Monday, March 23, 2009

Jely..Unplugged

It has been one hell of a month since I last posted. Yes, we are still in limbo with the house, we have it, but we are still living in the gap of technicalities. My beloved Subaru, well fate needed me to come to the reality that at 15 years old...she was too old :( This is like being told that my dog is too old, a girl and her Subaru is quite a bond to have to sever. And the cherry on my ice cream sundae...I am going to be a Grammy! Unsarcasticaly, this is quite a tickler for me, however, the irony of timing was classic...finding out only 2 days after my birthday...not as if I was fighting a touch of antiquity already...it will make for great story-telling later in life, now won't it ;)

So, here I am, squeezing what I can from my day off, playing some Lily Allen and baking chocolate-chip cookies. The fictional character of Kitty Forman (That 70's Show) is alive and well in my kitchen at the moment..threatening my stove to not burn my "Martha Stewart Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies" with sadistic smile singing to "Everything's Just Wonderful", the only thing missing is a pile of jello molds and coffee cake (oh, that's an idea..haha!).

Living in the gap seems to be the most challenging part in this whole deal, catching myself thinking the inevitable "When we move it will be better...", "When this is all over, we will...", or "just wait till we get to the new place...". The act of seizing the day has become a voided contract and a weight all of its own on our spirits....or at least mine. I know there is a lesson in this somewhere. Maybe the lesson IS to stop and smell the burning cookies, OR take care in the process of making them to insure they will NOT burn before I am granted the brand new stove....and be grateful for it. Hmmm... Or the lesson could be to just smile and enjoy the insanity just for today, if there is a lesson at all ;)

...well, as Lily would say, "I guess I mus'n't grumble, I suppose that's the way the cookie crumbles..."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Come and Fill the Freezer With Me

It's been really busy around here, and it's only going to get busier! After 10 years of working on our credit, our budget, our lifestyle....then the yo-yoing ok's from the mortgage company for the past year....and of course the economic BS...

We FINALLY found our house, and got a bid accepted! Right now we need to get through the house inspections and closing variables, but hopefully within the next 2 months we will be in our house! I can't wait! Visions of gardening and blogging about herbs & vegetables, and a few DIY projects we already have in mind are already flowing through my brain!

Reality is that we are running around here trying to keep out I's dotted and our T's crossed....and working through February Vacation....making sure the kids are getting to where they need to be... Yeah, it's a little crazy around here!

So, in the midst of all of this, what do I choose to do on my only day off within a two week time span? Fill up the freezer! :) I decided to do this after the past weekend of everyone coming home from work, everyone famished and no one wanting to cook, and not having the budget to order out. Yes, we had a couple of "blue box" mac & cheese nights, I'm not proud of it except for using cream cheese instead of butter....lol!

Right now, I have in the crock pot one find that I stumbled on during the Super Bowl Hype a couple weeks ago: Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken . As I do with many an inspiration, I tweaked this a little. I also have another crock going with a BBQ pulled pork (this is just a boneless pork with a bottle of sauce thrown in), and will shortly throw together some homemade pizza dough together, my Beef Stew recipe, Spaghetti/Pizza Sauce, and brown 5 pounds of ground beef to divide and have ready in the freezer. Yeah, this is allot....and I will report latter on how I did, but I am determined to not go through another week like we just went through :)

Before leaving to continue this insanity here are the tweaks I did for the Buffalo Chicken recipe. I know this is certainly not for the weak of heart, but our family LOVES BWC, so this will be split in half: one meal as sandwiches, the other as BWC pizza:

Slow-Cooker Pulled Buffalo Chicken

8 boneless-skinless chicken thighs
1 12-oz. bottle Frank's Red Hot Sauce
1 envelope Ranch Dressing/Dip Mix
1/4 c. butter *

Add all ingredients to a 5 qt. crock pot, cook on low 6-8 hours, or high 3-4 hours. Pull chicken apart with fork. Either serve as sandwiches on hoagie rolls and cheese, or use as topping for Buffalo Chicken Pizza (which is what I am planning for half of the recipe).

*this was an accident on my part; the original recipe called for 2 Tbl. butter, however, I threw in 1/4 c. without thinking, since this is usually the measurement for my Buffalo wing sauce when using a whole bottle of Frank's. What can I say: second nature It also didn't help that I had Green Day's Basketcase playing as I threw it all together. Yup, it's that kind of a day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

As Easy As Black Forrest Cake

I think this cake would go under the new label in cooking of "Semi-Homemade", as this only consisted of 7 ingredients, but it is just too luscious to not share. I'm talking about the Black Forrest Cake that I made for my husband's birthday. When it comes to Black Forrest Cake, I think of the traditional chocolate layer cake, cherries in the middle, and a very light creamy frosting to dollop and cover. The problem that I was up against was the wait time: assembling the cake quite a few hours prior to serving....and I know just whipped cream or cool whip was not going to be that patient to stay put for that long. Here is what my brainstorming came up with:

The Cake:
Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix, butter recipe; baked in 8" round layers

The Cherries:
Cherry Pie filling

The Frosting:
2 pints whipping cream and 2 (4 serving) packages vanilla instant pudding mix; whip for only 2 to 3 min. max (I was shocked how quick this whipped up). Be careful not to over whip, as you want a frosting consistency, not butter.

And that was it! Everyone absolutely loved the light, yet flavorful combination that the frosting brought to the whole cake, a definite keeper!

Enjoy!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Birthday Whoopie Pie Cake Experiment!

When asking a soon to be 13 year old, who is a daughter of a foodie...and pretty much a foodie in her own right..."what would you like for a birthday cake?", expect the unexpected. A Great big, huge, mega whoopie pie was her answer. SWEET was mine :D

I LOVE whoopie pies! I do, I do, I do! I have never made one as large as a cake, but how hard could this be? Honestly, it was as easy as....whoopie pies ;) Through many years of making these pastries, I've learned a few things: the best ones are really dense so they are very spreadable...per se. An example of this is that they are easy to spread into easy shapes, such as hearts, ovals, triangles...they do not spread during baking, like cookie batter does. Now the trick with knowing that you have the RIGHT whoopie pie recipe to do such things is this: NEVER trust a Whoopie Pie recipe that does not have sour milk (or buttermilk)....they will not be dense enough.

With this in mind, I made my personal recipe, took out some parchment paper, used a 12" cake pan and traced two large circles out, divided the recipe in half and spread:

They even cooked the same amount of time that regular sized whoopie pies do, only 15 minutes....nice! I thought for sure there must be some special trick to doing this, because they came together just too perfectly for an experimental recipe; seriously, there is a bakery in Freeport, Maine that sells these large cakes for $49 dollars each!! Not catch, and I am certainly going to do this again when called for something cool for the next bake sale, or holiday that comes our way.....Easter egg whoopie pie cake? Hmmm....

The Wicked Wilmot Whoopie Pies (and cake)
2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup soured milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg

7-Minute Frosting/Filling:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
2 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350'F.
In a medium bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together. In a measuring cup or small bowl combine soured milk and vanilla. In a mixing bowl cream shortening and brown sugar until fluffy. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Starting with the dry ingredients, alternately add flour mixture, then milk mixture to the shortening, blending thoroughly and scrap sides of bowl after each addition, and ending with the dry ingredients last (basic cake method here). Using a 1/4 to 1/3 cup-sized cup, scoop onto greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets, dollop and then with back of spoon or spatula spread out approximately 5 to 6 inches in diameter each (if making cake, see illustrations above, dividing batter in half and spreading out to 10- to 12-inch cake sized circles). Bake in 350' oven for 15 minutes. Cool thoroughly on wire rakes before filling....using 2 disks to create a sandwich.

For filling:
In a saucepan, combine sugar, water and cream of tartar. Bring to just boiling and sugar is dissolved. In mixing bowl using whip attachment, beat egg whites and vanilla just until combined. While mixer is still running on low, add sugar mixture in a very slow, thin stream into the egg whites; when sugar is all added, continue to beat on highest speed for 5 to 7 minutes or until stiff peaks form, the tips stand right up when whip attachment is raised. Use to fill whoopie pies, using a good heaping 1/4 cup for each, or if making cake, use the whole recipe to fill one 10- or 12-inch whoopie pie cake.

Enjoy!



***The morning after edit: oh my! My kid's English teachers would kick my ars seeing this post and the many mistakes made. This is what happens when I am so excited about a post :) I fixed the important parts that would confuse anyone who would like to cook these lovelies for the first time, but left the rest as evidence to my pure exuberance ;)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Vegetarian's Rangoon

I have mentioned my middle daughter before, the vegetarian; her conviction of not digesting anything that has a face has been strong since the 5th grade. Actually, this conviction was not fully fulfilled until only 2 years ago when she finally gave up her favorite edible... the Crab Rangoon! She tried to pretend that these creatures did not count, however, she could not deny the fact that yes...they do have a face.

Ever since her final meal of crab rangoons I have thought about attempting a vegetarian version, but never quite got around to it. In honor of the Chinese New Year, I desided to give it a try...and I am so glad I did! As far as everyone trying them are concerned they were a grand success (even the hubby agreed, however his trying them was a mistake as he thought he was eating the crab variety. You have to be sneaky with those picky carnivors ;).

Of course I used the veggie standard: tofu, for the crab replacement, but I knew it may need a little tweeking to get it past the "just cream cheese in a won-ton wrap" taste. So with my own recipe for crab rangoons, I used the seasoning as a marinade prior to adding the cream cheese. This was the trick, because it flavored the tofu perfectly. Well, here is the recipe...of course, if you would rather have the Crab in your rangoon...just follow the recipe, skipping the marinading, and using only 1 tsp. soy sauce, instead of the 1 tbl.

A Vegetarian's Rangoon

8 oz. soft tofu, drained and dried as much as possible
1 tbl. soy sauce
3 tbl. chopped fresh chives, or 1 tbl. green onion (i prefer the milder taste of the chives)
Pinch garlic powder
Pinch fresh black pepper
8 oz. cream cheese

1 small bowl water
1 pkg. wonton wraps
oil, for deep frying

Crumble tofu into a medium-size bowl, add soy sauce, chives, pepper and garlic powder and mix. Allow tofu mixture to sit for 5 to 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld. With a potato masher or electric mixer, mash or blend cream cheese into tofu until blended.

Seperate wonton wrappers and spread across a flat work surface. Use your finger, and dip into water and moisten edges of wonton wrappers. Add 1 teaspoon filling into center of each, fold into triangles, and press the edges together to seal, making sure that all air is squeezed out (any air that is trapped will blow these into balloons when fried...not good).

Heat oil to 360 to 375 degrees farenheit (oil is ready when a wooden spoon stuck into the oil creates air bubbles). Slip each rangoon into oil, making sure they all have enough room...my Dutch-oven allowed for 6 to be fried at a time comfortably. Flip them over after 2-3 minutes, and cook the other side until golden brown. Drain on paper towelings. Serve with sweet n' sour sauce, duck sauce, or hot mustard.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Free Sample: Cream of Wheat Hot Cereal

Found this on a banner ad over at CD Kitchen and grabbed one, it's an offer for a free sample packet of Cream of Wheat Instant Hot Cereal. Head on over to Cream of Wheat's Web site and follow the link and just fill in the usual information to have it sent to you.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Finding Serenity



This month, it seems, finding the time to chill...not even touching blogging, has been a chore. When I believe I have figured something out, either technical difficulties, lack of time, or just stuff happens....ah yes, the reality of a busy family....lolol. If all intentions where published, there would have been many a posting: hollandaise sauce that I can do in my sleep, but trying to get a camera between whisking was not likely; Baked potato soup that really didn't come out the way it should have....tasted good, but had to scrap it; a couple of thoughtfully written intention started, but never quite finished and lost their relevance once I was able to...lolol.

Icy Pines
I'm sure I'm not the first, nor will be the last, who has written about the woes of blogging, creative blocks, and second thoughts after eventual follow though....it happens ;) Well, until I can get my stuff straight (rumour has it, it won't be likely until after mercury is out of retrograde...that's if one follows this...lolol....makes for a lovely excuse), here are some pictures I took on a couple of walks this morning. Stealing a few moments of Serenity where I can find it along the journey...if one can't make the time, it just will never happen...at least that's my motto for the day!

Mount Washington 2

Oh, and discovering that at least my youngest has been working on her own creativity...through borrowing mummie's camera...lolol


Raven