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Monthly Archives: January 2012

52 Weeks of Baking – Week 4: Frosting/Filling – Blackberry Cream Cheese Danishes

Breakfast in bed for the hubby today!  He’s REALLY enjoying this new cooking venture.  He hasn’t liked every single dish (I haven’t either), but he really likes trying new foods.

These danishes are not really danishes.  More like blackberry cream cheese turnovers. Adam really liked them, but I found the filling to be a bit grainy.  Maybe I’ll like them better when they’re cool.  I used this recipe from the Food Network and added a small spoonful of blackberry jam to each danish before sealing them.  The filling wasn’t actually supposed to bleed through the seams, but they’re actually kind of pretty that way!

This recipe was not very complicated at all.  The biggest things to remember are that you need to let your cream cheese soften, and you don’t need to over-beat the filling.  In reality, this will take you about an hour the first time you make them, so give yourself enough time!  I suggest finding a thin icing to pipe on the top, as they could have used a bit more sweetness.  As far as the folding goes, be creative!  I think the recipe intends you to fold them into triangles, but where’s the fun in that?  I liked the ones where I folded all the corners to the middle, but have fun!

Hubby’s rating: 4 (out of 5)

My rating: 2 (out of 5)

Difficulty rating: 2 (out of 5)

 

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in 52weeksofbaking, Good, Not Good

 

52 Weeks of Cooking – Week 4: Pan-fried – Chicken Marsala

Let me start by saying that I wasn’t really looking forward to pan-fried week on 52weeksofcooking.  I don’t pan-fry very much, mostly because I really don’t like the taste of most oils.  I had some marsala wine leftover from making a tiramisu (should I do a post on that sometime?  Anyone interested?) and since the first step in chicken marsala is to pan-fry the chicken breasts, I figured I could give it a shot.  I used this recipe by Emeril Lagasse.

The good thing about this recipe taste-wise is that there is no call for vegetable oil or canola oil or any of the other oils that I find gross.  Just olive oil and butter.  I made my own chicken stock (or chicken broth, as I didn’t put any vegetables in it) which I recommend doing whenever possible.

This recipe turned out rather well, all things considered.  I would recommend upping the amount of spice in the flour dredge, as I thought the chicken was a bit bland.  The flavor of the marsala and chicken stock sauce was fantastic!

I would give this recipe a 4/5 for taste and a 2.5/5 for difficulty level.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in 52weeksofcooking, Good

 

“I can’t cook”

Found in The New Orleans Menu Daily

A little break from the 52 weeks challenges as I offer some encouragement.  To every person who believes that he/she cannot cook I say, “Yes, you can.”

In this age of the internets that we live in, anyone who can read and navigate the internet well enough to be reading this blog can cook.  This biggest challenge in home cooking is being able to find good recipes and follow them.  So here are a few tips in overcoming this hurdle.

  • What type of recipe are you looking for?  If it’s a classic recipe, like a Coq au Vin, I suggest searching a website where the contributors are chefs, like the Food Network website.  Enter the recipe you’re looking for in the search bar and hit enter.  After the results come up, sort them by rating rather than by relevance.  That way, the best-reviewed recipes are always at the top.
  • If the recipe you’re looking for is something a little less specific or something that has many different variations (like lasagna or chicken enchiladas), I suggest websites where the contributors are home cooks, like the Taste of Home website or Tasty Kitchen.  Once again, I suggest sorting your results by rating rather then relevance.
  • Do you have a bunch of ingredients that you want to use up?  Try going to AllRecipes and doing an ingredient search.  Enter all the ingredients you’re trying to use up and see what recipes come up!  Pay attention to the user ratings…if something has just one-star, you might want to avoid it.
  • Do you really have no idea what to make?  I suggest subscribing to some food blogs.  I have at least 10 different food blogs on my blogroll right now, so I get new recipe ideas every day.  Here are some of my favorites.

So at this point you’ve found a recipe.  Here are a few suggestions for being able to follow it successfully.

  • Read the entire recipe before you decide to do it.  Look at the ingredients.  Will you be able to find all of them where you live?  Living in small-town Arkansas, I have to drive up to an hour in order to get specialty ingredients.  So if I want to make a recipe with odd ingredients, I have to make sure I’ll be able to get to Little Rock or Hot Springs beforehand.  Look at the instructions.  Is there anything that you don’t understand?  A word or a technique?  Google it.
  • Food substitutions.  Try not to have to do this at all.  If you absolutely cannot help it, google your food substitution idea BEFORE you attempt it.  You think you can substitute spread for butter?  Look it up.  You think you can substitute olive oil for vegetable oil?  Look it up.

Okay.  You’ve finished your cooking, and you have one of three reactions.

  • “This is delicious!  I want to make this again!”  Make sure you’ve saved the recipe somewhere.
  • “This is okay, but it would be better if______.”  Try the recipe again sometime and make some small tweaks.  Don’t change too much.  You want to keep the integrity of the original so that the whole thing doesn’t fall apart.
  • “This is really nasty.  I never want to have this again.”  Scrap it and try something else.  Don’t beat yourself up.  This happens to everyone, even people who have been cooking for years.  It happens to me all the time!

Just a couple more things before you venture into the unknown.

  • The more you practice, the better you’re going to get.  You may start with half a dozen flops.  But you will get better!
  • Try to surround yourself with encouraging people.  When I was growing up, my dad would eat absolutely anything that I cooked.  I tried making fudge for the very first time in an Arkansas summer with no air conditioning in the house.  I think I was around 10 years old.  It was a gloppy mass of what tasted like burned marshmallows.  My dad put it on his ice cream.  Today, my church family will eat any experiment that I choose to subject them to.  Even if it’s not that good!
  • Remember that the way you cook has no correlation to your worth as a person.  You can make flop after flop, and you are still worthwhile and full of value.

Let me know if you have any questions!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

52 Weeks of Baking – Week 3: White Chocolate – White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I didn’t do a step-by-step picture taking session on these.  I mean, they’re cookies.  You mix the dry together.  You mix the wet together.  Combine and add chips.  Basic cookie recipe.

Except that I forgot the vanilla and had to try to mix it in at the end.  The Pioneer Woman always says, “Don’t be like me.”  I say, “Be like me.  It will make me feel better not to be the only one.”

These were really yummy, and they really did taste quite a bit like the double chocolate Subway cookies, only better.  I got the recipe from Ina Garten at the Food Network website.  The only change I made is that I reduced the cooking time to 13 minutes, rather than the “exactly 15” that the recipe calls for.

I picked this recipe because I really don’t like white chocolate. I rebelled against the challenge by having the sickly sweet white chocolate mixed in with super dark chocolate to balance it out.  Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2012 in 52weeksofbaking, Good

 

52 Weeks of Cooking – Week 3: Soups – Fiery Roasted Garlic and Tomato Soup

Okay.  This one was great.  From the cheesy chiabatta bread, to the basilly, garlicky, soup, to the delightful smell that is still pervading my kitchen, this is a must-make recipe.  When I was trying to come up with something for soup week (I make a billion different kinds of soups already!), a friend of mine suggested a homemade tomato and grilled cheese.  I found this recipe on Tasty Kitchen, and knew it was the right one.

This is what the tomatoes looked like after I tossed them with the oil, vinegar, and seasonings.  I wanted to eat one right then, but restrained myself.

Here they are after roasting.  The smell in my house was so heavenly!  The garlic (the foil packet) did not get done in the time the recipe called for, and I had to cook it for an extra 15 minutes.

 

Here is the soup before I blended it…

And here it is after.  I didn’t have an immersion blender (though I would really like one), but I blended the soup in four batches in my regular blender.

Here is the Gruyere-covered chiabatta bread.  I really liked the chewy texture, but the hubby would prefer a French bread, so I’ll probably try that next time.  Also, I reduced the red pepper flakes in the recipe to 1 tsp (rather than a tbsp) and it was still very spicy.  I will probably just put a pinch in next time.  Still, it was the best tomato soup I’ve ever had.  Definitely will make this again!

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 18, 2012 in 52weeksofcooking, Good

 

52 Weeks of Baking – Week 2: Miniature – Taffy Apple Tartlets

 

Okay.  These were pretty good.  I would definitely make some changes next time I make them, but the hubby found them delicious.  I used a recipe from Pampered Chef for these.  Here it is, minus the suggestions on what tools to use:

1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts
2 large granny smith apples , peeled
3/4 cup butterscotch caramel sauce , divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (15 ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts , softened according to package directions (2 crusts)
12 caramels , unwrapped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°F
Chop peanuts finely; set aside for later use.
Core, peel, and chop apples finely. Combine apples, 1/2 cup of the caramel sauce and flour in Classic Batter Bowl. Mix well. Microwave on HIGH 5-6 minutes or until bubbling and thickened; stir and set aside.
Meanwhile, unroll one pie crust onto lightly floured cutting board. Spacing closely together, cut 12 disks from crust. Press disks into wells of mini-muffin pan, ruffling edges. Repeat with remaining crust.
Cut caramels in half; place one piece into each tart shell. Spoon apple mixture evenly into tart shells; sprinkle with peanuts. Bake 14-16 minutes or until edges of tartlets are golden brown. Remove tartlets from pan. Drizzle with remaining 1/4 cup caramel sauce. Serve warm.

Next time, I’ll probably add some sort of sea salt to these somehow to cut the sweet a little bit, but all in all, this was a pretty good recipe.
 
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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in 52weeksofbaking, Good

 

52 weeks of Cooking – Week 2: Chinese – Boneless Spare Ribs

 

Does this look like a pile of poo to you?  It does to me too.  I’m really trying to be positive in these posts, and I’m sure I’ll find something that I love, but this recipe was not good.  The ribs were soggy, and the flavor was a sickening blend of sweet and smoky that even Adam (hubby) found unpalatable.  If you know him, you know that he’ll eat just about anything.  He did eat these…after dousing them with sriracha!  The recipe was from a cookbook that I downloaded for free on my kindle, so I won’t bother posting it, as I do not recommend it.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in 52weeksofcooking, Not Good