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Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Hello folks!  Today my tip is short and sweet and I can’t believe I haven’t posted about it before.  This tip is a cooking aid.  Have you ever had a bunch of random ingredients in your house but no plan for what to cook?  Well, Supercook is the answer!  This wonderful website allows you to input the ingredients you have in the house and it will tell you what types of appetizers, entrees, and desserts you can make with the ingredients you have (complete with recipes!).  It will also show you recipes that you could make if you added just one or two more ingredients.  I have had some great success with recipes from Supercook out of basically no ingredients (just because I didn’t want to go to the store).  I have had one maybe two not-so-successful attempts with recipes from Supercook…but that was probably just a taste thing and not the actual recipes or site.  And who cares anyway because I used ingredients I had laying around my kitchen AND I tried something new.

Supercook searches several recipe/cooking websites and matches your ingredients to recipes it finds.

So what should I make for dinner tonight?  I really don’t feel like going to the store on this rainy day. Guess I’ll SUPERCOOK it!

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Well, I’m sure the hot topic these past few days has been New Year’s Resolutions. How many of us have tried to make resolutions like lose a million lbs and wake up 2 hours early and blah blah blah.  Well, I was going to write this post about the statistics around New Year’s Resolutions and tips for making positive changes in the new year, but instead, I am going to post about one thing I want to emphasize in my life this year:

Taking more time to do what I want to do 

Taking more time to do what you want to do is really important.  My cousin, Gerard (photo below), and I had a big discussion about that this past week.  He firmly believes in allowing yourself a minimum of 1 hour per day to take time for YOU.  During that hour, you can do whatever you want to do as long as it is something that you truly want to do. Well, in this discussion, I realized that I don’t even come close to 7 hours a week just doing what I want to do.  Then it’s always cramming stuff in that I want to do when I can squeeze out some time in my life.  And, because I try to cram everything in during a short window of time, I wind up getting more stressed or exhausted.

As a freelancer, it’s really hard to find time to do things for me.  I can’t say “no” to gigs because I worry that I won’t make enough money or I won’t make the connection that I need for a breakthrough.  But really, after three years in the same city, I know deep down, what gigs I can pass up.   Now I just need to gain the courage to say NO to allow me time to do the things I value most.

The tip: Take time for yourself!  Aim for at least one hour per day!

Things I am hoping to make more time for: Crafting, photography, attending choir practice, cooking, relaxing, exercising, reading, spending time with family, spending time with friends, coursework.

This is going to be a good year.

BELOW: Photos of my cousins ringing in the new year with me!

Cousins on NEw YEars

My Cousins and Boyfriend celebrating New Year's Day. From left to right: Gerard (check out his band here), Katie, Erin, Christine, Jenny, and Dave

"The Train will be delayed due to ongoing signal work" That is what we heard as we sat on the Subway on New Year's Day 2012, waiting for it to take us to the Mummer's Parade! From left to right: Katie, Gerard, Erin, Jenny.

Gerard and Erin riding the Subway New Year's Day 2012

Gerard and Erin riding another subway on the way to the Mummer's Parade. Don't they look like they should be famous!?

Jenny blowing her horn on new Year's 2011-2012

Jenny blowing her horn on new Year's 2011-2012. Jenny is super creative and made the hat she is wearing. Notice the crazy neighbors on my block setting off GIGANTIC fireworks!? A few of them almost hit us.

Photo of the cousins on New Year's Eve 2011-2012

The photo we took in a mirror at my house. The goal was to send the parents a pic of all of us. From left to right: Jenny, Dave, Christine, Me, Gerard, Katie, Erin. Happy New Year!

I wish each of you a Happy New Year complete with time for YOU!

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I have been working insane hours lately and though I tried to get my tip for Tuesday out yesterday, it just did not happen.  But don’t worry, here is a super quick tip for busy people like me!

I decided I was going to bake two things today: fruit cupcakes and home-made cherry pie!  (I need to use up some of the fruit I got from my farm share before it goes bad!)

Trying to squeeze cooking from scratch into my crazy schedule

As I frantically began this adventure (yes, frantically… lately everything has been frantic for me!) I realized I did not have all of the ingredients I needed!  I was almost completely out of All purpose flour and had no cornstarch.  By no stretch of the imagination did I have time to go shopping for these missing ingredients. So I did the only thing I could– I quickly researched online to find substitutes.  And, to my delightful surprise I found tons of cooking and baking substitutes out there!

So, for yesterday’s tip, I’d like to share with you this ultimate cooking substitutions chart I came across. It is a great way to save you time when searching for a substitution and way better than spending the time going to the store when you have a strict time frame. Hope you enjoy!

The chart:

http://www.joyofbaking.com/IngredientSubstitution.html

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Teaser Post!

Some delicious vegetarian delights

Hello!  I have missed writing blogs! And, after a pep talk from some of my dear friends, I have decided that I am back in business!

Anyway, my pal (and sole blog superfan), Mel, gave me the idea for this blog post.  It will be a sort of picture book with some of the housekeeping and thrifty adventures I have been up to lately.  Consider it your teaser for blog posts to come!  Enjoy!

Be good to the Environment!

Making Homemade Italian Dressing

The Mad Scientist is at it again!

My dinner on the 4th of July

Homemade pasta salad and an all-natural hot dog

My little friends

Taking care of plants is an instant mood booster!
What I put in a quick quesadilla

Cleaning out the fridge never tasted so good!

The drinks of our first official pot luck extravaganza

Ah nothing says sophistication like home made limeade!

My cousin and I find some free fun on Broad!

Dancin' in the Street

Dancin' in the Street

Corn on the cob on the grill

My favorite way to make and eat corn!

Home made pasta

Pasta drying on the counter overnight

A delicious treat!

Pinching pennies without sacrificing quality

Eating is fierce!

Mel and Allie love to cook and eat!

My awesome job!

Like how every good experience should end, I couldn’t help but closing with dessert.  This is one of my favorites, raspberry pretzel cake, so I can’t wait to share the recipe with you!

Keep reading, eating, and loving life!

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I really enjoy making desserts.  I like them because they taste good AND they’re pretty.  For Easter I wanted to try to impress with the dessert I was bringing to family dinner.  I created this three-part some-what masterpiece based on two recipes I had read.  The original inspirations are from A Baker’s Fieldguide to Cupcakes by Dede Wilson (pg. 130 “Chocolate Drizzle Cupcakes) and Martha Stewart’s Fluffy Lemon Buttermilk Cake found at http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/fluffy-lemon-buttermilk-cake.

Those recipes definitely paved the way for this one that I call Fancypants Individual Cakes.

The Ingredients:

The Batter-

2 Sticks unsalted butter (I cut these into 1/2 inch pieces and let them sit on the counter for a while before I use them)

3 cups all-purpose flour

I used 4 large egg whites and 1 whole egg (minus the shell of course!)

4 large egg whites

1 large egg

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 C. granulated Sugar

about 2-3 Teaspoons raspberry extract

1 C. Reduced fat buttermilk (ha!  I definitely did not use this in an attempt to cut the fat in this recipe.  Let’s face it this recipe                                                                 will be rolling in fat content.  The reason I used reduced-fat is because that’s what they had at the store when I went.)

Some extra flour and shortening to line the muffin tins.

The Chocolate Ganache-

2/3 C. Heavy Cream

10 Oz Semisweet chocolate morsels

The Whipped Cream-

*note: when making whipped cream, it is best to chill your bowl in the freezer until it is cold to touch prior to combining ingredients in it.

1 1/2 C. Heavy Cream

up to 1 C. Confectioners sugar (the more you add, the stiffer the whipped cream will become)

1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract

Edible Glue- OPTIONAL

About 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

about 2 tablespoons water

Optional- Strawberries or other fruit for garnish.

The Batter’s Creation.

Preheat oven to 340 F.

First combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.  I used a fork because my whisk broke 😦  Set this dry combination aside for the time being.  Next, cut the butter up into half -inch slices.  I find that when I do this, the butter and sugar cream easier and faster.

I cut the butter up into half-inch pieces, I find that it creams faster and more evenly when I do this.

I also leave the butter sitting out on the counter or near the preheating oven so that it is not rock solid when I try to use it. Take the cut up butter and put it into a fairly large mixing bowl (this is the bowl that our finished batter will end up in).  Add the sugar and combine using electric beaters.  You will know this sugar-butter combination is done when it looks light and fluffy and seems to be pretty evenly combined.  (Most recipes say this takes about 2 minutes.  I’ve never timed it)

Next we are going to add the eggs.  I added them one at a time in this order: 2 egg whites, then the whole egg, then the final two egg whites.  If you do not know how to separate the parts of the egg, get ready to learn!  It’s actually pretty easy.  You can either get a store-bought egg-separator, or you can do what I do and just crack the egg near the middle.  Use the two sides of the shell and pour it from one side to the other and then back again.  The white will fall into the bowl as you do this because it is heavier than the yellow.  Just be careful not to break the yellow because then it will be impossible to keep it from pouring into the batter.  As I said earlier, add them one at a time. Add the egg, let it get absorbed into the batter for a few seconds, mix it in, let it absorb into the batter for a few seconds after being mixed in and then add the next one.  Keep this pattern up until all 4 egg whites and 1 whole egg have been added.

The next step it to add our flour combination into the batter 1/2 C to a cup at a time alternating with the buttermilk.  What this means is that you will put your cup of flour in, mix it in thoroughly, then add a third of the  buttermilk.  Then add another portion of the flour, then add another third of the buttermilk.  Make sure you begin and end with the flour.  After all of these ingredients are in the large mixing bow, we are ready for the final step: Raspberry extract.  Add this in a little at a time and mix it in thoroughly until you get the amount of raspberry flavor that you are looking for.

Now the batter is done!

Alright.  Now the batter is done.  Time to prep the muffin tins.  For this project, we will NOT be using cupcake papers!  Just swipe a clean cloth or paper towel into some shortening (I used Crisco’s vegetable shortening) and then swipe it around each well of the muffin tin so that they are covered in a very thin film of shortening.  Then dust flour into each of the wells.  This will help keep the finished cupcakes from sticking to the muffin tin.

And finally, using a spring-release ice cream scoop, scoop batter into each well of the muffin tins.  I had 1 nearly full scoop per well.

Let the cupcakes cook for 12-18 minutes.  When they begin to look golden and solid, take them out.  Try not to overcook!

After this batter, the next two portions are so easy!

Whipped Cream!

You should make the whipped cream next.  Simply take out the bowl you have been chilling and pour your heavy cream into it.  Beat it with an electric mixer until it starts to get thick.  Then beat in the vanilla. Next, add the sugar a little at a time, beating briefly between. Remember, you will want this to spread nicely so it should be looser than tub butter but creamy enough that it will hold onto the cupcake.  Just keep beating and/or adding confectioner’s sugar until you find the consistency that you want.  Put whipped cream in fridge.

Put the iced cakes in the fridge if you are not ready to add the ganache right away.

By the time you are finished with the whipped cream, the first batch of cupcakes will be ready to come out.  Take the cupcakes out of the oven and let them cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes.  After the five minutes, take a butter knife and gently circle each cupcake between the cake and the edge of the well, encouraging it to be free.  Then, carefully tip the muffin tin over and let the cupcakes tumble out.  (Please please, please do this on a clean surface.  No one wants to eat something that has been bouncing around on the floor or on top of your junk mail!)  If little devils are being stubborn, gently pat each well with the heel of your hand until they fall out.  Allow to sit on a cooling rack until completely cool to touch.  This is VERY important because the whipped cream will fall off  (well, melt off really) if the cupcakes are still warm.

Once the cupcakes have become cool, cut their rounded tops off.   I used a small steak knife, but any knife with a sharp serrated edge will do just fine.  This will make it much easier for the final product to look fancy!   I threw the rejected tops (and cupcakes I destroyed trying to get the tops off) into a plastic container.  These rejects would be great for a chocolate fondue dessert or even just for you to “try out” your ganache on.

Icing the cakes

Now we can no longer call them cupcakes.  They are rapidly evolving into our individual cakes.  They are now ready to ice.  If you know what plates you are going to serve them on, it is best to use those plates now and leave them on these plates until serving.  Or, you can do what I did.  I knew they would be traveling about 74 miles with me so I took some cleaned chinese and indian food containers ( you know, the clear little plastic containers that you get take-out soup in) and used their lids as the plate.  This way all I would have to do is snap the bottom overtop of the cake like a miniature cake-saver.

The first thing you want to do is mix your edible glue up and put a dollop of it down on your surface.  Next, adhere the cake to it, cut off part down on the glue.  The next thing to do is get the chilled whipped cream and an icing knife.  If you do not have an “icing knife” just use your widest, dullest, butter knife.  The back of a spoon could work as well.  Take a big glob of the whipped cream and put it on the top center of your little cake.  Smoothen it all around the top and sides, adding more when necessary in order to smoothly cover the entire surface of the cake.  **remember** Ice the icing not the cake!  This way you won’t be dragging crumbs all over with you.  Once you have gotten a smooth coverage on the cake, put it in the freezer for about a minute or two to help the whipped cream set.  Do not leave them in the freezer for too long.  We do not want them to freeze!  If you are not ready to put the ganache on right away, you can store them in the fridge while you are waiting.

I used a small inexpensive food scale to weigh out my chocolate morsels.

Now we are ready to Make our Delicious Ganache!

I would have never guessed how easy making chocolate ganache can be.  First, take out a medium-sized sauce pan.  Pour your heavy cream into it put it on the stove over medium head and allow to boil.  Once it has started to boil, remove it from the heat and add your chocolate morsels.  Give it one stir.  Cover.  Let it sit off of the heat but covered for 5 minutes.  Once the five minutes is up, the cream’s heat should have melted the chocolate.  Stir the ganache.  If you are finding that your chocolate did not melt, you can stir it over a very low heat until it is melted.  Be care, though, because burn chocolate wont taste too good with this recipe.   When your ganache is smooth, it is ready to use. I removed it from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes though because if it is too hot, it will melt right off of the cool whipped cream.

While the ganache is cooling, take out your cakes to allow them to get almost back to room temperature.  Using a tablespoon or soup spoon, spoon ganache onto cake.  It is your choice if you would like to only cover the top surface, allow the ganache to artistically pour over the edge, or even cover the whole thing.  This is the fun part! Let your imagination run wild.  I topped mine with a strawberry fan (raspberries were not in the stores yet 😦  Had I realized, I would’ve used strawberry flavoring) added when the ganache was still pliable to cement it into place.

Here you see the lid of the take-out container being used as a plate! Such a cheap and easy way to transport these fancy desserts!

Serve right away or seal your finished cakes in airtight containers and store overnight in the fridge.

Be proud of your creations and enjoy their delicate flavorful intricacies!

Tip Recap:

–  Use the two halves of a cracked egg to separate the parts of the egg by moving the egg from one half to the other and back again until the white falls into the bowl.

– Use chilled bowls when making whipped cream

–  Ice the icing not the cake

– Use upside-down take out containers as mini cake savers

An impressive and totally do-able dessert!

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