Monday, April 30, 2007

Spicy Hot Brownies

I have a confession to make: I love brownies from a box. I have never tried homemade brownies that I liked better than ones made from a mix. Homemade brownies always seem to be either fudgy or cakey, and what I want is CHEWY. Therefore, when I started out looking for a base for my chile pepper brownies, I chose a recipe at random. They turned out to be of the fudgy variety. The flavor is fabulous - spicy like a cinnamon red hot melted together with the most decadent chocolate, tons of cinnamon-chocolate flavor with a lingering heat. But it still doesn't have the boxed mix texture I long for... I have high hopes that somewhere in the browniebabe round-up there will be lurking my ideal brownie. But in the meantime, these were a fun experiment, and I'm sure they would be fabulous to those of you that like fudgy brownies (particulary spicy-hot fudgy brownies.)

Spicy Hot Brownies

- 1 stick butter
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 Tbsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 8 ounces dark chocolate
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 9x9 pan with parchment.

Melt chocolate and butter together, then allow to cool slightly. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in small bowl. Stir sugar, eggs, and vanilla into butter and chocolate. Add dry ingredients and stir until mixed. Pour into pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until toothpick has crumbs. Cool in pan, then remove and cut.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Never-to-Be-Repeated Crab Cakes

My mom had left-over crab the other day after making a crab quiche. I was lucky enough to obtain the left-over crab just before lunchtime yesterday. I was starving. I went home and frantically starting throwing things into a bowl. To the best of my recollection, these are the things that wound up in my crab cakes:

- crab
- mayonnaise
- panko bread crumbs
- random spices, including celery seed, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, parsley, lemon pepper
- aioli garlic mustard sauce*
- egg

Everything was mixed together, then I tossed dollops onto a cookie sheet and baked at approximately 350 degrees until they looked good. Then I ate them. Now I am sad that I was not paying closer attention to what I was doing because they were so tasty.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Muggy Spring Day

I think this photo makes the day look cold, but in reality it was the first time this spring that we had a warm, overcast day. I was enjoying the green trees against the grey sky, but I was too hungry to take the time to get a really good picture. But for the record, it was a WARM day, not cold.

I went to my mom's for left-overs. It included crab quiche, salad, and potatoes cooked in a funny way that we saw in Fine Cooking a few issues back:

For dessert there was homemade vanilla ice cream, homemade strawberry ice cream, and these kick-ass banana lemon cookies that she has been making since I was a kid. I will probably do a proper post on those cookies on Sweet and Savory pretty soon.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

They are good, but not what I wanted. I am in search of something peanut butter flavored, but with the texture of a brownie. These are peanut butter flavored, with the texture of a peanut butter cookie. Dammit. I would welcome suggestions or advice from anyone.

In the meantime, here is the recipe that I used. It was modified from my old Pillsbury cookbook.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars:

- 1 cup peanut butter, divided (I used Trader Joe's creamy, natural style)
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/4 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 6 ounces chocolate (I used a mix of dark and milk chocolates)
- 6 ounces heavy cream

Line a 9x9 inch square pan with parchment paper. Place 1/2 cup peanut butter, butter, and sugars together in large bowl and beat. Beat in egg. Add dry ingredients and beat. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Press chilled dough into pan and bake for about 18-20 minutes, until it starts to become golden at the edges. Heat remaining 1/2 cup peanut butter, then spread carefully across bars. Allow bars to cool completely.

Heat heavy cream and chocolate, stirring constantly until smooth, and pour across peanut butter layer, spreading to edges. Chill bars until chocolate is set. Remove bars from pan and slice into squares. Store in refrigerator.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Kitchen Twine Purse

This is another project done with cotton twine from the hardware store. It was crocheted in a round from the bottom up using double crochet. The bottom was slip-stitched closed. The holey border at the top was done using double crochet, chain two, double crochet, etc, followed by another round of double crochet. The arm strap was single crocheted. When it was completely finished I went back with a cheapy, multi-colored acrylic yarn, and single crocheted the border. SUPER easy!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Asparagus and Egg

I got off work early today, which meant I had time to go home, shower, and then actually cook dinner. I looked in my pantry and saw nothing. I was also acutely aware of the beautiful bundle of asparagus I bought a few days ago, that was threatening to go to waste. So I became determined to put it to use, and ended up with the best dinner I have had in ages - one of those lucky accidents that ends up tasting like the best possible food you could imagine at the moment. I was not able to get a good photo - I was so busy scarfing it down that I literally took only one picture simply to record it for later. But I will post it anyways, since it tasted so GOOD.

- Steamed asparagus
- Top with lemon pepper
- Top with grated parmesan
- Top with a 12-minute hard-ish boiled egg
- Sprinkle with seasoned rice vinegar and a pinch of salt

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

These rolls were as good as they looked, but I can't say that they were super-pumpkiny. But the texture was everything I had hoped for. Still, I will probably go back to my Cook's Illustrated recipe for cinnamon swirl bread (which makes for great cinnamon rolls) the next time I want something like this, just because it is easier, and like I said, I could not detect the pumpkin in these rolls well enough to make it worth while. Therefore I will not be posting a recipe this time!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Weeks 3 and 4 of Painting Class

We spent two weeks on this painting. It feels so good to be painting again! I wish it didn't take signing up for a class in order to get me to do it. So here is my fantasy - a painting club. Surely there are other folks out there who need a structured environment to get going, but don't necessarily want to pay the $$$ for classes... I think it would be great to meet two or three times a month, and a different person could come up with the assignment for that week's meeting. Any-hoo, I am determined to either find such a thing, or else create it.

Frozen Cherry Mousse and Chocolate Malt Sandwiches

I am new to the world of food blogs, and I must confess that I was slow to figure out why so many bloggers would suddenly be inspired to make the same thing... I LOVE Donna Hay, so when the meaning of "HHDD" finally became clear to me, I decided I needed to participate. I anxiously awaited the theme, and then honestly had no idea what to make of mousse! It is not something that would normally find its way onto my table, but then that is the whole idea behind a challenge, right?

This mousse recipe was adapted from a raspberry mousse torte I found on epicurious. I got rid of the liquor, and swapped cherries for the raspberries. The cookies I have been making forever, and were modified from a recipe that came from an old Pillsbury cookbook.

Frozen Cherry and White Chocolate Mousse

- 1 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin***
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 2/3 cup cherry puree*
- 1/3 cup of juice from cherries*
- 12 ounces white chocolate, chopped
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla

*Note on the cherries: I used the jarred morello cherries from Trader Joe's. It required just over one jar to get the puree, and that provided more than enough juice. I drained the cherries, reserving the juice, then tossed them into the food processor until I had 1 2/3 cup.

**I used two disposable foil cake pans from the grocery store for the mousse. They were 12 inches x 8 1/2 inches. I lined them with parchment paper. I am thinking that one of my large baking sheets would have worked fine.

***For the record, this was the first (and probably last) time gelatin has ever entered my kitchen.

Place juice in large saucepan. Sprinkle with gelatin and allow to sit for about 20 minutes. Add puree and sugar, stir over medium heat until mixture begins to steam, just shy of a simmer. Add white chocolate and mix until it has all melted. Stick in refrigerator for about two hours, stirring about every 20-25 minutes.

When cherry-chocolate mixture is cool, beat whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until whipped cream has stiff peaks. Fold in cherry mixture, then beat briefly for another 10-15 seconds. Pour into the two prepared pans and freeze until firm.

Chocolate Malt Cookies

- 1 cup butter, softened but cool
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 eggs
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup malted milk powder*

*This is what I mean by "malted milk powder"

Oven to 375 degrees, baking sheets lined with parchment.

Beat butter and sugars. Add baking soda and beat. Beat in eggs, vanilla, and chocolate. Beat in flour and malted milk powder.

I used an ice cream scoop (1 tablespoon capacity) to form these cookies. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Edges will be set, cookies will be puffy and appear underdone. Leave on cookie sheet until firm enough to transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

When cookies are cool, find a round cookie cutter that approximates the circumference of your cookies, and cut out circles of mousse to make your sandwiches. Return sandwiches to freezer and store in airtight container. Serve these directly out of the freezer.
In the end, I will probably opt for ice cream or pudding when craving a dairy-style sugar bomb, rather than repeating this recipe. However, I wasn't exactly disappointed with the results. I found my sandwiches to be quite tasty. I just can't say they are worth how labor intensive they turned out to be!

PS: Go see the HHDD#11 mousse round-up!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

My goal for the day...

...was to make oatmeal look good in pictures. It is now impossible for me to tell whether or not I succeeded. However, this is best TASTING oatmeal ever, so I will share:

- steel cut oats cooked in salted water
- dried montmorency cherries (or other tart cherries)
- maple syrup
- chopped toasted pecans
- butter
- evaporated milk

Cook the oatmeal according to directions, adding some salt to the water. Add the cherries about ten minutes before the oatmeal is done cooking. Serve your oatmeal, and doctor it up with the remaining goodies listed.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Strawberry Shortcake

This shortcake is just a big mess of cake, strawberries, and whipped cream, piled as high as possible. The cake is perfect for shortcake however, because it holds up well to strawberry juice. It absorbs it without becoming mushy. It also just tastes really good - imagine a good homemade version of those scary little bowl-shaped cakes they sell next to the strawberries in the produce aisle at your grocery store.

I have made this shortcake with both all-purpose flour and cake flour, without noticing a difference. I have also made it in both 8" and 9" pans, and both worked well (the 9" cakes were obviously a bit flatter - the cakes in the photo were made in 9" pans with all-purpose flour).

Strawberry Shortcake:

- 1/2 cup soft salted butter
- 1 cup sugar, plus some for sweetening the strawberries and whipped cream
- 1 1/2 cups flour (see above)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, plus a dash for the whipped cream
- heaping 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 2 eggs
- about 2-3 pounds of strawberries
- about a pint of whipping cream

Oven to 350 degrees. Two cake pans greased and floured, 8" or 9".

Beat butter with sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating between each until just mixed. Add dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with wet ingredients, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Pour into pans and bake for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for ten minutes, then remove from pans to cool completetly.

Clean and chop strawberries. Sprinkle with sugar and set aside.

Beat whipping cream with vanilla and sugar to taste.

Assemble cake with whipped cream and strawberries as desired, serve, then continue adding more strawberries and whipped cream; eat until you hurt.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Week 2 of Painting Class

This was the second painting we did in class, also done in just two hours. While we still had to paint white styrofoam, there were at least a few other colors thrown in. For me, the highlight of tonight's class was when my brother's band came on the radio. I got to freak out and say, "That's my brother!", etc. Yay!

Salmon Pasta with Lemon and Capers

I have been determined to do a savory post before doing another sweet baked good, and I have finally come up with something. The inspiration for this "recipe" came from something I saw in a Donna Hay book involving chicken. I don't eat chicken, so the first tweak was to try salmon, but then I wanted something green involved too...and if there is green, then you need here it is.

- pasta
- frozen green beans (or fresh if available)
- cherry tomatoes
- capers
- garlic
- cooked salmon, broken into bits
- parmesan cheese
- lemon pepper
- lemon juice
- lemon zest
- olive oil

Boil the pasta in well-salted water. Two or three minutes before pasta is finished, add frozen green beans to boiling water. Drain everything, and put into a bowl. Set aside.

Using the pot used for the pasta, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil along with the capers. Fry the capers for a bit, then add garlic, lemon zest, salmon and lemon pepper. Cook for a bit, adding in lemon juice when things begin to stick to the bottom of the pot. Save a slice of lemon for serving.

Add back the pasta and green beans to the pot, and possibly some additional olive oil. Toss to coat and pour onto your plate (or serving dish). Add sliced cherry tomatoes and grate parmesan on top. Give one more squirt of lemon juice just before eating.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Easy Crocheted Yoga Mat Bag

This bag goes really quickly. It is made with cotton butcher twine I bought at the hardware store. The store where I bought the twine kept changing brands on me, but all butcher or "kitchen twine" turned out to be similar enough that it didn't cause any problems. My bag is light, easy to get my mat into, and works well when I am riding my bike.

Start by finding a crochet hook that feels like a good match to whatever string you end up using. Then work a flat circle until the circle has a diameter approximately an inch widerer than your rolled yoga mat. I did this with double crochet stitches. Then work in a V-stitch until the bag is as long as you would like it to be - mine is about an inch taller than my mat. I ended up doing a quadruple-crochet on my V-stitches because I like the airiness it created.

For the handle I did rows of 6 single crochets until the strap was long enough, then joined it back to the very bottom of the bag using slip stitches.

On my way to ventilator class

I took a class today on ventilators. It was a good class that demystified things quite a bit. In the end, it sounds like the most important thing to remember is that if the machine is not working, remove the ventilator and bag the patient until somebody can fix the machine.

I walked to my class, which started at 7:00am. This is a photo taken on my walk, at about 6:20 (on my way to get my americano).