Thursday, September 29, 2011

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies



Now I know I already revealed the secret to Cheater Chocolate Chip Cookies...and granted, this recipe also takes some unexpected turns, but if you're willing to take the high road, roll up your sleeves and put in an honest day's work to make perfect chocolate chip cookies, this is a great recipe.

I know I was just talking the other day about how I'm so super into new and different cookie varieties and then I make two of the simplest and most classic kinds...but sometimes I guess you just have to stick with what works.  And have you ever met someone who DOESN'T like chocolate chip cookies?  I doubt it.  If so, you might have to turn yourself in for associating with a known terrorist.  Also, these were requested, and I've never been above honoring a food-related request.

The wedding is seriously close now.  Close as in I leave in less than a week.  That kind of close.  I'm very excited.  I wish I had lost more weight.  But I guess you kind of have to look at life as a balance.  

Had I cut out everything remotely delicious from my diet, neglected my puppy in order to wear myself to the bone working out after already incredibly long shifts, and shoved actually planning my wedding to the side in favor of focusing on gym time, sure, I may have lost more weight/gotten into better shape.  However:

a) I would have been miserable
b) I probably wouldn't have been able to stick to that for even a week and 
c) When I inevitably backslid, it would have been way worse (we're talking donut binge bad)

So, I think I'll accept that right now, this is my happy weight.  I'm happy with the weight I have lost, it has made a substantial difference to me and most importantly, it was sustainable.  

That said, I plan on continuing my efforts after the wedding as, admittedly, my nights schedule was NOT helpful for me in working out.  So there is more that I could conceivably do.  For now, let's all take a moment and be happy that is IS possible to lose 18 pounds for your wedding and still enjoy a chocolate chip cookie now and then.



Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from allrecipes)

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks of butter, softenend 
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 package instant vanilla jello pudding
2 eggs 
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Combine butter and sugars and mix until light and fluffy.  Mix in the jello powder.  Stir in egg and vanilla.  

Add flour gradually, stirring until incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts, if desired.  Drop in 1.5'' balls onto ungreased cookie sheet, bake about 12 minutes at 350.  Allow to cool on sheet for a couple minutes before removing to wire cooling racks.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mini Black and White Cookies



I love to bake cookies.  They could very possibly be my favorite thing ever to bake.  There are just so many variations, so many possibilities, so much room to be creative.  And lately in my cookie baking I've been interested in more off-the-beaten-path combinations and ingredients.  Snickers cookies, oreo stuffed brownies, pumpkin pecan oatmeal cookies, peanut butter nutella....at any given moment if I'm wearing a spaced out look, chances are very good that I'm daydreaming about what weirdo cookie I'm going to make next.  And call me a snob, but usually just a vanilla chocolate combo isn't enough to inspire me.  I was so, so wrong.

Let these little babies be a testament to triumphant simplicity.

Perhaps you recall my recent love affair with black and white cookies.  I love everything about them.  The huge, buttermilky, cakey pillows of joy covered half in the most perfect vanilla glaze and half in delicious semi sweet chocolate.  Is there even one thing about them that doesn't make your mouth water just thinking about it?

And of course, the gigantic size of the traditional black and white cookies is part of what makes them perfect.  However, it turns out that the mini versions are equally as perfect, with less than half the guilt!  I'm not exactly sure how the math works out on that one, but rest assured, it does.

Once again, I have to give the nod to Martha Stewart on this one, this is her only very gently modified recipe.



Mini Black and White Cookies
(adapted from Martha Stewart)


Ingredients


Cookies


1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
6 Tbsp butter, softened
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla 
1/3 cup low fat buttermilk, shaken


Icing


2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp and 1 tsp light corn syrup
2 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp water, more as needed
1 Tbsp dutch-process cocoa powder


Sift flour, baking soda, and salt.  Mix butter until creamy.  Add sugar, mix until fluffy.  Mix in egg and vanilla.  Add flour in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, using electric mixer.  Drop tablespoons of dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.


Bake at 350 for about 11 minutes, let cool completely on cookie sheet.  


Once cookies have cooled completely, whisk icing ingredients EXCEPT COCOA together and spread onto half of the cookies (bottoms).  Add cocoa to remaining icing and more water if needed, ice other half of cookies.  Allow icing to set completely.



Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup


I'm sick. =(

I don't know if everyone does this or if I just have a touch of the drama queen to me, but when I'm sick I just think about how much I take for granted every day when I don't feel like garbage.  Hot garbage.  I should appreciate my good health more.  When I have it, that is.

Brandy (best friend) says, and I for one believe her, that I'm worrying about wedding details so much that I made myself sick.  I'm sure Jim could vouch that there could be some truth to that idea.  I'm ridiculous, everything will be fine.  I've learned my lesson.

So when you're sick, what do you want?

Obviously, your mom to take care of you, saltines, ginger ale, and chicken noodle soup.  Probably in that order.  For the record, if you happen to have a Jim lying around, he makes a pretty good substitute when a mom is in Kansas. 

So after you drag yourself out of bed, drink like 3 cups of green tea, eat like 5 spoonfuls of honey, and feel sorry for yourself, go ahead and crack open 6 cans, dump them in a crockpot, go back to sleep on the couch, and two hours later you'll have some chicken tortilla soup.

I know, I said chicken noodle, but spicy stuff is good for you when you're sick...I think.  I'm not a doctor, in case you were wondering.  Also, if you have a cup of cooked rice leftover from dinner last night, you should throw that in there too.  I'm not going to be too exact with this one, mostly because it's a recipe for when you have absolutely no time or energy but you still have to stick to your stupid wedding diet.


Six Can Chicken Tortilla Soup
(adapted from allrecipes)


2 cans chicken broth
1 can Tyson white meat chunk chicken
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can Rotel with lime and cilantro
1 can black beans
4 shakes chipotle chile powder
5 shakes chili powder
6 shakes cumin
4 shakes garlic powder
3 shakes salt
3 shakes black pepper
1 cup cooked rice (optional)
Shredded cheese for topping


Drain the chicken, corn, Rotel, and beans.  Rinse the beans.  Dump everything into the crockpot.  Cook on low 2 hours.


Did you like how I measured the spices in shakes?  Oh man, how unprofessional.  I'm going to look at this tomorrow and be so ashamed.  But you know what?  Sometimes you have to take it easy on yourself.  And the soup is easy and delicious, for the record.  Crumble some tortilla chips and throw those on top too.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes



I told you I was incorporating pumpkin!  And boy did I ever.  These little cakes are very pumpkin-y.  Pumpkin cupcakes with pumpkin cream cheese frosting.  I can't take the credit for this recipe...I just changed a few things about  this one.

Apparently due to the hurricane or some craziness the supply of pumpkin this year has been cut very short.  But, because as I mentioned before, I tend to do everything out of season... I already had bought some pumpkin over the summer for a pumpkin pie craving and it was just sitting in the cupboard.  But hopefully you'll catch what little supply the stores have this year and get a chance to try these.  They are delightful.  You thought I was going to say delicious again, didn't you?  Nope, delightful.  Boom.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting
(adapted from skinny taste)


Cupcakes:


1 18.25oz box spice cake mix
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup water


Frosting:


1 8oz. package 1/3 fat cream cheese
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
5 Tbsp packed brown sugar


Mix together cupcake ingredients for about 2 minutes, until smooth.  Spoon into muffin pan with liners, fill cups about 2/3 full.


Bake at 350 about 20-25 minutes.


Mix together frosting ingredients, blend until smooth.  I used a ziploc bag with the corner cut off to pipe the frosting on for these.  Only frost the ones being eaten immediately, save the rest of the frosting covered in the fridge.  


Makes about 18 cupcakes.



Just over 2 weeks to go until the wedding!  When did that happen?  My goodness.

We just called to order the catering for our rehearsal dinner, and, like always, we were dumbfounded by how incredibly nice people are (in the service industry especially, but in general in my opinion) in Kansas City.

When I moved to Georgia I thought I'd encounter that famed southern hospitality.  Well let me tell you, I don't know if it's just the part of Georgia we live in, or other circumstances, but I have NOT been impressed.  People bump into you and don't even say excuse me.  I say excuse me (somewhat needlessly, since it wasn't my fault and it's a sentiment NEVER reciprocated), but they say nothing.  What in the world is that about?  Southern hospitality, you really need to step up your game.  I have not been impressed.  Georgia, I'm talking to you.  Savannah, you're not included in this.  I love you.

That is all.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chicken Parmesan


Jim requested some chicken parmesan as part of his challenge.  I've never really been a huge fan, mostly because I associate it with having been served in the cafeteria when I was a kid.  But this is an entirely different story.

I've always been more partial to spaghetti and meatballs.  But this chicken parmesan might take the cake.  

I guess I like keeping my spaghetti intact so I can twirl it around my fork...but I don't mind it if it means I get to eat delicious breaded chicken.

This is a short one.  I'm really tired, but I'll be working days soon!  Here's to normal work hours.  



Chicken Parmesan
(adapted from allrecipes)

1 egg ,baeten
4 Tbsp Italian breadcrumbs
2 chicken breasts
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 jar spaghetti sauce
2 oz mozzerella

Preheat oven to 350.  Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix together breadcrumbs, half the parmesan,oregano, garlic, and onion powder.

Dip chicken breasts, first in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumb mixture.  Place on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake 45 minutes.

Remove chicken to 8x8 greased pan.  Top with half the spaghetti sauce, mozzerella, and remaining parmesan.  Bake an additional 20 minutes.  Serve with remaining sauce over pasta.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Swedish Meatballs





Brought to you by JOWTC (Jim's Obscure World Tour Challenge), which today lands us in Sweden.  Famous for Ikea, meatballs, and nothing else that I can even think of.  Then again my knowledge of that whole area up there is questionable at best, so maybe I'm not the best person to ask.

Anyway this is my third installment of the challenge series.  The first was pierogi, and the second was lemon meringue.  I had actually never even had Swedish meatballs before, much like I had never been to Ikea before.  Let's just say I was impressed with both.

Last weekend Jim and I drove up to Atlanta.  His parents (thanks guys) had gotten me an Ikea gift card for my birthday and I had heard such great things about Ikea I couldn't wait to see it.  Did you know they serve Swedish meatballs in there?  We didn't eat any (because we had just eaten at Chipotle...aka burrito heaven) but I was amazed.

First off, it's crazy big in there.  And there were a TON of people milling around.  I don't know how, but Ikea made me wish I lived in a tiny little apartment again.  Don't worry, it wore off when I left the store...it broke the spell I think.  They had an exhibit (is that the right word?) based on making small living spaces seem spacious.  They had 250, 350, and 480 sq ft "homes" that were designed in such a way that they felt open and spacious (sort of).  It's funny, they called them "homes"...when I lived in something that small I called it a "chicken coop"....but that may have had something to do with the fact that it was, in fact, a renovated chicken coop.  Oh California, the things we do for love.  Back on track.

I milled around Ikea for hours and bought some kitchen stuff, including woodland creatures cookie cutters, and don't think for a second you've heard the last of those, by the way.  I also got a new cutting board that I needed desperately and some various other kitchen stuff.  It was amazing.  If you haven't been, go.  It will make you want to remodel your kitchen, fair warning.

Anyway, so all that affordable Swedish furniture made me want to try Swedish meatballs.  They were sitting there on the challenge list after all.  Now, I must confess.  I've had some very limited successes with these challenges.  The pierogi were great, sure, but the lemon meringue with the receding hairline?

But let's talk meatballs.  These are great.  They don't have a lot of spices...pretty much just caraway seeds, but they came out wonderful.  Here's the recipe.



Swedish Meatballs
(adapted from "A Taste of Georgia"...Sweden?  Georgia?  I don't get it)


1 lb ground beef
2 Tbsp minced onion
2 tsp margarine
1/2 cup old fashioned or quick oats
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp caraway seed
3 Tbsp more margarine
1 can (11 oz) cream of celery soup
1/2 cup water


Brown the onion in the 2 tsp margarine over low heat.  Combine meat, oats, egg, seasoning, and cooked onion until mixed well.  Using your hands, shape the mixture into small 1 inch meatballs.  


Cook the meatballs in the same skillet you browned the onion in, melting the 2 Tbsp of margarine first.  Turn continuously until browned on all sides, remove from pan.  Add soup and water, stir until smooth, allow to bubble a bit.


Return meatballs to skillet, cover and cook for about 10 minutes more.  Serve immediately over cooked pasta...here I used my favorite, Cavatappi.


Swedish meatballs.  Not very photogenic, but let's face it, not many of us are (by the way, why does my camera think I'm so much frumpier than my mirror does?  Get with it, camera, ya jerk).  Great fall food.









Saturday, September 17, 2011

Apple Spice Oatmeal Cookies

Fall is here!  Spice cookie magic.

We've finally gotten some cooler weather down here which kick-started my fall/winter cookie baking instincts.  Disregard the fact that I've baked them all throughout spring and summer, please.

As a side note, I've always been kind of backwards when it comes to seasonal activities, which is something I've been meaning to work on.  In high school I would highlight my hair in the winter and dye it dark in the summer.  So off.  I crave pumpkin pie in the spring and then by Thanksgiving I'm sick of it.  I bring the cookies my Nana only made at Christmas in to my coworkers in July.  Ridiculous.  Well these cookies are perfect for fall.  It's fall now, right Georgia?  Right?  (Please?)

Anyway, I was browsing through the Martha Stewart cookie book that my best friend gave me and I saw something that caught my eye.  I took her recipe and changed a few things around and came up with these.  They're improvements, in my opinion (how could she NOT have put nuts in these?!?), so in effect I win, Martha.  I bet she didn't even know we were in competition.

Add caption


Apple Spice Oatmeal Cookies
(adapted from Martha Stewart, makes about 36 cookies)


Cookies:


4 Tbsp melted butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 c. chunky applesauce
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp coarse salt
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup walnuts


Glaze:


1 3/4 c powdered sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp water

Mix butter and sugars on low until combined.  Add egg, applesauce, vanilla.  Mix until well blended, about 2 minutes.


In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and allspice.  Whisk together.  Add flour mixture to wet ingredients, stir until combined.  


Stir in oats, then nuts, then raisins.  Use a 1 1/2 inch cookie scoop to place 2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 14-15 minutes or until golden brown on edges.  Allow to cool on sheet two minutes before removing to wire cooling rack.  (To rapid cool, place rack in refrigerator for about 10 minutes.)


Whisk together glaze ingredients.  If mixture is too runny, add more powdered sugar until desired consistency is achieved.  Using a pasty bag or squeeze bottle (or like I did, a ziploc baggie with a tiny corner snipped off) drizzle glaze over completely cooled cookies.  Allow glaze to set before storing in an airtight container.


Popcorn Shrimp

I really need a classier ramekin

You may or may not know this about me, but I waited tables throughout high school and college.  Now don't get me started on all that, I could go on for hours about all my experiences over the years.  I don't know what it is about eating in a restaurant, but it flips a serious jerk switch for some people.  Jerk switch, that's a medical term, I think.  I read somewhere once that if you're out to eat, and you want to know how your date will treat you in a couple years...look at how they treat their server.  Don't worry, Jim is really nice to servers.

Not that it was all bad.  I made very good money, I was very good at it, and I learned a lot of skills that I use on a day to day basis (many of them involving jerk-wrangling as it were).  I even miss it occasionally.  Very, very occasionally.

You really take for granted, as a 16-23 year old server, that you won't always have a job that requires you to walk (or run in some cases) miles and miles each and every day.  

You wouldn't believe how many calories that burns.  I look back now on all the junk I ate without a second thought and it's almost too much to bear.  I once split a "skyscraper malt" (which is about as big as you could possibly imagine) with three other teenage girls.  Insane.  I ate goldfish crackers like....well, they might as well have been in a feed bag strapped to my face.  Yes, like a horse.I would go to Sonic and order a grilled cheese, tater tots, and a root beer float.  It's just surreal to me now.  I guess a lot of people have that experience, really high metabolism as a kid that just kind of...drops once you start getting older.

Well, when I look back at that time, one of the things I miss most is the delicious breaded things I ate.  Fish and  chips, fried chicken, and one of my personal favorites...popcorn shrimp.

Now you can imagine my joy at discovering this wonderful recipe that  finds a way to make breaded shrimp healthy.  I don't know what kind of voodoo makes this recipe possible, but I believe it involves Panko crumbs, as do so many other somehow-miraculously-low-fat recipes.  

Jim requested this become a regular in our dinner rotation.  =)

Popcorn Shrimp
(adapted from skinny taste)

16 oz jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined, de-tailed
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
6 Tbsp Italian bread crumbs
2 Tbsp Panko
2 Tbsp grated parmesan
dash red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 450, rinse and dry the shrimp and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Beat the egg in one small bowl.  In another, mix together breadcrumbs, panko, cheese, and red pepper flakes.  

Dip each shrimp in egg, then in breadcrumbs, coating thoroughly, and set on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake in center rack for 5 minutes.  Turn, and bake an additional two minutes.  Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon and cocktail sauce.


Now I've only tried this with shrimp, but I'm pretty sure it would work with chicken nuggets, or perhaps some alligator, if you happen to have that crawling around nearby.  Fried alligator is amazing, by the way, as I've discussed elsewhere.

It was actually cool today.  It was heaven.  I'm wearing sweatpants right now.  Don't think I've forgotten about the pumpkin promise I made yesterday.  I won't get to it quite yet, but soon, friends, very soon.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies



I know, I know.  I had you at peanut butter.  Or pretzel.  Or brownie, for that matter.  But what's better than one of your favorite foods?  Delicious combinations?  Oh yes.

After reading Jim's post from last time, I know that these otherwise earth shaking confections might not hold the same allure as they would have had Jim never graced us all with his humor, unbearable cuteness and affinity for obscure foods.  Seriously, I was laughing uncontrollably. 

I wish he could write all my posts.  But alas, here I am, another day, another iteration of me pining over flavor combinations and drooling on my keyboard.  And let's not forget my shocking overuse of the word "delicious".  I need help.

But these brownies deserve the spotlight for now.  They've earned it.  They've oh-so-good-naturedly swirled together with that peanut buttery goodness and lovingly supported those pretzel sticks every step of the way.  It's high time we all just throw caution to the wind and appreciate them for what they are.  

Eat them.  Eat them all.

And if you inhale them so quickly that you start to feel bad for not sharing the good word with others, wrap them up and mail them to a friend, like I may or may not have.  They'll appreciate it (hopefully).  

Also, word to the wise.  If:

a) your interest has been piqued by this utterly brilliant flavor mashup, 
b) you can't get enough of P.B.-pretzel-chocolate anything or 
c) you are just too lazy to go to the work of baking (no judgment here),

then you should run, not walk, to the nearest grocery store and pick up a pint of Ben and Jerry's "Chubby Hubby" ice cream.  You'll see.  And if you want the authentic my-style ice cream experience you should eat it in sweat pants on the couch while watching the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice.  Warning, afterwards your estrogen levels may spike to dangerous levels, and your day to day life may seem alarmingly ice cream free in hindsight.



Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies
(adapted from joy the baker)

Brownies:

1 stick unsalted butter
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 tsp instant coffee
3/4 c sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
dash coarse sea salt

Peanut Butter:

4 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 c powdered sugar 
3/4 c smooth peanut butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
handful pretzel sticks

For the brownies, melt butter, chocolates, and instant coffee in a medium sized bowl.  Once mixture has cooled a bit, stir in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and regular salt.  

Whisk sugar into the chocolate mixture, then whisk in eggs, one at a time until incorporated.

Fold in flour mixture and pour into a greased (and parchment paper if desired) 8x8'' pan.

For the peanut butter, whisk all ingredients except pretzel sticks together until smooth.  Pour evenly into brownies, swirling peanut butter into the brownie batter with a butter knife.

Add pretzels to the top of the brownies and press into the batter ever so gently.  Sprinkle a dash or two of coarse sea salt on top.

Bake uncovered at 325 for 45-50 minutes.  Allow to cool a bit in pan before removal.


Fair warning, depending on how you arrange the pretzels, you may find yourself cutting your brownies into weird long skinny shapes.  They're still delicious, but I sort of wish I'd broken my pretzels in half first or something.  Or maybe layered them inside the brownies.  You should try that.


Fall is coming.  Prepare yourselves.  If you thought the bakestravaganza was upon you, oh buddy.  Just you wait.

I'm going to incorporate pumpkin like you wouldn't even BELIEVE.



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Valiant Effort: A Guest Post from Jim

Chinese Dumplings

  A clear sign that you are talented at something is the ability to make it look easy.  However, this creates a problem as the rest of us watch this talented person and think, "Oh that looks simple enough, think I'll give it a try."  This was the statement that went through my naive brain on Tuesday as I, with the day off, decided to prepare something different, challenging, and hopefully delicious for Ashley, who was detained at work against her will.  The goal was to make something tasty while impressing her with creativity and undiscovered skill.  After all, I watch her effortlessly make amazing meal after meal on a nightly basis, why can't I make one?  The scene was set in my head, picturing her coming home from work with a ferocious hunger only to be stunned as she was met at the door by delectable aromas followed by the scene of me, unfazed and far from fatigued, standing triumphantly over a completed dinner.  Well, I came close.
 
   Somewhere in the afternoon I dug up the memories of my time in China and decided it would be fun and impressive to make Chinese dumplings.  Better yet, using the bamboo steamer we recently purchased, I would make steamed Chinese dumplings.  Realistically this is not that difficult to make for the experienced cook.  But, when you look at my cooking resume (In my single days I made an award winning chicken breast a-la-skillet and Kraft macaroni and cheese) I am far from experienced.  So you can imagine my perplexed look when facing an actual ginger root and wondering how in the world you go from that to "minced."  Nevertheless, I rolled my sleeves up at around 2:30 and thought how easily I could just knock this out in about an hour, refrigerate the dumplings, then pop them in the steamer 20 minutes before Ashley gets home and we are golden!

    I got off to a seemingly good start.  Step one, dough.  Ingredients: flour, water, a dash of salt.  Wow!  Easy day!  I mixed that all together, popped it in a bowl, covered it, and was ambitiously pushing on to step 2.   However, I will admit to some lost time having fun throwing the dough ball in the air and slapping it around a little.



   Step 2:  The filling.  Here is what the recipe told me.


  • 1 3/4 pounds ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 cups finely shredded Chinese cabbage

 OK, I wanted to follow the recipe exactly, but some changes were made either due to confusion or taste preferences.  First, I could only buy one pound of ground pork or two, so I just decided on two (I thought "I like meat") and threw it in the bowl.  Then we came face to face with the ginger root.  The questions were swarming my head.  How much ginger root do I buy to produce a tbsp of minced ginger root?  How do I mince ginger root?  Why is it $2.99 a pound?  How much root would actually weigh a pound?  Where did this ginger come from?  Who looked at this and thought "let's turn this into a soda?"  Needless to say I couldn't answer any of them, so I guessed at the store and consulted Youtube for the mincing problem. (Quick side rant: From time to time Ashley talks about needing new knives, to which I look over at our 64,323 knives and say we have plenty.  Here is a tip, if you need new knives and your significant other doesn't understand, have them mince, dice, or finely slice anything, they will change their minds)  In the end I didn't mince the ginger exactly right, but the job got done.
These cubes I started with aren't the best way to mince ginger, but it worked.

Finally, I saw 5 cups of Chinese cabbage.  I don't like Chinese cabbage, and dumplings are flexible, so I decided on 5 cups of Spinach.  Did I know that spinach condenses a lot when  finely chopped?  No.  So after a whole bag of spinach which merited 3 measly cups, I quit.  Here is the resulting mixture:

Doesn't look like a lot here, but this was way too much!


   By the way, this was way too much filling.  We are going to try to use more of it this coming week for other projects, but I didn't even make a dent in this stuff.

   Now that I had completed the dough and filling all that was left was creating the dumplings.  Sounds so easy.  At this point my "easy hour" had long passed, sweat was forming on my forehead, my body wanted to sit, and I was just beginning to realize what takes up the most time with this dish.

Apparently sleeping next to the garbage can was more interesting than my cooking

   I really want to tell you that I pushed through, made the dumplings and had the dinner ready as planned.  I intended to finish, but after my first three dumplings came out so hideously deformed they looked like the dough boy had an accident on my counter, I quit.  I put the dough and filling in the fridge and cleaned up just in time for Ashley to come home and be confused as to why she was smelling such wonderful scents in the kitchen.  I confessed my attempt, my subsequent retreat, and together we finished the process to create these.



The brown color is due to the whole wheat flour
     I can't take the credit, after all I was only a glorified mixer, but I can tell you they were delicious.  I would highly recommend trying to make these as they are a fun food item to make together, just make sure you know how much you want to make so you aren't freezing them like we will be doing.

I hope you enjoyed this terrible cooking story.

-Jim
Languagesar>en YahooCEerror
The brown color is due to the whole wheat flour

Monday, September 12, 2011

Apricot Pork Chops


Let's take a quick moment to talk about how much I love anything sweet, fruity, or both sweet and fruity with pork.  It's the perfect pairing.

Okay so I'll admit it was also just incredibly easy and quick and I had all the ingredients on hand.  I didn't think I'd be cooking tonight, but I ended up getting off work a couple hours early so...yay!  Celebrations ensued.  Goodbye 12 hour shifts (for now).

So anyway.

This is gonna be a quick and easy post about quick and easy pork because I'm tired and I have to go to bed soon.  I cheated on my diet pretty badly today and I want to hit the reset button ASAP.

Apricot Pork Chops


4 pork chops
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/2 cup pineapple juice
dash of lemon juice
1 tsp ginger
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp corn startch
1 Tbsp water


Heat oil over medium high heat.  Season pork chops with salt and pepper, cook in skillet about 4 minutes per side or until cooked through.  


Meanwhile, mix preserves, juice, and ginger together in a small bowl.  


Remove cooked chops from skillet.  In the same pan, pour the apricot mixture.  Simmer on medium about 4 minutes or until thickened.  If necessary, add cornstarch mixed with water to apricot sauce to thicken, simmer an additional minute. 


 Once the apricot glaze has thickened, return pork to skillet, turning to coat.  Cook 1 minute and serve with extra glaze on top.


There you go, easy as pie...oh man pie.  I really need to get to bed before I eat everything in the house!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Black and White Cookies


AKA "my new favorite cookie".  And if you know me, that should tell you something.

I just followed the recipe at joy the baker for these little puppies...I'll have to play around with it a little bit later, because at the moment I can't even begin to imagine how to improve on these absolutely delicious little rays of sunshine in my life.

Think you're too cool for the plain old flavors of buttery cakey dough, sweet sweet vanilla and decadent semi-sweet chocolate?  I did.

Wrong!

Seriously, on this one...believe the hype.

I think there was even a Seinfeld episode about these cookies...

They are, however HUGE, and as Jim said, "filling", so even though I made a double batch to give to a hungry college student, I have a feeling I'm still gonna have loads to get rid of come Monday.


Sorry about the lack of posts lately.  I was busy with more real-lifey posts, including sending out a delicious care package.  But I can't talk about that quite yet.  

Only 2 more episodes left before I run out of Mad Men to watch on Netflix.  I need helpful suggestions for something which can attempt to fill the void in my life that will be left when I can't watch that show anymore. Seriously...Don Draper, I'm not ready to let go.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie


This is officially my second endeavor in the JOWT Challenge (Jim's Obscure World Tour), and it was markedly harder to make than the first food challenge, pierogi.  It turns out, lemon meringue pies are really difficult to get just right.

I wasn't going to mention it, but this was the only nice looking slice of pie that came out of the whole thing.  I didn't have to tell you that, but in the interest of full disclosure, and just so you don't think that this is easy...there you have it.

I'm not putting this sucker on the recipe page, as I didn't change anything and I wasn't super impressed with my results.  Granted, I take full responsibility, but I'll have to tinker with the recipe for a bit before it goes up there.  Anyway, here's the recipe I used.

First, I baked the pie crust...I just halved the recipe for crust that I used for the Jayhawk Pie last time.  That part came out great, but you do have to bake the shell for the first 15 minutes with pie weights (yeah, apparently that's a thing), or you can go the ghetto route like I did and put some foil in there and fill it up with coins.  You have to do that so that the crust doesn't rise.  Then you remove the foil and coins, prick it with a fork, and bake it another ten minutes.


Oh man, it looks delicious in this one, huh?  That lemon stuff is actually called "curd", I didn't know that.  And it is great.  I should have let it thicken up more, though.


The meringue...the show-stealer.  I should have had about twice as much.  In fact, I probably should have had like twice as much lemon curd too.  Oh well.  Lessons learned.



Supposedly it's really important that the filling be "piping hot" when you put it in the shell and top it with meringue, that way the meringue cooks a little bit on contact and doesn't just slide off the pie.  This was mine like... 15 minutes out of the fridge.

Why don't I sound more excited?  It looks great!  I mean, besides having less than tons of meringue/filling...and besides what I said (truthfully) about there only being one photogenic slice in there...I'll just show you.

I popped it in the fridge to cool overnight and boom.  I woke up to this!


Excuse me, does that pie have a receding hairline?  What in the world?  Yeah.  I was really sad.  I may or may not have turned on Jim, demanding why he had "set me up for failure."  It's called hubris, kids.  Overconfidence.  I was drunk with power after making my first ever successful pie crust from scratch, and thought I could reproduce the results on this little baby.

Oh well.  In the world of food blogging, all that really matters is that one nice looking slice up top, right?  Oh yeah and it still tasted pretty good too.  ;)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cheater Chocolate Chip Cookies




It irritates me a little that of all the different cookies I make, these are always the favorite.

Chocolate chip...already a very basic cookie.  A classic of course, but uncreative.

Then to make matters worse, I've toyed around with DOZENS of different scratch recipes, and these take the cake every time.

Oh man I gave it away.  Yeah, these are not from scratch.  That's where the "cheater" part comes in.

I had a very lazy day today.  I'm trying to adjust my schedule so after a 12 hour shift I tried to sleep for only four hours.  That didn't work out too well for me.  I ended up taking a two hour nap.  I guess sometimes despite your best intentions you have to take it easy on yourself.

So grab a box of yellow cake mix (the secret ingredient) and take the easy way out.  Just this once.  We'll keep it between you and me.

Cheater Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from the shortcut cookie book)


1 package yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 Tbsp dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
pinch of salt


Blend half the cake mix, butter, sugar, eggs, pinch of salt, and vanilla in a large bowl using an electric mixer until smooth. 


 Stir in chocolate chips, nuts, and the remaining cake mix until combined.  


Drop by even spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-13 minutes at 350, cool for a couple minutes on cookie sheet before removing to cooling rack.

Pesto Florentine

I totally blew it again!  Another work week gone by and I utterly fail at talking about what I've cooked.  That may be because I made the least delicious "orange chicken" I've ever eaten.  Utterly miserable.  Whoever said you can have Chinese takeout at home lied to you, I'm sorry, but it's true.

But forget about that.  Let's talk about pasta instead.



Pasta is for sure my favorite carb.  And bread.  Okay well carbs just in general are my favorite.  And when like 8:30 rolls around and I still haven't eaten dinner, pasta is my go-to quick and tasty mostly effortless meal.  Pasta, you're always there for me.  I love you.

Also, this is a quick and dirty recipe, measured in handfuls of this and half containers of that.  I was too hungry for measuring.

Pesto Florentine
(2 servings)


Half a box of pasta (I like penne or fettucine)
3-4 handfuls of fresh spinach
2 chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp pesto
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 cup grated parmesan
1/2 jar of store-bought Alfredo (I used Bertolli's)
2 Tbsp minced garlic


Cut chicken into strips and add salt and pepper to taste, heat oil in skillet.  Sautee garlic in hot oil for about 1 minute.  Add chicken, cook over medium heat until done through.  Meanwhile add Alfredo to a small saucepan over low heat, stirring often.  When warm, add pesto.  Continue stirring.  Add spinach to chicken, sauteeing until wilted.  Boil pasta al dente according to instructions on box.  Drain pasta and return to pot.  Add chicken and spinach mixture as well as sauce and parmesan.  Stir until coated and serve.  


Easy day.

I'm going to be working days this week so I get to return to a normalish sleeping schedule for a bit.  Why, then, do I feel like a zombie right now?  Ugh.  Okay fine I'll stop whining now.  =)




Saturday, September 3, 2011

Jayhawk Pie


Oh buddy!  I call it Jayhawk Pie because it's cherry-blueberry.  For anyone who doesn't know, the Jayhawk is my college mascot, and our colors were red and blue.  And there you have it.


For the first time ever, I decided to make my own pie crust.  That's right!  I was so scared.  It is a little difficult, but it came out all right.  Not perfect, but that's part of the beauty of it.


Oh man look at all that gorgeous fruit.  Drool.


This part was especially hard.  I rolled out the dough on floured wax paper, so I could relatively easily flip it over the top.


I folded the edges over, and then crimped the sides with my fingers.



And just for good measure... the letters were easier than carving a tiny jayhawk out of dough.  In case you were thinking of trying it.


And, as with calzones, a little brushed egg on top gets the crust just right.


Boom!  Delicious.


Jayhawk Pie

Crust: (from joy the baker)

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold, cubed
5 Tbsp + 2 tsp ice cold water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Filling: (adapted from allrecipes)

1/2 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 21 oz can cherry pie filling
2 cups fresh blueberries

Top:

1 beaten egg
2 Tbsp white sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 dash nutmeg

For the crust: in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt.  Add cold, cubed butter and, using your fingers, quickly work the butter into the flour mixture, breaking it down into a coarse meal.  Stir together the ice cold water and vinegar.   Create a well in the butter and flour mixture and pour in the water and vinegar mixture all at once.  Stir with a fork to bring to dough together, trying to get it all moist.  On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough.  Divide the dough in two and gently knead into two disks.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Mix together the filling ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside.



Remove one of the pie dough disks from the fridge.  On a floured surface, roll dough out into about a 13-inch round. Work quickly but carefully, with a well floured rolling pin.  Lift the 13-inch round from the floured surface and center in the 9-inch baking dish.  Now roll out your top crust.
Pour the fruit filling into the bottom crust in the pie dish.  Carefully drape the top crust over the fruit in the pie dish.  With a small knife, trim the crust, leaving about 3/4-inch overhang.  With your fingers press the top and bottom crusts together and fold under.  Use your fingers to crimp the edges of the dough.  Cut small slits in the top of the crust so the juices and steam can vent.  Brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar nutmeg mixture.

This part is optional: Using foil, cover the edges of the crust.  
Place pie in the oven and bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven heat to 375 and (if you used foil to protect the edges, remove it now;) bake for 45 to 55 more minutes.  Remove from the oven when crust is browned and golden. Allow to cool on rack for 2 hours before serving. 

This pie is magic.  People who like neither cherry nor blueberry pie will love this one.  I brought it to a tailgate the first time I met my fiance's best friends, and I credit this pie with making a good first impression.  Also, after finally making my own pie crust, I am an utter and complete convert.  Extraordinary.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Pork and Pierogi Challenge

I'd say I won that one.

 So a couple things about this. A) September to me, means fall, regardless of whether it's still over 90 degrees out on a day to day basis. B) Fall, in turn, means apple cinnamon, whether there are even more scorpions sneaking into your kitchen or not. There are, by the way.

 And C) Jim loves pierogi. I had never heard of them until I met him, and I'm still not sure I'm spelling it right. He insists that one is a pierog, and multiple are pierogi. Spell check disagrees, but offers no better suggestions.

 Anyway, Jim especially requested home made pierogi as part of a series I'll be continuing throughout the blog called "Jim's Obscure World Tour Challenge". Here is the first installment.

 According to wikipedia, pierogi are boiled, baked or fried dumplings of unleavened dough traditionally stuffed with potato filling, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese, or fruit. What they really are is inarguably tasty. Although I do have a soft, warm, gooey spot in my heart reserved for all things dough-related. But, back to work!

First, let's talk about the insides, because that's what I had to make first. I adapted this recipe to make what I'm calling Roasted Garlic Cheddar Mashed Potatoes. Hungry yet?
The picture is less than cute, I know. Cooking can be a time-sensitive affair.

 Roasted Garlic Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
(makes 8ish servings) 
 2 medium heads garlic 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered 
4 tablespoons butter, softened 
1/2 cup skim evaporated milk 
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar 
1/4 tsp onion powder 
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop off top 1/2 inch of garlic bulbs, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap in foil. Place in muffin tin, and roast in oven for about 45 minutes. 


 Meanwhile, wash, peel, and quarter potatoes. Boil in salted water for 15 minutes. Drain and chop, place in large bowl. Add shredded cheese immediately so it begins to melt. Squeeze roasted garlic from bulbs into the potato mixture, add butter, onion powder, evaporated milk, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix with an electric mixer until smooth.

 Now that we have the filling, let's make our pierogi. I think because this was part of the JOWT Challenge, Jim was very excited to assist in the photography process, which made me realize a few things about myself.
A couple of those things dealt with cooking attire. Let's talk about the ridiculous spectacle you would see if you waltzed into my kitchen any given day.

 I like to cook in basketball shorts. Yeah, I know most people save those for things such as....basketball? But yeah, not me. So T Shirt, basketball shorts, and then my super fancy wedding shoes which I'm trying to break in.

 Top it off with goofy-but-cute 50's apron (previously discussed elsewhere) and there you have it. Absolutely ridiculous. Thank God you can't see it all in the pictures.
What you can see is my floury hands. There are times when I relish making a mess. Like for instance, eating crab legs or cooking. Awesome.
Oh tiny little dough circles, you warm my heart.
Sealing them with a fork.
Here's the recipe for the dough, adapted from allrecipes.

 Pierogi Dough
(makes about 20 pierogi) 
 2 eggs 
1/2 (8 ounce) container sour cream 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/8 teaspoon salt 
2 teaspoons baking powder 


 Sift together dry ingredients. Beat egg and sour cream together until smooth.


Stir flour mixture into the egg and sour cream mixture until a dough forms. Remove dough to floured surface and knead for about 3-5 minutes until it becomes firm and elastic. 


 Roll dough out to 1/8'' thick and cut with a 3'' biscuit cutter. Fill rounds with mashed potatoes filling and seal with a little bit of water along the edges and a fork, crimping the edges. 


 Boil for 3-5 minutes or until they float to the top OR pan fry for about 3-5 minutes until browned on the outside.

 I'm getting tired. Are you tired yet? Because we still have the main course. I don't know where I get the energy. Good thing this recipe is ridiculously simple.

  Apple Cinnamon Pork Chops 
(adapted from allrecipes again) 
 4 (3/4 inch) thick pork chops 
1 teaspoon vegetable oil 
2 tablespoons brown sugar 
salt and pepper to taste 
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1/2 cup applesauce handful pecans, finely chopped 


 Brush the pork chops with oil and place in a pan on medium high heat. Cook through, about 5 minutes per side. 


 Meanwhile melt butter over medium low heat in a saucepan. Add sugar, salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts, and applesauce. 


 Cook over medium low heat until mixture begins to bubble. Turn down to very low and simmer until pork is finished cooking. Spoon apple mixture on top of pork chops and serve.

I won't even get into dessert right now. What am I some sort of machine? Hint. I finally made my own pie crust and boy was it worth it. Jim has officially banned me from making anymore sweets until after the wedding. I knew this day would come, but it doesn't make me any less sad. Anyway, I'll talk about the pie later!
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