Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Baking Week 9: Cookies

I make a lot of cookies.  It's my go-to baking type.  For this challenge I decided to pick a cookie I've been eyeing for a while in my Martha Stewart Cookie book, Grammy's Chocolate Cookies

It's so simple, and I maybe should have challenged myself more in the cookie department but I think I've been looking at these cookies and not making them for almost a year now! 

It's a basic mix all the stuff together and chill.

Form it into balls and roll the balls in sugar.



I have a particular fondness for the style of cookie that is rolled in sugar (or cinnamon sugar) and baked.  It might be the bit of caramelization that you get on the bottom when it bakes that makes it so delicious, but whatever it is, it's awesome.  I gave all of these away so I think I need to make another batch for me!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Craft Fail: Decoupage

I'm wondering if I should just give up on the decoupaging attempts.  This is the second time I've tried a decoupage project to have it fail.  Last time it was design issues.  This time I like the way it looks, but I decoupaged the wrong object. 

I have these plastic partylite clipboards that I thought I could cover up the partylite logo with some pretty decoupage and give them new life. 

I added a full sheet of paper to the back, and decorated it with some flower cricut cuts (and a tiny bit of glitter.  My next step was going to be to add a ribbon to the top but didn't make it that far.


Then I covered the front with scrap squares of paper in greens.  It was looking good until a few coats of modge podge later when I realized that it didn't matter how many times I reglued the corners they were still going to peel up.  I give up.  My next decoupage project is a wooden frame, but I just have to wait for my mom to loan me her paints! 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cooking Week 8: Slow Cooking Chicken and Dumplings

This week's challenge for cooking was slow cooking.  My original plan was to make a veggie soup in the slow cooker for the boy's work lunches.  It didn't work out.  I'll probably make it Sunday or Monday night instead.  For the challenge I decided to instead make chicken and dumplings in the slow cooker. 

I found a recipe in my big Fix-it and Forget-It book and adjusted it a bit to our tastes.

I threw in 2.25 cups of shredded cooked chicken, 1 c. chopped onion, 1.5 c. chopped carrots, 1.5 c. chopped celery, 6 c. chicken broth, and some garlic and basil. 

I let it cook on low for 6 ish hours.  Doesn't really need to be quite so long, but it worked with our timing since I had a program at work and we decided to take advantage of the snow and go sledding. 

After cooking it in the slow cooker, I transferred (okay, the boy transferred since I'm a total clutz) the soup into a stock pot, brought it up to a boil, and added scoops of dumplings I made from the recipe on the side of the Bisquick box.  Cook them according to package and enjoy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Welcome Baby Card

I'm not sure if I mentioned it before but for some reason I volunteered to be the chair of my work's Sunshine Committee.  Essentially this means I'm in charge of doing cheery things for my coworkers to keep morale up.  One of these cheery things is to make sure there are cards signed by everyone and collections taken up for various events.  Most recently this was the birth of a new baby.  This kind of snuck up on me, both the birth (I didn't know his wife was pregnant!) and that it was my responsibility to get the card.  I decided it would be easier and better to make the card so when I went home the night I found out I needed a card (after stopping by another scrapper friend's house for cricut cartridges) and whipped up this welcome baby card.

It was super simple, just used 2 cartridges and a stamp and I think it turned out well.  It also inspired me to work on more crafty stuff.  I'm currently working on  some decoupage stuff that I'm not entirely sure will work out well.  Either way I'm sure you'll be seeing it soon. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Baking Week 8: Candy Decorations

So I saw this cake floating around on pinterest.  When I discovered week 8 was all about candy decorations I knew I had to make it.  So I present to you my version of the kit-kat and m&m cake.

I used 5.5 King Size Kit-Kat bars to cover my 9" cake and a medium size bag of the pretzel m&m's.  You'll probably need a Large bag for better coverage. 

For the cake I used my Colette Peter's Chocolate Cake Recipe which thankfully someone else typed up here.  I refuse to use vegetable shortening so I use real butter in mine (softened) and instead of almond extract (which I'm allergic to) I replace it with more vanilla.  I frosted it with a basic buttercream with about a tablespoon of cocoa to make the coloring darker.

Really though, you can do whats under the candy any way you choose.  Also despite the simplicity of the cake, everyone at work loved it and refused to be the first to cut into it.  It's a great way to show off an impressive cake with not too much work!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cooking Week 7: Love

One of the things that I learned on our sleepover date was that the boy's favorite food is my chicken pot pie.  As such I thought it would be the perfect food for my love inspired cooking challenge.  My love loves this meal so I made it for him.

I even added some hearts to the top crust to make it a bit more lovey.

I used Emeril's recipe for chicken pot pie.  Mostly.  I won't watch the man, as I find him to be annoying (I find a lot of TV chefs to be annoying) but this pot pie recipe is delish!!

I didn't use all the veggies that he said to, mixed it up based on what the boy likes and was in the house.  I used peas, carrots, celery, onions, green beans, and corn.  I also didn't blanch the carrots and threw them in the skillet with the celery and onions instead. 

I also used skim milk instead of half and half because my half and half had gone very, very wrong.  Makes it a little lighter too!

For my pie crust I used the recipe I use for my poptarts minus the sugar, and had a little trouble rolling out the crust.  I just seem to be particularly bad at this part.  In theory practice makes perfect and I should be getting better with every crust.

Apparently the top was not enough practice. 

Despite its somewhat ugly appearance it was delicious and the boy was thrilled to get pot pie for dinner (and likely also when its in his lunch tomorrow).  You can also cheat and use store bought pie crust (I have in the past) and it will still be awesome.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Baking Week 7: Love

I took advantage of the fact that I had a teen craft program at work that was decorating heart shaped sugar cookies to use it for the baking challenge of love inspired.  I baked all 55 cookies from scratch and spent the good chunk of the morning doing so.  I used a recipe I saw on pinterest found here and they came out soft and delicious. 

I'd post more detail, but its pretty basic mix and roll out sort of thing, so no need.  I'd also have after decorating pictures if I was less of a flake and ever could remember to bring a camera to my craft programs.  I really need  to get better on that. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cooking Week Six: Brazilian

It took me a while to figure out what I was going to do for this week.  The only thing I knew about Brazilian cooking was those giant skewers of meat brought to my table by men  in gauchos and served to me until I am ready to roll home.  After much googling I came across two possibilities- Pastels and Arroz Doce.  My original plan was to make Pastels, however I had a week of hell between battling my insurance to get my prescription, dealing with the vet to figure out what was wrong with my poor pooch, making a retirement cake for work, and general hellishness.  Between all of this I lacked the time to make the Pastels or complete my "elegant" baking challenge.  Instead I whipped up a batch of Arroz Doce (a.k.a rice pudding). 

I used the recipe found here and didn't change a thing.  I tasted a bit of it while warm and its delicious, but as I prefer my rice pudding cold, I'm waiting for it to chill and writing this post while I wait. 

Just so you can see what kept me from making the more complicated Brazilian dish, here's a pic of the cake that I made for my old boss's retirement party.

It's half chocolate and half white (one 9x13 pan of each) filled and covered with a white chocolate buttercream and Duff's buttercream fondant. 

I added one of the old date cards and a library card on the book along with a bookmark down the center.  I think it needed more color.  I should have added a base border in a brown as a cover, made the text closer to black, and made the date card blue instead of white.  Things to learn for next time, and overall it wasn't bad for my first shaped cake and my first fondant experience.  And most important it tasted delicious! 

I'm hoping to complete both challenges for this upcoming week, but I have no idea what to do for "love-inspired" cooking.  Maybe I'll make the boy's favorite dish? 

Friday, February 03, 2012

Baking Week Five: Bagels

Bagels have been on my kitchen to-do list for a long time now.  I've always wanted to try my hand at them so I took this week's theme of breakfast as an opportunity to do so. 

I found this recipe in the book Artisan Bread in  5 Minutes a Day which is the book I use to make my baguettes (delish!).  It has the added bonus of being able to use the remainder of the dough to make soft pretzels, another item on my kitchen to-do list!  These were definitely another one of the book's successes (so far it hasn't failed me!).

On to the recipe! 

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tbsp. of yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp. of salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. of sugar
6 1/4 c. of bread flour

Mix all ingredients in a mixer until it all comes together in a dough.  As is the nature with the recipes in this book (the particular style of baking) your dough will be very sticky. 

Cover the mixture and let rise about 2 hours, until it flattens on top.

You can use it right away, but it is advised that you refrigerate it first.  I did for about an hour (this makes it easier to work with)

When you are going to make the bagels put a large pot of water onto boil.  8 qts is ideal.

While it boils shape your bagels into rounds.  Pull off 3 oz. chunks of dough from your dough mass (flour the surface to make it easier) and pull each of the four side out and under to form a smooth surfaced ball.  Cover and let your bagels rest 20 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 450 with a pizza stone on the center rack and a boiler pan below.

When the water reaches a boil add 1/4 c. sugar and 1 tsp. baking soda and reduce to a simmer.

Punch a hole in the center of your bagel rounds and expand it until it is 3x the size of the bagel wall.  Yes it really does need to be that big cuz it will shrink!

Drop your bagels into the pot.  Do not overcrowd them.  If they touch they can get misshapen. 

Simmer 2 minutes on one side, flip with a slotted spoon and simmer another minute. 

Pull bagels out and place on a clean dish towel dusted with flour to soak up some of the excess water.


Place on a lightly floured pizza peel after letting them sit a bit. 

Slide into the preheated oven on the pizza stone and pour 1 c. warm water in the boiler pan.  Quickly close the door and cook with steam until very brown, about 20 minutes. 

Mine are probably under done and no where near as pretty as Panera's but still delicious!!

It was also advised that these are delicious hot out of the oven, but what bread isn't!?  

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Cooking Week Five: Boozy Beef Stew

So this week's challenge was cooking with alcohol.  I don't like wine.  I don't like vodka sauce (despite my love for tomato sauce and vodka, the two should not be mixed imho).  This left me wondering, what can I make with the alcohol that we do like.  I briefly considered beer bread but since it poses too much of a hazard for my waistline (mmmmm buttery beer bread....) I instead used Guinness stew as inspiration.

Now we don't really like Guinness in my house.  Yes I do have Irish blood but I don't touch Guinness or Irish Whiskey.  The boy loves him some Jameson.  I, however, hate the stuff.  Instead I decided that hard cider was a good option, so hard cider beef stew ensued!

I base my stew on a recipe in the Fix It and Forget It Big Cookbook, changing it a bit based on what's in the house and preferences. 

I began by chopping up a chuck roast into stew sized bites. 

Then I tossed my 1.5 lbs of chuck in 1/4 c. of flour and spiced it liberally with salt, pepper, and paprika.

Next I chopped up potatoes, carrots, celery and an onion and added it to the pot.  I also added a sprinkling of basil. 

Followed by pouring on around two-ish teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, a bottle of hard cider and most of pack of beef broth.

Cover and cook on high 4-6 hours or low 10-12.  I wound up cooking on high 1 hour and then low 8 hours and my potatoes were not thoroughly cooked.  They needed another 2 hours or so on low. 

If you sub the hard cider for more beef broth, this is my standard beef stew recipe and I love it.  With the hard cider it added a little more of a tang I guess is the best way to describe it and is still definitely delicious!