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!