Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Here's to hoping Lemon Bread will bring nice weather

I saw everyone making this last week and I just had to make it. I really like lemon bread because even though it is a bread and a dense bread at that, it is refreshing. And I'm really getting sick of this weather we have going on. What is up with a week of 60 degree days and then we get snow, honestly that trip to Atlanta I think did more harm than good with my feelings towards weather. I wish I was back down there now. So I'm hoping that by eating this lemon bread I can think summer thoughts and that warm weather will come my way. Because I am a summer girl, I love warm weather and hate wearing real shoes and socks. Give me flip flops, any day over sneakers. What do you do to remind yourself that summer is coming eventually?

Lemon Yogurt Bread inspired by Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups of AP flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 loaf pan with nonstick baking spray. In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt . In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then remove from the pan to finish cooking on a rack.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Last Minute is how I roll

Contest season is in full swing and I am completely unprepared for almost all of them and doing everything last minute. This post is for a Blogging contest which I think is a great idea for food contests because it is an untapped area. It is for the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission. Normally, I do not post my normal, everyday meals. However, this is good wholesome food that is a regular part of my diet and sweet potatoes are really good for you. The subtle sweetness of the sweet potatoes are nicely complemented by the salty bacon and the spice of the ancho chili powder. While the eggs balance the crisp outer layer of the sweet potato rounds.

Sweet and Spicy Skillet

2 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
6 eggs
1 green bell pepper, cut into a medium dice
1 small onion, cut into a medium dice
6 pieces of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
2 teaspoons of ancho chili powder
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of olive oil

In a large skillet heat the olive oil until its just starting to shimmer, add in the onions, bell pepper, and sweet potatoes. Stir occassionally for 5 minutes then add in the salt, pepper, and ancho chili powder. Continue to cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender. In a bowl whisk together the heavy cream and eggs. Add into the skillet and cook until the eggs are done about 3 to 5 minutes. Add in the bacon crumbles and stir to combine. Serve hot and enjoy.

Monday, March 23, 2009

When life hands you stress make Cookie Dough Truffles

In college I will be the first to admit that I did not eat the right foods. My diet consisted mainly of take out, easy mac and beer for the first few years and then Hamburger Helper, frozen pizza, fantastic tater tots (shared with a fantastic roomie) and beer in my later years. The first few years we did not have a stove only a microwave, mini fridge, illegal blender and illegal george foreman grill, so we did what we could, but that made it really hard to have anything sweet that wasn't a candy bar. And I love sweets and baked goods so that posed a little bit of a problem. So I then learned of the delicacy that is refrigerated cookie dough. We would buy tubes of it and just cut off chunks or spoon some out and enjoy. So while I was stressed over a test or paper or whatever I would just go into the mini fridge and take off a hunk of dough and let my stress melt away. I know that there were times that we ate way to much of it and regretted it later, but we always picked up another tube at the next trip to the store. And my favorite kind was the sugar cookie dough, I have this issue with chocolate chips being that cold it just doesn't work for me. So when I saw Peabody's Cookie Truffles I knew I had to make them and make them into my favorite cookie the wonderful and fantastic Snickerdoodle. And it brought back the great memories of eating cookie dough out of a tube while sitting on a futon in a small dorm room. And these did the trick on the super awesome week that I have been having that hasn't been stressful at all! :)

Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough Truffles inspired by Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup of brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of AP flour
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk

In a bowl combine the salt, flour and cinnamon and set aside. In a bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add in the vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture, alternating with condensed milk. Shape balls into 1-inch balls and place into an air tight container. Store in freezer for at least 3 hours.

Trials and Tribulations

I love banana bread, it is honestly one of my favorite things to eat. And I love it with a big smear of Nutella on it. I know as if it could get any more unhealthy. So I figured why not combine the two but I didn't know how to achieve same creamy goodness as when it is spread on the bread. So I decided to do a trial. My recipe makes two loaves so I figured I would try different things in each. The first I would swirl some Nutella in and the second I would mix the Nutella in the batter. I figured that one of those had to work and lucky for me I would find out quickly since they bake at the same time. As you can see above they look almost identical before they are cut. But once they are cut into they are very different. The Nutella swirl sunk to the bottom, and the one with Nutella mixed in was a nice dark brown. And of course for scientific purposes I had to eat more than one slice of each.

Verdict - The Nutella swirl was more what I was going for flavor wise. But the Nutella mixed in one was so moist and wonderful but just didn't have all that nutella flavor I was looking for. But to be quite honest I put a lot of Nutella on my Banana bread. You could say that the Banana Bread is just a vehicle for Nutella for me. So the Nutella Swirl wins but I think I could still use more Nutella :)

Dueling Nutella Banana Breads
3 eggs
1 cup of vegetable oil
2 cups of white sugar
3-4 mashed overly ripe bananas
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup of Nutella - 1/2 swirled into the 1st loaf and 1/2 mixed into the batter of the 2nd load.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 1 lb. loaf pans, or use Pam with Flour.
In a large bowl beat eggs until light and frothy. Mix in the oil and sugar. Stir in the bananas and vanilla. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Pour the flour mixture into the egg mixture and mix until combined. Divide the batter between the 2 pans.
Bake for 55-70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

Is anything really perfection?

I have issues just like anyone, one of them is that I'm really hard on myself. If something doesn't come out perfectly I'm really disappointed and feel like I failed. I'm like this with everything but especially baking and cooking, which we all know you can't be perfect every time. Yet I still try to achieve perfection. So I have been working on some hopefully exciting things in my life and was hoping that I could actually get a blondie recipe to work on in half sheet pan. I have been trying recipes for years to change and get to work in that quantity and haven't found one that works. So with my love of Snickerdoodles when I saw the Snickerdoodle blondies on Peabody's site I knew I had to give this recipe a shot.

So I figured 9x 13 pan I could probably double it and it should work on a half sheet right, WRONG. After I put the pan in the oven I went to sit down and tried to catch up on my google reader/email. I started to smell burning, and thought oh no (ok I thought way worse words but my mom reads this and hates when I swear). So I ran to the oven and sure enough, the pan was overflowing all over the oven. So I quick grab it out of the oven and think well that was a failure, and start to get down on myself. But I then I thought maybe I can save this. So I scooped out about 1/4 of the batter and smoothed it all over. And stuck it back in my smoking oven.

While it was finishing baking, I figured I would use the batter I scooped out and put it in some ramekins, I didn't feel like baking those too as I knew I would now have to let my oven cool and deal with the mess inside so I put them in the microwave. And what came out was fantastic, warm and gooey and buttery I ate a whole ramekin, and it was a good thing I did. Because when I pulled the Snickerdoodle blondies out of the oven it was not a pretty sight. Let's just say I was able to salvage some to eat and take pictures of but scooping mid bake did not make for a nice looking bar. So back to the drawing board once again. So I will have to make these in the normal size because I know they have to be good. So I'm not giving you my whole recipe because well it didn't work out, I changed the one below to use the ingredients that I used and the amounts that I would have used in the regular siz version. So please try the real recipe or the regular size one, I'm still working on the half sheet and I'm hoping to have it cracked soon.

Snickerdoodle Blondies from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 ounces cream cheese
2 eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3/4 teaspoon of cream of tarter
1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups of AP flour
Cinnamon Sugar - 1/2 cup of sugar to 1 tablespoon of cinnamon

I doubled everything and then used a half sheet pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 13-inch pan. Sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar and move pan around to make sure that the bottom and sides are coated. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cream of tarter.Cream together the butter and sugars. Beat for three minutes scrape down the bowl after creaming. Add the cream cheese and beat until fully incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.Add the vanilla and mix until combined.
On low speed add the flour mixture. Mix until fully incorporated.
Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan. This will be hard as it is a thick batter. I found it easiest to just wet my hands a little and press the batter into the pan. Then even it out afterwards with a spatula. - This is really helpful it was a really thick batter.
Sprinkle more cinnamon sugar on top of the batter.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.

This was my warm buttery goodness that I inhaled. Looks great right!

Friday, March 20, 2009

When Diets go out the window

I have been crazy sick the last few days so that means no baking as I would have to eat it all so that I would not get anyone else sick. And that would mean my new diet would have to go out the window. But after 4 days I gave up on the diet and baked. I always keep some appetizers in the freezer and I needed to eat something warm and not so great for my diet. I swear when I'm sick the only things that sound good are fried, covered in icing or not meant to consume in the amounts that I consume them in. So I normally try to have some home made appetizer in my freezer at all times so that in case we are invited to a party or I need to bring something somewhere. So these were made for a contest a while back that I didn't win. But they were really good. I think they might need more blue cheese but I like a lot of blue cheese flavor so you can change it up as you see fit for your palette. They keep for a really long time and if you take them out of the freezer for 15 minutes they slice beautifully and bake up in minutes. Hopefully I feel better this weekend so I can bake the bread that I started a week ago, and bake in general. I feel like I'm going through withdrawals not baking this long so I think my kitchen will be on baking overload this weekend.
Blue Cheese Pecan Spirals

1 box of Puff Pastry
2 cups of Pecans
1 cup of blue cheese
½ cup of honey
2 tablespoons of flour

Thaw puff pastry according to package directions. While it is thawing in a food processor put the 2 cups of pecans in and pulse until they are roughly chopped. Then add in the blue cheese and break it into large chunks, process until the cheese is incorporated approximately 5 to 6 pulses. Add in the honey and process until it starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl a little. Place the paste into a bowl and set aside. Once the pastry thaws, place 1 sheet of puff pastry on the counter with a little bit of flour underneath it and roll it out about an inch longer on each side. Spread a thin layer of the pecan mixture over the whole surface of the puff pastry. Starting on the longer side roll up the puff pastry like a cinnamon roll making sure to roll it tight. Repeat with the other sheet of puff pastry. Once both are rolled place them in a freezer safe bag and freeze for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the rolls from the bag and slice in ¼ inch slices. Slice as many as you would like as the leftovers will keep in the freezer for later use. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet about an inch apart and bake for 8 to 9 minutes, the center of the swirl will still be doughy and they will be puffed but not golden. Let cool slightly and serve.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Eating Atlanta

P and I went on a mini vacation to Atlanta and I think I'm still recovering from the sugar overload almost a week later. We had so much fun seeing his sister and her husband and our beautiful twin nieces. But this vacation we checked out some bakeries because I wanted to check out some southern bakeries to see what they had to offer that we didn't normally have up north. The First Bakery we went to was Highland Bakery whose website can be found here.

And it was here that I decided that I was going to a Red Velvet Cupcake comparison of all of the bakeries figuring that this is one of the things that is really popular in the south but isn't seen as much in Chicago.

So at the Highland Bakery we purchased a Red Velvet cupcake, a German Chocolate Cupcake and Peanut Butter High Hat Cupcake.
Then I saw this Caramel Pecan Tart and had to have it.
And of course who could pass up a Cream Cheese Brownie.
The next Bakery we went to was the Atlanta Cupcake Factory whose website can be found here.
So we purchased 6 cupcakes which were of course a Red Velvet, Caramel Apple, Peanut Butter Cup, Chocolate Banana, Coconut, and a Sugar Cookie with Salted Caramel Frosting.
And Last but not least we went to Metrotainment whose website can be found here. We purchased Red Velvet, Carrot Cake and Pineapple Cupcakes.

On our walk from Highland Bakery to the Cupcake Factory, I spotted a sign that said Chocolate and if you know me by now you know we had to stop. I mean a large sign that says Chocolate on the side of an industrial looking building I was really intrigued. We walked into a beautifully decorated space with many types of chocolate to choose from, and what was this place called? Cacao and its website can be found here.

And among the many chocolate to choose from including TCHO and a few other artisan brands they had hand made truffles. So I bought 4 flavors Peanut butter, Mint, Bourbon, and Vanilla Bean. They were all a little too bitter for me to love but P's Sister really liked them and you could tell that they were really good quality.

And Last but certainly not least, we had to go some where for P. And So we went to the infamous Man vs. Food Pizza Challenge restaurant. Otherwise known as Big Pie in the Sky whose website can be found here. We got the 30 inch Bacon Cheeseburger pizza and it was good.

Look how big it is, it would barely fit in the mini van no way it would fit in a car with out tilting it!
Just for some perspective on how big the slices actually are. And P was able to put down 3 1/2 slices no problem. Looks like Man vs. Food should have picked him to compete with!
So as for the Red Velvet cupcake comparison, It was split, Metrotainment had the best cupcake and Highland had the best frosting. The cupcake factory uses almond extract in their cream cheese frosting which we just didn't like with the cupcake. Other favorite cupcakes include the Peanut Butter High Hat which was eaten in about 15 minutes, and I liked the Sugar Cookie but I was alone in that so that just meant more for me. The Caramel Pecan tart and Cream Cheese Brownie were REALLY good. All in all a great trip with a lot of good food and great company. And can I just say that leaving 75 degree weather and coming home to 35 degrees was not fun!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Delayed is the Story of my life

Sorry for the delay in announcing the chocolate winner. We have been on a delay ever since this time change business. We had major issues getting back from vacation and then caught some sort of fantastic cold/flu thing, and I think we caught it on the plane. So I'm a little behind on life right now :)

So with out further ado the winner is number 10, thanks to Random.org.
Colloquial Cook said...

Free chocolate - it couldn't get any better. AND I've never tried this Taza chocolate but it sure looks great!!

You are soon to be the proud owner of a 70% bar of Taza Chocolate.
A new post about my fun and baked good filled trip to ATL will be up later. Sorry for the 2 lame posts right in a row!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Short and Sweet

I don't normally do posts like this but this week has been a little hectic, between the tires, work and packing for our mini vacation! That is right I am going on a long weekend getaway to see my SIL, BIL and two super cute twin nieces in ATL. (Can I use anymore abbreviations???) While we are down there I hope to hit up a few bakeries and hopefully they will let me take some pictures and I can share my findings with everyone. But in the mean time I have a small giveaway for you! I was recently given the opportunity to try some chocolate. And everyone should know by now that I will not pass that up. So the wonderful people at Taza Chocolate sent me a few bars of chocolate, and their 70% Bar alone changed P into a dark chocolate fan which is a feat unto itself. But in all honesty I consider myself some what of a chocolate connoisseur, each chocolate has its place in the world, from Hershey's to this wonderful Taza. And I have tried a lot of different chocolate bars, I don't feel the need to name drop so you will just have to take my word on it. But I can honestly say hands down this is the best dark chocolate bar I have ever tasted. Its wonderfully fruity and sweet in a good way. Most dark chocolate has a bitter component and if that is a large component then that bar of dark chocolate is not for me. But this chocolate is and bonus that it's artisanal and organic. And to show you how much I really like this chocolate, I will be giving away one bar of their 70% Chocolate. That is right I am going to purchase a bar of chocolate just for you! Purchase you say....Yes because I ate all of the chocolate they gave me and must have more so I figured why not share with all of you! So Please leave a comment and a way for me to contact you. I will be picking a winner Monday March 9th at 8am CST!

Yes that is it just a giveaway, no recipe to use the chocolate in. I ate it all before I could even think that far.

If you would like to check out Taza please click HERE!

And they are running a contest now that you can win a box of their wonderful chocolate. So if you have facebook then I would suggest you go HERE and enter.

And as a side note I love the Mexican Chocolate as well the texture it has is fantastic and the two they sent me were out of this world good. And the spicy one wasn't that hot which is nice for a lightweight like me. I have to get their Vanilla Bean and Cinnamon.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I severely dislike Mondays

So this is what my Monday was like. Get to work a little early so that I can deal with all of the weekend stuff before my day actually starts. I get out of the car and then hear a hissing noise look down and my tire is quickly deflating until it is sitting on its rim. I go inside and get the guy that I work with to come and see if he thinks he can change it to the spare. And he says, "Yea, the back tire is flat too so I don’t think one spare is going to do you any good". Then my morning was full of calling a tow truck, waiting for said tow truck, calling the tire place where I was getting it towed and dealing with the aftermath of this whole fiasco. And if one more person asked me what did I do I was going to scream. If I knew what I did then wouldn’t I tell you during the process of me telling you my tires are flat.

So after the great day that I had I needed something to make my day better and the only thing I could think of was cheesecake. Because cheesecake is one of my absolute favorite desserts. The only problem with cheesecake is that it takes so long to make. OK, I know it only takes maybe 2 hours to prep and bake but then you have to let it cool for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight and I just couldn't wait that long. I was in dire need of a cheesecake fix pronto. So I tried to think of alternatives. Mini Cheesecakes, no they still had to chill for a while and to me the texture just isn't the same. Cheesecake ice cream, while it does taste a lot like cheesecake its not really the same thing. Finally it hit me, when P and I were out to dinner a few months back we had a great Banana's Foster Cheesecake. We had some really ripe bananas, and I had a block of cream cheese. I would recreate those flavors without baking the cheesecake part. So here it is cheesecake in less than 20 minutes!

Banana's Foster Cheesecake Tart

1 sheet of puff pastry, cut into 4 square

Cheesecake Filling -
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup of brown sugar
2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Bananas Foster Topping -
2 bananas, sliced into a medium thickness so they hold up to cooking
1/2 cup of brown sugar
4 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup of dark rum

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place the puff pasty square on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake until puffed and golden brown about 10 - 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
While the puff pastry is baking mix together the cheesecake ingredients until smooth and set aside.
In a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat combine the butter, brown sugar and rum and once everything has combined add in the banana slices and cook for 3 -5 minutes or until the sauce has started to thicken and the bananas are soft.

Assembly -
Take a piece of puff pastry and split it into a top and bottom. Take a generous amount of the cheesecake filling and spread it on the bottom of the puff pastry. Top with some of the bananas foster topping and place the puff pastry top on.

Enjoy it really does taste like cheesecake!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Birthday Treat Fit for a Chocoholic

Truffles are one of life's simple pleasures. One its chocolate so you can't really go wrong there, then its intensely flavored and just melts in you mouth. Yes, truffles are one my favorite ways to eat chocolate. So for my Father's birthday party I decided to make a trio of truffles as my contribution to the party. They were the perfect dessert for me because they could be made in advance and I knew that I was going to have a hellish week ahead of me. So I made the base for 2 of the truffles on Thursday and the last on Friday. I rolled them all on Saturday and went to the party. And they couldn't have gone over better. The Mexican chocolate ones went over the best but I will warn you they do not get as firm as the other truffles so you might need to put them in the fridge to firm up every few hours. Please do not feel daunted by truffles at all you can make them, and people will be impressed. Just be careful they can be very addicting and I think I had 4 before I was finished rolling them all, for quality assurance purposes of course!

3 Truffles - The ingredients change but the process is still the same.

Raspberry Chocolate Truffles
1 Cup of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of butter
16 oz of chopped semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons of Chambord Liqueur

Mexican Chocolate Truffles
1 cup of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of butter
11 oz of chopped milk chocolate
5 oz of chopped Mexican chocolate

Coconut Chocolate Truffles
1 cup of coconut milk
2 tablespoons of butter
16 oz of chopped semisweet chocolate

Heat cream or coconut milk and butter in a saucepan until it comes to a roiling boil. Remove the liquid from the heat and pour over the chocolate in a bowl and allow the chocolate to melt until smooth. Add in liqueur if needed and spread mixture out on a parchment lined pan or in a bowl. Leave in a cool place uncovered for 24 hours in the fridge for up to an hour. To make the truffles, pull off a quarter size piece from the tray or bowl and roll into a bowl. Please use latex gloves they will make this process so much easier, I promise. And coat with topping, the Raspberry was coated with cocoa powder, the Mexican chocolate was coated with a combination of powdered sugar and cinnamon, and the coconut was coated with coconut flakes.