March 31, 2012

Pin It Mini Chicken Meatball Soup

Taken From How Sweet It Is

Week 13

When you try something new there is always a chance that your final result will be...kind of blah.  That's how I felt about this recipe.  There was nothing in particular that wasn't good, it just didn't really do anything for me. I'd never made meatballs before so that was fun and squishy (mine weren't exactly mini), but there just wasn't much going on in this soup. There was not a ton of flavor or veggie goodies. I'm sure you could spice it up and add some more girth (zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, etc.) but as is, I was not such a fan.

It was easy enough to make and pretty low key, but I would definitely recommend adding your own tweaks and additions to make it a little more memorable.
Raw meatballs, with big flakes of romano.
The meatballs turned out nicely...the cheese got all crispy and delicious. 

March 26, 2012

Pin It Chicken Pot Pie with Cream Cheese and Chive Biscuits

Taken From Joy the Baker

Week 13
I stumbled upon this recipe on Joy's site and thought it looked amazing.  It was an interesting, modern twist on chicken pot pie and slightly resembled the caramelized mushroom and dumplings recipe I had made in the past, and loved. This was not something I could just whip up for two, so when my friends and I decided on the next Sunday night dinner date, I offered up to make this for the main dish. We actually had such a big group planned, that I ended up doubling the recipe to make two 9 x 13 casseroles of this recipe.

I definitely don't suggest attempting this recipe unless you have a couple hours on your hands.  I prepped all my veggies that morning and shredded two Costco rotisserie chickens worth of meat (which ended up being about 8 cups) and that all took me about an hour. The rest of the prep took me another hour and a half (not including baking time), although I was doubling this, so you can take that into account.

The only adjustment I made to this recipe was that I used low-fat milk instead of whole milk for the creamy sauce.  My sauce didn't thicken up as much as she described (warm, thick pudding) so I ended up adding in a bit more flour (~1/3 cup) until the consistency seemed right. She also said to use a 1 1/2 inch biscuit cutter, which seemed really small.  I used a 2 1/8 inch cutter, which worked out well.

The great thing about this dish is it can feed a lot of people, plus it can be prepped ahead of time.  That way you can just throw it in the oven and bake about 30 minutes before you are ready to eat.  She suggested cooking for 20-23 minutes.  I cooked mine for closer to 30-35 minutes, but I also had two casseroles in the oven, so that probably lengthened the baking time. Basically, you just want the biscuits to be cooked through with golden tops and have the saucy mix bubbling on the sides.
After: This pan's biscuits got a little wonky while baking...
but they were still delicious.
Great recipe, a little involved but worth in if you've got a group to feed.  I'm not sure if I would be able to manage eating this for more than a couple meals in a week (out of guilt and the sloth-like demeanor that ensues after consumption) so make sure you invite some friends over. 

March 24, 2012

Pin It Brown Butter Oatmeal Chunk Cookies

Taken From How Sweet It Is

Week 12
Wow. These were...the BEST! I've eaten two so far and every time I bite into them I can't stop talking about how they are the best cookies I have ever made. Ever. They turned out perfectly!  They are soft and moist and chunky and thick and so chocolaty and cinnamon-niny. Amazing! I don't think their perfection can be attributed to one thing in particular, but was really the result of a number of magical things.

1. Brown butter. It gives it a delicious nutty caramelized flavor, so good.
2. Two teaspoons of cinnamon. More than I've ever put in any cookies I've made, and it gives them such a good zip.
3. Tons of chocolate chips. She said I cup, I used about 2-2.5.  I recently decided that there is nothing worse than a bite of a chocolate chip cookie with no chocolate chips in it. What's the point?!

I used a combo of milk, semi-sweet and mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, because that is what I had in my cupboard. I baked as directed, but I used my silpat, so I baked them for the full 12 minutes. They were perfect. Cooked through, but not dry or crunchy.  Chewy throughout and soft, aka my favorite.
Brown butter and sugars
Perfect little chilled dough balls.
He probably would have been delicious raw too, but I resisted.
They are so thick!
And now it's time for the cookie porn.
Look at all those chips!
I stopped mid-bite to take pictures. Yeah, that's called self control.
Seriously, everyone should make these because I won't be able to make enough to feed you all. Hands down, the best cookies I've ever made...and scene.

Pin It Simply Delicious Strawberry Cupcakes

Taken From Food Network-Paula Deen

Week 12

So for my roommate's birthday I wanted to surprise her with strawberry cupcakes, a birthday tradition for her. I have still yet to try making a cake from scratch, so I felt comfortable with this recipe (since it used a boxed cake mix as its base).  I'm not a huge fan of Paula Deen's recipes, because they are generally horrible for you, but this one sounded really good and strawberry-y. Sooo, healthy went out the window, it's a birthday after all!
I did have to draw the line with Paula's strawberry cream cheese frosting though.  Although it would complete the strawberry birthday bonanza, I couldn't bring myself to use 7 cups of powdered sugar in one recipe. Instead, I used a can of milk chocolate frosting; ignorance is bliss.

This recipe utilized some interesting ingredients. For starters, it called for a package of strawberry Jell-O! Intriguing. It also called for a whole package of frozen pureed strawberries. Those are healthy, right? This recipe was super easy to make, just mix it all together then bake!
The Jell-O makes it so pink!
So, I wasn't thrilled with how my batch turned out when I used my jumbo muffin tins.  They didn't puff up much so they didn't have a rounded top. I figured a little frosting could fix that.  I also tried my silicone cups to see if those turned out any better. They looked a little prettier, but they did have one flaw: they weren't JUMBO! And who doesn't want jumbo cupcakes?!  Needless to say, the majority of the batch were jumbo flat tops, with a couple rounded minis thrown in the mix.
Firth batch: moist, but not the prettiest.
Mini batch using silicone cups, a little more presentable.
He's cute.
Topped with milk chocolate frosting.
Whole tray of birthday treats!
Made them even more festive with star sprinkles!
Kind of a molested looking piece of cake, but I wanted to show how moist they were in the middle.
So I had to sneak a taste to make sure they were good before surprising my roommate with them.  I gotta say, I'm not a huge fan of strawberry cupcakes but these were delicious!  Super moist with a very robust strawberry flavor.  Normally boxed strawberry cake mixes have a very artificial strawberry flavor. This has a little of that from the Jell-O (which I think is the secret to the moist-ness) but the pureed strawberries definitely make it taste like there are real strawberries in there (because there are!). Overall, great birthday treat!

March 21, 2012

Pin It Sushi Roll Edamame Salad

Taken From Shutterbean

Week 12

I did a lot of eating out this past weekend as my sister Leah was in town, so I wanted to find something for dinner that could give me a little detox from my carbo loading. Don't get me wrong, I love my carbs, and eating homemade granola and gert at the La Boulange for brunch, Smitten's TCHO dark chocolate ice cream with homemade pistachio brittle as brunch dessert, fresh fortune cookies from the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory as a pre-snack dessert, an onion bun from China town as a snack, and Tony's Pizza Napoletana for dinner in one day was awesome, but after noodles the next day at Citrus Club, I felt like I was in desperate need of vegetables and green things (pretty sure my jade noodles at Citrus Club didn't count as they were covered in spicy coconut sauce....yum).

So, I was looking for something on the lighter side and found this on Shutterbean. I was only briefly discouraged by the sheer number of ingredients I was going to have to get, but in the end I decided it looked delicious and was probably worth it.
This was actually fairly simple, as there is nothing that had to be cooked besides the rice.  I used TJ's frozen brown rice that you just microwave in the bag, so there was very little effort there. This recipe does involve a fair amount of chopping, so be prepared for that, or enlist a sous chef (I wish!).

The only edit I made was for the green onion-miso vinaigrette.  They don't carry miso paste at Trader Joe's or Safeway, and I couldn't bring myself to go to a third grocery store (Whole Foods), so I substituted in tahini, which I found at TJ's. I guess I can't really call mine a "miso vinaigrette" since there was definitely no miso in there, and tahini is made from sesame seeds and not soy beans, but whatever. I felt like the flavor was still in the same family and it turned out well.  Probably a little thinner than if there had been miso blended in, but I thought it worked out.  I also don't have a blender so I used my immersion blender, which was perfect for this amount of dressing.
Pre-edemame.  I wanted to capture the organization before those green buggers threw it all off.
I guess they aren't so bad, pretty cute little guys.
With the dressing. 
So we start to dig in and about a minute in, I realized I forgot to put the rice in the bowl! Whoops. It was supposed to go on top of the bed of lettuce, but underneath all the chopped goodness.  I scooped some of the salad out of the bowl to try and add the rice in near the bottom.  Successful, but not picture worthy.

I also topped this off with a little furikake, for extra flavor.  I love this stuff; it's salty seaweed with sesame seeds and it awesome on rice (also good on cottage cheese, yeah I know, I'm weird).  It comes in all different flavors, but nori komi is my favorite. You can find the whole lot at any Asian market.

March 17, 2012

Pin It Leprechaun Trap Cake

Taken From Not Martha

Week 11
In celebration of not being at all Irish and my little sister's visit in from Boston, we decided to think of a fun baking activity to do with my nephew on St. Patty's day.  We found this cake and thought it seemed like it had the right amount of rainbows and involvment to create with my 4 ½ year old nephew. Also, it was prefect because he was all about leprechauns and trying to trap them as they are such a nuisance (and apparently make a mess of your cupboards plus they never put away your toys).  He also insisted that whenever we discussed the cake, we couldn’t say the word “trap,” we had to spell it, because we didn’t want the leprechauns getting wise to our plan, and of course leprechauns can’t spell.

We followed the instructions from the Not Martha site, although, I would definitely recommend a few changes if I ever did this again.  

First, I would skip the white cake part completely.  It’s unnecessary and I think you would get a much better rainbow result in the end if each color was thicker (i.e. more batter was dedicated to each color). Based on the math from my Rainbow Doodle Cake, I would say there are ~3 ¾ cups of batter in a box of cake mix, which is around 30 fluid ounces. So, if you want 7 colors in your rainbow (as my nephew insisted that indigo be in the mix), then I would recommend the following for your leprechaun T-R-A-P cake:
  • 7 ounces – red
  • 6 ounces – orange
  • 5 ounces – yellow
  • 4 ounces – green
  • 3 ounces – blue
  • 2 ounces – indigo
  • 1 ounce – violet

This brings your total to 28 ounces, which should be fine.

Second, I would recommend a rounded bunt pan over the angel food pan.  The only downside to the bundt pan was that the diameter of the hole in the center was a little larger than the length of a small stick pretzel, so we were not able to reach the edges of the cake to wedge in our pretzel trap.  We had to get a little creative and make a pretzel grid, glued together by frosting, to balance our gold coins on.  In the end, I think it worked out pretty well.

Other than that, the recipe worked out nicely.  The addition of each layer required a steady hand, but using the Ziploc bags helped and made for an easier clean-up (although using 6 sandwhich Ziplocs did feel a little wasteful).

So the basic gist of this cake (if you don’t want to read the whole Not Martha site) is this:

1.   Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour your bunt pan.
2.   Make 1 box of white cake mix (I used Duncan Hines) according to the directions on the box.
3.   Divide batter into 7 different bowls as listed above.
4.   Dye each bowl of batter the according color.  The more dye, the more vibrant the color which equals more fun!
5.   Scoop each color of batter into a separate small Ziploc bag (you don't need to do this for the red) and cut the corner to create a makeshift pastry bag.  This makes it easier to control where the batter is going when you are adding each layer.
6.   Pour the red batter in your bunt pan. Then pour the orange over that, making it a wide ring of batter, but keeping it inside the red.
Red (I followed the site's directions so there is a layer of white as the base of my cake)
7.    Pour in each color, creating narrower and narrower rings. As you go along, snip smaller corners off the bags, it will help you control the narrower shape you are trying to make.
8.    Bake at 325 for ~40 minutes (or according to directions on the box). I tested mine at 33 minutes and it was done.
9.   After cake has cooled for about 15 min, turn it out of your bundt pan onto a cooling rack. While cake continues to cool, you can create your pretzel ladder using melted chocolate as your glue.
Since our purple was such a small layer (less than 1 oz.) it didn't make it in the final product, as most was cut off during the leveling step.
10. Cool for another 30 minutes and level off what will be the bottom of your cake.  This will also help shape the base of the rainbow arch.
11. Add green dye to a one pound container of canned frosting and put a base layer of frosting on your cake.
12. Use a pastry bag and starred tip to create “grass” on the outside of your cake.
13. Create your pretzel trap over the hole in your cake and place gold coins on top.
14. Finish off with your pretzel ladder and luring sign and you’ve got yourself a certified, gen-u-ine, leprechaun trap!
Those sneaky leprechauns managed to snatch some of our gold without getting trapped! Left quite the mess behind too.
They didn't get our rainbow though.
Maybe we'll get them next year J