Monday, February 28, 2011

Chipotle Cornbread

Ah, my first from scratch corn bread. Ain't she a cutie sittin there on the base of my spring form pan?This isn't your everyday ordinary cornbread, it's chipotle cornbread . I snagged it from the blog Baking Bites.

Normally when I want to have some cornbread I just grab one of those Jiffy Cornbread boxes. Those babies make some mighty tasty cornbread. Wanna know why? Lard. Yes. Lard is like the 4th ingredient. Lard, like bacon, can make anything taste rockin awesome.

Awesome as the lardy mix may be, I'm in this phase where I want to make things from scratch. Most of the time it's cheaper and better for you than the prepackaged version. I already had all the ingredients on hand so I don't know how this compares in price to Jiffy. I'm going to guess that it was cheaper though. At least if I made a similar version using corn and chipotles as additives to the Jiffy box mix. I mean with the box you still have to add egg and milk. Sugar and corn meal are much cheaper per ounce in bulk than per ounce by the prepared mix.

I did not use fresh corn for this recipe. It's winter and there isn't any "Fresh" corn. Frozen tasted just fine. I also used powdered buttermilk. I don't have the best luck using up the buttermilk in the carton before it goes bad. So far the powdered buttermilk has not lead me astray. For me, the powdered buttermilk is still saving me money in the long run, and I'm not wasting food by having to toss out the spoiled stuff.

The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of minced chipotle. This turned out to be about 1 largish chipotle pepper. If you like, and can handle the heat, throw caution to the wind and add 2 peppers. As is, the cornbread was about as spicy as Blockette could handle. She ate it, but there was a lot of milk drinking and comments about how spicy the cornbread was.

This was also the first time I've made cornbread in a springform pan. It weirded me out at first because I usually make it in a square pan. There was just something fun about cutting the cornbread into wedge slices that was very satisfying. Cutting the cornbread this way also made it seem like the cornbread went farther. Maybe because it was easier to cut smaller pieces?

Being a Yankee, I don't care either way, but I guess this technically isn't cornbread, it's corn cake. I don't fully understand the difference. I think it might have something to do with the amount of sugar? All I know is it seems like corn bread to me.

Chipotle Cornbread from Baking Bites
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 tbsp minced chipotle peppers
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup fresh corn

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan or springform pan. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, combine butter and minced chipotle peppers. Melt the butter in the microwave.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking soda, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in egg, buttermilk and milk. Whisk until almost combined, then add in the butter-chipotle mixture and stir just until no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Stir in corn. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the sides of the springform pan, or turn the bread out of a regular pan onto a wire rack, and allow the cornbread to cool. Cornbread can be eaten while slightly warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thankful Thursday 8.11

This week I'm thankful for:

1. A great visit with my mom.
2. Enjoying a nice quiet dinner out with Mrblocko.
3. Teasing Blockette about being a Ninja.
4. How well behaved Blockette has been and the improvement in her behavior as a whole over the past 6 months.
5. Finally ordering new glasses.
6. Mrblocko finding the running shoes he has always wanted and they were 40% off (and not ugly as sin.)
7. My budding theologian.
8. Blockette's self confidence
9. My mom getting home safe driving in the nasty snowstorm.
10. When I dropped the 5 pound unopened jar of peanut butter only the lid broke into 2 pieces, and I was able to duct tape it back together.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Coconut Carrot Cake

I've dreaded writing about this cake. The cake wasn't a failure, it was just a disappointment. I think perhaps I had my expectations too high. I found this recipe for carrot coconut cake from Simply Scratch. Everything on there always looks so wonderful. I'm not sure if the end result of the cake was because of something I did (Or didn't do), or if that was the way the cake was supposed to turn out.

I've made Carrot cakes exactly two times before. See, Carrot cake is Mrblocko's favorite kind of cake. He usually asks for it for his birthday. I don't always make it for him because, the past 2 times have resulted in disaster.

My first attempt at Carrot cake was 8 or 9 years ago. Mrblocko and I were still newlyweds and I had gotten it into my head that I was going to make him a cake from scratch. Never mind that my culinary skills were not up to par for such an endeavor. I foolishly decided to grate the carrots by hand. To this day, I have no idea why. I had a food processor with a shredding blade. The cake took forever to prepare, and I wound up shredding part of my knuckle into the batter. I can't even remember how the cake tasted. I do remember not wanting to eat any of it because I spent so much time working on it, I just didn't want to look at it anymore.

I vowed never to make a carrot cake again.

Fast forward about 5 years...Blockette was about 2 years old. We were going through a very rough financial patch and money was beyond tight. Mrblocko had lost his job just a few days after Christmas and Mrblocko's birthday was only a few weeks after that. (See I told you I was
dreading writing about this cake. I made it all the way back in JANUARY!) I knew that I couldn't get Mrblocko the birthday present he deserved, so I thought that at least I could make him his favorite cake. I wasn't brave enough to tempt fate and make a cake from scratch. I thought I'd get myself a box mix, what could possibly go wrong with that?

All the stars seemed to be in alignment, the cake mix and frosting were on sale for mega cheap. I baked the cake and set it out to cool. I assembled and lovingly frosted the cake and set it on the counter so the frosting could set. Not 5 minutes later I hear Mrblocko walk into the kitchen and call out, "Honey, what happened to the cake?!"

Yes. What did happen to the cake? I'll tell you. Our cat Boo happened to the cake. Our cat who only likes to eat cat food and carpet fuzz licked half the cream cheese frosting off of the cake. I don't know which I was more upset over, Mrblocko's cake being ruined or the possibility of our cat being seriously ill.

Luckily Boo survived with no symptoms worse than a bad tummy ache and a nasty case of diarrhea. (Yeah I just wrote diarrhea on a food blog. ew.) Since the cake was just for Mrblocko and myself, we made the decision to spread the remaining frosting over the rest of the cake. Neither of us minded a little cat spit. The cake tasted fine except for the fact that it needed more frosting.

I vowed to never make a carrot cake again. I was jinxed. Jinxed I tells ya.

So why did I decide to break my promise (again) and make Mrblocko a Carrot cake for his birthday this year? Well, I felt that my kitchen skills had improved, we now own a cake dome for the specific purpose of preventing future frosting licking incidents, and that carrot cake recipe on Simply Scratch looked and sounded so good.

I knew the cake would be a lot of work, but it would be a labor of love. So I mixed and chopped and baked and frosted and presented the whole thing to my sweet darling husband. I waited for the lavish praise he was going to heap on me for my masterpiece of a creation.

He took the first bite. Then another.


His eyes didn't roll back in his head or nuthin!!!

With tears in my eyes (OK and rolling down my face, I'm a big cry baby) I asked him what was wrong. Did the cake not taste good? He assured me it did, but it was just not what he was expecting. Well, what was he expecting?

At this point I had not taken a bite of my own work. I get weird about my cooking and like someone else to taste it first. It's dumb but one of my many wonky quirks.

So I took a bite. It was just OK. The cake was very moist but it was very very dense. I get that carrot cake, especially one with nuts and pineapple in it can get a bit on the heavy side, but this was more compacted than I expected. You can sort of tell by the picture below. See how thin the layers are?

The cake did taste OK. It just wasn't what either of us anticipated. I won't be making this carrot cake recipe again, but I am not going to boycott carrot cakes completely. At this stage in my cooking adventures I see this disappointment not as a reaffirmation of a jinx, but as a challenge.

I'm now on the hunt for Mrblocko's perfect carrot cake! I have found a few and now I just need the time and an occasion to prepare them. Of course Mrblocko says a day that ends in "y" is a cause for celebration, but we all know he just wants to be lavished with mountains of carrot cake. Even I, who doesn't fancy carrot cake nearly as much as my husband and cat do, think mediocre carrot cake is still pretty tasty.

Carrot Coconut Cake from Simply Scratch
2 cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
2-1/2 teaspoons of Baking Powder
2 tsp. ground Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened
1-1/2 cups Sugar
3 whole Eggs
1/2 cup Whole Milk
2 cups grated Carrots
1 cup flaked Coconut
1 cup (8 oz.) fresh Pineapple, crushed
1 recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped Walnuts

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter and line two 9 inch cake pans with wax or parchment paper. Mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg until well blended; set aside. Add a cup of fresh pineapple to a mini food processor with any juices and puree until it measures 1 cup, adding more if needed. Pineapple should be slightly chunky and resemble "canned" crushed pineapple. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing until well blended. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, beating until well blended after each addition. Add carrots, coconut, and pineapple {walnuts too if you're using them}; mix well. Pour evenly into 2 greased 9-inch round cake pans.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks. Place 1 of the cake layers on serving plate upside down, remove wax paper and spread with Cream Cheese Frosting. Cover with remaining cake layer {upside down} remove wax paper again and spread top and side of cake with remaining frosting. Cut a huge piece for yourself and enjoy! Like any cream cheese frosted goodie, make sure you store this cake in refrigerator.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

French Bread

I have the opposite problem that the Swedish chef does in this video. Our house is always so cold, the dough just does not want to rise.

I did figure out that if I preheat the oven to the lowest setting for 3 minutes, and keep the oven light on, it maintains a nice heat for the length of the dough rise.

This french bread from Gourmet Mom on the Go was a really simple fairly speedy bread recipe. Although, I would not have attempted this recipe before I had my stand mixer. Kneading the dough by hand for 8 minutes would not have worked for me. I would have gotten bored and tired and the dough would not have been kneaded enough.
My dough did spread out and get quite flat at the final rise. I think the next time I make this recipe I will create some sort of long French bread shaped containment thingie out of several layers of foil. Maybe then it will look more like a traditional French bread loaf. The bread did taste wonderful though.

I froze one loaf just to see how it would taste defrosted. It was pretty good. Obviously not as good as the fresh ones, but if you are going to slather it with butter and garlic and pop it under the broiler it doesn't really matter if it's soft and fresh or not.

No Fail Quick French Bread from Gourmet Mom on the Go
1 T shortening
1 T salt
2 T sugar
1 C boiling water
1 C cold water
1/3 C lukewarm water
1 T yeast (cut your yeast in half if you are at a high altitude)
4 1/2 C - 6 C flour
1 egg

1. Place the 1 C hot water in the microwave for 3 minutes to get it boiling.
2. Dissolve the yeast into the warm water. Stir it around until it is all mixed.
3. Combine the salt, shortening, and sugar in the bottom of your mixer with a fork.
4. Pour the boiling water over the shortening mixture.
5. Pour the cold water over the mixture.
6. Pour the warm water and yeast into the mixer.
7. Begin to add flour, 1c at a time, until dough pulls away from side of your mixer.
8. Let the dough mix on high for 8 minutes.
9. Let the dough rise in the mixer for about 20 minutes. (This step can be skipped)
10. Separate dough into 3parts and place on a large jelly roll pan sprayed with cooking spray. Let the dough sit for about 5 minutes.
11. Roll into long rectangle with the long side closest to you
12. Roll rectangle away from you so you have a long snake.
13. Then bring the ends over and layer them on top of each other.
14. Turn the loaf so the seam side is down. Repeat these steps with the other 2 parts of dough.
15. Spray a sharp knife with cooking spray.
16. Make your egg wash by whisking the egg until frothy.
17. Cut three diagonal slits in the top of each loaf. Cover with the egg wash being sure to get it into all of the slits.
18. Place the loaves in a warm 170 degree oven and let rise for about 15 minutes.
19. Turn the oven up to 375 degrees for a convection oven, and 400 degrees for a regular oven. Leave the loaves in while the oven increases in temperature.
20. Bake for 10 minutes convection or 15 regular oven, or until the loaves are golden brown and crusty.
21. Turn the oven down to 325 for convection, 350 for regular and turn the pan around in the oven. Bake for another 7 minutes convection or 10 minutes for regular.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mock Raincoast Crisps

Are you aware of the deliciousness that is Lesley Stowe's Raincoast Crips? My mom brought a box of the rosemary raisin pecan crackers one time when she came to visit. Oh my goodness. They put the crack in cracker. However, just like crack, they are expensive habit to maintain.

At least they were until I found a recipe for rosemary raisin crisps at Dinner with Julie. They taste exactly the same...and at a fraction of the cost. I had to buy a few ingredients that I don't normally buy, but the cost of the supplies were much less than an entire box of crackers. Seriously...there is a store by me that sells them for $9. Nine. Dollars. For. One. Box. Ngaaaaa.

Anyways...I baked this recipe in 4 mini loaf pans. Do not eat the bread before you slice and bake it a second time, it is not anything spectacular. Wait until you crisp the crackers in the oven. Trust me! The loaves really need to be frozen in order to slice them thin enough. For this reason, the recipe is a lot of hurry up and wait. The actual prep is easy, mix everything together. Wait while it bakes. Wait while it cools to room temp. Wait while the loaves freeze. Slice then bake. I like these crackers enough that they are worth the process.One mini loaf yielded about the same as one box. Did I mention that one recipe makes 4 mini loaves? And you keep them in the freezer until you need/want them. So awesome.
So far, I've only found 2 negative things about this recipe. First, you have to eat the crackers fairly shorty after baking since they contain no preservatives. This really isn't too much of a problem because I like to eat them a lot, so they go quickly. If you aren't a mega cracker eater then it might be a problem for you. The second problem was that the raisins sunk to the bottom of the loaf. Maybe coating them with flour mixture first would be a good way to prevent this? Once I work my way through the rest of the loaves I will give that a shot.

Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crisps from Dinner With Julie
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seed, ground
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 350° F. In a large bowl, stir flour, baking soda and salt. Add buttermilk, brown sugar and honey and stir a few strokes. Add raisins, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed and rosemary and stir just until blended. Pour the batter into two 8”x4” loaf pans that have been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake 35 min, until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack. The cooler bread, the easier it is to slice really thin. You can leave it until the next day or pop it in the freezer. Slice loaves as thin as you can and place slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet. (I like to slice and bake one loaf and pop the other in the freezer for another day.) Reduce  oven heat to 300° F and bake 15 min, then flip over and bake 10 min, til crisp and deep golden.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday 7.11

1. Warm weather
2. Mrblocko and Blockette were both healthy enough at the same time to go sledding before the snow melted.
3. Helping out at Blockette's class for Valentine's day.
4. Blockette liked watching The Princess Bride, and didn't even mind when I fast forwarded through the yucky Giant Rat part that I hate...not that she was scared or anything.
5. My mom is coming to visit!
6. Our budding little math wiz.
7. Mrblocko coming home unexpectedly for lunch because Internet was down at work.
8. My best friend's husband was able to recover all the data on my computer and get rid of the virus!
9.Getting the grocery shopping done speedy quick.
10. Using the computer virus as an opportunity to discuss forgiveness and change my own attitude about those who behave maliciously.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mystery Ham Glaze

They had bone in hams on sale a while ago and Mrblocko loves bone in ham. They are right up there with steak in his book. I told him that if I bought a ham it would be his job to figure out how to cook it.

I have no idea where he got this recipe but it is delicious. It is probably my new favorite glaze for Ham. I should let him pick out recipes from the Internet more often. If you know where this recipe came from, please let me know and I will credit it here.

Mrblocko's Mysterious Ham Glaze from the Internet
1/3 c prepared yellow mustard
1/3 c maple syrup (we used the fake stuff)
2 T Br sugar
2 t onion powder

Preheat the oven to 325F. Mix all the ingredients together and cover the ham with the glaze. Make a foil tent over the meat. Cook the meat, basting every 20 min until the glaze is gone. Cook til internal temp is 160F. Remove the foil and place under the broiler for the last 5 min to get the outside caramelized and crispy.

(There may or may not have been a picture of the finished glazed ham. My computer got a nasty virus and it is at a friend's house right now seeing if any of the data can be retrieved. I felt like posting anyhow today, with or without pictures. Mrblocko was nice enough to leave me his laptop so I wasn't completely disconnected from the world. YAY!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Joke by Blockette

Q:What do mermaids call the wilderness?

A:The waterness!

Peanut Butter Pancakes for the Ones you Love

So I've got oodles of backlogged recipes to post about, but today I felt like writing about last night's dinner. I wanted to make something different for Valentine's Day. Most fancy Valentine's dishes are not the typical fare that is pleasing to a 5 year old. While Blockette is really good about eating those "weird" things, she doesn't always enjoy them. I wanted to prepare something that the whole family would like, especially my littlest Valentine. I had a recipe from Crepes of Wrath for peanut butter pancakes that seemed like it might fit the bill.

Blockette loves peanut butter. I mean she loves peanut butter as much as Chocolate loves peanut butter. She wants a pbj sandwich nearly every day for lunch. She is already telling me that she doesn't want to eat school lunches in first grade next year, she wants a pbj instead. Guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I ate peanut butter, or peanut butter and honey sandwiches every day through 12th grade!

If you're a regular reader of this silly little blog, you also know that we love to eat breakfast for dinner. I especially love making waffles because there is a standing rule that we don't have dessert when we have syrup at dinner. This made the pancake idea winner for me, because it meant I didn't have to plan a fancy Valentine's dessert either!

Mrblocko was curious why we were having pancakes and not waffles for dinner. I said, well I couldn't find a tasty sounding peanut butter waffle recipe. I wasn't quite sure if this pancake recipe would work as waffles. I wanted to try them out as they were intended first, before I ventured off into unknown territory. There was no sense in ruining a potentially good thing.

As far as pancakes go, these were really good. They had a very distinct peanut butter flavor, which as peanut butter lovers, we thought was a very good thing. Sydney from Crepes of Wrath got this recipe from eat boutique who, in turn, got it from The Food Network's Cooking For Real with Sunny Anderson. Apparently there was a blackberry syrup that was a part of the original recipe. I wish I had known this because I bet it would have tasted fantastic with the peanut butter in the pancakes.

Instead of the blackberry syrup, we ate ours with butter and either syrup, honey, apple butter or strawberry preserves. Mrblocko liked the syrup best, but Blockette and I thought it was a toss up between the preserves and the honey. Mrblocko said that the pancakes would also taste good with chocolate syrup. Then he said he was only joking, but we all know that if we didn't have a little girl to set a good example for he would have gone into the fridge and smothered his pancakes with chocolate goop.

We ate this meal with Cara, or blood oranges. (When I say we, I mean Mrblocko and Blockette because I can't stand oranges, something Mrblocko claimed yesterday that he never knew in the nearly 10 years we've been married. Where has he been?) It was really a happy accident that the oranges were red, but pretty cool for Valentine's Day.

We also had Aidells Chicken and Apple sausage. These are my favorite sausages. Man. They are good, but pricey. I scored a deal at the end of the year with a coupon and a sale, so I stocked up. These little sausages have been talking to me in the freezer for a while now. I thought they'd make a nice treat for Valentine's Dinner. We like to slice them into coins and heat them up so they get crispy, brown and caramelized all over. Yum!

I wish Meijer's carried more of the Aidells brand. Apparently they have a pineapple and bacon flavor and a roasted garlic and asiago flavor that I didn't know about until just now. I think they would enjoy being in my belly so I'll have to keep an eye out around and about for those little gems.

Now that I've gone off on a tangent about sausage, let's get back to the pancakes. One comment I'd like to make on this recipe is to pay attention to your heat level on your stove. The recipe says to cook the pancakes on medium low for 3-4 min per each side. We thought that the heat was too low to cook the pancakes all the way and we cranked the heat up to just shy of medium. Don't do this. You will burn your pancakes. Even on medium low, we found that the pancakes only took 2 minutes on each side. Finally, I did remember to take a picture of the pancakes. Ok. So obviously I didn't remember to take this picture as this is me IN the picture and I haven't figured out how to bi locate myself...yet. Blockette begged to take the picture and I said she could to avoid an argument, figuring I'd take my own and use those for the blog. Nope. Wouldn't you know it, hers turned out better than mine!

Peanut Butter Pancakes from Crepes of Wrath
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons milk, plus extra if needed to thin
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, melted
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In another bowl, whisk egg, milk, melted peanut butter, and vegetable oil. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Add a little extra milk if batter feels too thick.
Heat griddle over med-low and melt 1T butter in it, then using a paper towel, rub butter around griddle to make a very thin layer (you don’t want your pancakes cooking in a pool of butter). Sprinkle some water over the pan and see what it does. It should dance around but it should NOT sizzle or spurt. When pan is ready, pour 1/4 c batter for each pancake. Don’t overcrowd as they will spread as they cook. Cook 3-4 min per side, til golden. They won’t bubble like normal pancakes because of the thickness of the peanut butter.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chocolate LOVES Peanut butter

What better way to say I Love you than with cookies?! Aren't these the most perfect little Valentine cookies? OK. So I am biased because now, thanks to my mom, I have a bazillion different heart shaped cookie cutters. I just had to use them for Valentines Day.

This weekend we went to go visit my In-laws. I was given the charge (which I gladly accepted) to bring a "simple" dessert. I saw these Chocolate Peanut Butter Cut Outs from The Lonely Baker and just KNEW they would be perfect. I told Mrblocko I was going to make cut out cookies with frosting and can you believe he doubted my Cookie Fu? He had the nerve to wrinkle up his nose and say, "Um, I don't really like sugar cookies." Then I said, "Oh did I forget to mention they were PEANUT BUTTER cookies, with chocolate Fudge frosting?" He begrudgingly said, "Well, that is different than a regular Sugar cookie." Wasn't his vote of confidence completely underwhelming?

Originally, I had planned to use a can of dark chocolate fudge frosting for the sandwich filling. I saw some the previous week at the store. Can you believe they were completely out?!!!! It was like someone had a dark chocolate fudge frosting party. I took a risk and went with the plain milk chocolate fudge frosting. This was definitely the way to go. I think the peanut butter needed the extra sweetness from the milk chocolate.

I wish that I had some pink or red colored sugar to dust on the tops. I thought I did but, alas, I was mistaken. I tried using some of those rainbow colored nonpareils, but they just rolled all over the baking sheet, and refused to stick to the dough. They looked too plain without the sugar, so ordinary boring old white sugar it was. Plus, the sugar covered up the less than smooth looking cookie surface.
These cookies are so moist. Wow! They are as soft as those Frosted Lofthouse Brand Sugar Cookies. I made these babies on Thursday, and have stored them in an unsealed container and they are STILL super soft!

Since, I made the tiny heart cut outs from the larger hearts, I debated whether or not I should bake the tiny hearts as is, or roll them out again into larger ones. I thought the mini heart sandwiches would be cute. Not only was it less work, but it proved a great way to use up every bit of the dough scraps. The little ones are so evil because they just pop right into your mouth. Before you know it, you've eaten 12 or maybe even 40.My mother-in-law said that I could bring these cookies to any family function I wanted too. I did remind her that I couldn't bring them to the family reunion this summer as the frosting would melt in the long car ride. With a little smirk she said, "Of course, but you could always bring them out the NEXT time you come out." I think it is safe to say that I have completely conquered my fear of cut out cookies and I'm pretty proud of that.

And what was the verdict from Mrblocko regarding these cookies? He says that the jury is still out on that one, and that I need to make several more batches for him to know one way or the other.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich Hearts from The Lonely Baker
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup 2% milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
I added 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tub of chocolate frosting(I used chocolate fudge)

In a large bowl, cream peanut butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, milk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until easy to handle. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-in. thickness. Cut with 2-in. to 4-in. cookie cutters. Place 2 in. apart in ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 7-9 minutes or until edges are browned. Cool for 1 minute before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. I used a big heart cutter for the bottom layer and a big heart and a smaller heart cutter to make the top layer. I sprinkled the top layer with a little bit of white sugar before baking. For best results bake the top layer and bottom layer separately. The top layer bakes much faster. I baked the top layer for 5 minutes and the bottom layer for 7 minutes.
Once cooled, assemble the cookies by spreading a thin layer of frosting between the two layers.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Fall of a Snowman




Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thankfull Thursday 6.11

1. Grace periods at the library so I didn't have to pay a fine.
2. soup!
3. Finding Valentines themed books to read to Blockette's class for her Valentines day party. (I thought for sure they would all be checked out, but I managed to find a few that her classmates might enjoy.)
4. Blockette at a play date most of the afternoon.
5. Figuring out another problem on my quilt before I began sewing that part.
6. Finding and solving yet another math problem on the quilt
7. Not having a math or cutting error on the quilt for the very last cutting part of the quilt!
8. our gravity defying snowman
9. Blockette commenting that the shadows in the snow were blue. Reminded me of the girl in the book Girl with the Pearl Earring who talked about the clouds in the sky not actually being white.
10. Feeling like I didn't totally screw up taking minutes at the meeting at church.
11. The pipe in the tub didn't totally freeze.
12. it's going to be much warmer in a few days.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Peach Couscous Fail

Yeah, I'm not batting 100 these days. I think maybe I'm loosing my touch. I saw this recipe for Peach Couscous in Family Feasts for $75 a Week by Mary Ostyn. I thought it would be a nice change of pace at breakfast. Plus a quick hot breakfast on a brrr freezing cold morning is never a bad thing. Well, it wasn't BAD, it just wasn't good. Blockette ate it about as well as she eats any other meal. Strangely there was very little fighting with her to get to eat. Mrblocko and I ate it I think because we were too lazy to go and make ourselves something else to eat. At least I was.

The good thing about this breakfast was that it kept me full until lunch. I didn't get the 11:00 munchies like I usually do. Mrblocko said that didn't happen for him, but he wasn't any more hungry than normal either.

One thing I didn't understand about this recipe is that it was from a book that claims you can feed your family for $75 a week. OK. That's great. The author must have some great source on couscous. The only couscous I can seem to find is Near East brand that comes in a box. It's not the cheapest thing ever. It's certainly not cheaper than cereal. I didn't buy the couscous with the intention of making peach couscous for breakfast. I had a box in the pantry that I had bought some time ago with the intention of making a cold couscous salad. I don't like to eat cold salads in the winter so I figured this breakfast dish would be a good way of using up the couscous before it expired.

If you think Peach Couscous would be up your alley, here's the recipe:

16 oz can peaches, drain and reserve liquid
milk, enough to total 2 c when combined with peach juice
1 c uncooked couscous (this is one box of Near East couscous, sans flavor packet)
2 T butter
1/2 t nutmeg
2 T Brown sugar, plus more for serving

In a small pan heat the juice and milk to simmering. Add the remaining ingredients except for the peaches. Stir to combine and cover. Remove from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 5-10 minutes. The liquid should be absorbed. Portion into bowls and top with peaches and brown sugar. Serves about 3.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Espresso BBQ Sauce Fail

I found this recipe for espresso barbeque sauce over at A Good Appetite. I thought since Mrblocko likes coffee so much, it would be the perfect sauce to use in the BBQ pulled turkey. I made it and took a test taste. It was quite bitter. I thought, well maybe after it sits overnight in the fridge it will improve. Lots of things improve once their flavors have a chance to marry.

The next day I took another test taste. Nope, still very bitter from the espresso. I thought maybe it was just me, since I was not a big fan of coffee. Surely Mrblocko would like it? Even Mrblocko thought it had a bitter aftertaste. Maybe if you are a super mega coffee fan, or need to find new and interesting ways to infuse caffeine into your system, you would get a enjoy this type of BBQ sauce.

One final note. The result of this recipe may have been due to expired ingredients. My instant espresso was all hard packed into the jar, and not loose and fluffy like it was when I first bought it. I'm guessing this was a result of going from the excessively humid summer to the excessively dry winter. The container was about a year old. It was not, however, past the expiration date so who knows.

Espresso Barbecue Sauce from A Good Appetite
1 c ketchup
1 T molasses
2 T red wine vinegar
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t onion powder
1/4 t garlic powder
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 T brown sugar
2 T instant espresso powder

Mix everything together in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar and  espresso. Let simmer gently about 10 minutes to meld flavors. Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hard Boiled EGGS!

OK so this post is entirely for me. Every time I want to hard boil an egg I can never remember how. I thought maybe if I make a "how to" post then I will remember I made a post (or at least Mrblocko will) and when I want to hard boil an egg, I'll just look on here.

Basic hard cooked eggs (from the Incredible egg Website)

Step 1: PLACE eggs in saucepan large enough to hold them in single layer. ADD cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch. HEAT over high heat just to boiling. REMOVE from burner. COVER pan.

Step 2: LET EGGS STAND in hot water about 15 minutes for large eggs (12 minutes for medium eggs; 18 minutes for extra large).

Step 3: DRAIN immediately and serve warm. OR, cool completely under cold running water or in bowl of ice water, then REFRIGERATE

(Note: Eggs are easiest to peel right after they've been cooled, but once an egg is peeled you should eat it that day. Hard boiled eggs in the shell are good in the Fridge for about a week.)

My New Favorite Hot Chocolate

Not only have I ruined myself with homemade marshmallows. I have now ruined myself from hot chocolate mixes. Hot toffee chocolate from the Family kitchen is now my new favorite hot chocolate. And the kicker, I didn't even use "good" chocolate, just plain old everyday Toll House chips.

Yeah there are people out there that rant on and on about how fancy chocolates like Scharffen Berger or Valrhona make for a hot chocolate to die for. I'm sure they are right. If I'm gonna shell out the big bucks for chocolate, I want to eat it not drink it.

Luckily, with this hot chocolate, I didn't need anything fancy. I even used skim milk, not whole milk or cream like most hot chocolate recipes call for. So hey, it's almost sorta healthy...if you squint and hop on one foot. Which I choose to do. This particular cup happens to have been Mrblocko's. See that hand in the picture? That's his. It's almost like he's guarding it. I think that he thought I might steal his. Not that I would ever do a thing like that.

And the marshmallows...look how they are all melty. I remember store bought marshmallows doing that as a kid. They always made the hot chocolate extra creamy and delicious. The store bought marshmallows today retain their shape no matter how much you abuse them. It's a little scary. What do they put in there that makes them do that? I think it's best if I don't think about it.

Hot Toffee Chocolate from Family Kitchen
4 cups milk
2 oz butterscotch chips
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons sugar
a very small pinch of salt
toffee chocolate chips (Heath chips)
whipped cream

Place chocolate and butterscotch chips in the food processor. Pulse until they are fine. Place milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add chocolate and butterscotch pieces. Add salt and sugar. Whisk well and simmer for 3 – 4 minutes, or chocolate is completely melted. Serve topped with whipped cream and toffee pieces.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

World Nutella Day 2011

Did you even know it is World Nutella Day today? Yeah, I only figured that out because everyone and their brother are posting recipes made with nutella. Well, guess what I have ZERO of in my house? Yeah, Nutella. It like not having Turkey on Thanksgiving. It's a crime punishable by...well isn't not having any Nutella it's own form of punishment??

Anyhow, if you are fortunate to be blessed this festive day, I saw this brilliant idea for Nutella Milk over on bell' alimento. It uses up the last bits of Nutella stuck to the inside of the jar. Not a bit of wasted Nutella! Brilliant I tells ya.

I Am Scared and Intrigued

I can see this being served at a "classy, high brow" superbowl party. I can't quite figure out if this sounds gross or delicious. Needless to say those folks at Choosy Beggars created a really unique fusion food!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Spring!

So today is Setsubun...the Japanese Bean Throwing Festival/Ceremony. It's kind of like New Years Eve. Today is considered to be the first day of spring. Um, it is so very un-spring like here it's not even funny. As I write this it is only 3F with a windchill of -10F. Hey, it's supposed to get all the way up to 13F. Yup. Sounds like spring to me. Better get out the soccer ball and sidewalk chalk.

Anyhow, what you are supposed to do on Setsubun is throw dried soybeans out your front door or at a person wearing a Oni (ogre or demon) mask. While you are doing this you say "Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi." This means Demons out, good luck in!
I found this cool print out through Hiragana Mama of a great mask to color. If you click on the link to Hiragana Mama you'll also get to see the wonderful video of "Ogre Underpants" which has provided several hours of entertainment for Blockette. So today we colored in our wonderful masks, but we didn't have any soybeans dried or otherwise. I had some red lentils so we threw those out the door instead. We also growled at each other with our masks. I don't think that is part of the tradition, but it was fun.

Another thing you are supposed to do is eat a bean for every year of your age. It's supposed to bring on good health for the rest of the year. Again since we didn't have any beans I wasn't sure what to do. I heard that you could use peanuts, but we didn't have any of those either.

Blockette suggested M&Ms. Well, they were peanut butter M&Ms so that counts right? Sort of? Then Blockette realized that 5 M&Ms is a lot less than 35 M&Ms. I should have probably felt a little bit guilty about that, but I'm mean and I didn't. I feel like I earned everyone of those M&Ms. I told Blockette that we could always eat real beans next year and she scrunched up her face and not a word was said further about the issue. I did give Blockette 6 M&M's because according to her she is "almost" 6. I must not be too mean because I plan on giving her some more M&Ms after lunch. Maybe I'm loosin my touch!

Thankful Thursday 5.11

I'm so messed up with all the snow days I almost forgot it was Thursday!

1. Mrblocko humored me when I wanted to rearrange a few rooms.
2. The "Nobody likes me-worm song" made Blockette laugh when she was being a grump.
3. The power did not go off during the blizzard
4. we got the driveway shoveled with no major injuries.
5. Mrblocko got home before the blizzard got bad on Tues.
6. Blockette had fun playing in the giant snow drifts.
7. I'm not nearly as sore as I thought I would be after shoveling.
8. I went to the grocery store on Tuesday so I don't have to go out in this yuck today.
9. I remembered today was not only Chinese New Year, but the Japanese holiday called Setsubun which has given us some more things to do.
10. We haven't killed each other going stir crazy...yet

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

20 Things To Do With Your Munchkin on a Snow Day

Are you and your munchkin bored from being stuck in the house with all this snow? Here are some ideas of stuff to do. Got any more ideas cause we are still bored over here!!!!

1. shovel
2. attempt to french braid your and your munchkin's hair
3. make a puzzle
4. play a board game
5. make marshmellows
6. bake bread
7. make soup stock
8. Read
9. draw/paint with your munckin
10. paint your and your munckin's toenails
11. torment your pets (eg catnip, feathers, string)
12. sew
13. surf the net
14. introduce your munchkin to a new (to them movie) like Neverending Story or Princess Bride
15. rearrange your house
16. Do some laundry...make your munchkin sort darks and lights
17. scrub your kitchen floor (yeah right.)
18. go through your stuff and weed out the stuff that needs to be donated to charity.
19. Make paper snowflakes
20. watch crazy you tube songs about ogre underpants in Japanese

No Lard Tortillas

I was going to post a recipe for Hot chocolate today, considering half the nation is buried under snow, but my best friend made a special request. Yesterday she asked, "Hey when are you going to post that tortilla recipe you've been talking about?" Well, I didn't have time to write something up yesterday, so I'm posting it today. So for those tortilla-less folks who get a hankering for Mexican, but can't make it out the front door, let alone to the market, this recipe is perfect for you.

I had heard making tortillas was easy but I was sceptical. A few weeks back I was searching for a recipe on Tasty Kitchen and I stumbled across this particular recipe for homemade flour tortillas . The thing that makes this recipe unique is that it calls for oil, and not lard, shortening or butter.

I was surprised to find out how easy they were to prepare. I'm still not the most skilled with a rolling pin, so they were rather free formed in shape. They worked great for egg tacos and quesadillas. If I was going to make something like enchiladas I would buy a package of flour tortillas. The uniform tortillas would just be so much easier to handle when assembling that sort of dish. If anyone can give me some tips on how to get the tortillas less amoebic in shape, that would be awesome. One quick note about ingredients. Because you aren't getting any flavor from the fat, if you have it, unbleached flour is the way to go. Unbleached flour has a bit of a nutty flavor, where bleached flour is pretty tasteless. Tasteless works great in chocolate chip cookies because there are a lot of other flavors in there that you'd rather shine through, namely the chocolate, butter and sugar. Of course, if you are snowed in and don't have any unbleached flour, I'm sure that regular old bleached all purpose will work fine. To continue with the Chocolate chip cookie metaphor, it's kind of like using milk chocolate chips in the recipe. Yeah, they taste OK, but semi-sweet chips result in a better tasting cookie.

Also, do not use soybean oil. Stick with canola. I made a batch with Soybean oil and they did not roll out as well as the ones I made with canola. They didn't taste any different, they were just a pain to roll out. I haven't tried making these with regular vegetable oil so I can't attest for the roll-ability of the tortillas with that particular oil.

After making a few tortillas, I found I was able to roll out one portion of the dough while another was cooking on the skillet. This allowed me to get sort of an assembly line going while I rolled and cooked out all the tortillas. It went much quicker than I expected, and I'm pretty slow going in the kitchen.

I was also surprised that the tortillas stayed warm under a dish cloth as the remainder of the tortillas were cooked. This was a really nice surprise. This meant that I got to eat my tortillas warm too!

The recipe didn't say how to store any leftover tortillas. Since there are no preservatives, I was afraid if I left them on the counter they would go bad so I stored them in the fridge. I reheated them briefly on the skillet to make them malleable again. They tasted just as good the second day as they did the first!

 No Lard Tortillas from Tasty Kitchen
3 cups Organic, Unbleached Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoons Baking Powder
⅓ cups Canola Oil
1 cup Hot Water

Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder with a whisk. Add the canola oil and mix with your fingers until all the oil is incorporated and the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Add 1 cup of hot water and mix until a ball is formed. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes. (I have also refrigerated it overnight).

Divide the dough into 12 balls and roll out one at a time on a floured surface. Brush off excess flour. Cook on a hot, ungreased griddle over medium-high heat. Turn the tortilla when brown blisters form on the first side. Stack the totillas and serve warm.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Have you never been Mellow...marshmellow that is

I can't believe it's been over a month and I haven't introduced you to the newest member of our family.

Meet Betty:
Ain't she a beauty? She's a Kitchenaid 5 quart Artisan Standmixer. Mrblocko bought her for me for Valchristmastinebirthmother's Day. Yup, that's right. He's off the gift giving hook for the rest of the year. Pretty lucky guy eh? Actually, I'm the lucky one cause the standmixer is totally rockin awesome!
Now the white color was not my first choice, but she was the one that was on sale. And by sale I mean MEGA sale so who really gives a flying flip about the color! She was dubbed Betty, after Mrs. Crocker and Mrs. White.

The very first thing I made with my cool new toy was Marshmellows! Yeah. I know I spelled the word wrong. Marshmellows is another word that I insist on misspelling. I think it looks much better than dumb old Marshmallow. Spelling the word Marshmallow correctly makes me think of the word wallow and that is not a happy word. Mellow is much groovier. In fact, it's the grooviest. And, since these treats are super duper groovy we are going to spell them my way! Marshmellow! Yeah, plus, these babies are so yummy they will make your eyes roll in the back of your head. I have been wanting to make my own marshmellows for years. It is not something you want to attempt without a stand mixer. The recipe requires you to beat the thick molten sticky batter for 15 minutes. My hand held electric mixer does not have a strong enough motor to handle that kind of abuse.

Betty was up to the challenge. There was a moment where I thought I had messed everything up. When you put the batter/syrup whatever you call it, into the bowl of your mixer and start it up, it turns this yellowy-tanish color. I thought I had burned the sugar or something equally horrid. Nope. After a few minutes it begins to get that nice fluffy white color

When the mixing was done I poured the sticky mess into a 9x13 pan and let it set up. This was the hardest part. The waiting. Pure AGONY!After a torturous 4 hours, the blob gets turned out onto a cutting board. With how sticky the marshmellows were when I put them in the pan, I thought this was going to be an impossible task. Apparently I coated the pan sufficiently. Don't skimp on the powdered sugar-cornstarch mixture. I think this is the key.

I cut my sweet treats into roughly 1 inch squares. Very rough. I can't cut a straight line without a ruler to save my life. If I was making these as a gift I'd whip out a ruler so they looked nicer, or even use a cookie cutter for a fun shape.

The recipe I used was marshmellows a la alton brown from the food network website. There are a ton of Marshmellow recipes out there. I chose this one because I had watched the episode of Good Eats where the marshmellows had been made. I felt this would be a safe bet since I knew sort of what was going on. Besides most of the other recipes contained eggs. The thought of eggs that may or may not get fully cooked in the marshmellows grossed me out.

I will be using this recipe from now on. When I'm feeling experimental I'll give the recipes below a try. They are all slight variations on Alton Brown's basic recipe.

Peppermint from Beantown baker
Cinnamon from the Family Kitchen
Chocolate malt from Piece of Cake
Irish Cream from My Adventures in Food
Candied Sweet potato from the Kitchn

A final note about these fluffy white clouds of deliciousness, if you want to take yourself over the edge, dip them in chocolate and sprinkle crushed candy canes on top. Ngaaaa! Drool city.

Alton Brown's Marshmellows
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 c water. Have whisk attachment standing by. In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 c water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over med high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3-4 min. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 F, approximately 7-8 min. Once the mix reaches this temp, immediately remove from heat. Turn mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour sugar syrup down side of bowl into gelatin mix. Once you have added all of syrup, increase speed to high. Continue to whip til mix becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12-15 min. Add vanilla during last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows. Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13x9" metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add sugar and cornstarch mix and move around to completely coat bottom and sides of pan. Return remaining mixture to bowl for later use. When ready, pour the mix into prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into pan. Dust top with enough remaining sugar and cornstarch mix to lightly cover. Reserve rest for later. Allow marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Turn marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1" squares using a pizza wheel dusted with confectioners' sugar mix. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with  remaining mix, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.