Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cupcake Wars! Four Dark Side of the Force ways to Heaven......

I am trying to find the perfect cupcake (chocolate of course people!). The cupcake with the moist but dark, rich, flavor that seemingly sucks you into a torrent of passion so deep--it freezes you. I kid you not. I did not find it. But on the other hand I did find 4 recipes, which I noted looked worth my time. As I knew myself, and the enmity I had within myself, for myself, I knew I had to make all four recipes the same day. Had I made but one or two a day I would have consumed every last one and had none left for side by side comparisons.

I made these in my mini cupcake maker, my thought being I could bake a lot faster, and save energy (not mine). Now the mini cupcake maker had been beckoning me ever since I laid eyes on it. Here was something that could justify small batches of cupcakes every other day or so. Had I made batter for one cupcake and turned the oven on for that, it would have damaged my penny pinching sensibilites. I could make fewer trans fatty treats, they'd be fresh and I'd save money! Well so far the machine passes for me. It DOES make cuppycakes in five minutes. I also think it makes them rise extra well, compared to the oven. Downside was cleaning and taking the actual cupcakes OUT. All in all, I DO love this little baby cuppycake maker. ONWARDS!

The four recipes I slaved over till midnight were,

  1. Better than **X cupcakes

  2. Ina Garten'sBarefoot Contessa Chocolate Cake

  3. Double Layer Chocolate

  4. Cook's IllustratedDark Chocolate

The Double Chocolate was the gummiest of the four. Though they had a good taste. I'm wondering if they were'nt made for cupcake machines (the tightly closed machine really makes cupcakes rise due to the steam that forms inside). It also had highly pointed domes.

Ina Gartens recipe produced the spongiest cupcakes and a slight gumminess (again machine?). They were soft, but the taste was the least liked of the four recipes.

The better than _ _ _, l don't want my blog flagged as a porno site, I'm omitting THE word, ok?) had an average taste. But better than Ina's. The texture was avergae.

The Cooks Illustrated
had the best chocolate taste. It had a grainyness to the texture that I was not thrilled with, almost a very fine powdery crumb. It was moist and had a fall apart in your mouth softness.

In conlusion, I shall be making these again, this time asking for taste testing help from family. Last time I ate all 40 cupcakes by myself (For gods sake! ----They were mini's!) .

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Peppers - Grilled, Stuffed, Annhilated

Crisp, creamy, tangy, and mellow, I use these words to describe my stuffed peppers. All the ingredients in these peppers do NOT blend into one ubiquitous taste in your mouth, they stay their separate characters, so you get burst after burst of different tastes and textures. And I am proud to say this is my own recipe. Made out of desperation at the soggy stuffed pepper recipe of Giada De Laurentis (Food Network), who bakes hers in broth in the oven. Ugh! So lets begin, and hey, it's a fast recipe, you're quite welcome!

Stuffs Two Large Peppers:

  • 1/2 c cous cous
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 ts "Better Than Bouillon " or your choice of boullion or stock
  • 1 tb extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1/2 c cooked chickpeas, then smashed (if using canned, microwave covered for 5 min)
  • 2 c chopped mushrooms (I used my mushroom mix, Portabella, Beech, Cremini, and Shitake)
  • 1/4 ts celery seed, heaping
  • 1 c chopped spinach
  • 1/2 ts dry mint
  • 1/4 c to 1/2 c feta (I used 1/2 but I LOVE feta. Use the smaller amount, then add more after tasting the filling)
  • salt
  • dash of black pepper (very light hand of this please, very!)

CousCous is VERY simple to make, rather it makes itself. Microwave or heat the water and the boullion, and pour into the couscous. Cover immediately and set aside. That's IT. (Here are 2 brands if you can't find it in stores (though you should), Organic couscous, or Osem North African )

Turn heat on low and add oil and garlic. Sprinkle a bit of salt as well. After two minutes, add onions, (on medium heat now), stir for a minute or two, and add mushrooms and chick peas. Saute on medium high until mushrooms are softened, not mushy. You will want a bit of meaty bite to your dish. Turn gas off.

Take out your couscous and stir around, lightly with a fork. Add spinach on top and immediately your mushroom mixture. Mix until well everything is well balanced.

TASTE. This is very important now. Do you need more salt? All bullion's are not created equal, and knowing that I deliberately do not tell you the amount of salt to add to your filling. Taste it, please. Add more feta if you'd like. Don't add extra mint as the sauce will introduce more.


  • 1/4 c heavy cream
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cube frozen pesto (or store bought OR simply a tablespoon of blended basil)
  • 1 ts cornstarch
  • salt (to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 ts mint (then more if you'd like after you taste it)
  • dash or two or oregano
  • couple of dashes of garlic powder

Simply combine all, and microwave, one min high. You need to know, not all delectable sauces need low simmering and constant bending over a stove. This sauce will knock your socks off. Your welcome. Mix, until fully blended.

Add the above, tasting as you go. This is food that will go into YOUR stomach, YOU should like it. After you add my recommended amounts, if you find you'd like more mint or garlic go ahead!

Home Stretch:

Heat a frying pan with a ts of oil. Make it HOT. Cut the top off of a bell pepper (maybe 1/4 inch), take out the seeds and white parts. Sprinkle the inside with salt, crushed pepper, and garlic powder. Sprinkle the same three into the frying pan right before adding the pepper. Basically you will grill the pepper on each side on high heat until the walls begin to give a little, and the skin begins to char. Now it is totally up to you how much you'd like your peppers done. I like them crunchy, and I like the skin to develop some black marks. This is achieved by the highest heat possible on a stove.

Take your filling, fill the peppers. Add a dollop of sauce on the side, around your plate, on top of the peppers. Viola, done! The recipe may sound long, but I am trying to write so that people without much cooking experience can follow. I made these in about 30 min? :)

If you try these I'd LOVE to know what you think! Please comment!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pizza Trio! A Dance in Italy.

What's better than piping hot homemade pizza? Why the pizza from your favorite pizzeria of course! I kid, I kid, but up until a few days ago, that was completely true for me. My homemade pizzas had a way of morphing into mass piles of toppings heaped onto a watery 'dumpling' dough or a dough so chewy, it felt like pizza flavored gum (NOT as nice as it sounds). But this time I teamed up with a fellow pizza lovin' cus, teamwork helps! Three types of pizzas in one night? No problemo. (Dough recipe from, Phyllis's pizza dough).

  • Baby Spinach Feta
  • White Wonder
  • Mushroom Craze

First of all, this does not take that long. Of course being homemade pizza, it does take more than most of my quickie recipes here. Consider this a Friday night dinner, the whole family will have fun joining in and spending time together. Now first you should know I made a quick recipe pizza dough, but it still came out beautifully. I have in mind an overnight dough for later, which I will compare and update you guys on.
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 c warm water (not hot, just warm-ish
  • 2 ts sugaR
  • 2 c all purpose flour
  • 2 tb oil (olive recommended)
  • 1 ts salt
  • Combine the yeast, water, and sugar. Let sit for ten minutes, get everything else together until then.

Add the flour, oil, and salt to your yeast mixture and either start kneading (for 10 min) or throw it in your stand mixer. If using a stand mixer, keep it on 2, use a dough hook, and let it rip for 5 -7 minutes. Using this dough recipe from, I had to add extra flour as the dough was pretty unworkable. So go ahead and add tiny bits of flour until you get something workable. Let it rest, covered, and near (12 in) a medium flame on the stove top.

When the dough is doubled, turn on your oven, 450 F. If you have a Pizza Stone -
use it! I not being able to afford stones, bought four unglazed ceramic quarry tiles from a Lowe's Home Improvement store. Do make sure they are unglazed. And place on the bottom rack in your oven. I will give a link for a good Pizza Stone as well.

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 2 pieces, be gentle. Take a piece and start to shape it into a round pie. By using your fingertips and pressing and gently (gently) stretching at the same time. (1/4 inch thick is good) Take your little pizza and lay into a heavily cornmealed sheet. Bake in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Take out and add sauce and toppings. Be gentle with both, I know it is tempting but I have finally learned my lesson. After ripped and wet pizzas, one after the other. Ideally, make or buy a pizza sauce, they are thicker than bottled. Or boil your bottled sauce until it becomes thicker. In a pinch go ahead and used bottled, it just wont be as good.


  • Layer mozzarella down (no red sauce in this one guys, don't worry it is AMAZING)
  • Next add some baby spinach leaves, a packed cupful is good.
  • Throw small 'blobfuls' of ricotta on top, randomly, all over the pie.
  • Throw feta all over the pie, the amount depends highly on your preference.
  • Lightly sprinkle with salt, and black pepper.Place the pizza directly on the stones (or keep it in your tray)


  • Saute a cupful of chopped, Shitake, Cremini, Portobello, Button, and Beech. Now obviously guys you can use any mushrooms you want. These are what I happened to pick up at the Chinese Grocery (aka mushroom heaven). Add salt and black pepper, a bit of rosemary can be good too.
  • Spread your pie with sauce, mozzarella, and then mushrooms.


  • Spread your sauce.
  • Your mozzarella, or mix in some Parmesan and other cheeses - if you're wild :)
  • Add well packed cupful (or 2) of spinach and sprinkle with feta.
  • Sprinkle pie with olive oil, and a bit of salt.
  • Bake your pizzas (right on top of your stones) until the cheese is melted, and bubbly. The recipe I gave was for two medium pizzas.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Little Known Ways to Blend Air and Chocolate....

So you want to make a dessert for your family. BUT, you want it quick, right? No fuss, no double boilers and fancy chopping. And you know you want it to produce some oohs and yumms, am I right? Here we go, a quickie quick pie to die for (taken from Lois Mulkey's Mousse Pie) And if you happen to have some snow lying around, this will be done in 20 minutes as opposed to 30. :)
  • 1 7 ounce bar of chocolate (or morsels, or go wild and try your favorite candy bar)
  • 1 1/2c mini marshmallows (if you have big ones, big deal)
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 ts coffee (my add in, makes it a LOT better)
  • 1 TS dark cocoa (it's my add in, don't have it? Don' t worry)
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 1ts confec sugar (you don't have to have it, I needed mine to have a bit more flavor)
  • 1 Oreo Pie Crust
  1. Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan (except the last three!) and turn on medium. Basically, just melt it all together, make sure you don't stop mixing. Marshies will burn fast, so keep mixing. Then run outside (hopefully you have snow--this will make it a lot faster), and stick the pan on top of a pile of snow. Now run inside and make your whipped cream (below).

  2. Using a stand mixer, whisk the cream on medium/high, until peaks form. This means when you plunge a spoon into the cream, and bring it back up, it should form a tiny hill that keeps its shape. Confused? Well, you've had whipped cream, whisk until you have something that is nice and fluffy and looks like what you top you're pancakes with. No worries, there is room for mistakes with this. Mine took somewhere near five minutes.

  3. Now the folding part. Tip the bowl towards you and dip a spatula all the way to the bottom, scoop up and flip over, repeat this until everything is incorporated. You DO NOT want to mix - this will pop the myraid air bubbles you have just created in the whipped cream.
  4. Pour mixutre into pie crust, top with shaved chocolate, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, or as I did grated morels (yeah, it's just how you're thinking it was). Refridgerate for three hours. Done!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Almond-Butt Circles

So my Aunt who lives abroad and does not own an oven (thought I'd just add that in, being very odd and horrible and all, not having an oven--not the aunt part of course! Gasp!), wanted me to bake her some of my famous Almond Crescent cookies. A light, buttery, flaky cookie for those few and far between times you do not crave chocolate. This recipe is quite special to me, it is the first cookie I ever made. I found the recipe in the coupon section of our Sunday Paper, on a Sunday, so many, many years ago. I had all the ingredients and the cookies looked so delicate and sweet, unlike the Oreos and Chips Ahoys I normally fattened myself upon, that I just HAD to make them. And I have been making them ever since. So here it is, "I Can't Believe it's Not Butters" Almond Crescents.

  • 2 sticks room temp softened butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 Ts Vanilla
  • 1 cup finely ground almonds
  • 2 cups flour, (sift before adding to butter mixture)
Using a HAND MIXER cream together butter and sugar, until light and fluffy. A Kitchen Aid, for example does not even GET all the butter and sugar mix, and therefore cannot fluff up the butter as much. Now dip a finger in and taste. You know, just to make sure it's creamy enough(hehe).
Add in the rest of the ingredients. DO NOT USE ANY MIXER BUT YOUR HANDS. The dough is delicate, just make sure all the ingredients form a dough, no more mixing than that or your cookies will not be as airy as promised. Wrap the dough in plastic and refridgerate for an hour. Set your oven to 350F and taking a TB of dough in your hands, lightly ball it, then squish it flat (1/4 of an inch). You can also make crescents by rolling your TB of dough into a baby sausage, flattening it out and bending slightly at the tips (you a crescent moon). Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly tanned around the edges. I recommend using a spatula to remove them from the hot baking pan they were on, and placing in a cool pan. This does two things. Stops them from over browning on your hot pan AND Athey are easier to move around while still hot. When they are totally cool, they will become crunchy (as they should). You don't have to keep much space between cookies as they do not pounce upon each other, in oven.
These are not too sweet, so sprinkle some confectioners on top, or maybe try some icing. Go wild, decorate them, they do hold up. And I'd love to see pictures of yours!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nixed Beef Bean Tacos

It's a twenty minute dinner, chop a salad, nuke some beans, add salsa and get ready to rip. Okay, well the ripping will come later.....unless you had the foresight to take a beano. I rushed around the house in my jammies to get this dinner ready. Why? Burn Notice (that's a show) is addictive, what can I say?
P.S My method for tacos is, dashes. You know every time you shake what god gave you........the spice sprinkler?

  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 2 dashes Taco seasoning
  • dash of salt
  • 6 dashes of oregano (or italian seasoning)
  • 3 dashes of crushed pepper
  • 5 dashes of garlic powder
  • Bowlful of chopped salad, (cukes, onion, tomato, bells, carrots, green onions)
  • Bowlful chopped lettuce
  • Salsa
Mix all of those ingredients together into a bowl (excluding the salad, lettuce, and salsa), add 2 TB of water and nuke on high for 5 minutes. Keep them covered or you will get crunchy beans. While they are cooking get your salad ready.
When your beans are done, mash them until slighty creamy/slightly still in whole pieces. Microwave two taco shells for 30 seconds (all microwaves differ from each other), watch your shells like a hawk, these babies burn in.05 seconds. One sec they are a sizzling golden yellow, and the next a burnt ridge peeks over the taco shells bum. Spread your bean mixture on one side of the taco (pick a wall), add a TB of salsa to the bean side spreading well, then add your salad, and lastly lettuce. You can add cheese, but beans create such a creamy texture you might not even want it anymore!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Homemade frosting-- And It Feels SO Good

Unfortunately, I had to take my frosting pic after rushing to my nephews house with a cake made in under 2 hours. I had to take my mom with me to pick up someone for the birthday party,( to hold the cake), transfer the cake from her lap to the new lap and of course have dad follow us to take her back home- all in super video "fast forward button" mode. Whew! Maybe I should have taken pics of the birds and the squirrels chipping away at the cakes cooling outside in the snow?? I kid, I kid- except for the part about the cakes cooling in the snow.....

Well since I had no frosting in the house, and was too lazy to go to the store (you'd know this is you've read my previous stories!), I made my own. My first attempt 4 months ago produced a grainy and sugary fluff. This time, I followed the recipe properly (did I just admit to not following the recipe last time, darn it?!) and produced a light fluffy. Now this will not be my it frosting. Reason: Taste. I have eaten similar tasting frosting on professional cakes before and thought them a 'cheap quickie' (nothing dirty), not loveingly made my gentle hands and quality ingredients. This is not to say the frosting was a dud, it was not. It was creamy and light (mmmm), it piped very well and held its shape reasonably. I have to admit I put less sugar than called for though. DARN! Did I just admit to NOT following the recipe again?!!!! I should just stop my commentary.

  • 1 cup shortning (butter flavored preffered)
  • 1 cup room temperature, softened unsalted butter
  • 8 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 TS vanilla
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Ts Wiltons butter flavor
Mix on high until it starts to get light and looks a bit fluffier than when it first started. It will not get fluffy at this stage, just a bit more puffed than before. I used the whisk attachment on my new KitchenAid birthday gift, rather than the mixing paddle which the recipe called for.

Whisk or mix on high for 5 minutes, or until your frosting is light and fluffy. Now pay attention, I used only about 6 or 7 cups of sugar, not wanting a super sweet frosting. My frosting had mixed reviews, while one kid thought it was pretty sweet, another complained about a "buttery" taste to it. Now I don't know about you, but buttercream being my favorite type of frosting- I had better taste some freakin' butter in it! I and the other guests thought it was actually pretty good. Not "super duper", "amazing", "x on the beach" type stuff - but for an easy frosting that piped well- and tasted pretty good, it was a "make again".

The quickie cake I made is pictured below, be nice, it was a quickie. And the purple lines on top are not an X like my sister thought, but it was supposed to be a basketball!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another Non-Fried Springy Roll

Tonight, after 'eveningdreaming' of amazing fresh spring rolls I would make with the ingredients I was to lazy to go and buy, I fell sick and had a *huge* headache. The timing was perfect as I was in the middle of making these rolls. Again, I had no green onions, nor had I tofu; both of these ingredients I would have used had I had them. If I hadn't fell deathly sick for an hour tonight I might also have mustered up the energy to add fresh cilantro leaves, and fresh mushrooms. These were QUICK, like a 30 min Rachel Ray type dinner, healthy and tasted good. (Side Note: NEVER take a tablespoon of Castor oil on an empty stomach even if your ex-lax doesn't work.)

  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic chopped finely (for those of you who hate 'garlic hands' buy a bottle of minced garlic
  • 1 medium onion thinly sliced
  • 4 or 5 pieces of black fungus (type of mushroom), rehydrated and cut into strips
  • 2 cups cabbage grated instead of chopped for quickness
  • 2 baby carrots grated
  • 1/4 bell pepper thinly sliced long strips
  • Stack of rice paper wrappers
Heat the oil, add the garlic and saute for one minute.
Add the onion and fungi(mushroom), and saute till onion is slightly soft. Don't worry about the fungi. :)
Add the cabbage, carrots, and pepper. Saute on high for 2-3 minutes. Take it OFF of the heat. Just put it on a cool stand as you do not want it to cook till it's mush.

Put together all the above ingredients in a small bowl. Mix and pour onto your veggie section. Mix well. Add salt to taste, as well as any other extras of the above ingredients. Make sure you use SMALL increments and taste as you go, every time you add something, taste it. This will help you learn what type of flavor is imparted from each ingredient. And as each family in America is different, you can have it "your way"!

Fill a large bowl with some hot water (tap, don't go boiling water now). Dip a wrapper in, make sure the whole thing is coated with water, and wait 30 seconds as it softens. Place on a cutting board. Take a few spoonfuls of filling and place on the edge nearest to you. (I had to slightly squeeze the filling before it was added to the wrapper-- it let 'leak' a lot of juices). Use my handy dandy diagram if you have never rolled a spring roll before. Place the filling where indicated, and fold section A over it. Then fold over section B, and C. Now just roll the whole roll away from you, pushing forward, onwards and upwards!!! (Okay maybe not upwards.)

Guess what, you're done.

Some notes:
-As mentioned above, I would definitely add chopped green onions to the veggies (during the cabbage stage).
-I would also think strips of fried or baked (my favorite method) tofu would enhance the flavor.
-You can add a handful of cooked rice vermicelli.
-Baby corn (chopped).
-Some strips of cucumber, added right before filling the rolls, would create a fresher taste and crunch.

I hope you guys like this recipe, it's one of those fast (and healthy) meals that create a spike in the dullness factor of 'everyday' dinners.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Threads: Mung Bean. Style: Chinese. Taste: Mmmmmm.

So tonight's quick dish was based on a Chinesey noodle craving. And of course it was quick, I never can plan ahead. Then when my stomach kicks in (literally) I scramble around in the kitchen and eat whatever quick unhealthy things are lying around in wait. Well today I resolved NOT to get sucked into "fat hole" and feed my cravings. Something with salty soy was beckoning me, something with crispy bells and nutty sesame seeds, and toothy cabbage and noodles. A really quick meal even though I didn't have everything I wanted for it, and it was still good! So here you are.

1 TS olive oil
a few grates of ginger
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Heat the oil, until hot. Then add the garlic and ginger, be sure to keep moving it around a bit. About 2 minutes on medium heat is fine.
1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli head
Stir around on high heat a min or two.

1/2 cup grated cabbage
2 grated baby carrots
1 small onion, thinly sliced long
1/2 c long sliced bell peppers, thin
Very light sprinkle of salt (tell you why later)

Turn heat on high and add the above. Move around your pan to prevent sticking and take off of heat in 2-3 minutes. You want your veggies crunchy not mushy.

1 cup cooked Mung Bean Noodles

Add your noodles.

Here is the tricky part, I forgot to measure. (LIAR!!) Okay fine. I was so hungry - I didn't want to waste my time with measuring spoons! Happy?! So from mind guesstimates.....

1 TS mushroom soy sauce (I use Chings but this has good reviews, Pearl River Mushroom Soy
1/2 TS Black Bean Paste
1/2 Ts Huey Fong Sambal Oelek Chili Paste
1 TS sushi vinegar
1/2 Ts Sesame Seeds

Combine all of the above. (If you cannot get any of these items at your local grocery store, I will try to link to what brands I use, or the next best.) Add a Teaspoon of water to dilute. Then add this mix into your noodles, stir it up fast. Your cabbage is not fully cooked and I do not want it to suck up the soy. If you need more flavoring, just mix up some in a small bowl and add to your noodles as you need it. Sometimes people like more or less soy, more heat, etc. I have tried my best from my memory. Oh and add more salt at the end if you need it, or you can just add soy as it is plenty salty.

-I should not call this an addition as I would have added it had I had it, Green Onions Chopped, add with the veggies.
-You could add some bean sprouts.
-Some tofu.
-Some chopped baby corn.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Creamy Greeny Guacamole Pasta

  • Tonight, I needed a fast dinner as time was speeding up just to to annoy me. Since I had an avocado lying in wait, I made my yummy go-to, Guacamole Pasta. It is one of the most filling, creamy, and delicious meals that makes you think you spent time on it when you know you really didn't. (HA). Worry not, it takes like 15 to 20 minutes to create. Now if you have only had your guacamole with your Tex-Mex and nachos, I gotta say, don't knock it till you've tried it.

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1-2 Ts of lemon
  • sprinkle of salt
  • sprinkle of black pepper
  • sprinkle of crushed red pepper or a shake from the "wish I had it", Six Pure Chiles Shaker and experiment with 6 different type of peppers (sigh)
  • dash of olive oil
  • dash of garlic powder

    Take a mini food chopper or food processor and blend all of these ingredients together. Now most of the ingredients are dashes and sprinkles, and most likely annoying you. Well take a closer look at them, each one of them is a preferential type ingredient. The amount of salt you use will be different from me, as well as how spicy you like your dishes (peppers). I will tell you I love lemon juice and garlic powder as liberal doses in this dish.

    Make a cup of pasta, and mix it into the guacamole mix. Dinner for one - DONE.

    Your Options::
  • Add some Parmesan to the top.
  • Add a few cilantro leaves in the chopper, and
    use to garnish on top.
  • You can use a jalapeno for more heat, but I'd still
    recommend the black pepper be included.
  • If you are running out of avocado,
    you can add half a SMALL onion to the chopper.
  • A tablespoon of sour cream
    can be added but you must up the spices too as it takes away some of the avocado
  • Grate some mozzarella on top (I love this).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Forbidden Chocolate Marshmallow Coffee

I just made myself some creamy chocolatey goodness, and thought I'd share. Don't you just want to take a dip in it? You're so totally welcome nonexistant blog readers! I know I am like SO here it is.......

  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1 Scoop Chocolate Ice Cream
  • 1 - 1 1/2 TS sugar
  • 1/2 Ts cocoa (I prefer dark cocoa, Hershey's Cocoa, Special Dark)
  • 1 TS Coffee (or more for stronger)
  • 2 Chopped Marshmallows

Heat the milk and ice cream till scalding hot (on The Nuker 2 min). Add the sugar, cocoa, and coffee after the milk is heated. To make the froth (read yum yum), use a small handheld coffee frother. I got mine at Ikea's clearance for $1, but the best I can find right now is the BonJour Frother. You can try a hand held (immersion) blender too, I think it might work (it's just not as fun!). Use in an up and down fashion to create more froth. Add to the coffee your chopped up marshmallows (while still hot) and sprinkle a smidge of coffee granules on top.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Makin' those cookies look HOT!

So in my last post I mentioned how I went about my sugar cookies. In this post I shall tell you how I decorated them, rather I'd like to say designed them, rocked 'em, used my artistic mojo. I'm not showing off, I'm just proud of myself for not giving in to laziness and really really trying to make these cookies look good.

So first of all is the recipe, easy peasy.

1 cup of confectioners sugar

1 TB corn syrup

2 TB water

food coloring

brush dedicated to kitchen use only

I got together small sauce bowls and ramekins, basically anything small. Made up the icing and divided between each, then added the food coloring. Now the recipe I used states 10 drops. I think that should be personal choice. Some of my colors were light, some darker, just mix them in and keep adding until YOU like the color. You may have to add less or more water, just do it very baby-step like. Add in more sugar if it gets to thin; and don't worry you don't even really need a recipe for this.

I like my brush method for two reasons. One it gives a lighter coat of icing than just dipping the cookie in, and two, it gives you more control over the smaller designs you may have in mind. The back of a spoon works very well for the inital backdrop coat, pour a small amount on your cookie and spread with the back of a spoon. Don't worry if it looks "wrinkly", give it minute and you'll see the icing settles and smoothes out on its own. Remember the spoon method will give you a slightly thicker coat.

To have greater control over your art, use colored sprinkles. The multi color bottles are cheaper, if you want to spent hours seperating the slippery little confections and coerce family members to work for you with future cookie shares. This is the route I took (hey, I told you I'm cheap!). You can get the Wilton Sprinkles, if you'd rather buy presorted.

To get colored sugar, make your own. I didn't think this needed explanation but seems like people will buy expensive colored sugar when they can make as many colors as they would like for far far far less. Take a ramekin of sugar, add a DROP of color and mix very well. To make it darker add another. But beware, at certian point overkill on the food coloring can give you icing. :)

The sugar dries out fast, so if you want to add sprinkles or colored sugar do it as soon as you finish with the backdrop coat. Sprinkle the sugar on, when the icing has gotten slightly thicker (on your cookie) but not quite dry. This is to prevent your colored sugar from melting into your icing coat. Depending on your icing, (one or two of our batches got more thinner than the others) we had to wait to add our sugar.

So that's a lot of help, the most I can give you. Now I kick you out of the nest and see whether you can fly or not. Show me your cookies!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sugar Cookies--Too Good to Eat

The sugar cookies above are just some of the ones we managed to put into our gift baskets (see post, Gift Baskets). The taste was good, but could have been better. I would have preffered a more pronounced butter flavor, and maybe a better vanilla extract. AS to the more butter flavor aspect, I added a teaspoon of Wiltons butter flavor extract to one batch of the dough. This batch I felt tasted better than the non extract one. One thing to note is, I am a cheapo (with limited funds). I buy cheap store brand vanilla extract. I know, I know, I've heard enough now about how good vanilla should always be used, (problem with that is the ka-ching).

Our recipe, chosen from many was Georgie Bowers, Soft Sugar Cookies. Now personally I love a nice crunchy sugar cookie, but my partner (sis) won out this round.

3 3/4 cups white flour
1 ts baking powder
1/2 ts salt

Sift the above ingredients together. Set aside.

1 c butter (or margarine) softened
1 1/2 c white sugar

Beat together until light and fluffy. Remember not to melt the butter completly when trying to bring it to room temp. I have done this often, not thinking my recipes ahead and wanting to make cookies, 'spur of the moment'. I have found a good enough method for me, chop the butter into small cubes, then place in microwave for a few seconds, take out, see if you can mix it a bit (softened).

2 eggs
2 ts vanilla extract

Add these into the butter mix, when incorporated, add in the flour mix. When you have formed a dough, cover and chill for 2 hours.
Now my method to make rolling easier was dividing the dough and placing the balls into ziploc baggies. I closed the bag and smushed the dough flat in each bag, then refridgerated overnight. I like flattening the dough before freezing so that when I did take my dough out to roll and cut, I would save that much time. The refridgerated dough "melts" really fast.

Roll our 1/4" thick, cut your shapes, and bake 8 minutes at 400 degrees. Basically, when your cookies start to get a little tan around the edges, take them out and put in your next pan.

I'll show you in the next post how we decorated these babies.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas Gift Baskets for All

This past Christmas, based on the suggestion of my sister, we made little Christmas Gift Baskets for each of our family units. We filled them with decorated sugar cookies, popcorn balls, cake balls, spice cookies, tomato basil soup, and of course candy canes! We had planned bread and brownies, but they fell thru. The brownies we had no time for, and the bread, well....we had to saw it with a hacksaw just so the birds could peck out the interior.

Now money was tight, so we became frugality's bee-och. We bought our baskets from the local Dollar Tree, having had appropriate heart attacks after seeing basket prices at arts and crafts stores (Jo-Anne's, I'm calling you out!). We also bought the plastic wrap to tie our baskets in from the dollar store, having calculated that taping two pieces together would save us $2.

We deliberately chose to make bread as flour at our local Wegmans had been on sale for .99, and it would make a good presentation. The fact that I love to bake homemade bread and that people LOVE homemade bread are obviously factors. Soup was made with canned tomatoes $1.09 (the cost of basil was HIGH though). Both types of cookies were made with white flour, and the cake balls made with a pre-packaged mix. Popcorn was a big saviour in terms of cost. A few tablespoons of ol' poppin corn and a few creamy caramels and we were in business.

Now I do have to mention that we had colored chocolate melts lying around the house, tubs of frosting, sugar, and food coloring.

I will post each item we placed in these baskets separately or this should be a very looong post indeed!

Forgive the picture, my camera sucks!

Lemony Coriander Soupy Soup

Lemon Coriander Soupy Soup

First thing, I Do not rightly remember this recipe. Second thing, I AM still going ahead with this post because, I wanted to show off my yummy soup (am SO proud, I'm growing). Besides nobody reads my haphazard blog anyway. So 'hello! me', I am talking only to you, me, I mean. YOU know.....

The soup was absolutley the most different I have ever made. Lemony, first of all. Coriander, a spice I would never had put into my soup and cumin (which I have begun to use in my Tem-Mex). I must give a 'holla' to, for her recipe. And then to my my inspiration to squish out her hard work and zap the recipe into something that does not look like her picture at all. Hers is called Green curry broth, I'm calling mine Lemon Coriander Soup, since those were the two spices I overloaded on.
I did not write down the exact proportions for this recipe (nor do you really need them) as I went with the "sprinkle and try it" method. Hovering over my cauldron of soup with a spatula (yes, spatula), and sniffing and occasionally cackling (come on, who could resist?).

Warm some olive oil, into which you will add,

sprinkle of coriander (1 Ts should be good)
sprinkle of cumin (1/2 Ts add more later if you want as I did)
A few cloves of chopped garlic
sprinkle of pepper.

Added water by the bowlful, wanted at least 2 big bowls of soup, so I added three os water.Added a veggie bouillion cube with the water.

Add Lemon juice as per your taste. Add a Teaspoon now and reserve any future lemon juice until after you have tasted your soup.

Added cubes of Tofu, chopped baby corn, fourthed baby bok choy, chopped onion, basil, celery (oh my it's gettin congested in here!). You really cannot overdo these, you know what soup looks like. Only add enough to ensure a hearty bite in each spoon, but not so much that you turn it into a stew.

Add salt and pepper to your taste. Here is where memory fails me further. Did I maybe add a sprinkle of rosemary or oregano? I honestly do not know. I shall have to make this soup again to make sure of it.

If you look at 101cookbooks, you will see her soup was meant to be simple......and green.

Mine is butter yellow and well there you have it

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Baked Antimeat TexMex Pizza!

I made a fast (well faster than usual) Mexican pizza when a family member complained about being bored with his everyday health food. Now, I have always made my pizza by frying tortillas, layering sauce, cheese, and vegetables, and then nuking in the microwave just enough to melt the cheese. Let me tell you, those are some seriously GOOD EATS. Yes, the nuking part does not sound so 'gourmet cook', but then again what about Tex-Mex food makes you think that anyway?

This time, after seeing a BAKED Mexican pizza at my Aunts house, and thinking it couldn't possibly be any good (I was wrong BTW), I tried my hand at it. I, the perpetually lazy bum, had no tortillas in the house. Rather than run out and get some, I made homemade. No, don't try and make sense of this, you'll just confuse yourselves. The recipe itself is quick and easy, especially if you have a tortilla maker at home.

2c flour
1ts salt
1ts baking powder

Mix these together.

1tb butter or shortening

Cut into your flour mixture, until it resembles crumbles of something or other (think pie).

1/2c H2O

Add into the above, until you get a dough, cut into 8 parts. Then let it rest until you want to use it, minimum 30 minutes. Roll out 1/8 of an inch thick, and cook in a hot pan until they are as you want them. That's right, the way you want them. For my recipe today, I needed tortillas very soft and pliable as I was going to bake them anyway. So to each his own, if you're not going to cook them further, let them develop little brown spots. If you are planning ahead and making extras, I'd suggest keeping them on the 'whiter' side for extra pliability. Homemade tortillas can get crunchy hard in the fridge!! HINT: As soon as I made each one, I popped them into a Ziploc and sealed it shut. It helped with the moisture. Gave me 8 pizza skins (tortillas).

RESULT: This tortilla recipe yielded soft tortillas.....until I baked them and sat down to eat. They were a bit on the chewy side. I guess it is because I kneaded the dough quite a bit (and you're not supposed to!). So learn from my lesson. I will try this recipe again to see if it was the kneading or the recipe itself.

After this, I chopped up a bell pepper, an onion, a can of black olives, and half a tomato. I shredded a blend of mozzarella with cheddar and a bit of pepper jack. I also made the beans in the microwave whilst doing all of the chopping.

For the beans,
I tore open three cans of kidney beans, drained & added
taco seasoning
dry oregano
garlic powder (liberal dose)
dry red flake pepper or crushed
dry basil
onion powder

All these seasonings were used with the "taste and shake" method. Shake a bit on, mix your beans and taste. Add more of the seasoning YOU find wanting in your dish. Simple! After this I nuked the beans for 5 minutes, and afterwards mashed them with a potato smasher/masher/musher/smusher?

Now the ending, I baked all the tortillas in my oven until they started to get crunchy. A piece fell off, into the flame grate and I inhaled massive amounts of buttery tortilla smoke. Anyway, spread the beans on the first layer, 2 TB of sauce or a smooth salsa (like chipotle), sprinkle some of your veggies, cheese, another tortilla, more cheese, and then finally some veggies again. Bake this until the cheese starts to bubble, 15 minutes and onwards at 350 degrees.

Serve with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and a nice green salad to offset that cheese.