So I have a baking problem

Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer Time

First, a poem from my childhood.

Munching peaches in the summer,
Munching peaches cool and sweet,
Munching peaches morn to midnight,
Munching peaches. Such a treat.
Munching peaches. Munching peaches.
What a way to spend the time.

While munching,
munching peaches,

I had time to write this rhyme.
~Lee Bennett Hopkins

Three guesses as to what this post is about!

Liz and I are going peach and blackberry picking at Homestead Farms on Friday. I am very excited. I haven't been fruit picking in years.

This past weekend, I got to hang out with one of my best college friends, Niki. While we were there, we made two delicious Peaches'n'Cream pies. I'll pass the recipe on to you, because it was ALL sorts of amazing.

1 graham cracker pie crust (we used store bought- no time to do a homemade one)

First layer:
1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened (just a regular sized block)
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of milk
2 cups of coolwhip

Second layer:
2 thinly sliced peaches (bite sized peaches, preferably peeled 'cause no one likes the skin)

Third layer:
1 3.4oz package of instant French Vanilla/Vanilla pudding
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup coolwhip

2 mixing bowls (unless you want to just use one and wash in between layers)
Electric mixer
Rubber Spatula
Knife/vegetable peeler for slicing/skinning peaches
Measuring cups and spoons

Bottom Layer:
1. Unwrap the pie crust
2. Using the electric blender, mix the cream cheese until it's fluffy
3. Add the sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk and mix until creamy
4. Fold in the coolwhip
5. Spread into pie crust.

Peach Layer:
1. Peel and slice peaches
2. Press peaches into the cream cheese layer. Be liberal.

Top Layer:
1. Put pudding mix into a mixing bowl and mix in 1 cup of milk (yes, the box says to use 2, but we want this to be thick)
2. Mix in almond extract
3. Let the pudding sit for a few minutes, until it's slightly set.
4. Mix in the Cool Whip. The pudding may be slightly stiff, so the mixer might be easier.
5. Spread onto the peaches.
6. Garnish with extra peaches on top.
7. Refrigerate overnight, or at least 3 hours before serving.

I dare you not to like this. So good and cold and fresh tasting!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chicken Piccata

Again, it's been forever. And I'm posting a recipe that is more cooking than baking, but still delicious.

Some background: One of my favorite restaurants near my parent's house is an Italian restaurant called "Franks II." I don't think there is a "Franks I" or a "Franks" in case you're wondering. It's just "Franks II." The inside is kind of weird and 80s. The booths are all peach and plastic, and there are a few tables and chairs. The placemats are pink paper with "Franks II" written across the middle, with ads framing the sides. When we were little, my sisters and I would always ask my mom to look in her purse for pens or pencils so we could draw or play tic-tac-to or hangman on the backs of the menus. We could never remember to bring our own writing implements, but my mom usually managed to come through for us.

The kitchen of this place was kind of open, it wasn't really a separate room- you can see where the owner makes the food and the pizza ovens and all that stuff. The dessert case usually had a few cannolis and some lonely pieces of cheesecake in it.

Don't get me wrong, the place sounds like a bit of a dive, but the place has 4 stars on urban spoon. It is delicious. And rather inexpensive. Way better than Olive Garden and any other chain Italian restaurant.

One of our favorite dishes to get there is Chicken Piccata, which is some lightly fried thinly sliced chicken breast with a lemon white wine sauce. It is tangy and light and delicious. Franks II usually serves it with a side of spaghetti and marinara and a side salad. Our family always asks to put the chicken on top of the spaghetti (no marinara) and put extra Piccata sauce on top. DELICIOUS.

Since I now live so far from home, I've been looking for a way to replicate the recipe so I can still have it up here. I have found and fixed one.


Ingredients and Tools:

2-4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Halves (You can usually get the thinly sliced breasts at the grocery store so you don't have to butterfly them [a technique I haven't mastered yet. I am too fond of my thumbs]) If you get thicker sliced pieces, butterfly them yourselves. Look up a how-to somewhere.
2 tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese (I use the inexpensive stuff in the can)
1/3 cup flour
Salt and pepper (to taste)
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
4 tablespoons Butter
1/2 cup White Wine (Any non-winey people can use chicken stock, but trust me, the wine gives it an extra tang)
3 tablespoons Lemon Juice (that equates to the juice of about 1 whole lemon. You can probably use the stuff in the plastic lemon, but I don't know what the conversion is)
1/4 cup Brined Capers (what are capers you ask? LOOK IT UP
As much pasta as you think you and your eating companions will eat. I like Barilla's PLUS Angel Hair. It's nice and thin, and has a nutty taste to it that compliments everything nicely. And it has a bunch of different grains that I can't pronounce properly in it, so it must be good for you.

Frying pan large enough for at least 2 pieces of chicken
Shallow bowl or plate for coating chicken
Measuring spoons and cups
Pot for pasta
Strainer for pasta
Wooden spoon
Flipping Spatula/pancake spatula

1. Take out and pre-measure all of your ingredients. Things go quickly after the chicken is fried.
2. Start the water boiling for pasta.
3. In your coating bowl mix: flour, Parmesan, salt and pepper
4. Rinse the chicken pieces in water, then dredge* them in the flour mixture. Let them sit there until the pan heats up.
5. Turn on the stove to medium-high and heat up your frying pan with the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. (The olive oil/butter mixture is the secret to making this delicious)
6. Once the butter and olive oil is heated (after the butter melts) put in 2 pieces of chicken. DO NOT CROWD the chicken. Make sure there is space between the pieces. They are not friends in this situation. They do not play well together.
7. Brown the chicken on both sides (it takes about 3 minutes a side). Remove from the pan and place on an oven safe plate. Do the same with your other pieces of chicken. Cover the chicken with foil. (If you're doing this for the first time, you might want to put it in the oven on warm so the chicken doesn't get cold, but you should be okay). DO NOT DRAIN THE PAN YET.
8. Check on the pasta water. If it's ready, start your pasta.
9. Now for the delicious sauce: Pour the wine, capers and lemon juice into the pan (the pan that still contains the olive oil, butter, and fried bits of the chicken) and stir it, scraping up all the bits. I usually cover the pan for a minute or two, so the ingredients mingle. You want the sauce to reduce a bit so it is even more delicious.
10. Uncover the pan. Whisk/mix in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Smell. Die of happiness.
11. Hopefully your pasta is done by now. Strain it. Plate the pasta for each person. Put the chicken on top of the pasta. Pour some sauce on the chicken. Make sure they get some capers.

*A note on dredging. I just discovered this: use one hand (non-dominate) as your water hand, and one hand as your dredging hand. As in- rise the chicken with your right hand, shake off some of the extra water, and put it in the bowl, then use your left hand to coat it. That way you won't have a messy hands the whole time.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Double Timin' Waffle Iron

Sorry it's been FOREVER. School has been...overwhelming lately...but, new post!

Quick Background:

I work at Maryland's Renaissance Fair (it's in Crownsville, you should come) during the late summer/early fall. There are TONS of food stands, all serving different kinds of food. Everything from those GIANT turkey legs to soup in a bread bowl. Most of it is quite delicious, fattening, and messy. And cheap. This is where I tried my first falafel- one of the booths serves it in a warm, thick pita (not those measly little flat ones) with taziki sauce, tomatoes, and lettuce. DELICIOUS.

Falafel is a middle-eastern chickpea and spiced deep fried ball. It is usually greenish in on the inside, and crispy and crunchy on the outside, kind of like a meatball.

A few months ago, I came across a website (I don't even remember which one anymore) that suggested making them in a waffle iron. Considering my less-than-stellar experience trying to make fried chicken a few months ago, I figured I'd give it a shot.

I had a box of pre-mixed falafel (from the grocery store, about $2.00) and all you HAVE to add is water, but I took it a little further. I made my own taziki sauce (a yogurt based sauce) and diced some tomatoes and chopped some lettuce.

Taziki Sauce:

Make AT LEAST 2 hours in advance. You want everything to meld together.

1- 2 cup container of plain Greek Yogurt (I use Fage- the full-fat kind. It's good for you.) (If you use regular yogurt, strain it first for a few hours so it becomes nice and thick)
1 English Cucumber (the long thin ones that are usually shrink wrapped in plastic)
1 Lemon
1 clove of garlic

Cost of Ingredients:
Fage Yogurt: $5.00 (most expensive, if you can find the store brand, that will probably be OK but this stuff is AMAZING)
Cucumber: $2.00
Dill: $1.50
Lemon: $0.57
Garlic: $0.15 (I've had the garlic on hand for awhile, so it's probably cheaper than that)

Vegetable peeler
Cutting Board
Small mixing bowl
Mixing Spoon

What to do:
1. Peel the cucumber and cut it in half. Cut each half lengthwise. Use the fork to grate all of the seeds out by pulling it towards the end. Chop the cucumber up into small pieces.
2. Put the chopped cucumber into the strainer and sprinkle with salt, then let sit for at least 30 minutes to dry off
3. Open the yogurt, pour off any of the liquid that's formed on the top, then pour the rest into the mixing bowl. (Watch out for the waxed paper that sits on top- take that off first.) Mix the yogurt up, set aside.
4. Chop a small section of the dill. You want about a handful. (I have small hands). Enough to taste good, but not too much to be overpowering. Put the dill in with the yogurt and stir.
5. Juice the lemon, add the juice to the yogurt and stir.
6. Dry off the cucumber with a paper towel. Add to the yogurt and stir.
7. TA-DA! You have taziki sauce! But, you have to put it in the fridge so all of the ingredients get friendly for a bit.


Prepare and hour in advance.

1 box falafel mix. Mine made 2 cups of falafel (I don't remember the brand name, but there are lots of different kinds)
2 Eggs
1 1/4 cup water

Cost of Ingredients:
Falafel Mix (It was a few months ago when I bought it, but it wasn't anymore than $3.00)
Eggs: $0.50
Water: FREE! (well, you do pay for it, but that depends on your water bills)

Mixing Bowl
Measuring Cup
Waffle Iron & Cooking Spray (unless your iron is non-stick)

1. Mix the Falafel mix, water and eggs.
2. Let sit for 1 hour so the water and eggs absorb.

I went and played on the Wii for an hour. (This is my favorite kind of "cooking")

Side Items:
1 tomato
1 head of lettuce
1 package of pita bread (I use the thick kind, not the 1993 popular stuff-yourself kind)

Ingredient Cost:
Tomato: I just bought 1 smallish tomato- serving for 2: $0.77
Lettuce: $1.89
Pita Bread: $3.00

3. It's been an hour. Fire up the waffle iron!
4. While the waffle iron heats up, chop the lettuce (well, some of the lettuce, enough for you and your family to eat)
5. Slice the tomato into bite-sized pieces

6. Waffle Iron's ready! Spray with cooking spray (my waffle iron was my mom's and she had it for about 20 years so it's non-stick properties are as sticky as fresh bubble gum)
7. Pour about 1/3 cup of Falafel Mix on the center of the iron. Let it sit for about 5 minutes.
8. Check on it- does it look ready? Everyone's waffle irons are different.
9. If it's ready, take it out, and put more mix on there.
10. Repeat until all of the mix is used up!

Time to eat!
Take the taziki sauce out of the fridge.
Serve it all together!

Fun Fact:
Taziki sauce and leftover pitas make THE BEST midnight snack OF ALL TIME!

The sauce will keep well in the fridge in a sealed container!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Da Da Rum

So the next thing I shall talk about is my rum cake! Rum Rum Rum! Yum Yum Yum!

This is one of the most delicious and easiest cakes, ever to make. I sort of cheat because I use a boxed mix, but it's only because it is more moist than anything I could make on my own (as of right now. I'm experimenting with yellow cake this weekend. More on that, later.)

Ingredients and Tools:

Ingredients for the Cake:
1 box of yellow cake mix (I usually use Duncan Hines)
1 4-serving size box of instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup cold milk (you can also use water if you're tryin' to keep the lactoses away)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup dark rum (I use Meyers)

Mixing bowl
Hand/stand mixer
Measuring cups
Bundt cake pan

Glaze Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark rum (more Meyers, please!)

Tools for the Glaze:
Measuring cups
Bamboo Skewer
Pastry brush

For the Cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Grease the Bundt pan and then flour it. (When I flour cake pans when I make a boxed cake, I use a bit of cake mix instead of flour. It won't turn your cake white, and it will taste like the cake itself! Ta-Da!)
3. Mix all of the cake ingredients together and beat for about 2 minutes with your electric mixer. (Told you it was easy).
4. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.
5. After the cake comes out of the oven, poke holes ALL over the place while the cake is still in the pan (while it's still warm). Get the skewer all the way into the bottom, you want the glaze to saturate that cake! (Sometimes, if I'm feeling generous, I make a double batch of the glaze).

For the Glaze:
Right after the cake comes out of the oven and is hokey-poked with holes, start the glaze!
1. Melt the butter in a saucepan
2. Stir in the water and the sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Remove from heat and stir in the rum It will steam and possibly scare you, just keep stirring, you'll be fine!
4. Slowly pour the warm glaze over the cake (while it is still in the pan). It's okay if some sits on the top for a bit...let it soak in.
5. After is has been soaking for about 30 minutes or so, invert the pan onto your serving plate.
6. Use the pastry brush to get any leftover glaze onto the top of the cake.

Smile! It's done...and is tasty even after a few days of sitting out. It's good in the toaster oven 3 days later. It freezes beautifully. It is amazing!

Notes: You can do it with other flavors of cake/pudding mix. Some people add 1 cup of nuts to the mix (I don't 'cause so many people are allergic these days). It is delicious! Enjoy!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Choose Your Own Adventure Taco Soup

Yay! It's March! (Okay, almost April, but I've always been a bit of a procrastinator). It's still a bit too cold for a barbeque, but I'm already tired of the heavy, wintery meals. Time for tacos!

Well, taco soup, anyway.

A note on Mexican food: I have realized why I didn't really like Mexico (ok, it's real name is La Parota) when I was in Farmville. I always knew Mexican food had to be better than that. I have learned, over the past two months that it is! Because there is El Salvadoran food to be had! We've been to two El Salvadoran restaurants since January. Samantha's (on my birthday, no less) and this little place near 16th and U Street in DC. AMAZINGLY good food! I had duck on my birthday with an amazing, not-too-sweet, just enough sour margarita, and it was some of the best food I'd ever had. Then when we went to the place in DC, I had Monterey Enchiladas. Enchiladas just filled with melting, soft, salty cheese. And a drop-dead-gorgeous Raspberry Margarita. GAH! Where has it been all of my life?

Ok, the recipe. It is delicious! And easy! And cheap!

Choose Your Own Adventure Taco Soup

Ingredients and tools:
1 pound of ground beef or turkey, whichever's cheapest/you prefer.
1 small sweet onion, chopped
Here's where the choices come in:
3 cans of beans. Regular sized, NOT the GIANT HUGE FAMILY SIZE (Pinto, Navy, Black, Kidney, Blackeyed any combination of three of those. Green beans probably won't work so well, and I don't think they're very taco-y)
3 cans of chopped tomatoes (With our without chiles/jalapenos/onions. Depends on how spicy you want it)
1 can of corn (not creamed corn, regular corn.)
1 packet of McCormick's taco seasoning (Mild/Regular/Medium/Hot, whatever you like)

Easy stuff, right? It gets even easier.

Do you have a crock pot? Yes! Good!
No? Do you have a soup pot? Yes! Good!
No? Go buy one, here's $10. Or you can have one of mine.
Knife for chopping the onion.
Spatula for getting the beanybits out of the cans
Wooden spoon for stirring.
Cookie sheet to protect counter from over-zelaous crock pottage
Can opener

Crock pot method:
1. Brown the onions and the ground meat in a skillet until the meat is done and the onions start to turn clear.
2. In the mean time, open all of your cans of various beans/tomatoes/corn
3. Put the crock pot on a cookie sheet in case it gets a little full, that way your counter won't be a mess.
4. After the meat/onions are ready, put them into the crock pot. Add the cans of vegetables, stirring after each addition.
5. Fill one of the cans with water and then pour it into the other cans so all the extra bits get rinsed, then add it to the crock pot. (You can use leftover red wine as well, whatever makes you happy)
6.Add the taco seasoning and stir.
7. Turn the crock pot on low. Continue on about your day. If you're home, give it a stir every once in a while.

If you're using a soup pot:
1. Brown the meat and onions in the soup pot until the meat is ready and the onions start to turn clear.
2. In the mean time, open all of your cans of various beans/tomatoes/corn
3. Add the cans of vegetables, stirring after each addition.
4. Fill one of the cans with water and then pour it into the other cans so all the extra bits get rinsed, then add it to the crock pot. (You can use leftover red wine as well, whatever makes you happy)
5.Add the taco seasoning and stir.
6. Simmer on low for as long as you feel like letting it cook. (Not overnight or anything)

I usually make cornbread to go with it. I also like to add sour cream and cheddar cheese. It's kind of a mix between a chili and a soup, but it is really good, keeps in the freezer, and makes good leftovers. (I think it is even better the second day)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

One of my Favorite things... something my mom made as a kid and called it "Frosty Treasures" it is also called "snowman poop" and "puppy chow." Ringing a bell?

I made some Friday night around 10 pm because I was craving it on the way home from eating on of my top 10 favorite burgers, ever, from Urban Burger Company in Rockville. I had been craving a cheeseburger for a full 24 hours, after reading an article about cooking them on Serious Eats, mainly their "A Hamburger Today" portion. A quick search of The Washington Posts' "going out guide" led us to Urban Burger. It was delicious. If you live in Maryland, especially those of you near College Park, it's worth it. It was $19 and change for 2 delicious, made-to-order burgers, an order of fries (you only need 1 order for 2 people, trust me!) and 2 sodas (they had Old Dominion Root Beer on Draught-amazing).

Anyways, back to the real story here-Frosty Treasures.

My mom would make them when the cereal in the pantry was starting to get a bit stale. She'd throw other stuff in there too, like stale marshmallows (my mom, sisters, and I all seem to like our marshmallows will buy Peeps on sale, stab a hole in the cellophane, and give them to us the next Easter. delicious.), pretzels, m'n'ms. Whatever was lying around.

Ingredients and Tools:
1 cup creamy peanut butter (in case you haven't tried it yet, Giant's brand is GROSS. Wegman's is amazing)
1 12oz bag of chocolate chips (most recipes call for semi-sweet. I used Hershey's milk chocolate because I was going for the "Reeses" taste)
5 tablespoons of butter (most recipes call for a whole stick, but it doesn't need that much. You can probably use less. Or use cooking oil, whatever you prefer)
1 box of Crispix cereal [(Any of the Chex works as well-Rice, Wheat, Corn.)(If you have any other snacky foods that are going stale, or you're just sick of eating plain, put some of those in there, too. (Speaking from experience, Cheddar Goldfish are GROSS in there))]
2 cups of powdered sugar

A microwave
A microwave safe bowl large enough to hold the chocolate, peanut butter, and butter. (A 4 cup pyrex is perfect)
Wooden/mixing spoon
Either a large ziploc bag (gallon sized or bigger) or a large plastic bowl with a lid.

Here's what you do:
1. Melt the peanut butter, butter and chocolate in the microwave. I do it in 1 minute increments, stirring as it gets melty. You want it to be pretty liquidy, but not to the point of separation. You could use a double boiler if you want, but it will take awhile.
2. While the stuff is in the microwave, pour the cereal into the large bag/bowl.
3. After the PB/chocolate/butter mixture is melted, pour it over the cereal. Seal the bag/bowl and shake vigorously until the cereal is well-coated.
4. Pour the powdered sugar in, and shake it up again until the cereal is whiteish with sugar. You might need to add a bit more if the cereal mix won't coat.
5. Now you can eat it. It might look a little iffy, but it is so good!


It makes good gifts at Holiday time! Pour some in a bag, stick it in a festive mug, and voila!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Guinness Cupycakes Part 2 (Well, it's turned into a cake..)

So those Guinness cupcakes that I made last night- I ended up making 12 cupcakes and then a nine inch cake. For 2 reasons...well maybe 3.
1) I only had 12 cute green and blue plaid wrappers
2) We'd eat all of the cupcakes (which we did, there are only 3 left)
3) I couldn't find my other muffin tins. And I was lazy- didn't feel like filling more liners and waiting for them to bake.

Ok, the recipe. I adapted SmittenKitchen's "Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes" recipe.
Cupcake Tools:
2 Mixing Bowls
Measuring Cups and spoons
Small saucepan
Rubber Spatula
Muffin Tin or cake pan
Regular Sized Muffin Tins and Cuppycake liners (we had cute green'n'blue plaid ones)

Cupcake Ingredients:
1 cup stout-I used Guinness. (open the can, pour and let it sit for a minutes before you get the final measurement, because as any good Buffy fan knows: "Beer: foamy")

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used the rest of the Nestle Toll House from the cupboard)

2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cup sour cream (I actually used about 3/4 of a cup...I was feeling particularly liberal)

Frosting Tools:
Mixing Bowl
Rubber Spatula
Measuring Cups and spoons
Pastry bag (you can get on from Target for less than $10. OR Cut off the bottom tip of a Ziploc Bag)

Frosting Ingredients:

3 cups confections sugar

1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (I used Caramel Bailey's 'cause that's what we had. And I probably used about 4 and a half tablespoons)

Cupcake/Cake Directions:
1.Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. (Or spray some Pam on 2 8 or 9 inch cake pans. This time I made 12 cupcakes and 1 cake)
2.Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly. (It got a little seperate-y for me. I just ignored it and hope it would turn out- it did)
3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend.
4. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend.
5. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine.
6. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.
7. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.(That is, if you don't eat them all first)

Frosting Directions:
1. Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy.
2. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.
3. When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.
4. Ice and decorate the cupcakes. Make sure the cupcakes are totally cooled. It usually takes a few hours. I didn't frost mine 'til the day we served it. (St. Patrick's Day!!) I used a star tip and kind of wavered it around to make it look foamy, like the head of Guinness.

The cake looks really cute- like a disk of yummy, yummy Guinness. The cupcakes that we tested just taste like a really rich chocolate. The Guinness adds and extra "umph" that you usually don't get from milk or cream. The frosting is rather sweet- I really like that I used Caramel Bailey's because it adds an extra creaminess that you don't usually get from regular Bailey's.

We're having corned beef, cabbage, carrots, and fingerling potatoes for dinner. Dave made Irish Soda Bread. There's Guinness, Smithicks, and an Irish Cream Ale in the fridge. The Irish Rovers are on the stereo. Friends will be on their way over shortly. It's going to be a good evening!