21 February 2011

Baby Shower Cookies

Look how cute! They are ALMOST as cute as the mom-to-be :-)
Our girl, Genelle, is preggo. A few of us took on different roles to help throw her baby shower this past weekend, and of course I volunteered to do cookie duty! I wrapped them in individual baggies so guests could take them home as the favors. Since they don't want to know if it's a boy or girl yet, I went with some gender neutral baby shower themed sugar cookies. I am VERY happy with how cute they turned out. With some tweaking and practice, I can totally rock making decorated sugar cookies in the future.
I made sugar cookies with royal icing for a Daring Bakers challenge, but I used entirely different recipes this time around. I'm still tweaking them, so I'm just pictures to post at the moment.
Instead of royal icing, I used glacee icing. It's MUCH better tasting than royal icing and dries to a nice sheen so you can still stack cookies later.
Piping takes patience and practice. I'm still pretty new to it, but I doubt this'll be the last time I do it.
Can't wait to find out if they're having a boy or girl!

15 February 2011

REEdiculous: shrimp caprese pasta

I spent Valentine's day with my bestest friend and we each decided to make something off our 2011 Hit List. It was my turn to do the main course, thus I recreated my favorite Olive Garden meal: Shrimp Caprese Pasta. Think cheesy cream sauce, tomatoes, basil, garlic, cheese, spaghetti, shrimp, and more cheese. It was absurd! Like you should probably only eat salad and fruit on the day you consume this to average it out :-)
Definitely calling this one a success. Unlike Olive Garden, my pasta wasn't overcooked, hehe. Salad would have gone nicely with this, but didn't want to distract from the cheese, lol. Mmmm cheeeeese.... That's a whole lot of melted mozz on top. Yep, I put the before picture after. Deal. :)
Shrimp Caprese Pasta
adapted from whatscookingamerica

1 lb roma tomatoes, cored and cut into 1" pieces
15 basil leaves, torn into 1" pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp italian seasoning
1 large pinch salt
2/3 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 box thin spaghetti
2 tbsp butter
1/2 C white wine
1 C heavy cream
1/2 C milk (I used 1%)
1 C freshly grated parmesan
1 C freshly grated mozzarella

Combine tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, italian seasoning, and salt and mix well. Cover and allow to marinate for 1 hour.

Cook pasta according to the directions. Drain and put back in pot and cover while you make the sauce.

Preheat oven to 450. Melt butter over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add wine and simmer for 1 minute. Add cream, milk, and cheese. Bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring reguarly, until it reduces to the thickness you want. (I should now note that while I made half the pasta from the original recipe, I made the regular amount of sauce and reduced it down about 1/3-1/2 so it was a thick cheesy sauce.) Remove from heat. Add spaghetti and tomato mix. Combine well so pasta is evenly coated. Transfer to an oven safe dish (I used a pie plate).

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and drizzle with a little olive oil. Spread the shrimp in an even layer. Roast about 3-5 minutes or until shrimp are pink and just slightly curled.

Turn oven to broil. Sprinkle mozzarella over the pasta. Broil until cheese is melted. Take out of oven and top with shrimp.

14 February 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Heart Day!
After my awesome macaron fail the other week, I was deterimined to try again. I did, and succeeded, just in time for Valentine's Day. Macarons are quite the labor of love - they require patience in aging the eggs and beating the meringue until just right, tenderness while mixing the sugar/almonds into the meringue, of course some sweetness, and definitely hope that they'll turn out well, lol! And a sense of humor to shape them like little hearts!
This is the 1st (successful) time I've flavored the macarons - these are chai macarons with pink honey vanilla buttercream. This time around, I did everything I didn't before - aged the eggs, measured by weight, didn't overbeat or overmix anything. And look how cute! These are definitely a sweet treat for Valentine's day.
I Heart Chai Macarons

90g aged egg whites
2 tbsp white sugar
110g blanched almonds
200g powdered sugar
2 chai spice tea bags

Combine almonds, sugar, and the contents of the 2 teabags in a food processor and process until fine. Sift the contents into a big bowl, and then regrind the big bits and then sift again. Repeat until it's all fine.

In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium until foamy like bubble bath. Turn the mixer up to high and add white sugar a little at a time and beat until you get stiff peaks. Remove from stand mixer.

Add 1/2 of the almond mixture to the bowl and use a spatula to fold in. Add the rest of the almond mix and continue folding until the batter is evenly incorporated. You want to fold until you get a consistency where you cut the spatula across and the batter sinks back into itself after 10 seconds. The whole process shouldn't take more than 50 strokes.

Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop batter into a disposable piping bag. Snip off a 1/2" opening. To make hearts, pipe Vs onto the baking sheets. Otherwise, pipe quarter sized rounds. Make sure to leave at least 1" between them as the batter will spread. Allow to sit for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 300. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking sheets.

Per the usual, recipe adapted from Tartelette :)

Pink Honey Vanilla Buttercream
1 stick butter
3/4 C confectioners sugar
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla
red food coloring (optional)

Beat all together. Scoop into a piping bag. Fill macaron shells.

13 February 2011

say it with cupcakes

Valentines Day is upon us, and I can't be happier. Nope, no love of my life to shower me with flowers and shiny things, lol. BUT, I am surrounded by love in my family and friends (and hell, even some kind strangers, lol) and I count myself quite blessed for it. And, since sweets are my way of showing love, I decided to make some cupcakes for my family. I LOVE vanilla chai and was looking for a chance to make them into something edible, so here we are.
Vanilla Chai Latte Cupcakes
adapted from princesscarissa on Bake Space

1 1/4 C Silk vanilla soy milk
3 bags of your favorite vanilla chai tea
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 3/4 C sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 C cake flour
1 C all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375. Line 24 cupcake cups.

Heat soy milk in a small sauce pan or in the microwave until hot, but not scalded. Steep the tea bags in there for 10-15 minutes. In the mean time, sift together the flours.

When the tea is done steeping, take out the bags and squeeze the milk out of them. Make sure it still makes 1 1/4 C soymilk. If you're short, add a bit more milk to make 1 1/4 C.

In a stand mixer, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the vanilla, salt, and baking powder. On low speed, add in 1/3 of the milk, then 1/3 of the flours and mix until incorporated. Repeat 2 more times. Mix on low until everything's incorporated and smooth.

Dish out the batter evenly among the 24 cups. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

06 February 2011


Pigskin for Superbowl? Pshaw... how about pig flesh! Bacon inside of pork sausage inside of bacon. Three layers of pork, rolled, mmmm. That's right, I'm talking about the BACON EXPLOSION
I feel like there should be an echo... the BACON ex-PLOOOO-ZHUNNNN... ZHUNnnnn... Shun...shunnnnn.....

I first heard about this bad boy when my girl Jen (hi Jen!) made it for some event and got 2nd place in an appetizer contest  (when really she shoulda won since 1st place was really an entree, right!). Oh, and apparently the NYT did an article about it in 2009. I've wanted to make it since, but could never really bring myself to. As my boss said the other day when I showed him the recipe, "it's like the inside of a cannibal's intestines!" Gross. But apt. But I didn't care, lol. If you're gonna make something for Superbowl, may as well go all out, right!

I so rarely do progress pics, but this is so awesome I just HAVE to :-)

introduced by Jen, apparently in the NYT, and here's a link to the 1st search result from google

2 lbs thick cut bacon
1.5 to 2 lbs Italian sausage, casings removed
3 Tbsp BBQ rub
2/3 C BBQ sauce
Prep a sheet pan with a layer of aluminum foil topped. It just makes this a bit neater start to finish.

Take 10 strips of bacon and create a tight 5x5 basket weave. (What's a basket weave you ask? the NYT recipe describes it, and the BBQ addicts show it.) I should note that I had thinner strips so I eventually did 6x6 (don't mind the pic, I took 1 strip away eventualy).
Spread all of the sausage over the basket weave of bacon. All the way to the edges in an even layer.
Preheat oven to 225. (Or you can smoke it, but I don't have a smoker, so we'll be baking.)

Snip the remaining bacon into 1-2" pieces. Fry to your desired doneness- when they're about halfway there sprinkle in about 1T of BBQ rub and keep cooking. Cool. Spread the cooled bbq bacon bits over the sausage in an even layer.
Drizzle with 1/2 C BBQ sauce and sprinkle with 1 T BBQ rub.
Carefully roll the SAUSAGE and COOKED BACON into a log -- you'll need to separate it from the bacon weave. Press it so there are no air pockets, and pinch the seam and the ends shut to seal in the crumbled bacon. Roll the log again with the bacon weave until completely wrapped. Turn it seam side down. Sprinkle with 1 T BBQ rub.
Bake until internal temperature reaches 165. It's approximately 1 hour for every inch of thickness. Glaze with BBQ sauce.
Cut into 1/4" too 1/2" rounds and serve.

03 February 2011

oh macarons, you finicky bastards

Remember the first time I made macarons? I totally had beginners luck! And then the second time I made them? I pretty much impressed myself with how easily I took to these bad boys. You were probably thinking, what was she blabbering on about that first time about being all nervous about making macarons? Surely they can't be THAT difficult if she got it right the first time around... Sadly, my third time was NOT a charm.

Today's post will include no recipe, just pictures - THIS is why I was fretting way back when:
Where are the feet!? Why are the tops wrinkly? What are those black specks? (Oh wait, I remember now - those are tea leaves, hehe...) And how come this happened on my THIRD batch in the oven? I had to bake in 3 rounds... the 1st batch of the night came out nicely. The 2nd batch half of them rose with feet, the other half did not. The third batch? I'm still trying to wipe it from my memory.

First batch. Ooh pretty! Uniform. Smooth tops. All have distinct feet. Not as pretty as the last times, but hey I think they're acceptable... The texture of the cookie was right on.

Second batch: Um, something is amiss. Notice the cracks up top. And how the ones on the right have feet but the ones on the left do not. Some of them even had, like, half risen to create half a... foot?

And you saw the pictures of the 3rd batch. I may have just shed another tear. Those were supposed to be macarons?

I have theories as to why:
1) I didn't measure with a scale, and instead used cups and tablespoons per Tartelette's recipe via bell'alimento.
2) I didn't age the egg whites.
3) I overbeat the whites.
4) The tea made the batter too heavy so it didn't rise properly.
5) I overmixed the batter.

BUT. How come my first batch turned out fine but then they got progressively worse? I don't get it!

Ugh. That's TWO cookie FAILs this week. (I forgot I had no raisins when halfway through making oatmeal raisin cookies, and it was so late the stores weren't open, so there may or may not be a stand mixer hanging out on my counter with creamed butter/sugar and a bowl of dry ingredients hanging out next to it waiting for said raisins...) TWO! I haven't messed up a batch of cookies since those stupid choco chip cookies (and I really dont think that was ME who messed up.) This is ridiculous. OH, and to add insult to injury, I messed up my new manicure while piping that last batch of reject macarons. (And why was I piping while waiting for my nails to dry? Oh... let's not talk about that...)

Tomorrow I attempt this again. Notice I never said they tasted bad... in fact they are downright delicious! They're just not RIGHT. If they turn out well, I will post a recipe. I will probably do a happy dance too. And I really like to dance, so let's cross fingers that it works out!

01 February 2011

casserole time: turkey tetrazzini

I have a really bad habit about leftovers: I almost never eat them. I'll keep them with the best intentions, but probably 99% of the time I totally forget until I notice something green and moving in the back of my fridge. Yeah, ew. Sometimes, though, I'm smart and put them into the freezer. I often still forget about them til they're totally iced over, which is why I'm glad I found this chart. I froze some turkey from Thanksgiving, and that's within the 4 month limit for cooked frozen poultry, so I actually used it to make turkey tetrazzini. This is really easy to make, so hooray me for not wasting for once, lol!
Turkey Tetrazzini
adapted from Turkey Tetrazzini II at allrecipes.com

1/2 box (8oz) thin spaghetti
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 1/2 C chicken broth
1 C milk
a bit more than 3/4 C grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
ground black pepper
2 C chopped cooked turkey
1 C frozen swet peas
1/2 C panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350. Cook spaghetti according to box instructions to al dente. Drain and put into a pie plate or similar sized baking dish.

Melt butter in a small pot over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until well combined. Add chicken broth and milk, stir, allow to come to a boil, and stir until slightly thickened. Add 2/3 of the parmesan cheese and mix until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour over spaghetti. Add turkey and peas, and mix until evenly combined. Top with the remaining parmesan and then with the panko. Bake for 40 minutes.