Friday, June 28, 2013

What Flavor IS Birthday Cake? Pt. 1 (really, the only clip on YouTube I really found appropriate for 20/20 and short too).

This is my own investigative journalistic report. My personal 20/20. To answer the question "what flavor IS birthday cake?"

One day of the year, each special human is provided with a block of sugary covered sugary goodness to celebrate surviving another year since birth. Yay humans! But is the block of sugary covered sugary goodness chocolate? Vanilla? Peanut butter? Ham? Broccoli? Who am I even asking here?

Basically it comes down to one answer: it's personal. So through the time length of this blog, I'm providing myself yet another challenge to determine and create a multitude of birthday cakes to find the true celebratory flavor. The one stipulation: the cake must be for an individual's birthday and must be a flavor combination of their choosing.

I think one of the most important pieces of creating a birthday cake is personality (something, personally, I feel grocery stores highly lack in). Everything from flavor to color to shape to texture must exemplify the person for whom the cake is being created. Because it's their birthday and they get what they want. Duh.

For this particular cake, Sherry, as we will call her, loves eclairs. So, bam, make an eclair cake. And with the wonderful technology that is the internet, my brain was filled with ideas for how to create such a celebratory creation. So simple, yet refreshing delicious for an end of June birthday. The longest part of making this cake was letting it set in the fridge for about a day, but totally and 100% absolutely worth it. To give the cake a tiny bit more summer flair, I added fresh strawberries. Ladies and gents, I present to you with no further ado, the eclair cake recipe (no baking involved).

Eclair (Birthday) Cake
                                          There's actually no sponge cake inside of it. The secret's in the pudding. 

1 (1 lb) box of graham crackers
2 (3.4 oz) boxes instant french vanilla pudding
3 1/2 cups milk
1 (8 oz) frozen container cool whip
1 container strawberries, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 Tbsp softened butter
1/3 cup of chocolate milk
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla

Also, going to need a 13 x 9 disposable foil container.

Prep Time 10 - 15 minutes
Set Time 22 - 24 hours

Butter or grease, lightly, the 13 x 9 disposable foil container.
Combine milk and pudding. Mix until all lumps have disappeared (use a whisk). Throw in the frozen cool whip and continue to stir until consistent throughout the mixture.
Layer graham crackers across the bottom of the container (single layer). Use half of the pudding mixture to cover the graham crackers completely. Sprinkle fresh strawberries across the pudding. Place another layer of graham crackers on top of the strawberries and pudding. Use the remaining mixture to cover the second layer of graham crackers and sprinkle with remaining strawberries. Place a final layer of graham crackers on top of the second layer of pudding and strawberries. Cover last graham crackers with chocolate frosting.
Refrigerate covered finished cake for 22 - 24 hours. And then party, party, party!

Do you want a birthday cake made for you and to be featured as a post on this magnificence blog of culinary wonderfulness? Leave a comment below and you may be in luck (or let me do you the favor...this goes both ways, buddy). 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This Shit Is Bananas B-A-N-A-N-A-S

Man, this song brings my back to 8th grade when I made my mom stop at K-Mart on Thanksgiving so I could buy this CD. And even to this day, I am no hollaback girl. Cause that shit is bananas B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

Let me set the scene: as I arrived home from the grocery store with fresh produce, I stepped foot into my extremely small kitchen to see some starving bananas. They were soft, droopy, and presented with brown spots, indicating their time to enter the banana retirement community. And as I thought for one single second to throw them away, I changed my mind. As I looked those bananas in the eye, I felt a sense of pity, of defeat, that I had let these bananas down by not eating them and instead buying younger, more satisfying produce. And that's when I realized the true purpose of these old people bananas: Banana muffins.

And what's one more challenge at 9:30pm, so I decided to make them vegan. Instead of butter, I used vegetable oil and instead of using eggs, I used applesauce. These muffins are chocolately (cause I added dark chocolate chips), sweet, moist, and most of all B-A-N-A-N-A-S. They are perfect for the breakfast on-the-go or an afternoon snack.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
                                The old bananas rekindle friendship with their pre-muffin friends. 
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup applesauce
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 - 17 minutes
Total Time 25 - 27 minutes
Yield 15 muffins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Spray a muffin time with non-stick spray (well, unless it's a non-stick pan...then you can skip this step).
Mix dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
Combine wet ingredients in a large bowl. Slowly pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Mix in dark chocolate chips.
Divide batter into muffin tins, filling each tin about 3/4 of the way up.
Cook muffins for 15 - 17 minutes. Set aside to cool when finished.

Friday, May 24, 2013

As Seen On TV: Soy Locos Por Los Corn Muffins
followed by
and yes that is Richard Simmons

It's the final countdown...Arrested Development is coming out from hiding in the attic in less than 2 days (at least from this post). This has inspired me to make some Arrested Development styled recipes. First up: Honey-Rosemary Corn Muffins.

In Season 1, Episode 2, we, the audience, are introduced to George Bluth Sr.'s failed Cornballer. The Cornballer has a nasty habit of burning the user every damn time. This is a consistent joke throughout the entire series (and hopefully still within the new episodes).

My corn muffins do not burn you (although I did slightly burn myself in the coincidental). The underlying honey flavor plays nicely with the savory fresh rosemary. And I know typically there is no actual corn in corn muffins or bread, but I break all the rules. I sliced fresh kernels from 3 cobs of sweet corn and added them to the batter uncooked. The kernels added a crunch to an otherwise fluffy muffin and a ka-pow of sweet to the savory side.

The original recipe I strayed away from like a lost puppy is from The Neelys (literally who is stated as the author) from the Food Network.

Honey - Rosemary Corn Muffins

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1/3 cup honey
3 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
3 cobs of sweet corn

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 - 25 minutes
Yield 24 muffins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line two pans (12 muffins each pan) with muffin liners.
Mix cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
Whisk milk, eggs, butter, and honey in a separate medium bowl.
Combine kernels into dry ingredients until all kernels are well covered. Add fresh rosemary into dry and kernel mixture.
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredient/kernel mixture until well combined.
Divide mixture evenly among 24 muffin liners. Should fill each liner about 1/2 to 3/4 up. Any further and it will spill over.
Cook muffins until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Check center of a muffin to see if fully cooked through by inserting a toothpick. Toothpick should come out clean. Let muffins cool before conquering and devouring.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Wanna See Your Pecan (Pear-Blueberry Coffee Cake)

Well, the title is a stretch on a Katy Perry song, but it makes sense to me. So for your listening pleasure,

"Come on baby let me see what you're hiding underneath." No, this lyric doesn't just apply to Katy Perry's curiosity, but what's underneath the pecans in my first post-graduate baked item: Pecan Pear-Blueberry Coffee Cake.

Throughout 4 years of college, several things have changed. No, I'm not any taller and my shoe size hasn't changed, but I've developed a dangerous addiction to coffee. If you would have told me when I started college that I would've been a daily coffee drinker, I would have said "well, I guess anything is possible" because I'm still indifferent. But either way, this coffee cake is coffee's missing lover. And at last, they can be joined in a loving brunch union. Forever and ever.

This coffee cake has the sweet tangy-ness of spring/summer time fruit and the savory crunch from the pecan topping. The lemon zest enhances the sweetness of the cake. Be careful with the amount of fruit added into the batter because the higher the water content, the musher the cake is going to become and the longer it may take to cook. Also, be careful with the amount of pecans in the topping because if they start stacking on top of each other, they may burn (eww...not good).

I found the original recipe in the June 2013 issue of Eating Well. Of course, I'm naturally defiant in almost every aspect of my life so why would I follow this recipe as it tells me to?

Pecan Pear-Blueberry Coffee Cake


Coffee Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour (plus extra for fruit)
3 Tbsp cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp butter, softened
3 Tbsp canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup low-fat milk
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup chopped bosc pear, peeled

2 Tbsp butter, cold
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup sliced pecans

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 50 to 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 1/2 hours

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Beat softened butter and oil in a large bowl until well combined. Add sugar and beat until mixture is smooth. Add eggs, milk, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Slowly, add flour mixture into wet ingredients until well combined.
Place chopped pear and blueberries in a separate bowel and lightly dust in extra flour. Carefully fold fruit into pan. Set aside.
Combine cold butter and sugar in a bowl by using a pastry blender or two knives until butter becomes small pieces. Toss pecans in to butter and sugar mixture. Sprinkle on top of the cake.
Bake cake until top is golden brown, about 50 to 55 minutes. To test if center of the cake is complete, either place a tooth pick in the center of the cake and wait for it to pop out or at the end of baking stick a butter knife into the center to see if it is finished. No batter should appear on the knife. If there is batter, the cake needs to continue cooking. Try using 5 minute increments to determine when to check again.

Let The Great Experiment Begin!

Lots of things are ending: my college career (from graduating, not from wheeling shopping carts around dorm buildings), Jeff Winger's Greendale experience, the Office will be soon (congrats to Dwight and Angela!), and the season finale of Parks and Recreation was a whole two weeks ago (needless to say, I've been quite lonely without Lesley Knope), and last night was the season finale of the Mindy Project. And, yes, I do measure my life in the television shows I frequently watch. And, yes, I could continue with listing the ends of things measured in television because the season finale of Grey's Anatomy is Thursday (stupid Arizona, let Meredith's baby be okay, and Alex and Jo just be together already!). Okay, that's it, I promise. And with the end of college comes the end of cable (for me, not the world), which means...

I get to say hello to some new beginnings of my life: hello to actually blogging to satisfy my biggest fans (hi Grandma Jane), hello to Netflix and HuluPlus, hello to whatever television series may satisfy my never-ending need for visual story telling, hello to not studying (what? Is this real life? I forgot what 8 hours of sleep a night felt like...I think I'm actually a superhero but lack of sleep caused my powers to diminish slightly), and a huge hello to the return of Arrested Development (catch up - They've unmade a huge mistake.

So what does all of this television consumption have to do with my continuing journey into the cooking world? Everything. Along with my usual trial and extremely probably error and failure, I am going to start a new experiment (...get it now) where I make the foods and dishes of my favorite television characters. Waffles for Lesley Knope, beets for Dwight, and of course frozen bananas for the Bluths. But not squirrel for Daryl from the Walking Dead. Definitely not that.

Please follow me on this television-inspired post-college graduate cooking and baking experience. Hopefully, I can inspire you to take on a food challenge of your own...or at least start watching some more television like yours truly.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

M is for Meatballs. S is for Sliders. D is for Delicious.

Meatball Sliders

Servings 2 servings (4 sliders total)

4 multi-grain or whole wheat slider buns or rolls (fresh or frozen)
16 frozen turkey or beef meatballs
1 green pepper
1/2 yellow onion
Barbecue sauce
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Prep Time: 10 to 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 to 35 minutes.
Total Time: 40 to 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (or what temperature is specified on frozen meatball bag).
Bake meatballs for 20 to 25 minutes, or until internal temperature is 165 degree for 15 seconds.
Chop green pepper in half and again into quarters to make medium sized strips. Slice onion to make strips. Toss green pepper and onion into a medium sauce pan. Towards the end of the baking time for the meatballs, begin to saute the green pepper and onion strips.
Remove meatballs from the oven. Set aside and keep warm.
Place frozen rolls onto a baking sheet. Put into the oven still at 375 degrees until golden brown, about 7 to 9 minutes.
Put the meatballs in with the green pepper and onion strips when green pepper and onion strips are mostly soft. Cover in desired amount of Barbecue sauce. Reduce heat to low and cover with a lid.
Remove rolls from the oven when finished. Wait about 5 minutes for rolls to cool without covering.
Slice rolls in half. Remove some of the inside of the roll from the top (this will better help keep the meatballs from rolling out of the slider).
Remove meatballs, green pepper and onion slices from heat. Scoop 4 meatballs with some of the green pepper and onion strips onto each roll. Before placing the top of the roll on top of the meatballs, sprinkle a desired amount of the shredded sharp cheddar cheese on top of the meatballs. Then place the top of the roll on top of the cheese and meatballs. Serve warm.

Calories 550 Fat 18g Sat. Fat 4g Carb. 55g Fiber 7g Protein 36g Sodium 833mg Potassium 400mg

Back Story
From June to December, I had the honor being an Editorial Intern at Prevention Magazine. Through this life changing experience, I was able to learn different skills inside of the kitchen, about recipe creation and about nutrition analysis. One of the benefits of the positions was traveling to the test kitchen and trying the different recipes. This Meatball Sliders recipe was one of my favorites.

Of course I didn't follow the directions and took my own direction with it (I really will never learn...).

The reason I made this now was because I had a couple for frozen meatballs. I think one of the biggest reasons I make particular dishes is because I know I have a coupon for it. And why not save money where I can? There's something enthralling about clipping coupons. It's like a high that will save me money. 

I also had a coupon for frozen multi-grain rolls, so basically it was a double win. And because I was only making this recipe for two, I am able to save the rolls for other meals.

Tips and Tricks
These Meatball Sliders are very simple to make and assemble. While the prep and cooking time may seem a bit steep for a week night if you need to make dinner in a hurry, the meatballs can be made in advance and warmed up later. I wouldn't recommend making the rolls in advance if they're frozen because it could make the rolls stale.

My Mistake
I did make one mistake when making this recipe. I thought it would be a good idea to put the shredded cheese on top of the meatballs while they had to finish up baking in the oven. No.

With 5 minutes left to bake, I took the meatballs out of the oven. I tried to sprinkle the cheese on top of the meatballs, but because meatballs are obviously round, the cheese didn't stay on top of the meatballs and melted to the tray. I was determined and tried to sprinkle the cheese on all of the meatballs. At least I was dedicated enough to cover the entire tray. But the meatballs still had about 5 minutes left to cook.

So, because I didn't want to risk food poisoning, I put the meatballs back into the oven, cheese already melted to the baking sheet and all. And you know what happens to cheese after 5 minutes of baking? It burns. To the baking sheet. The meatballs were perfect but scraping burnt cheese off of a baking sheet is a pain in the ass.

This is why I topped the sliders with the cheese at the end. The cheese melted onto the meatballs at this point because they were still hot.  So in the end, don't make this mistake.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Not Ron Swanson's Turkey Leg

Unless you watch Parks and Recreation, I don't think you would understand that reference. So, let me catch you up on Pawnee's biggest and manliest meat eater in local government.

Above is a picture of Ron Swanson holding a turkey leg wrapped in bacon. It's called a Swanson. What I made? I guess you could call it a Tori. 

For some reason, I thought it would be a great idea to break out the slow 11pm on a Monday night. I couldn't sleep, I had turkey legs in the fridge, and thus a creation was born. I left the slow cooker on low for the entire night and when I woke up the aroma was amazing. Even though it was 9 am, I wanted dinner right then and there. The turkey literally fell right off of the bone (which is why you don't see the bone in the picture down below). I knew it would be the perfect warm dish on a snowy day (as evidenced by the picture down below). There are also baby carrots and cauliflower in this dish, which just so happened to be the vegetables in my fridge at the time. I recommend trying this over mashed potatoes.

Slow Cooker Rosemary-Basil Turkey Legs with baby carrots and cauliflower. 

Serving: 3 (1 drumstick and 1 cup of baby carrots and cauliflower)
Calories: 346, Fat: 10g, Sat. Fat: 3.5g, Carb: 168.5g, Protein: 42g, Fiber: 7g, Sodium: 220mg, Potassium: 1169mg

3 to 4 Turkey Legs
1/2 head of cauliflower
1 10 oz bag of baby carrots
3/4 cup dry white wine or cooking white wine
1 1/2 Tbsp Rosemary
1 1/2 Tbsp Basil
1/2 Tbsp Garlic powder
pepper to taste
salt to taste

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 - 10 hr on low, 4 to 6 hr on high
Total Time: depends on cook time

1. Cut head of cauliflower into chunks. Place cauliflower and baby carrots into the slow cooker.
2. Remove the excess skin from turkey legs. Bury turkey legs into the cauliflower and baby carrots in the slow cooker.
3. Pour white wine over the ingredients already in the slow cooker.
4. Season ingredients in the slow cooker with rosemary, basil, garlic powder, pepper and salt. Do not stir ingredients.
5. Put lid on slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours. Do not lift lid at any point.
6. After cooking time is finished, use a meat thermometer to test temperature of turkey. The turkey should be at least 165 degrees for 15 seconds. The baby carrots and cauliflower should be tender.