Tuesday, July 29, 2008

two kick ass dinners

My week so far has contained two UNBELIEVABLE dinners. One I was responsible for, one arrived at my office.
Dinner 1.

The first real dinner we made in our new house was an awesome steak salad with blue cheese crumble and strawberry vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was just strawberries (bit over a cup) some olive oil, water, salt, pepper, and a wasabi seasoning rub tossed in. everything got whirled together with a hand blender and then enjoyed on our new stoop. best.dinner.ever.

Dinner 2.

My friend and co-worker had recently set up a pierogi sweat shop in her kitchen and she showed up with a big ol'bag of delicious potato filled goodness for me. After they thawed a bit, got tossed in a pan, and then crammed in mouth. They were awesome and a very nice surprise. Thanks Rebecca!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Red White and Blue Cupcake Challenge

Ok, well, more like pink, white, and purple….. Everything started out red white and blue, does that count?

In the midst of moving into a new house, becoming a first time homeowner, and taking a midterm for this blasted masters degree, I said why not make cupcakes. People got to eat right? So the golden cake with blueberry filing and strawberry frosting were born. I can say that these really surprised me; I was a bit apprehensive about the filling. Let me tell you it was amazing and thank you to Mary at Shazam in the Kitchen for the recipe. We had some left over and actually had to remove it from the house so that my husband and I did not just subsist on frosting via spoon for multiple days.

Golden Cake with Blueberry Filling and Strawberry frosting

Golden Cake (Adapted from a few recipes, to suit what was in my dwindling kitchen reserves)
2 ¾ cups flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
2 sticks (8oz) unsalted butter, at room temp
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 cup light sour cream
1/3 cup skim milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set up your cupcake pan/papers.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. Cream together the butter and sugar till fluffy
4. Add eggs one at a time and mix thoroughly between each one followed by the vanilla.
5. Add milk/sour cream alternating with dry ingredients.
6. Fill about ¾ full and bake about 20 minutes or golden and toothpick comes out clean

Blueberry Filling (Shazam in the Kitchen)

½ cup (4oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups confectioners sugar
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup blueberries

1. Dump the blueberries in a small sauce pan on the stove and simmer till the berries start to explode and get syrupy. Chill for at least a half hour in the fridge.
2. Cream butter and sugar till smooth and creamy.
3. Add vanilla and blueberries

Strawberry Frosting (from Crazy About Cupcakes)

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter at room temp
8 oz cream cheese (I used Neufchatel)
4 ½ cups confectioners sugar (I went a bit less)
¾ cup fresh strawberries sliced

1. Mix cream cheese and butter together.
2. Add in confectioners sugar a bit at a time.
3. Mix in strawberries. The berries will be smashed up a bit but still visible in the frosting and it will turn a wonderful pink color.

To fill these I opted for the cone method and it worked like a dream. Plus we got to make super tiny cupcake tastes with the nubbin that gets cut off. Our wonderful and amazing friends that helped us move reaped the benefits of these delicious cakes! Thanks again guys!

Friday, July 25, 2008

the hubbs b-day feed

Admittedly this is another tardy (hee hee, tardy) post. My husband birthday was about a week and a half ago and to celebrate this day I tried my hand at a layer cake and a John Barrymore Onion Pletzel. Specifically a chocolate cake with cannoli filling and a coffee buttercream.

I used my super-trusty, go-to "why would you ever make a cake out of box ever again" chocolate cake recipe. The recipe is the Moosewood Collective's vegan chocolate cake It is a snap to put together, literally just dry into wet. I can attest that it is virtually impossible to mess up always tastes wonderful and can be enjoyed by all. The cannoli filling was simply some ricotta sweetened with confectioners sugar. Let me tell you it was pretty hard not to just eat the entire bowl and claim to our guests that 3-layer cakes generally do not have anything between the layers.

The coffee buttercream was a bit of an experiment and lessons were learned. 1. making frosting of any sort on a 90-some-odd degree day makes things a little drippy. 2. Anything with 3 sticks of butter as a primary ingredient will return to a sold butter consistency when cooled. This was a recipe from The Marshmallow Fluff Cookbook. Basically the powdered sugar is replaced with fluff in this buttercream. It comes together like a dream and did not taste overwhelmingly of marshmallow. Toss in a little espresso powder dissolved in a bit of hot water, and tada! The cute little decorations are the new fancy-schmancy M&M's.

The John Barrymore Onion Pletzel was my first attempt at any of the sweet dough's from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It was good, but I am not totally sure that it was good enough to justify the sheer amount of butter involved. All in all it made for a tasty and special breakfast when paired with a couple of fried eggs.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

belated 4th of July yum yum's

I know that I am a bit late with my 4th of July post....please forgive.

For the cookout on our friends shared patio our feed contribution was chicken, plum, and red onion kebabs. Our booze contribution was, booze.

Chicken, Plum, and Red Onion Kebabs
Adapted from June July 2008 issue of Every Day with Rachel Ray

1 cup vegetable oil (I used less, seemed to be a lot of oil, so I added a bit of water)
2/3 cup apricot jam
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce- lower sodium
3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, slightly bigger than bite-sized chunks
2-3 pounds of plums, nice chunks
1 large red onion, again nice chunks

- Whisk together the vegetable oil, jam, vinegar and soy sauce. Add the chicken and toss to coat; refrigerate and let every thing hang out for a bit
- Transfer the marinated chicken to a bowl. Pour the marinade into a small saucepan, boil for 2 minutes, then let cool. I you are super nervous about chicken bits; I would toss it and just mix up some more of the sauce. I actually did the boil and everyone was safe and salmonella free, however I was admittedly a bit hesitant…..
- Thread the chicken, plums and onion onto skewers, since these were heading to the outdoor grill we soaked the skewers in water for a bit. Grill the kebabs, turning occasionally and basting frequently with the marinade during the first flip on each side, the just let them go until the chicken is cooked through.

I would definitely make these again, but possibly with nectarines instead. The plums got a touch to mushy on the grill for my liking, others enjoyed them, it was just not my bag. The chicken thighs, while generally an ugly pain in the ass to work with were totally tender and held up on the grill awesome.

Here are all of our little kebab soldiers all lined up.

All in all not too shabby. Stay tuned. There should be some fun eats and a few cakes coming up in short order.