Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart

Last Christmas, Alex's mom made this delicious Chocolate Mint Cake that I have always wanted to try to make myself. It was super rich and tasted like a peppermint patty. Unfortunately, I never get the opportunity to make cake, so I have yet to try it out.

I decided that I would try turning them into cupcakes for a holiday party that we are attending tonight. They came out pretty good if I do say so myself! They weren't the easiest cupcakes in the world to make, but "the harder the recipe, the most delicious the food" is always the way it goes.

Candy Cane Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 36 cupcakes

Cake
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 (16oz) package light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 (8oz) container sour cream
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 3 cupcake tins with cupcake liners
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt
  3. Beat butter and brown sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer, beating about 5 minutes or until well blended
  4. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition
  5. Melt semisweet chocolate morsels in a microwave-safe bowl at high for 30-second intervals until melted (about 1 1/2 minutes total time). Stir until smooth
  6. Add melted chocolate, beating just until blended
  7. Gradually add to chocolate mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture
  8. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition
  9. Gradually add 1 cup hot water in a slow, steady stream, beating at low speed just until blended
  10. Stir in vanilla
  11. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees or until toothpick inserted comes out clean
  12. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, finish cooling on wire rack
Peppermint Butter Cream Frosting
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 (16oz) packages powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint oil (or substitute 1 tsp peppermint extract)
Directions
  1. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy
  2. Gradually add powdered sugar alternately with milk
  3. Beating at low speed until blended after each addition
  4. Stir in vanilla extract and peppermint oil
Chocolate Ganache Frosting
  • 1 (12oz) package semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp butter
Directions
  1. Microwave semisweet chocolate morsels and whipping cream in a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl at medium (50% power) for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes or until chocolate begins to melt
  2. Whisk until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth
  3. Whisk in butter; let stand 20 minutes
  4. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture forms soft peaks
Assemble
  1. Scoop peppermint frosting into a large ziplock bag
  2. Use a pairing knife to cut a small circle in the top of one of your cupcakes. Angle the knife toward the center of the cupcake, so a small cone of cake can be removed. Do not throw this away
  3. Take the bag of peppermint frosting and clip away a very small piece of one corner of the bag
  4. Pipe a small amount of peppermint frosting into the center of the cupcake
  5. Replace the removed piece of cake to cover the peppermint frosting
  6. Repeat for all cupcakes
  7. Frost the top of each cupcake with Chocolate Ganache frosting
Finishing Touches
  • 3 Peppermint Candy Canes
Directions
  1. Place 3 candy canes in a large plastic bag.
  2. Using a rolling pin, beat candy canes till they are practically dust
  3. Sprinkle each cupcake with crushed candy canes

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

I love our first Christmas tree. It was so fun picking it out and decorating it. Its little pink lights add a nice ambiance to the room. However, it is still looking a little bare since it is our first Christmas living together.

On Saturday afternoon, Kristina and I got together and made some ornaments to add a little more sparkle to our tree's branches.

Beaded Snowflake Ornaments
  • 16 corsage pins with pearl ends
  • Crystal-like beads in desired shapes and sizes
  • 1 small cork
  • Iridescent white glitter paint pen
  • Silver Monofilament thread
Directions
  1. Cut the cork, so it is about 1/4 inch thick.
  2. Cover the cork using glitter paint pen. Allow to dry. Apply a second coat, if necessary, and let dry.
  3. Place beads on 1 corsage pin in desired order, leaving the last 1/4 inch without beads.
  4. Make 3 more beaded pins using the same arrangement.
  5. Make another set of 4 beaded pins, using a different arrangement.
  6. Make an additional set of 8 beaded pins.
  7. With the round side of the cork laying on the work surface, poke one beaded pin into the cork, like a spoke of a wheel.
  8. Place a matching beaded pin opposite the first.
  9. Place the remaining two opposite each other, between the first set.
  10. Using the remaining set of 4 matching pins, poke each into the cork, slightly closer to the top of the cork and alternating with the first set of four.
  11. With the remaining 8 pins, place 1 beaded pin into the center of the side of the cork. Put three other pins around this one angled in toward the center.
  12. Repeat on the other side.
  13. To hang, cut a desired length of monofilament and tie to one spoke of the snowflake.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We've Got Magic to Do

Things always get super busy around the holidays. There are trees to trim, presents to buy, old friends to connect with, and holiday parties to attend. This directly interferes with bad weather, frigid temperatures, and cold and flu season! All of these things combined have made me less crafty and more busy, so I hope you'll forgive this repeated post while I try to catch my crafty breath!

Magic cookie bars are a staple at our house around the holidays. They are so fun and easy to make. They don't even dirty a spoon! Alex doesn't like nuts, so I decided to kick these up a notch with more candy! They were sweet as can be, but super delicious!

Magic Cookie Bars (inspired by Eagle Brand Recipes)
Makes 2 dozen bars
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 six oz package of chocolate chips
  • 1 six oz package of white chocolate chips
  • 1 six oz package of butterscotch chip
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a small sauce pan, melt butter
  3. Pour butter evenly into a 13x9 baking dish so that it coats the bottom of the dish
  4. Layer remaining ingredients evenly on top of the butter
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bottom is golden brown
  6. Let cool before cutting into squares

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Well, I'm attracted to pie, doesn't mean I feel the need to date pie


Personally, I'm not a big fan of pumpkin pie. I'm not really sure if it's the texture or the flavor, but I just can't get into it.

I can, however, get into pumpkin pie + cheesecake. I don't know how the cheesecake does it, but some how, it makes pumpkin pie filling totally fantastic. Add a crunchy pecan topping and this is the best pumpkin pie recipe out there. At least in my non-pumpkin pie loving opinion.

Also posted at Madtasty!

Pie Crust (from my fabulous sister)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 15 Tbsp (1 stick + 7 Tbsps) of chilled butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  1. Mix flour and salt.
  2. Add butter and use a pastry blender or fork to combine
  3. Add ice water slowly, forming dough into a ball
  4. Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 1 hour
  5. Remove and place dough on a flat, floured surface
  6. Flatten with your hands and roll out until 1/8 thick
  7. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the pastry. Trim and crimp edge as desired; set aside
Cheesecake Filling (from Cassie at How to Eat a Cupcake)
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 slightly beaten egg
  1. Blend all ingredients together
  2. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes
Pumpkin Pie Filling (from Cassie at How to Eat a Cupcake)
  • 1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. Blend all ingredients together
Pecan Topping (from Cassie at How to Eat a Cupcake)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  1. Combine the pecans, flour, the 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and butter.
Now get ready to put it together
  1. Spoon cream cheese filling into pastry-lined pie plate
  2. Carefully pour pumpkin filling over cream-cheese mixture
  3. Cover edge of the pie with foil to prevent overbrowning
  4. Bake in a 350F oven for 25 minutes
  5. Remove foil and bake for 25 minutes more
  6. Sprinkle pecans over the pie
  7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes more or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean
  8. Cool for 1 to 2 hours on a wire rack
  9. Refrigerate for storage

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Sweet nuts

    Last weekend, Alex and I had a potluck to go to at our friends Emily and Christopher's house. Alex decided to make fried chicken which is always a crowdpleaser. I knew I'd never give him a run for his money, so I decided to try a different route and make something healthy that people might not like as much, but might appreciate in a different way!

    So I decided to make a salad with spring mix, dried cranberries, dried golden raisins, apples, goat cheese, and candied pecans. Everything went fine except Wholefoods was out of any sort of candied nuts. I bought some regular pecans and went searching for a recipe to jazz them up. I used this recipe for sugar coated pecans and it came out delicious.

    The best part is, they can be used on multiple recipes or alone as a snack. Just be careful, they are addictive!

    Candied Pecan Halves (by Carolyn at All Recipes)
    • 1 egg white
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • 1 pound pecan halves
    • 1 cup white sugar
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    Directions
    1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Grease one baking sheet.
    2. In a mixing bowl, whip together the egg white and water until frothy. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
    3. Add pecans to egg whites, stir to coat the nuts evenly. Remove the nuts, and toss them in the sugar mixture until coated. Spread the nuts out on the prepared baking sheet.
    4. Bake at 250 degrees F (120 degrees C) for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes.



    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Do the mashed potato

    This Thanksgiving will be the very first Thanksgiving that Alex and I ever spend together. For the last 5 years we've been splitting them up. Me in NH. Alex in MD. Since we got engaged though, we decided it was time to strike a compromise.

    Thanksgiving is a big deal in Alex's house. His mom starts planning her menu months in advance. Since we go to NH for Easter because it's my favorite dinner at my house, it only made sense for him to get Thanksgiving. So sadly, I'll be missing dinner in NH with my family this year. To make up for it, I asked my mom to share with me all of her Thanksgiving recipes, so I could make some of them before heading to MD.

    I started with mashed potatoes because they are my favorite food in the whole world. They are super easy and I don't know why I haven't tried to make them before. My mom's vocal hatred of potato peeling has always deterred me. These came out dangerously delicious! I might have to make them every night like my Nana used to!!

    Mashed Potatoes (by my Mom)
    Makes 3-4 Servings
    • 4 Idaho Potatoes
    • 3 Tbsps of Butter
    • 1 Cup of Milk
    • 2 tsp of Salt
    Directions
    1. Fill a large sauce pan with water and a 1/4 tsp of salt; bring to a boil
    2. Peel and cube potatoes
    3. Drop into salted boiled water and boil for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender
    4. While potatoes are boiling, heat 1 cup of milk in a small sauce pan on the stove
    5. Drain water from potatoes and place in a large mixing bowl
    6. With a potato masher begin mashing potatoes
    7. In three additions, mashing well after each, add butter, hot milk, and remaining salt

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Serving Somerville since Just the Other Day

    Alex and I had heard so many good things about Highland Kitchen before going there that this review is almost not even fair.

    The food was delicious, the cocktails creative, and the scene was comfortable and relaxed. I would say that just about the only downside to this restaurant is that it is a bit of a hike to get to. Definitely had to take a cab, which we try to avoid at all costs. Also, there was a little bit of a wait once we got there, but the bar was so cozy and the drinks were so good that no one seemed to mind hanging out for a bit. Plus the dinner was definitely worth the wait!

    Also exciting, the owner of Highland Kitchen and the owner of my favorite restaurant, Silvertone, just got together and created Trina's Starlite Lounge. I'm just dying to try it out!

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    New England is awesome

    So Alex's mom makes this great tomato soup and rice soup whenever we go to Maryland. The last time we were there I went rummaging through her cookbooks and found the recipe.

    Now it's not the easiest soup in the world to make. Trying to get it perfect was almost a kitchen catastrophe. It has to be blended in the blender. It says in the instructions that a hand mixer will do the trick, but I'm sorry, it doesn't cut it. My blender is pretty crappy (I should say my blender was pretty crappy now) and this soup put it over the edge. So in a pinch I whipped out the Magic Bullet and worked it out in 4-5 batches.

    It worked out and the soup turned out delicious despite the few moments of panicked frustration!

    Roasted Tomato and Rice Soup
    (by Marjorie Druker and Clara Silverstein from the New England Soup Factory)
    Makes 10 servings

    Roasted Tomatoes

    • 12 medium plum tomatoes
    • 3 Tbsps olive oil
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Rice
    • 3 cups of water
    • 1 1/2 cups of white rice, uncooked
    • 1 Tbsp of butter
    Soup
    • 3 Tbsps butter
    • 3 whole cloves garlic, peeled
    • 1 large Spanish onion, peeled and diced
    • 5 carrots, peeled and chopped
    • 2 ribs celery, sliced
    • Roasted plum tomatoes
    • 6 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
    • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
    • 3 cups tomato juice
    • 2 Tbsps chopped fresh basil
    • 2 ½ cups cooked white rice
    • 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    • 1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
    Directions for Roasted Tomatoes
    1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees
    2. Hull tomatoes and slice in half
    3. Place the tomatoes in a large mixing bowl
    4. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper
    5. Place the tomatoes in a small roasting pan and roast in the oven for 50 minutes
    Directions for rice
    1. Bring water to a boil
    2. Reduce heat and add rice
    3. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes
    4. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes
    Directions for soup
    1. In a stockpot melt butter over medium-high heat
    2. Add the garlic, onion, carrots, and celery
    3. Sauté for 10 minutes stirring frequently
    4. Add the roasted tomatoes and continue to sauté for 5 minutes
    5. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, stock, and tomato juice
    6. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium.
    7. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes
    8. Add basil
    9. Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or working in batches with a regular blender until smooth
    10. Place the soup back into the pot if using a regular blender
    11. Add the rice and season with Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper
    12. Stir so that the rice is evenly distributed throughout the soup
    13. Sprinkle each serving with cheese











    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Be My Sweet Potato Pie

    So here they are: Cinnamon Sweet Potato Chips

    These are super delicious. Though they aren't exactly chips, these sweet and savory potatoes make a great side dish. Especially with the Sweet and Spicy Chicken.

    Cinnamon Sweet Potato Chips (by Emily at Joyful Abode)
    • 2 sweet potatoes
    • 1 Tbsp of olive oil
    • 1 tsp of kosher salt
    • 1 tsp of cinnamon
    Directions
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
    2. Peel sweet potatoes
    3. Slice into 1/4 inch thick slices
    4. Place in a medium mixing bowl
    5. Add olive oil, salt, and cinnamon and stir to coat (I find it is easiest to sprinkle a bit of each, stir a bit, sprinkle again, stir again and so forth until all are coated)
    6. Cover a large cookie sheet with tinfoil and spray with cooking spray
    7. Spread sweet potatoes in one layer on the cookie sheet
    8. Put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes
    9. Turn potatoes with a spatula and bake for an additional 15 minutes

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    There's the rub

    I'm always looking for great ways to make chicken. It makes such an easy and healthy dinner protein, but it can get a little boring if you don't do something to spice it up.

    A couple of months ago, I found this great Sweet and Spicy Grilled Chicken Rub on the Joyful Abode and have been meaning to try it. I don't like things super spicy so I used half the chili powder called for in the recipe and it worked out great. Sweet with a little bit of heat.

    It went great with sweet potatoes (also from the Joyful Abode!) and grilled green beans. You'll get the sweet potato recipe tomorrow!

    Sweet and Spicy Grilled Chicken Rub (from Emily at Joyful Abode)
    Serves 2
    • 2 chicken breasts
    • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
    • 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
    • 1/2 Tbsp oregano
    • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
    Directions
    1. Mix together chili powder, brown sugar, and oregano
    2. Add olive oil and mix thoroughly
    3. Rub on chicken until coated
    4. Grill on grill or stove top until cooked all the way through (about 15 minutes on each side)

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Cinnamon's Wake

    Even when the fridge is empty and the cabinets are bare, the one thing I always have on hand are baking supplies. Being able to whip up something sweet when I need a fix is necessary.

    A couple of weeks ago, when I was browsing through the baking section at the grocery store looking for ideas, I spotted something I'd never seen before, Cinnamon Chips. I figured, these could either be super gross or unbelievable. So I bought them.

    They turned out the be an amazing ingredient. They made the best oatmeal raisin cookies I've ever had and can't say enough about how delicious these turned out to be!

    So delicious...that they are being brought to you here and at Madtasty! It's my first week posting and I just had to start with these.

    Oatmeal Raisin Cinnamon Chips Cookies (by Hershey's)
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
    • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 2-1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
    • 1-2/3 cups (10-oz. pkg.) Hershey's Cinnamon Chips
    • 3/4 cup raisins
    Directions
    1. Heat oven to 350°F
    2. Combine flour and baking soda in a medium sized mixing bowl
    3. In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until creamy
    4. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well
    5. Add flour and baking soda to butter mixture, beating well
    6. Stir in oats, cinnamon chips and raisins
    7. Drop by heaping teaspoons unto ungreased cookie sheet
    8. Bake 10 to 12 minutes on until lightly browned
    9. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Knit, People, Knit!

    Though you'd never know it with today's balmy 67 degree weather, winter is on its way. With Alex hoping for a super frosty season, it's officially time for me to break out the knitting needles and cozy in for a few new knitting projects!

    This is a great one because it looks super cute, is one size fits all, and can be finished in just a few hours.

    Last spring, Kristina and I went to Shecky's Girls Night Out and fell in love with Volang Headbands. They are beautiful, but unfortunately sell for around $40. Since I can't afford to spend that on a headband, I decided to see if I could make something similar on my own. After searching the internet far and wide, I found a site called Knitty and a pattern called Calorimetry. It turned out great and will keep my ears warm all winter long.

    Materials
    • Patons Classic Wool [100% Merino Wool; 233yd/204m per 100g ball]; color: Regency; 1 skein (or less!)
    • 1 pair US #8/5mm straight needles
    • 2 stitch markers
    • Tapestry needle
    • 1 button (buy the button after the project is completed, to determine the size needed.)
    Pattern Notes
    • Gauge: 20 sts / 22 rows = 4 inches in 2x2 Rib, lightly stretched
    • The project is worked using short rows. To work short rows, work to the point indicated in the pattern, then turn your work around and begin working back in the other direction. Holes will form in your work at the turning points of the short rows; don't worry! This is to be expected. One of these holes will be used as a buttonhole when the project is completed.
    • The pattern uses 2 stitch markers to help you keep track of your short rows. The first half of the piece is worked in short rows which progressively decrease in length, the second half in short rows which progressively increase in length.
    • It is very important to obtain the correct gauge for this piece. If worked to the gauge stated above, your Calorimetry will be 24 inches long. If you want a shorter piece, you can either cast on fewer stitches, or work at a smaller gauge.
    • It is also very important to consider the characteristics of the yarn you are choosing. Best results will be obtained from a yarn that is springy and resilient, which will retain the elasticity of the ribbing. Do not use a yarn which will lose its shape, becoming drapey with wear.
    Directions
    • Cast on 120 sts.
    • Row 1: Work all stitches in 2x2 Rib (Knit 2, Pearl 2).
    • Row 2: Work in 2x2 Rib as set to last 2 stitches, stop, turn work.
    • Row 3: Slip 1, work 3 stitches, place marker, work to last 2 stitches, turn work.
    • Row 4: Slip 1, work 3 stitches, place second marker, work to next marker, turn work.
    • Row 5: Remove marker, slip 1, work 3 stitches, replace marker, work to next marker, turn work.
    • Repeat Row 5 fifteen times more.
    • Row 6: Do not remove marker. Slip 1, work to next marker, turn work. 44 stitches between markers; 38 stitches at each side of piece, outside of markers.
    • Row 7: Slip 1, work to marker, remove marker, work 4 stitches, replace marker, turn work.
    • Repeat Row 7 seventeen times more. 2 stitches remain outside markers at each end of the piece.
    • Row 8: Slip 1, work to marker, remove marker, work last 2 stitches.
    • Work 1 more row, removing final marker.
    • Finishing: Loosely bind off all stitches. Weave in ends, using one yarn end to sew a button to one end of the piece. No buttonhole is necessary; one of the holes which formed at a short-row turning point can serve as a buttonhole.

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    I scream with disappointment

    Yesterday was a very sad day in Cambridge. After 27 years of in Harvard Square, Herrell's Ice Cream closed their doors to make way for a mid-priced, casual restaurant. They had the best ice cream in the city by far and it's going to be very difficult to find a replacement.

    Case and point, a trip to Christina's Ice Cream in Inman Square.

    Christina's is a cute little ice cream shop on the corner of Cambridge Street and Prospect Street a few doors down from Bukowski's. Like Herrell's, they too make their ice cream on site and have lots of flavors and treats like milk shakes and sundaes. Unfortunately, these are where the similarities end.

    Neither Alex nor I were impressed with our desserts: chocolate ice cream in a sugar cone for him, Oreo frozen yogurt in a cup for me. Neither tasted like much and my Oreo looked kinda like his chocolate. It was very strange. Not even one chunk of Oreo goodness. Just the essence of Oreo blended completely together with the ice cream. It was very disappointing.

    With bad experiences at JP Licks and Christina's, we may have to start driving out to Richardson's whenever we need a fix!

    Friday, October 30, 2009

    Kinda like pizza, but not really

    For the last few months, I've been poring over this great recipe blog called Joyful Abode. I have book marked about 20 recipes, but have yet to make any of them...until today!

    I thought I'd start with this simple recipe for focaccia bread. Focaccia bread is delicious. It's great as a snack, it's good with soup, salad, or dipped in tomato sauce or pesto. It's easy to make because it doesn't require any kneading, and though it's a yeast bread, it only requires 1 hour of rising, so it's not as time consuming as regular bread recipes.

    Sorry again for the lack of pictures this week!

    Focaccia Bread (by Emily of a Joyful Abode)
    • 1 ½ cups warm water
    • 4 tsp of active dry yeast
    • 3 ½ cups of flour
    • 1 ¼ tsp salt
    • 3 Tbsp olive oil + more for drizzling
    • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
    • 1 medium tomato
    • ½ tsp oregano
    • ½ tsp basil
    • ½ tsp garlic salt
    Directions
    1. Start with 1 1/2 cups of warm water and add 4 teaspoons of active dry yeast.
    2. Stir until dissolved
    3. In the large mixing bowl, combine 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt, 3 Tablespoons of olive oil, and the yeast-water.
    4. Beat on high for about a minute to a minute and a half (I would say don’t try this recipe unless you have a standing mixer / you don’t mind putting in the arm power with a dough whisk. My handheld mixer didn’t quite do the trick!)
    5. Drizzle a 9” x 13” pan with some olive oil and brush it all around.
    6. Scoop the sticky dough into the pan with a spatula and lightly pat it around until it’s situated. Don’t worry about it going all the way to the edges.
    7. Grab your saran wrap and tear off a sheet to cover the dough with. Hold it up and give it a light spray of pam.
    8. Cover the bread dough with the saran wrap and let it rise for an hour.
    9. After about 45 minutes, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
    10. In a small mixing bowl, combine parmesan cheese, oregano, basil, and garlic salt.
    11. Thinly slice your tomato into as many slices as you can get.
    12. Now that your dough is puffy, use a fork to make little holes all over it.
    13. Drizzle the top with olive oil, sprinkle half of your seasoning, lay your tomatoes on top, and top with the rest of your seasoning.
    14. Pop your dish in the oven and in 35 minutes you’ve got golden brown focaccia bread.
    Served with Pacific Natural Foods Tomato Soup!

    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    You know what a goddamn banana seat is

    I'll this preface this post by saying that I am a big fan of writer/director Rian Johnson. Brick is one of my all time favorite movies and I have spent quite some time watching the dvd extras, reading about him, and scouring his web page, which is frequently updated with anything he finds interesting. So for months, I've been dying to see his second film The Brothers Bloom.

    I was a little nervous about the movie at first because Brick was truly an independent film. It was shot in 20 days, for under $500K, using all 35 millimeter film. The special effects were all super neat in-camera tricks. The actors were all pretty much unknown except for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is my favorite actor. The Brothers Bloom is a studio film with famous actors and a large budget. That being said, it wasn't filmed in a studio, but on location all over the globe, which adds a true sense of adventure to the conman love story.

    The movie was great though. I had nothing to fear. Adrien Brody was a doll, Mark Ruffalo a cad, and Rian Johnson even found a way to write Rachel Weisz a character I could actually love. The story focuses around two orphaned, brothers, Stephen and Bloom who grew up conning their way through towns and foster homes. As adults, Bloom becomes tired of being a conman, but decides to stick it out for one last time. The brothers set their sites on the wealthy, eccentric Penelope Stamp. Hijinks, explosions, and fake blood ensues.

    Though not as good (in my opinion) as Brick, Rian Johnson stays true to his roots, writing his scripts the way "Russian poets write novels, with thematic arcs and embedded symbolism." He even pays homage to Brick with cameos by Levitt, Noah Segan, Lucas Haas, and Nora Zehetner.

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Tricks and treats to try tonight


    When I was little, I loved trick or treating.

    I loved getting dressed up, being a little scared, and gathering pillowcases full of candy. Living in New England, Halloween was always a lesson in dressing in layers. Before heading out, my mom would make sure we had something warm and filling to keep us going through the night.

    For the last few weeks, I've been craving beef stew, her Halloween night special. So, since we don't have a stew pot, I decided to give my slow cooker a try. I've never used a slow cooker before and my goodness, it is as easy as people say it is. Especially for beef stew!

    Slow Cooker Beef Stew (by Valisme at All Recipes)
    • 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
    • 3 potatoes, diced
    • 4 carrots, sliced
    • 1 stalk celery, chopped
    Directions
    1. Place meat in slow cooker.
    2. In a small bowl mix together the flour, salt, and pepper
    3. Pour mixture over meat, and stir to coat.
    4. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, onion, beef broth, potatoes, carrots, and celery.
    5. Cover, and cook on Low setting for 10 to 12 hours, or on High setting for 4 to 6 hours.
    Sorry for the lack of photos. Alex and his sister had the camera while I spent the day cooking! Such a good Sunday.

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Do the dew

    I am always looking for an excuse to make cupcakes. You'd think there would be more of them in life, but cupcakes are tough because you can't just make one and they are loaded with butter and sugar and everything that is not great for your waist line. Sometimes I wish I had kids so I'd have an excuse to bake cupcakes more often.

    One of my favorite cupcake recipes is for Mountain Dew Cupcakes. They don't taste exactly like Mountain Dew, but they are citrusy and sweet and delicious. The recipe was created by the writer of my favorite blog, How to Eat a Cupcake, which I found when my roommates and I threw a cupcakes and champagne party last year.

    I decided to bake them again for my mom's birthday a couple of weekends ago and they turned out fantastic as does almost any recipe I steal from How to Eat a Cupcake!

    Mountain Dew Cupcakes (by Cassie at How to Eat a Cupcake)
    Makes 12 cupcakes (I got 14 cupcakes)

    Cupcakes
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 large eggs, at room temp
    • 1/4 cup + 2 tsp Mountain Dew
    • 2 Tsps frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
    • zest from 1/2 lemon and 1/2 lime
    • 1 1/4 cups + 2 Tbsps all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1/8 tsp salt
    Directions
    1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
    2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
    3. In a measuring cup, combine Mt. Dew and concentrated orange juice.
    4. Combine butter, sugar, and zest in a large bowl.
    5. With a hand mixer on medium-high speed, beat until fluffy.
    6. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.
    7. Scrape the sides of the bowl before adding flour.
    8. Add dry mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the wet in 2 additions, beating on low speed until just combined.
    9. Pour batter into cupcake papers about 2/3 full.
    10. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
    11. Cool on wire racks.
    Frosting
    • 1 cup Mountain Dew
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
    • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
    • 2 Tsps heavy cream
    • 2 tsps frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
    • zest from 1/2 lemon and 1/2 lime
    Directions
    1. In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of Mt. Dew to a boil over medium-high heat.
    2. Reduce heat until it no longer bubbles (medium-low or low depending on your stove).
    3. Let Mt. Dew evaporate for about 15 minutes. It should reduce by 3/4. You should end up with between 2 tablespoons and 1/4 cup of syrup.
    4. Pour it in a small glass measuring cup to cool.
    5. Sift the confectioners' sugar into a mixing bowl.
    6. Add butter and beat, gradually increasing speed to high, until combined.
    7. Pour in heavy cream and Mt. Dew syrup.
    8. Continue mixing on high until fluffy.
    9. Add OJ concentrate, zest, and food coloring.
    10. Mix on low speed until combined.








    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    How do you like them apples?

    Nothing says fall in New England like Mack's Apples in Londonderry, NH. We've been going there since we were little kids. They have great apples, great cider, and fantastic cider donuts.

    Alex and I picked lots of apples this weekend. Way to many to eat on their own. So I decided to try making apple crisp. I've never done it before, but it looked easy enough and who doesn't love apples, cinnamon, and brown sugar.

    I found this recipe for the Best Ever Caramel Apple Crisp at All Recipes and it is the best apple crisp I've ever made!

    Best Ever Apple Crisp (from St Matthew First Graders at All Recipes)

    Apple Filling
    • 3-4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
    • 1/3 cup white sugar
    • 2 tsps all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 2 tsps lemon juice
    • 2 Tbsps and 2 teaspoons water
    Crumble
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2/3 cup brown sugar
    • 2/3 cup quick cooking oats
    • 2/3 cup butter, softened
    Caramel Sauce
    • 1 (14 ounce) package individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
    • 1 (5 ounce) can evaporated milk
    Directions
    1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
    2. In a medium size bowl, toss apples with sugar, flour, cinnamon, lemon juice, and water.
    3. Spread evenly into a 8x8 inch pan.
    4. In a heavy sauce pan over low heat, melt the caramels with the evaporated milk, stirring frequently, until mixture has a smooth consistency. (I just used pre-made caramel syrup ice cream topping. Easier, just as tasty, and less messy!)
    5. Drizzle the caramel sauce over the top of the apple mixture.
    6. In another bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, oats, and butter.
    7. Spoon mixture evenly over apples.
    8. Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes.
    9. Let cool for 20 minutes and serve with vanilla ice cream and caramel syrup.










    Monday, October 12, 2009

    In 1492, Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue

    Happy Columbus Day!

    Columbus Day is one of my favorite holidays. In New England it means colorful leaves, apple picking, cider donuts, half marathons and in my family it means my mom and sister's birthdays. It's a great holiday!

    This weekend we did, saw, and ate all of the above. We did some leaf peeping in NH. We visited my sister for her birthday and had cider and cider donuts. We went apple picking at Mack's Apples with my nephew. And, on Sunday, Debra, Emily, and I ran in the BAA Half Marathon. I clocked in at 2:08:04 which is a 9:47 minute mile (a personal best!). Thanks to Alex and Allie for being there and cheering us on. It was so nice to see you at the finish line!!

    Over all, it was a great weekend! Today we are taking it easy, enjoying the day off, catching a movie, and having a beer with lunch. Hope everyone is having a great day too!

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    Well it's a marvelous night for a moondance

    So awhile back my old roommates and I had a Champagne and Cupcakes party at our apartment. I made these great Neapolitan cupcakes from How to Eat a Cupcake. So tonight I thought, if you can do half and half cupcakes, why can't you do half and half cookies. Well, it didn't work out so great for me.

    I decided to try making chocolate orange sugar cookies, using a sugar cookie recipe and substituting in orange flavoring in one half and cocoa powder in the other. Well both halves came out pretty good on their own, but the orange half kind of over took the chocolate half so Alex named them Chocolate Orange Waxing Moon Cookies. He's pretty clever.

    Anyways. These were kind of a failure, but they taste good so here they are!

    Chocolate Orange Waxing Moon Cookies
    (makes 24 cookies)

    Orange Half
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1 tbsp orange zest
    • 1/2 cup butter, softened
    • 1 large egg, at room temperature
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
    • 1/2 Tbsp. orange juice
    • 1 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons flour
    • 1/8 tsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. cream of tartar
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    Directions
    1. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda.
    2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.
    3. Blend in eggs, one at a time
    4. Add vanilla, lemon juice, (lime juice,) and remaining orange zest.
    5. Add flour mixture, in 3 parts, blending well after each addition.
    6. Refrigerate dough for one hour.
    Chocolate Half
    • 1/2 cup butter, softened
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 large egg
    • 1 cups and 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup and 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    Directions
    1. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt, and baking powder.
    2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.
    3. Blend in egg and vanilla
    4. Add flour mixture, in 3 parts, blending well after each addition.
    5. Refrigerate dough for one hour.
    Chocolate Orange Waxing Moon Cookies
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    • Spread a mixture of sugar and orange zest in a shallow bowl or on a plate.
    • Using a cookie scoop or your hands, shape 1 tablespoonfuls of each dough into a ball.
    • Roll each in orange sugar.
    • Place balls of dough adjacent to each other on cookie sheet, press together lightly, and repeat.
    • Bake cookies for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.






    Monday, September 28, 2009

    Double Feature Rainy Sunday

    There is really nothing better than going to the movies on a rainy Sunday. Except maybe going for a double feature.

    Yesterday, Alex and I spent our rainy Sunday hunkered down in the Boston Common Lowes. We ate Sour Patch Kids and drank Diet Coke while we enjoyed two very good Sunday afternoon movies: Jennifer's Body and Inglourious Basterds.

    Jennifer's Body is a wickedly funny teen horror flick starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. The storyline is decent and the make out scenes are pretty fierce. Also, the film's dialogue luckily manages to escape the annoying overly hip Cody-speak laden throughout Juno. Amanda Seyfried is adorable as always and Adam Brody does a killer villain.




    Inglorious Basterds is a super creative retelling of the end of WWII as seen through the eyes of Quentin Tarentino. Between the scalpings, shootings, bombings, and beatings it's a little bloodier than my taste, but it was cleverly funny and beautifully executed.







    Both very much worth seeing. Especially on a rainy Sunday!