Thursday, August 9, 2012

Recipes Galore!

Whoa.  My week has been ridiculously insane, so I apologize for the lack of updates.  But the good news is that I have lots of recipes to share.  Some are amazing, some drove me insane, and some took 9 hours (okay, just one took 9 hours), but all are worth sharing :)

First up: my beloved long lost friend Courtney came to visit for lunch on Monday.  She lives in Colorado - which is way too far away - so when she is around, I leap on the opportunity to see her.  I invited her up for lunch.  I had plenty of desserts left from my baking extravaganza Sunday, and Rach had made a pasta salad; in addition, I tried out a new recipe: black bean fritters with a cilantro dipping sauce.  They sounded great: lots of veggies (tomatoes, yellow peppers, onion, garlic, and beans of course) with my beloved cilantro mixed in, and a Greek yogurt-based cilantro sauce on the side.  And they were great; they tasted so fresh and bright with all the cilantro in there, and all of the vegetables tasted delicious.  The only problem was how difficult it was to fry them up in the pan.  They didn't hold together very well - and I added a extra tablespoon of flour to try to firm them up! In addition, I am a notoriously poor food flipper.  Pancakes, fried eggs, black bean fritters, you name it: I make a mess when  I try to flip them, and these were no different.  So they didn't look so great - and lots of them fell apart - but I still think they were successful because Courtney, Kenzie, Mom and I ate them quite happily, and Mark finished off the leftovers today.

Tuesday I had a meeting at work in the morning, and before I got home, I stopped at the store to pick up some ingredients for lunch.  I wanted to make Annie's Eats' newest recipe, which had definitely caught my attention: roasted vegetable chickpea salad.  It is healthy, full of vegetables, and has feta in it: what more could I ask for?!  I have also had a love for roasted vegetables these days.  It makes them so sweet and tender.  This salad has roasted onion, garlic, grape tomatoes, and the corn kernels from fresh ears of corn (the recipe calls for a poblano pepper but as usual, I left it out).  They roast up for 45 minutes, then get tossed in a delicious honey and red wine vinegar dressing with chickpeas, feta, and basil and chives. I am honestly in love with this salad and will definitely be making it again soon.  Even Mom liked it.  Kenz realized she hates the texture of chickpeas, but this could be made with any kind of bean, really.  Trust me though: make this salad.  It's amazing.  I ate it for days and now I am sad it's gone.

And now for the cake.  Yes: the 9-hour birthday cake.  Here's the thing: yesterday was Mark's 35th birthday, and since the week was so insane, the poor boy bought his own birthday dinner for my family, and brought over cupcakes.  I felt like a dud of a girlfriend - particularly one with a cooking blog - so I promised him that today would be different.  Today, I was going to make him his birthday cake.  I had seen a picture of what I wanted to make months ago and vowed to make it for him.  You see, Mark is obsessed with Bejeweled Blitz.  He plays it on his phone constantly and is obsessed with always having the top score.  So, when I saw a picture of a Bejeweled Blitz cake, I knew that I absolutely had to create it.  The cake itself could be whatever kind Mark wanted; it was the decorations that needed the most work today.  As for the cake, Mark chose chocolate, and on Mom's insistence, I made the cake recipe that is on the back of the Hershey's cocoa powder canister.  It is called Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake, and everyone agrees that it is pretty perfect.  It's always moist and chocolately and delicious - says Mom, the chocolate cake connossieur!  Now, the recipe is supposed to make 2 round cakes.  I wanted 2 squares to be able to decorate it like a Bejeweled game board, but we only had one small square, and one big rectangle.  I used the rectangle.  It sunk a bit in the middle, but I let it cool upside down on a rack, and it filled in.  Whew!

Nick hating fondant
But that took no time at all.  It was the fondant.  To be honest, I started calling fondant the "effing fondant" - perhaps with more swearing involved.  Here's the thing: Nick and I always thought fondant would be fun to make and work with.  Maybe you think the same thing.  YOU ARE WRONG.  Fondant is horrible.  It is very hard to make, and quite difficult to  make it look like what you want it to.  But anyway, back to the fondant.  We needed 9 colors, and Nick was good enough to help me make it.  All you do is melt marshmallows, add gel food coloring, and fold in tons and tons of confectionary sugar.  Sounds simple right?  Not simple.  Wrong.  It is ridiculously sticky, and takes an insane amount of sugar to turn into something resembling fondant (my guess, for those of you insane enough to try this on your own, is 3/4 - 1 cup).  Your hands will be covered (not to mention stained from the food coloring), your counters will be sticky and rip the fondant to shreds, and you will be sweating profusely (well, it was 90 degrees out today, but still).  Honestly this took Nick and I about three hours.  We attempted to use my mixer at one point rather than our sticky hands, but it took a long time and sounded like the mixer was about to die.  I agree with you, Kitchenaid: fondant is not for the faint of heart.  But, in the end, we had nine colors, and were ready to decorate our cake.

First: the crumb layer of frosting.  I just made a quick buttercream with a stick of butter, 3 3/4 cups of confectionary sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, and 4 tablespoons of milk.  Mom helped frost the cake, since I am pretty bad at that too.

Once the crumb layer hardened, it was fondant time.  We banished Mark to the living room, and then it was a real family affair.  Surprise surprise - I also suck at making decorations out of fondant, so I was quickly relegated to the sidelines as Kenzie, Rachael and Mom diligently cut out letters, shapes, backgrounds, and jewels.  They were amazing at turning the balls of colored marshmallow fondant into exactly what I was looking for.  Little by little, it actually started to look like a Bejeweled Blitz gameboard!  And in the end, I am very happy with the result.  It looks awesome; as Mom says, it's a bit "rough around the edges," but it was made with a lot of love and Mark could tell what it was right away.  Nice job, family!

Birthday Boy!
Finished product!
As if I didn't have enough recipes to share with you, Kenzie wasn't feeling well tonight and I offered to make her a soup recipe that I knew she would like.  We like to go out for hibachi, and we both love the soup that they serve you before the meal.  Of course, she requested it without mushrooms unfortunately, but I agreed to make it while the cake was getting put together.  In the hibachi restaurants, they chop up the vegetables but then strain the soup and just give you broth with some thinly-sliced mushrooms on top.  Kenzie and I decided to leave the vegetables in it though, and I am glad that we did.  This soup is really delicious; the beef and chicken broth together with the ginger make an exotic-tasting and filling soup, and the vegetables are a welcome addition.  A note to those who want to try it though: after cooking it for 45 minutes, it gets very concentrated, and with all that bouillion, it was too salty.  I added a lot of water - probably close to 4 cups - and I promise you that it did not water down the taste at all. Don't be afraid to add lots of water after so much of it has cooked away.

Okay, now that my fingers are tired from typing, I'd say it's time for bed.  This teaches me not to postpone posting again :)

crispy black bean fritters with creamy cilantro dipping sauce
roasted vegetable chickpea salad
marshmallow fondant
hibachi soup

Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake
from the back of the Hershey's cocoa powder canister

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.     

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. 
9 hours,  baby :)

P.S. I feel it is important to note that today is my 100th post!  Happy anniversary, blog! :)

No comments:

Post a Comment