertaking will be my birthday cake.  Now while this is not usually something elaborate it can be fairly tricky for two reasons.  A) I am not really a big chocolate cake person and B) I usually don't want frosting.  Now how do I find a cake that is celebratory enough for a birthday but doesn't have either of those two things?  Last year's cake was a Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Cake.  A loaf cake that was super tasty (to me and my mom, though it caused my dad to insist that it wasn't a "real" birthday cake).  The other thing is that I usually like to make my own cake.  My mom always offers, but usually means either a box mix or a store bought, and I have turned her down since I was 18 or 19.  This year is the big 2-7 for me.  Now the other person that has offered is the boy.  Currently I have no proof of any of his cooking or baking skills so I am unbelievably hesitant.  Also I'm pretty sure I will get something chocolate and covered in frosting which is closer to what he would want.  I have a few contenders currently in mind but the current front  runner is a white cake flavored with a little lemon and layered with raspberry jam and lemony butter cream meringue with a little shredded coconut around the sides.  I am very excited because in my mind this is the perfect cake and combines all of my favorite flavors: vanilla, lemon, berry, and coconut.  How can this not be a winner?  I will even allow it to have frosting (of sorts).  Now my birthday is not for a little over a month (right after my brother's wedding) so I'm thinking a cake fast will be in order.  Although I'm pretty sure I'll have to bend those rules for the wedding cake.  Also, if anyone has any other ideas for a cake that might pass my standards, post in the comments!

Friday, February 11, 2011

.until further notice.

I want a tart pan.  So so badly.  A pretty pretty silver tart pan with fluted edges.  I wants it.  And then....oh ho, in the words of Dr. Seuss - "Oh the places you'll go".

I haven't actually made or conquered anything new since the success of sweet potato burritos - too many other household-y chores to do.  Also I have cleaned up a couple peanut butter fudge attempts, and every time I get the stove/general kitchen clean I don't want to then go dirty it myself.  I mean I did make jam cookies today (with strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and cranberry orange centers) but I always feel like those don't count.  I mean, who would count those?  Eh.  But yes, a tart pan.  And, an ice cream maker.  Although this time of year, a tart pan would come in far more handy.  And also a madeleine mold.  And a Japanese mandolin.  And a new tattoo.  And now I feel like I'm starting to sound like Steve Martin in "The Jerk" (which is a classically hilarious movie that everyone should see if only to appreciate it when I make statements like "And that's all I need".
So nothing new at the moment, and probably not until the weekend is over, because I have a long weekend full of gooey eyed customers making kissy faces at each other to deal with.  And I will fully own the term hypocrite, but watching that stuff is like watching a car crash.  You can't look away, but you wish you never looked.  And I am in a relationship with a man that sends me sweet little text messages telling me that I am his angel and the light of his life and wishing me a "Good morning beautiful" every day.  But seriously peeps, be mindful - not everyone can have nor wants to have a significant other.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

.i'm just so fresh and clean. and healthy.

I would feel redundant in saying delinquent...but, yeah, I kind of am.

So there has been some goodness happening in my kitchen as of late.  There were peppers stuffed with israeli couscous, tomato sauce, feta and roasted red peppers (so yummy) which allowed the vegetarian roommate to have her first stuffed pepper experience.  The other night in my hormonal upset there were chicken cutlets with picatta sauce.  I am pretty impressed what I can do on the fly while crying for no good reason.  It was buttery and lemony and everything a picatta sauce should be.  But tonight I kind of outdid myself on the vegetarian front.  The vegetarian roommate was home with me this evening, and as we're not often home together at the same time I thought I'd make her dinner.  I had also kind of been wanting to make this for a while, but it was one of those recipes that it would be really silly for me to make for just my self.  Also, it is pretty healthy (exciting bonus!).

Sweet Potato - Black Bean Burritos 

3 med. sweet potatoes (roughly 1.5 lbs)
1 15 oz can black beans
3/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
salt to taste
2 tbs lime juice (2 limes)
toppings of your choice

oven to 400 F.  Prick sweet potatoes with fork and place on baking sheet into oven for 1 hour.  Remove sweet potatoes, cut down the middle and scoop out the insides to a secondary bowl.  Mash sweet potatoes and then mix with cumin, coriander, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, lime, and salt.  Fold in black beans.  Lower oven temp to 350.  Place tortillas in a shallow baking dish and fill each with the sweet potato/black bean mixture.  Then add toppings of your choice (in my case it was reduced fat cheddar and cilantro green olive salsa).  Fold up the tortillas with the filling and toppings and bake for 10 min at 350.

This recipe is definitely going into my regular rotation, maybe with a little more citrus or something to make it a little brighter.  Maybe I'll even convince the boyfriend that he likes sweet potatoes (oh, there is definitely one of those around these days - insert dopey grin here).  Having been a vegetarian for several years I recall how difficult it can be to find meals that are tasty and nutritious and don't rely mainly on pasta or cheese.  And not only is this roommate vegetarian but they also have and ulcer which mean the food can't be too crazy spicy.  This makes the outlook for their diet kind of boring.  But I was promised that tonight I totally came through with a tasty, and healthy (only like 550 cal and 5g fat for two burritos) meal.  

Monday, January 31, 2011

go. make. this. now.

Aaahhh...I am so behind!  There has been so much cooking happening and I have said NOTHING about it.
First things first - I am very proud to say I have conquered buffalo chicken soup.  OMG.  SO.  GOOD.  GO.  GO NOW AND MAKE THIS!!!  Seriously  it was that good.  I pretty much love buffalo anything, and in the winter, I am totally a soup fiend so this was a match made in heaven for me.

Buffalo Chicken Soup
-4 cups chicken stock
-1/2 to 1 cup buffalo sauce (I used 3/4 of a cup of Franks - what else is there, really?)
-two bunches of scallions
-1 really big potato peeled and cut
-4 to 6 stalks of celery chopped
-3/4 of a bag of chunky carrot shreds (because I am lazy), or probably 3 to 5 carrots chopped
-1 heaping tablespoon of basil pesto mustard (regular mustard would probably work too, and it's not necessary but definitely adds a great flavor dimension)
-2 tablespoons of cream cheese (optional)
-1 1/2 cups of chopped chicken
-3/4 stick of butter

Ok, for starters, I totally cheated.  I didn't use chicken.  I used my leftover turkey.  What?  Something needed to be done with it.  I am so not a food waster.
First throw all the veggies in the pot with the butter and cook it for about 10-15 minutes so the veggies can soften.
Then add chicken stock, buffalo sauce, chicken.  Cook another 10-15 minutes.
Add mustard and cream cheese.  Whisk soup so that cream cheese dissolves properly and cook another 15-20 minutes.
Soup is done!  I topped mine with blue cheese crumbles.  Also while thinking other things that could be good in this soup - orzo, peas, is a versatile soup to say nothing else of it.
But seriously, go make this now!  It is so yummy, can be made as spicy or unspicy as you want it to be and would be great on Superbowl Sunday.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

thanksgiving redux

So, so,  The aforementioned cranapana bread has come and gone.  I actually made it about a week ago.  Not Monday night like the post suggested.  But now I have MORE over ripe bananas.  So something else will have to come of that.  But that is TBD at the mo'.  But the night that I posted about the cranapana bread I actually did make something else.  It was partially awesome and partially ho-hum.  Slow cooked turkey breast roast, home made cranberry sauce, and roasted asparagus.  The asparagus was the simplest thing of all and the most awesome.  The cranberry sauce was fairly pleasing, but maybe a little too sweet.  The turkey was....turkey.  Soon to be turned into buffalo chicken (turkey) soup.  It was bad turkey, but I've certainly had better.

Roasted Asparagus
-1 bunch asparagus

Oven at 450 (yes, really that high).  Remove woody ends from asparagus.  Lay out on baking sheet, drizzle with EVOO sprinkle with salt and pepper.  In this case I used some of the roommate's fancy myer lemon EVOO and worcestershire pepper.  Stick in the oven for no more than 10 minutes.  This will be awesome.

Cranberry Sauce
-1 pound fresh cranberries
-1 3/4 cup sugar
-2/3 cup water
-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
-1/4 tsp allspice
-zest and juice of 1 orange

Bring water, sugar, and cranberries to a boil.  After reaching boil reduce heat and add cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and zest/juice of the orange.  Reduce for about 15 minutes.  Actually is better after allowing to cool.

-Turkey breast roast
-1 cup dry white wine
-1 stick butter
-1/2 yellow onion
-salt, pepper, garlic powder

-Place turkey in slow cooker with wine, butter, onion, and seasonings.  Place on low for six hours.

-More cooking adventures to take place tonight and updates on other things in my life to follow.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cranapana Bread

So, a multitude of things are happening simultaneously in my life.  One of my roommates was hospitalized for gallstones and had surgery.  So there's been that to take care of, or at least check in on and do what can be done for.  Also, my car.  My father has very recently promised to help me obtain a car.  Of course roughly three days after this my muffler falls off.  AWESOME!  And the car he is procuring is, of course, a station wagon.  The car of all of my nightmares.  Sigh.  Not only that, but this car needs something to be replaced before I can have it.  And that something is expensive according to my mechanic.  So the guy selling the car happens to work at a vocational school and brought the car there to be fixed for the cost of parts.  Cheaper = yay!  However, it will take up to two weeks to obtain this thing.  Oy.
Anyway, to the food!
The cranapana bread did indeed get made and my feelings on it are mixed.  I feel like it doesn't have enough of anything.  It's apple-y but not apple-y enough.  It only has one banana so it's not banana-y enough.  The cranberries are a nice addition, but I would want more.  And I felt like it wasn't quite sweet enough.  Maybe more sugar?  I'm not sure.  It was kind of hilarious because I started mixing it all together and felt like it still looked really dry.  Oh that's right, I forgot the milk.

Cranapana Bread
2 1/2 cups self rising flour*
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons veg oil
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup chopped cranberries
1 apple peeled, cored, chopped
1 banana, mashed

Start with your dry (flour and sugar) and slowly add in the the wet.  I mixed this by hand because I know quick breads can get tough if over mixed.  Bake in a 9x5 loaf pan at 350 for 70 minutes.  Voila.  You too can have mixed feelings about this bread.  Maybe you'll like it, but for me, it just needed more of something else.

*Note: using self rising flour is important for quick breads, otherwise they won't get fluffy and consequently won't cook all the way through and will get over cooked on the outside.  Basically, a big mess.  If you don't have or keep self rising flour around (I don't), you can substitute all purpose flour with the addition of 1 1/4 tablespoon of baking powder for every cup of flour (this will make it fluffy and cook - yay!).

I happen to use metal baking pans for breads simply because I've had VERY poor results with glass ones.  But, it works for some people (case in point, right after I made this bread, my roommate made regular banana bread in a glass pan and it came out fine).

Friday, January 14, 2011

.flip to page 96.

Work has been incredibly slow lately, which isn't surprising, but it leaves me with ample time on my hands.  Now I can either work myself up into all of my neuroses related to my romantical life and my uncertain future, or I can take adventures and get creative.  Seeing as how I finally unearthed my car this morning from the foot of snow encasing it in a hope that I would have to work today I choose adventures (much like the classic series of my youth Choose Your Own Adventure ®).  These adventures include the craft store, as I've decided to start making my own jewelry and the grocery store to procure cranberries to make some Cranapana Muffins.  And yes, every time I see the word Cranapana my mind wants to see "Crap-ana" which sounds intriguing enough to make.  Today might also potentially be a double recipe day, but I'm not sure what that second one will be yet.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

.not safe for human habitation.

My head is so very much a place I wouldn't wish ANYONE to live.  Really.  Yesterday after a long day of cozy snuggles and watching episode after episode of Merlin online (shut it, yes I have my nerdy streak) and making what was ultimately a seriously amazing pulled pork I began mulling over my romantical life as I am often wont to do these days.

That was not a smart move.
Because then began the classic April style over-analyzing in which I work myself up into such a frenzy of unwarranted disappointment and negativity.  I blame myself for this, well myself and the unfortunate interactions I have had with men up until recently.  I consider myself such a champ for being able to continue to put myself out there and meet men and date.  I mean theoretically I could totally shut myself off from love and dating, but because I don't, I figure I'm so advanced I can just let go of what has happened in the past (pretty much standard  liars, cheaters, users, and then one very seriously heart-wrenching blow of a broken engagement and the ensuing messed up co-dependency that lasted for almost a year afterward even though we were four states apart and he, in his bipolar induced mania, moved in with and married another woman).  Maybe I'm not really over it?  I mean, I am certainly over it in the 'I-would-never-take-you-back-if-you-were-the-last-man-on-earth' sense, but I don't know.  How do you get over, as in truly get over, someone else's actions?  I mean, I'm no longer emotionally hurting from what happened, but these individuals' actions have certainly left me with some issues.  And while I try very hard and feel that I generally succeed at not projecting these issues onto other men that I date, I do have my moments where these issues are kind of all consuming.  And then there are a very select few friends that I unload them all onto, which I hate to do, but sometimes I really need to.  Generally I kind of feel that no one should have to listen to my nonsense except me.  And here is the kicker, when I'm in the middle of one of these neurotic spirals and I'm either on my own or talking to a friend I am so fully aware of how I sound.  And I hate it.  Which makes it all the worse I feel.  I know exactly how I sound and know exactly how ridiculous I am being and I just can't stop.  It's like a train with no brakes.  I either run out of steam on my own or there is usually one person that can talk me down and stop the train Superman style.  Either way you slice it though, it is EXHAUSTING.  By the end of the night yesterday I was wiped.  I felt like I had run a marathon.  And emotionally, I probably had.

Ugh.  In the realm of positive things (well I mean, it IS positive that I'm not dumping my neuroses on the guys I date...there would be not even a glimmer of hope for me if I did) there is a new(er) car in my future and I'm on to bigger and better cooking projects.  Well maybe not better or even bigger for that matter.  But they are out there, waiting to be conquered.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

.things you should probably not eat in bed.

I'm pretty sure at the top of that list is pulled pork sandwiches smothered in Carolina style BBQ sauce.  Especially if you have a white comforter like I do.  But I'm doing it anyway.  Why?  Well the living room is up a very narrow flight of stairs that isn't always easy to maneuver with a plate in hand.  Also, my electric blanket is not upstairs, and it becomes cumbersome to take electric blanket and plate of food upstairs.  And then, oh wait, where is the remote?  Exactly.  I knew you'd understand.  This is why pulled pork is being consumed sitting up in bed.
This is comfort food at its best - tangy, spicy, meaty (porky?).  On a pillowy soft roll.  Now I will admit to not producing the roll rather than procuring it.  But anyway the pork.  Mind bogglingly good.  I haven't been this proud of something to come out of my kitchen in quite some time (although my jam cookies were a big hit, but my Mom made them first).  To make it all that much more cozy I have spent the majority of the day in bed while it is blizzarding outside.  Seriously.  There is probably about a foot of snow on the ground.  I started the pork around 9:30 this morning which was completely by chance.  Knowing me, I probably wouldn't have done it until around noon, but I'm glad I started it early because it really got a good chance to break down.  I owe my early morning to a text message from a good friend of mine checking in on me after promising fourth date last night.  Suffice it to say things are going very well with him, at least from my perspective.  Anyway, back to the pork and all the porky deliciousness that sits before me and permeates the kitchen here.

Spicy, Tangy Crock Pot Carolina Pulled Pork

1 boneless pork butt, 3-5lbs.
1/2 T mustard powder
1/2 T salt
1/2 T Worcestershire pepper
1/2 T garlic powder
1/2 T red pepper flakes
1/2 T chili powder
4 T brown sugar
2 T hot sauce of choice (I like Frank's buffalo sauce)
5 T bbq sauce of choice (I like Jack Daniel's Spicy Original)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

Mix all ingredients, dry and wet, together in a bowl with a wire whisk to create your Carolina bbq sauce.
Place pork butt into slow cooker and pour sauce mixture over it.
Set slow cooker to low to be ready in about 8 hours.  Set slow cooker to high to be ready in 4 to 5 hours.

Note: I did flip the pork half way through cooking.

After it is cooked all the way through, remove the pork and leave the liquid in the slow cooker.  Using two forks remove any fat and shred the pork.  This should happen fairly easily.  Replace the shredded pork into the cooking liquid for another half hour to an hour.  The pork is then ready to serve at any time or can be kept warm as long as necessary.

There are many variations to this recipe - some call for rubbing the pork with a dry rub first and marinading it with the dry rub for several hours before placing in the slow cooker.  Some call for searing the pork before placing it in the slow cooker.  Some create a more BBQ/tomato heavy sauce.  Personally I LOVE the tang of good Carolina BBQ and am not so much a fan of BBQ sauce/flavor in general (I seriously dislike BBQ chips).  Also, I wanted something that wasn't labor intensive and could be repeated quickly and easily on mornings that I'm running out to work and don't have time to rub and wrap a roast.  However, these are my personal preferences; there are many ways to make pulled pork - this just happens to be the one that floats my boat.