Friday, February 26, 2010

Project #6: Fish Quilt

The birth of my husband's best friend's second child really snuck up on me. I mean I did have nine months to be prepared and it only hit me at the beginning of Feb that the little guy was coming in less than a month.

Normally I make a cross stitch birth sample of some sort for the baby's room. I just haven't been in the cross stitching mood. Since the last quilt went relatively well, I thought I'd make another baby quilt.

The theme of the new baby's room is aquatic so I scoured the interweb for a neat looking fish themed quilt pattern. I happened upon a picture of the up a lazy river quilt pattern.

Because I'm a cheapskate, and I didn't want to risk not getting the pattern in a timely fashion, I decided to tackle the design without a pattern. Besides, I didn't like how close the fish were in the original design. I figured if I was going to alter the pattern anyhow, I might as well use my own measurements. I probably violated some copyright law and they'll be knocking on my door with their semi-automatics to take me away any minute now. (Do you think if I ask nicely they'd let me take a shower first before they put me in the hoosegow?)

I'm very proud of myself that I worked out all the geometry involved on my own. The fins were such a bugger to get pieced together. I did the biggest mega-happy dance when all the pieces matched up. I guess this just goes to show that my mom was right all along, I am good at math. (Yup, mom, you read that correctly. I said, "You were right." Feel free to mark this day down on your calendar for posterity.)

Speaking of my mom, she was in town last weekend and helped me pick out the fabrics. I forgot to show her a picture of the pattern before we went to the fabric store so she was blindly putting fabrics together with me giving the yay or nay to them. It was great to have her along to bounce ideas off of. Mrblocko would have been no help at all.The photo is a bit washed out from the flash, and I thought I had all the ripples smoothed out as well. You get the general idea of what the quilt looks like from the photo though. I'm really proud of how it turned out, wonky stitches, puckers and all. Hopefully the baby will puke and pee and poop on it to his heart's content!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Welcome to Morrocco-bama

A few weekends ago Mrblocko and I were fortunate enough to be without the shorty short pants for a night. Since we both enjoy cooking, we thought cooking a complicated dish would be a good way to spend some quality time together. Usually, it's me cooking in the kitchen while Mrblocko entertains Blockette. It was nice to be able to cook together without interruptions from the munchkin. Then there was the added bonus of not having hear complaints about how Blockette didn't like the "new weird dish."

Mrblocko and I settled on a dish called bastilla which I found on the blog Pete bakes! This dish is originally from Morocco. Mrblocko and I are not familiar with Moroccan food, and we had never had or heard of Bastilla before, so this dish was an especially risky meal. Especially risky, as I didn't have a back up plan in case things went terribly wrong. Thankfully that didn't happen.

There were lots of steps to this dish, so the potential for disaster was definitely there. The first step is to boil your chicken. The recipe stated to cover the chicken completely, but it also said to use 3 cups of stock. We must have had jumbo chicken breasts because it took 4 cups to cover the chicken completely. It was a good thing that I happened to have exactly that amount in the freezer.

Boiling the chicken turns it the most wonderful yellow color. I was surprised that the yellow color didn't penetrate through the whole chicken breast. This is one time that my camera that is usually heavy on the yellow, didn't show enough of the yellow. The chicken actually looked more golden than this picture below portrays.

After the chicken is boiled, you remove it from the stock and then boil the heck out of the stock to reduce it. We boiled ours for about 30 minutes and it was super thick. The recipe tells you to only use a 1/3 cup of this sauce. The stuff smelled so good, and there was about a cup left so I stuck that in the freezer. I'm sure that I can think of something to use that condensed goodness in. Perhaps in a soup base? I'm open to suggestions!

The recipe wasn't exactly clear as to what size pan to use when laying out the phyllo sheets. We finally came to the decision to use a large oven safe skillet.

Also, we doubled up on the phyllo. Wherever the recipe called for one sheet, we used two. This seemed to make the crust a little more stable. Even after using twice the amount required in the recipe, we only used a half of a box of phyllo. Now I've gotta find a use for that other half a box of phyllo dough. Darn!

I didn't butter between the doubled up sheets, and I wished that I had. The phyllo would have crisped up a bit better on the inside of the pie. I had already used more butter in the brushing process than the recipe suggested. The only brush we have is more of a barbecue brush. I couldn't get a thin coat of butter without tearing the phyllo to shreds.

Here is what the Bastilla looked like direct from the oven. Note to self. Do not turn plastic cutting board over the top of a hot pan. It will melt little marks from the edge of the pan into your cutting board. Good thing the cutting board is reverseable!
Here's the end product sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Don't skimp on either one. The sweet and spice from the cinnamon and sugar complement the savory spices in the chicken. Here's a glimpse into the inside of the Bastilla. It was really good. There were a ton of leftovers though. Surprisingly, Blockette saw me eating it the next day and wanted a taste. Then she wanted her own slice. Thumbs up from the munchkin! Full of surprises that one is.

Bastilla From Pete Bakes
2 lbs chicken breast
3 cups chicken broth
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp fresh parsley
1 cinnamon stick
salt and pepper
6 eggs
2/3 cup almonds
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 pckg phyllo dough
2 Tbsp butter, melted
confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Place chicken breasts in a large saucepan and pour in just enough broth to cover them. add the onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cilantro, parsley, cinnamon stick and salt and pepper. bring to a boil and cook for about 30 min.

Toast almonds with a few drops of veg oil, then mix in a food processor with sugar and 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon. set aside.

Remove chicken from the stock and set aside to cool. Severely reduce the stock to a thick sauce. remove the cinnamon stick. Beat eggs in a separate bowl, then cook in a skillet with 1/3 c thickened broth/sauce. Set aside.

Shred cooled chicken. Add to egg mix. Make sure mix is not too wet or will soak through the phyllo dough.

Thaw phyllo dough. In lg oven-proof skillet/large round pan, layer 6 sheets of phylo, brushing each layer with melted butter. Sheets should drape over the sides of the pan. Fold 2 sheets of phyllo in half and place in the center for stability.

Place 1/2 almond mix in middle of pan, shape into rough circle with hands. Add shredded chicken/egg mix. Top with remaining almond mix. Fold another 2 sheets of phyllo in half and place on top.

Fold overlapped phyllo from bottom over top of bastilla. Brush with melted butter to make sure everything sticks together. Bake at 425 F for 20 min, til phyllo brown and crisp. Invert onto a large baking sheet. dust with confectioners’ sugar and decorate with remaining 1 T cinnamon.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I didn't blow up the kitchen!

I should start a new section on this blog about conquering fears in the kitchen. Although, I think there would be more blog entries under that label than any other. Perhaps I'm just a scaredy cat deep down when it comes to the kitchen. Be that as it may, at least I'm taking steps to overcome my fears.

This time my fear was making dulce de leche. I think this fear is completely justified. Making dulce de leche can result in a can blowing up and spewing hot molten caramelized sweetened condensed milk everywhere. If that ain't fear worthy I don't know what is.

I found directions for crockpot dulce de leche on kitchen koala, and that seemed slightly less risky than boiling the cans on the stove. However, I was still scared. I followed the directions, and even put one jar of sweetened condensed milk into a little canning jar so I would know for sure when it had caramelized. I'm glad I did that because after 8 hours on low, there was absolutely no change in color.

After the 8 hours on low, I cranked the crock pot up to high and checked the jars every hour. Lo and behold at 4 hours I had this:
MMMMMMM! Lookie at that lovely caramel numaliciousness! Yay!

The only downside to making this was that the crockpot was coated in this white powdery substance. I'm not sure if it is from something on the can, or minerals from the water. If I make this again I think I'll invest in some of those crock pot bags to see if that makes cleaning the slow cooker a little bit easier.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Baby PBJ Pies

These sweet little pies are bigger than the bottle cap magnets but smaller than the half pint pies in a jar. If you were a Pushing Daisies fan, you might classify these little guys as mini cup pies since they were baked in a mini cupcake/muffin tin. I found this recipe for Peanut butter and jelly baby lattice pies over at Picky Palate. I was searching for something in the freezer last week and came across half a box of pre made pie crust. I have no idea what the other half of the pie crust was used for. Maybe it's best if I don't think about how old it was. I defrosted it, and the dough looked fine. There was no sign of freezer burn or anything nasty like that.

My pies didn't turn out as nice looking as the ones from Picky Palate. I could blame the crust, but it was more likely a combination of several issues. First, I don't think I sprayed the pan very well. Second, I was afraid of the dough sticking to the counter. Usually I don't flour the counter well enough. This time I went the other direction. The dough was a little tougher and therefore more difficult to get the lattice pieces to behave. Third, I cut several of the lattice strips at 1/8 inch thickness, per the directions, and the lattice strips on those pies cracked when I removed them from the muffin tin. The strips I cut at 1/4 inch width (like the one in the photo above) fared much better. Fourth, I don't think the pies got cooked quite long enough. I took them out after 30 minutes because I was afraid the tops would burn. The bottoms were the teeniest bit under cooked. Perhaps if the crust was a bit crisper it would have released better from the pan. Last of all, it took me so long to assemble the fussy little pies that I think the dough got soft in the pan and it soaked up some of the poorly sprayed on cooking spray.

All screw ups aside, the pies were really tasty. I made half with the combo of crunchy peanut butter and strawberry preserves, and the other half with Nutella and strawberry preserves. The Nutella ones were my favorites. If I had some Raspberry jam I would have used that instead. I think raspberry and chocolate are such a rockin combination.

While I was nibbling on one of these little treats I had a hand smack to the forehead moment. Why on earth didn't I make some with the flavored peanut butters I had in the pantry? Duh. I completely forgot about them! I also could have made some with the apple butter my husband keeps forgetting we have in the fridge. I'll have to give those other things a try when I'm in the mood to be fussy in the kitchen again. Maybe I'll even work up the courage to make a crust from scratch again. Homemade crust is so much more tasty than the pre packaged stuff. It would make this fussy dessert more fussy though...I'll have to give that some more thought.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Baby Lattice Pies from Picky Palate
1 roll Pillsbury pie dough
1/2 Cup creamy peanut butter
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 Cup Smucker’s Strawberry Preserves
1 egg white whisked with 1 teaspoon water for egg wash
Sugar Crystals for sprinkling on top if desired
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Unroll pie crust onto a lightly floured surface. Use a 2 1/2" round cutter to cut out circles in dough. Lightly press dough rounds into greased mini muffin tin. Roll remaining scraps of dough to an even thickness then use a sharp knife to cut thin 1/8" strips to create the lattice topping. Set aside.

Mix peanut butter and sugar until combined. With a small cookie scoop or teaspoon, drop a heaping t into each pie crust. Do the same with jam. Using pie strips, form lattice top. Cut excess dough from edges and brush tops lightly with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar crystals and bake 25-30 min til nice and golden brown.

Remove and with tip of a knife, loosen edges where jam has oozed out. Carefully remove from pan after 5 min with help of knife and let cool. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with milk!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sugar Donut Muffins

These little muffins sure do look cute, and I do love an excuse to use my mini donut pan. What better way than with a recipe called sugar donut muffins from Baking Bites. These muffins were tasty, there was no mistaking that. They just weren't what I was expecting. I thought these treats leaned more toward tasting like a muffin rather than a donut. Muffins are great and all, but they are sort of a bummer when you're expecting a donut.

I thought the donuts were pretty light tasting. I had wanted them to be a bit denser and cakeier. That was probably why I wasn't over the moon after the first bite. I added cinnamon to the sugar and butter coating alleviate some of my disappointment. That helped...enough so that I ate 5 of them in a row. I gave the rest of the batch away to save me from myself.

Will there be a next time with these donuts? Blockette says yes, but I think I will keep searching for a more donut-y tasting recipe to make with my donut shaped pan.

Sugar Donut Muffins from Baking Bites
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking power
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk (low fat is fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a muffin tin with cooking spray or vegetable oil. In a large bowl, beat sugar and egg til light in color. In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Pour into egg mix and stir to combine. Pour in veg oil, milk and vanilla. Divide batter evenly into 10 muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-18 min, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. While muffins baking, melt butter and pour remaining sugar into a small bowl. When muffins done, lightly brush the top of each with melted butter, remove from the pan and roll in sugar. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 10 muffins.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Project #5: Not A Heart Wreath

This project was supposed to be a wreath made out of hearts. I found the idea back in 2007 from a site called Exploring womanhood. I'm not going to go into how bizarre of a title that is for a crafting website. Let's just agree to let that go. Use mental floss if you have to.

So why did this not turn out to be a wreath? The first reason was that I didn't have enough red fabrics. The directions suggested using eight stuffed hearts. I only had five different red fabrics. Sure, I could have used the same fabric more than once, but not all the fabrics looked nice right next to each other. I also thought having the hearts join up so that they made a five point star in the middle would be neat as well.

Problem number two was that I didn't have an embroidery hoop. OK, so I had an embroidery hoop, but I was using it for...gasp...embroidery. Please don't report me to the crafting police!!!! I really thought that I could get the hearts to stay in a circle by stitching them together. Wrong. They really needed something like the hoop to retain the circular shape.

The last problem was that I made the hearts too wide. If you look at the pictures on the website I referenced above, you can see that they are skinny hearts with a long point. (Apparently I cannot draw or cut a skinny pointy heart. They always turn out squat and pudgy. Hey! Don't judge me! I likes 'em that way. ) The taller type of hearts give more definition to the star shape that forms in the center of the wreath. Even when I laid the hearts I had made out to test their placement, the angles of the points just didn't match up right. It was definitely wonky looking.

Since I didn't want to start over, or buy more materials to fix the problem, I decided to improvise. I went shopping in my crafting stash and found a really wide piece of lace. I stitched the hearts to that. Overall, I think the end result looks cute against our weird looking front door. Mrblocko approved, even though "hearts are for girls." Obviously Blockette loves it as you can see in the photo. She insisted on being in the picture. And yes, in case you were wondering, that IS a Halloween shirt she is wearing in the middle of February.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dutch Babies

Once upon a time in a land of ice and snow there was a restaurant called Pannekoeken. They were a Dutch themed restaurant, with a funky windmill thing on the exterior to boot. Their specialty was the dish that they named the restaurant after, the Pannnekoeken. Around these parts they are more commonly referred to as Dutch Babies.

Dutch Babies are like a huge popover as big as your plate. I used to love getting them on the special occasions that we would frequent Pannekoeken. The only down side was that if you ordered the house special, it would take at least 30 minutes for you to get your order. What kid wants to wait 30 minutes for their meal, after waiting at least 30 minutes to get seated at a table? So, to my great sadness, I just wasn't patient enough to get one of these tasty treats the majority of the time we visited the restaurant.

You can imagine my horror when I finally got the opportunity to eat one of these sweet poofs on a plate, and they served it with sour cream. Sour cream??!?!?! Waaaahhh? Originally, they were served with fruit and whipped cream. Yes, sour cream and whipped cream both contain the word cream, but they are in no way, shape or form, acceptable substitutes for one another. Strangely enough, the restaurant closed down shortly after this incident. I blame the sour cream. Way to go people!I sure wish I had known how easy this dish was to make years ago. I'd make it more often, except I still don't like to wait 30 minutes for my breakfast. I found several versions of the Dutch Babies on a few recipe sites a few years back. The one listed below is my favorite. The photo above is made with 3 eggs and 2 T butter. This seems to be the perfect amount for the three of us. The version with 4 eggs and 3 T butter poofs up a lot more and makes for a much cooler presentation though.

Dutch Babies
1 c flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 c milk
1 T sugar or honey
4 eggs (3 eggs)
3 T butter (2 T butter)

Preheat the oven to 425. Mix flour salt and milk. Add sugar, then eggs one at a time. Beat well after each addition. Place butter in a 12 inch round pan/skillet with high sides. Melt butter in pan in oven. once butter is melted pour in the batter. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve with maple syrup, jam, powdered sugar, fruit or a squeeze of lemon.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Project #4: Fuzzy Pillow

I cannot remember how long ago I started this project. It had to have been at least 3 years ago because I still had my old cranky sewing machine. I had to stitch all the furry swatches together by hand because my old machine couldn't handle the bulk of the faux furs. When I finally got around assembling the pillow the other day, the new machine laughed when I begged it to stitch through two super thick fuzzy layers. It wasn't the laugh my old machine would have given me, but the laugh that said, "Oh sweetie, this is nuthin."
How on earth did I get all these furry bits of fabric? Once upon a time there was a fabric company that gave you ten or so free swatches, just for the asking. I asked a few people to request faux fur swatches of their choice. Some of the swatches are quite a bit more hairy than others. I love the variety of all the different lengths and textures. They make the pillow quite fun to pet and play with.

Speaking of pets, I thought the cats would go gaga over the fur and tear the pillow to shreds. After their initial investigation, they turned up their tails and went back to bed. They had been sleeping all day and that can really tire a cat out. I don't blame them for wanting to take a nap.

The back of the pillow is orange with bits of bright pink. I don't know why, but the camera didn't pick up any of the pink streaks. I originally bought this fabric to make into a diaper bag with a monster face. Since a diaper bag is no longer needed, I felt ok using the fur for an unintended purpose. There was quite a bit of orange fur left over after assembling the pillow. I've already got a plan for it. Hopefully, I'll get around to that new project in the not too distant future. What does Blockette think of this new monstrously crazy furry pillow? When she got home from school and saw it, her response was, "Oh!!! Mommy!!! It is gorgeous! I always wanted a pillow just like this! Thankyou thankyou thankyou."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Project #3: I spy snowball quilt

I saw the idea for this quilt on Craftster. The person with the screen name ZumaGirl74 designed her quilt this way as sort of an accident. She didn't have enough fancy fabrics to do the traditional snowball pattern. I liked it so much that I kept the idea in my head for 3 years. When my nephew was born I thought it was the perfect excuse to test it out.

This was the first "real" quilt that I've made. I've made a denim rag quilt, but that didn't have any batting. I also made Blockette a cheater stain glass window quilt, but that didn't have batting either. The closest thing to anything quilted was place mats. Let me tell you, quilting a large baby quilt is quite different from a place mat. There is a lot more fabric to mess around with, and mess up. Especially if you are machine quilting the darn thing.

I was pretty pleased with myself that I only managed to get 2 or 3 little folds in the fabric from the quilting process. When I made the place mats I had at least that many on one tiny place mat. The seam ripper was definitely my friend. I left the little sewn in folds on this quilt though. The fabric is dark enough that they are not noticeable. I also used a thick batting which also did a good job of hiding the mistakes. I won't use batting that thick again, even if it was good mistake camouflage. The thickness from the batting was just too much of a pain to manipulate under the arm of my sewing machine. Thin batting is what I'll use from now on.

My nephew's quilt is actually quite large for a baby quilt. It measures a whopping 42 x 52 inches! I'm hoping his parents will use it as a floor blanket when he gets big enough for tummy time.

I chose bright, high contrast colors because they are supposed to be what a baby can see the easiest. I'm not normally into the color yellow, so it's weird that this quilt turned out to have a ton of yellow in it.

There was some debate between me and Mrblocko as to whether or not the yellow border fabric was too girly. The shirts on the fabric have hearts on them. I was not given the memo that hearts are girly. I thought hearts were for love. Again, I didn't get the memo that love was girly as well. I liked that there were hearts on the fabric, and since I was the one making the quilt, the border fabric stayed. Although you can't tell from the photo, the border fabric matches the rest of the quilt perfectly.

My camera did not like the black background fabric in this quilt. Thusly, the photos of this quilt are especially pooptastic. When I tried to take a picture without the flash, the camera wouldn't focus. Something about the tiny black dots on the fabric made the camera go all wonky. So my choices of pictures were either blurry or washed out. Washed out it is!

Back: (The white circle is the label. I named the quilt "I spy a snowball fight."
I think maybe I should refrain from naming objects after weather events. As soon as this quilt was finished we got smacked with a ton of snow!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Note: if you look carefully you can see her fancy clown collar around her neck.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cinnamon Roll Caramel Corn

It's tradition that Mrblocko goes to his friends house for the "big game". His friends live 45 minutes away. Since the game is on a school night, Blockette and I go to my best friend's house who lives only a mere 15 minutes away.

I asked Mrblocko what he wanted me to make for him to take over to his friends house. Do you know what he wanted to bring? Cheese, sausage and crackers. HA! I decided that I was going to make Our Best Bites' Cinnamon roll caramel corn to take to my party.

When I first told Mrblocko I was going to make caramel corn he was pretty unenthused. Then I told him I was going to take a perfectly good batch of caramel corn and add cinnamon, pecans and white chocolate. That really caught his attention.
I let him taste this Om nom nommaliciousness and I had to take it away from him so he wouldn't eat it all. I said, "Doesn't this make your sausage, cheese and crackers seem super lame?" He could not deny that my snackage trumped his.

The folks at Our Best Bites made note that when making the caramel, the traditional corn syrup could be replaced with honey. Blockette has a friend in her class that can't eat corn syrup. It's next to impossible to find snacks that don't contain corn syrup, even non-sugary ones. I figured I'd test out the honey version and if it was tasty, I'd pass the recipe on to Blockette's friend's mom. Plus, I was curious as to how much the honey would alter the flavor of the caramel.

The end result didn't taste like most caramel corn I've had before. The honey flavor really shone through. This was not a bad thing at all, especially if you are a fan of honey like I am. The caramel didn't get as crispy as I thought it would after baking. I think this might be from the honey. The next time I make a batch of this caramel corn I will use corn syrup to test my theory.

Cinnamon Roll Caramel Corn from  our best bites
12 C popped popcorn (about 1/2 C kernels)
1 C roughly chopped pecans
1 C brown sugar
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 C Karo syrup (or honey makes a good substitution)
1 stick real butter (1/2 C)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
3 squares almond bark

Preheat oven to 250 F, Place popcorn and chopped pecans in a large bowl and set aside. And by large bowl, I mean like, twice as big as you think you really need. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a big, microwave-safe bowl. Like a 2-quart bowl or Pyrex measuring bowl. Again, use a bowl larger than you think you need to avoid scorching hot caramel goo accidents. It’s really important to incorporate the cinnamon into the brown sugar at this point. For some reason, if you don’t it does crazy things. Chop butter into chunks and place on top of sugar mixture. Pour corn syrup (or honey) over the top of everything. Microwave on high for 30 sec (just to soften the butter a bit) and then stir to combine.

Return to microwave and heat for 2 min. Remove and stir and then microwave for 2 min more. By this point it should be nice and bubbly. Remove from the microwave and add in vanilla and baking soda.
The vanilla makes it bubble and pop and the baking soda makes it foam up.  pour over the popcorn and pecans. Stir right away, and stir lots. Take too long and the caramel will harden on you. Keep stirring until everything is well coated.
Spread popcorn mixture onto a foil-lined jelly roll pan.Place in oven and bake for 30 min, stirring every 10 min.After 30 min, take a piece out and let it cool. “Sample.” If it’s not crunchy enough, bake for another 5 minutes. “Sample” again. When it’s done, give it a final stir and let it cool off for a bit while you melt your almond bark (just nuke it in the microwave according to the package directions) If you want, you can spread out your caramel corn on a clean piece of parchment, waxed paper, or foil. Drizzle the melted almond bark over the popcorn mixture.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Baked Parmesan Tilapia

Hey I'm on a roll with fish here. I think this is the third recipe using fish that I've tried. Amazingly, I've actually liked all the fish recipes I've tried. Maybe I'm starting to like fish?

I came across this recipe for Baked Parmesan Tilapia through the blog "Dine and Dish." She found the recipe on RecipeZaar, but that recipe is based on a dish from Mama's Restaurant in Minocqua. WI. The comments on RecipeZaar of those who have eaten at Mama's say the recipe is a great facsimile.

The weird thing about this recipe was that it stated it served 4. Fish fillets are one thing I cannot stomach as a leftover. Reheating fish just grosses me out. A rubber band might be more tasty, and easier to chew. The recipe calls for 2 pounds of fillets. The Tilapia I buy comes frozen in a 1 pound bag. That amounts to around 6 fillets. I liked this recipe, but I wouldn't want to eat more than one piece of fish at a time. Mrblocko agreed, and he really really likes fish.

I halved the recipe and there was still a lot of sauce for just the three fillets. The amounts of the seasonings just don't allow for me to quarter the recipe. I also screwed up and added the lemon juice to the sauce when it was supposed to be added to the fish first. I think that added to the soupy-ness of the topping. Next time, I will make the recipe as follows:

Baked Parmesan Tilapia for 3
3 tilapia fillets
A squeeze of lemon juice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese (don't use the powdered stuff, It won't melt properly)
1 T Butter, room temperature
1 T mayo
1 1/2 T finely chopped green onions
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt (like Old Bay) (I think I used Bacon salt, I don't remember)
1/8 teaspoon basil
a few grinds of black pepper
1 big dash of hot sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with Pam. You want a dish that will hold the fillets in a single layer. Squirt the top of the fish with lemon juice. Bake about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine cheese, butter, mayonnaise, onions and seasonings in a small bowl Spread baked fish with the cheese mixture, and place under the broiler until the cheese begins to brown.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pantry Bundt

I had really high hopes for Kitchen Koala's Pantry Raid Bundt. I got the recipe for the rockin Apple butter bundt from the same blogger. Maybe I set the bar a little high, but I was not completely thrilled with how the cake turned out.

This recipe consists of a Devil's Food Cake Mix and a Brownie mix. So, while the recipe was very inexpensive and super quick to whip up, my cake was extremely dry. Because I didn't have a 15 cup bundt pan, I made a 12 cup bundt and 5 mini bundts. I watched the cakes very diligently because I did not want them to get dried out. The mini bundts took a little less than 15 minutes and the full size cake took around 50 minutes.

The weird thing was that the cakes looked very moist when they came out of the oven. They looked so moist in fact, that I was a little unsure if I had cooked them all the way. I don't know why, but once they cooled, they lost their spongy-ness.

Luckily, that problem was solved with a big old scoop of ice cream. The cake was still quite edible and vanished, although not as quickly as it would have if it had been a moist cake. Will I make this cake again? Probably not. If I'm going to make a box mix bundt, I'll just use a box mix and skip the brownie mix addition.

Pantry Raid Bundt from Kitchen Koala
box (18.25 oz.) Devil's Food cake mix, plus ingredients to prepare
1 box Brownie mix (9x13" pan size), plus ingredients called for on box

Preheat oven to 325°F. Generously grease a 15-cup Bundt pan. If you only have a 12-cup pan, use extra batter to make a layer cake or cupcakes. In a very large mixing bowl, stir together dry cake mix and brownie mix. Add eggs, oil, and water (amounts needed depend on brand--check the packages). Mix on low speed to moisten. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Mix batter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into prepared Bundt pan. Bake at 325° for 55-65 min, til cake tests done. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 15 min, then invert onto serving platter to finish cooling.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Project #2: Another wonky blanket for Haiti

Ugh, it's finally finished. If I ever make another afghan again it will probably be too soon. This one took longer to make, but it is less wonky than the first. The edges got all ripply like the first blanket. Luckily, I'm not going to make another afghan, so it would be a waste of time to try to figure out what I was doing wrong.

The color scheme may seem a bit weird in this picture. That's because of the weird lighting and the camera. The pink, periwinkle, cream and green are all in the variegated yarn in the corners. You can see that they match a little bit better if you click on the pic. As with most of my photos, the colors are more yellowish than they are in real life.
That's Boo in the upper left corner of the photo. He's pretty upset that I sewed the squares into one blanket. When I had them all laid out on the floor to piece together, the edges of the squares sort of curled up. He thought they were toys for him and proceeded to pounce on them and bat them all around the room. Maybe that was just his way of saying he didn't like my design choice. He's pretty persnickety that way.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pace Chicken and Rice

I found this recipe for Chicken and Rice on the Pace Picante website. I made the mistake of using short grain brown rice instead of long grain white rice. The short grain brown rice takes a much longer time for it to cook. What should have been a quick no fuss meal ended up in a quick rethink of dinner.

I whipped up some veggies instead of the corn and rice. While we were eating I dumped everything but the cooked chicken in a covered pot and let it boil for another 30 minutes so it would be ready to eat when it came to leftovers.

Once the rice was cooked completely the dish was quite good. I think I like the short grain brown rice almost as much as the white jasmine rice. The short grain rice didn't have the wonderful nutty fragrance, but it was every bit as delicious as the Jasmine.

Boiling the rice in the salsa imparted great flavor into the rice as well. Some of the salsa also started to caramelize in the bottom of the pan while the rice was cooking. This added just a hint of sweetness that I really enjoyed.

The next time I make this I'm going to try making this recipe in the crockpot with frozen chicken. I figure it should take about 6 hours on low. Then maybe it really will be a no fuss dinner.

Pace's Chicken and Rice
1 jar (16 ounces) Pace® Picante Sauce
1/2 cup water
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
3/4 cup uncooked regular long-grain white rice
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Stir picante sauce, water, corn and rice in an 11x7x2" baking dish. Top with the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken with the paprika. Cover the baking dish. Bake at 375°F. for 45 min til chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender. Sprinkle with the cheese. If you don't have Cheddar cheese on hand, you can substitute an equal amount of shredded Monterey Jack or a Mexican cheese blend.