Thursday, October 18, 2012

It's a cake!  It's a cookie! Oh hell, I'm lazy. It's a mini muffin.

My husband likes carrot cake.  It is probably in his top 10 desserts.  Yeah, I know. Ten sounds like a lot but we really like dessert.  Besides, it has carrots, it has to be good for you some how.  Like providing 25% of my daily fiber. I can lie to myself with the best of them.

I originally picked up this recipe on Pinterest (redundant I know, but it goes with the literary flow) which was posted and adapted by who adapted the recipe from who adapted the recipe from Martha Stewart.
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter – room temp
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs – room temp
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats – not instant
  • 1 1/2 cup grated carrots – about 3 large carrots
  • 1 cup raisins – optional (i hate raisins so i omitted)
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, silpats, or simply spray with cooking spray.
In a mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 – 4 minutes in a stand mixer). Add eggs and vanilla and beat on medium until well combined.
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger; whisk to combine. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture; mix on low until just combined. Do not overmix!
Mix in oats, carrots, raisins (if using) and walnuts. Chill dough for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Shape tablespoons of dough into balls and place on prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. I flattened mine a bit and sprinkled a bit of sugar on the tops before putting in the oven.
Bake until browned and crisp around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes (mine took 11 minutes so check early) rotating halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Here is the original adapted recipe.  Yeah I know, original and adapted is an oxymoron, but again, my blog, my choice of literary adaption.

I figured I should get on the "adapted" recipe train, so I "adapted" this recipe for my own purposes. OK.  I'm lying, I had no intention of "adapting" until I got part way through the directions and realized I didn't have enough sugar. I didn't want to brush my teeth or get out of my pajamas, but I really wanted cookies.  Cookie deprivation makes me creative. I had some date sugar in my pantry. My cookie need would be satiated.  Muahahahahaha!!!!

Did I mention I didn't have all the ingredients?  The recipe also called for 2 cups of rolled oats.  I only had 1 cup, but I did have a whole can of steel cut oats.

 What the hell, I had already made 1 substitution.  I knew from prior experiments that you can't just dump in the steel cut oats, they don't cook up and you get unpleasant little nuggets that stick under the caps in your teeth. That hurts, and your dentist buys another Porsche.  I don't like pain, or the fact that my dentist drives two Porsches so I "adapted" the oats.  I figured if I cooked the the steel cut oats it would do two things; add moisture to the mix, and prevent the nugget/cap/Porshe conundrum. I used 1/2 cup of steel cut oats and cooked them partially in the microwave.

While they cooled I creamed the butter, sugar and eggs.

I then dumped in the rest of the ingredients. I didn't sift. I dumped.  I was hungry, and still in my pajamas at four in the afternoor, which indicates a certain amount of laziness. I found dumping to be appropriate.

Doesn't look very appetizing in this form does it? 

Time to make the cookies. Only I didn't have any parchment paper, but I did have this handy dandy mini muffin pan I had not yet used, and I was still working out the justification for buying it to my husband. I find mini muffins to be the perfect justification for just about anything.

I got out my trusty mini disher and loaded up the muffin tin.

I ended up with tasty little nuggets (good nuggets, not bad nuggets).
Doesn't my homemade cake plate highlite them nicely?
I did make icing.  I swear I did.  I did not frost the mini muffins because cream cheese can go bad, and I didn't want to leave out frosted muffins.  What to do? The voracious velociraptor solved the problem.  I came around the corner and he was dipping the muffin in the frosting.  Dip!  Everybody loves dip, and fondue. Cream cheese fondue!  Brilliant!
Turns out the worry about left out frosted muffings was unfounded.  They didn't last long enough.
Enjoy, and feel free to leave a comment. 


Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Cup, A Plate, and a Tube of E-6000:  A Love Story

When I decided I was going to do this blog, I did not consider how I was going to show off my superlative baking skills.  After the post on the Samoa cake, I thought to  myself; "Self. You need a cake stand."  So off I went.

The first place I looked was the big box store that starts with a "W."  They didn't have much of a selection, and to be honest, I didn't want to spend $25 for something that could get broken in this zoo I live in. 

Then I had a thought.  I could make my own cake plate!  I had seen these cupcake plate thingies around.  Somebody simply glued a pretty plate to the top of a candle stick.  Voila!  Cupcake plate.  I also saw some of those red cups that a certain country singer has made famous glued to candle sticks and called "redneck wine glasses."  They were $5 dollars a piece.  Really?  I still haven't decided whether it's ingenious or a sad testament to the taste of those who drink "wine" out of a large plastic cup.  I guess you can't be picky when your wine comes out of a cardboard box or a gallon jug with a screw top.

Where to look next? I got it! The best place to look for supplies for my crafty endeavor would be the dollar store.  That way if I screwed it up, I wouldn't be out too much cash.

Now. I love the dollar store.  The real dollar stores. You know, where everything is $1.00 or less.  Not one of those stores where it says "dollar" but when you get in there you realize the name is really a misnomer because well, their stuff is way over a dollar.  I consider those other "dollar stores" charlatans and frauds.

Did I mention how much I love the Dollar Tree?  My everyday dishes are from there. So are my wineglasses, my martini glasses, and my margarita glasses.  I know this probably makes me look like I have a drinking problem, but to be fair, those glasses could also be used for pudding, trifles, and parfaits.  Oh hell. Who am I kidding?  The closest those glasses ever get to pudding is holding my drink next to the plate that is holding my piece of cake, or pie, or cookie, etc.. Though I have made chocolate martinis.  Which in my estimation is the greatest thing in the world.  I mean, how can you go wrong with booze and desert in the same glass?  Chocolate martinis are a labor saver! Can I get an amen?

Right. The Dollar Tree.  I did not find what I was looking for at the Dollar Tree.  Where should I go next?  Goodwill!  I love Goodwill more than the dollar store.  I can spend hours in there.  My husband doesn't understand it.  My son however has discovered the joy of finding Assercrombie and Fish apparel that I will actually pay for. 

Anyway.  I soon found a large purple plate and a purple tumbler.  It was kismet.  The stars aligned and meant for me to use those for my cake plate.  They were on the same shelf! They were the same color! They had yellow tags (it was 50% yellow tag day)! I spent $2.  Well, more than $2.  I found two pairs of Calvin Klein jeans and the Velociraptor found some appropriately "shizzle" t-shirts.  I still spent less than what it costs to get my beard and mustache waxed.

My supplies:  A tumbler with a wide mouth, a large plate (something that a 9" round cake will sit on with an inch or so left at the edges), glue (I use E-6000 but you can use whatever you have that will bond glass), a marker, a tape measure, and some rubbing alcohol. 

Wash your items and dry them thoroughly.
Measure the circumference of the plate and find the center. .

Mark the center.

Line center of tumbler with center of the bottom of the tumbler.  My plate was clear so this was easy. 
If your plate is not clear approximate.  If when placed on the tumbler, the plate doesn't wobble you're close enough. 

Wipe the surfaces that will come in contact with the adhesive with alcohol to get rid of any residual oils.

Apply a thin layer of glue to both the bottom of the tumbler and the marked spot on the plate.

Join the two pieces together and wipe the marker off the plate with another alcohol wipe,

Put something heavy on the plate while the glue cures. Depending on the glue and the application this step could take 24-72 hours.

Bibbidy, bobbody, boo...

... a cake plate is born.

Now I have to figure out what I am going to make to  put on it.  My friend Ruth wants me to come up with a Thin Mint cake.  Hmmm....
Let me know what you think in the comments section. 
Ta ta for know!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Panko, Spicy Cheese, and Land Sharks

I have an extraordinary love for jalapeno poppers.  I do not however, love the calories that come with them.  Well, I don't mind the calories, but my post menopausal body stores fat and calories like a squirrel stores nuts. As a result I have been looking for lower calorie substitutes for my favorite nuggets of deep fried goodness.

I know I initially stated I was going to review recipes from Pinterest, but I did not find a recipe that I thought I would like and be relatively low in calories.  There was a recipe for baked jalapeno poppers, which on first glance looked yummy, but then they went and wrapped them in crescent roll dough.  Please don't get me wrong,  I do like myself some buttery, flaky, nutritionally worthless, white flour based carbohydrates.  However, if my spare tire gets any bigger I am relatively positive I wouldn't need a life vest should I ever decide to get on a boat.  As a result, I would have to skip the crescent roll recipe.

Presto, chango!  I developed my own recipe for Spicy Jalapeno Poppers.

Yeah, I know "Spicy" and "Jalapeno" would normally be redundant, but not in this case, as you will soon see (insert evil villain laugh here).

***Note:  I do not endorse any specific product.  I use what is in my pantry.  You can use whatever brand you like best. ***

Baked Spicy Jalapeno Poppers

Do not try and substitute regular yogurt for the Greek yogurt. If you do your mixture will be to runny and not pack into the jalapeno bodies.

Cookie sheet
Oven safe rack
4 medium bowls for breading station.

6  large jalapenos
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup low fat sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons Southwest flavored Philadelphia Cooking Cream
2 tablespoons fat free Greek yogurt
1 large egg
1 cup toasted Panko bread crumbs
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon Cumin (optional)
cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Prep your jalapenos by cutting them in half lengthwise and removing the seeds and the ribs.
I highly recommend you wear gloves when you are prepping the jalapenos. This keeps the oils from getting on your hands which in turn avoids an unpleasant contact lens/bathroom experience.

3. Combine cheeses and yogurt in a bowl.

4. Toast bred crumbs in a dry skillet until golden brown.  Transfer to a medium bowl.

Toasting happens quickly. To avoid burned crumbs stand watch carefully and don't wander off. Yes, I wandered off, I don't remember where, but the first batch burned.

5.  Break egg into a separate bowl, season with salt and pepper and 1/4 tsp cumin.

6. Measure flour into another bowl and season with salt, pepper and remaining cumin. Set up dredging station.

7. Place rack on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray.

I know, this is a grill basket. In my defense my disgruntled dishwasher put the racks... Well, I don't know where he put the racks, hence the grill basket. Improvise! Adapt! Overcome! Huah!
Oops! Sorry. Flashbacks to basic training.

8. Fill hollowed out jalapenos with cheese and yogurt mixture. Dredge first in flour, then egg, then Panko crumbs. Place on rack. Spray with cooking spray before placing in oven.


9.  Cook 10-12 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

10. Serve hot.

I highly recommend you wear gloves when you are prepping the jalapenos.  This keeps the oils from getting on your hands, which in turn avoids an unpleasant contact lens/bathroom experience.

 Also, be sure that if you drop any of the jalapeno guts on the floor,  pick them up immediately.  I didn't notice I'd dropped one (did I mention I am a very messy cook) and my husband's four legged land shark, who, by the way, will eat ANYTHING to include shoes, handbags, teeth guards and cat crunchies.  

Sorry, I digress.  Anyway, if said land shark should get a hold of some jalapeno innards, the result is not pretty.  It involves lots of drool. 

Disclaimer: Before anyone decides to berate me for animal cruelty, she spit it out, but the damage was done.

These came out pretty tasty.  This method results in a slightly crunchy jalapeno. Some people may not care for this. If you don't, I recommend steaming the jalapeno halves 1-2 minutes in the microwave before stuffing. I skipped this step but I like the juxtaposition of the green flavor of the jalapeno and the warm, melty, creaminess of the cheese.

I welcome questions and suggestions.  Please feel free to leave these in the comment section.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Samoa Cake in Two Parts, or, The Tale of Two Caramels.

Originally pinned from via Earmark Social.

My husband loves, loves, loves, Samoa cookies.  I think I can go so far as to say he covets Samoa cookies. He can eat an entire box and a 1/2 gallon of milk in one sitting.  His obsession is so bad, he hides the boxes in areas where he is sure the teenage boy will not look unless forced. Examples of these places are the washing machine, the dishwasher, the cleaning supply cabinet, and the shed that houses the lawn mower.  Since the cookies are not available year around and being the doting, loving, unselfish, and dedicated house wife that I am (pause while my friends and family stop laughing) I thought I would make this just for him.

I believe I mentioned in my previous post, I am a bit ADHD (my friends and family would probably say I'm a lot ADHD, but this isn't their blog). As a result of said condition, I often decide to try out new things at the spur of the moment, or whenever I remember I had intended to do it.  I usually "remember my intention" around 8:00 PM, which is an hour before my usual bed time (what can I say, I'm old and require sleep to avoid crankiness).

NOTE:  This is NOT a "spur of the moment" recipe. This recipe takes forethought and planning, of which I did neither, so I was surprised it turned out tasty anyway. :D

The original recipe calls for putting an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a Crockpot completely covered in water.  Cook for 7 hours on high or 10 hours on low.  I knew I had 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk in my pantry.  What I didn't realize was how old they were.  I saw a bit of rust on the outside of the cans, but I did not think it was bad enough to cause a food borne illness, so I popped them into the Crockpot anyway.  Bad. Idea.  What I got the next morning was a Crockpot full of rusty water, and resulting caramel that probably could be used for some kind of biological warfare experiment.  In the trashcan they went.

Okay. I wanted to make this cake TODAY.  I was having a menopausal, must have chocolate moment and knew the fate of my mood, and my family's lives depended on it.  I did not want to wait another 7 hours to get started. What to do?  I know! I'll make my own caramel!  How hard can it be?  When am I going to learn to stop asking myself that?

The recipe I have for caramel sauce is pretty simple:  1/2 cup of water
                                                                                         1 cup of sugar
                                                                                         1 cup heavy cream
                                                                                      1/8 tsp salt
                                                                                         1 tsp vanilla extract
                                                                                      1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

The water goes into a 2 quart saucepan, followed by the sugar (pour the sugar directly into the middle of the pan without letting it touch the side, you don't want any pesky crystals spoiling your caramel).

DO NOT STIR!!  Bring the caramel to a boil over high heat, once boiling ,uncover and lower heat to medium.  Now, the recipe calls for cooking the caramel "until it is straw colored or mixture reaches 300 degrees."

 I know what straw looks like, but I didn't want to wing it (which, to be honest, is what I do with most of my recipes), so I broke out my candy thermometer.  I was concerned because the mixture was way past "straw colored" and into burnt sienna and my candy thermometer was still hovering around 250 degrees.  Guess what? The thermometer has to actually be in the sugar mixture. It wasn't until I noticed a burning smell that I actually checked and realized my candy thermometer was not in the caramel, but was hovering over the caramel (insert expletive here).  I tilted the pan to check the temp and the mixture was more like 500 degrees. Phooey! (which is not really what I said, but I don't want to offend anyone with my potty mouth)

I knew it was "slightly" burned, but I knew there was a thing called "burned caramel" so I decided to go with it.  Turns out my caramel had passed burned and had decided to take charcoal to the party.  Blech!

  Not to be deterred.  I started again.  This time I watched the color more closely.

Once the caramel reaches 300 degress, lower heat to medium and cook until the mixture is "deep amber."  Again I didn't want to rely on my powers of observation, so I tilted the pan to check the temprature, which turns out, works much better than the hover method. Go figure.

Warning!  It does not take long to go from "straw colored" to "dark amber,"  1-2 minutes tops. Also, this mixture is hot, hot, hot. Getting this on your skin is equal to stepping into hot lava.  It will melt your skin, resulting in a trip to the hospital and/or the consumption of copious amounts of wine. Plus, your tears of pain will fall into the caramel and make it seperate.   So you will not only have 3rd degree burns, but also a hospital bill, a scar, and the need to start this process over.  Which is impossible to do on wine and Vicodin, and encumbered by a large bandage on your hand.

Once the mixture has reached the desired color/temprature, take it off the heat.  Add 1/4 of the cream and wait until mixture stops boiling. Which turns out to be about 3 minutes. Like I said, this stuff is hot!

   Once the mixture has stopped boiling, add the rest of the cream and stir until smooth.

Patience is rewarded with a beautiful, smooth caramel.

While the caramel is cooling put together your batters.  Yes, batters, this cake has a light and a dark batter.  The recipe calls for you to make both batters, then layer then in a buttered and floured bundt pan.  I am essentially a lazy cook, so I thought I would use the traditional marbling trick of dumping the second batter on top of the first batter and swirling with a knife.

Don't do it that way.  I ended up with a decidedly un-marbled cake.  Still tasty, but not as visually impressive.
The recipe calls for making a frosting with the caramel, sugar, butter (2 sticks!), vanilla, and coconut.  While I am sure this is delicous, I am also sure this would have been too sweet for my family.  Besides, I told you the part about me being lazy, and I was exhausted after making the caramel, so I decide to stick with the caramel and the coconut as the topping.  I simply spooned the caramel over the cooked cake, pressed on the toasted coconut with my hands, and then drizzled the melted chocolate over the top.
You might be wondering why I do not have a picture of the finished product.  Well, before I was able to take a picture, my voracious Velociraptor cut into, and consumed, a large piece before I could take the picture. :-/
This cake was gone in about a day and a half.  There are only 3 humans who live here (though I realize I am being generous by refering to a 15 year old boy as "human"). It was just so spectacularly delicious.
I did not post the entire recipe ingredients here.  Lazy. Remember?  I am posting the link to the recipe and give all credit to Betsy, the awesome woman who developed this recipe.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Baked Zucchini Sticks

This recipe was pinned from King Arthur Flour.

I, like thousand of other Amerians with vegetable gardens had a plethora of zucchini.  I am not sure what I was thinking when I planted 3 zucchini plants, but if I had to guess, it was to make up for the disasters my past attempts at gardening turned out to be.  I figured if I planted three, one of them had to survive. Right?  Well, fate is fickle, and all three of them lived, and thrived.  They were so successfull, the baby zucchini grew to Chernobyl like proportions in the space of a romantic three day weekend in which I was out of town.  The picture below is actually one of the smaller fruits:

The recipe suggests that you not use "the baseball-bat-sized zucchini hiding under your plants."  Well, all I had were said baseball bats (remember the above mentioned romantic three day weekend), so I decided to improvise. 

In order to get the recomended size "sticks,"  I cut the zucchini into 4 pieces, halved those pieces, then scraped out the seeds with a grapefruit spoon.

You don't have to use a grapefruit spoon, a regular spoon, or a melon baller will work.  I just happen to have grapefruit spoons, even though I don't eat grapefruit. Hey, I saw them, thought they were neat, and bought 4, isn't that how most kitchen gadgets make it home?


                                              I then cut the above into 1/4'' sticks:
Which resulted in a ridiculous amount of sticks. This is a very large colander that stretches across my sink.  I told you, it was a very large zucchini.
I salted and allowed the zucchini to let go of most of it's moisture.  I planned on only letting it sit for an hour but it was closer to an hour and a half.  Don't blame me, I have a touch of ADD and started talking to my neighbor while browning the onions.  Don't worry though, my husband saved the onions. 
The recipe calls for mixing the browned onions with 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon mustard, and 1 cup of mayonnaise.  I did not have the cider vinegar, but I did have wine, which is really just unfermented vinegar that tastes really good in a glass, so I figured it would be a natural substitute.  Anyway, I deglazed the pan with some dry red wine, and cooked that down until the wine equalled approximatley 2 tablespoons. 
Since this is a healthier recipe, I also substituted half the mayonnaise with non-fat Greek yogurt, sacrificing none of the creaminess, and cutting the fat by half!
When it came time to dredge the sticks in the egg and the panko crumbs, I could not get the egg or the crumbs to stick.  As I mentioned before, I am pretty good at adapting, so I decided I would dredge the sticks in flour, then egg, then crumbs.  Voila!  We had stickage!
I am the worst about flipping food in the oven.  Probably because my hand-eye coordination is about as good as a new-born's, and much less coordinated. So,  after dredging the sticks, I put them on an oven safe rack.  I have done this with other recipes before.  It ensures an even, crisp crust, without me having to flip, and saving a possible trip to the emergency room to treat a second degree burn.  Believe me, it's happened, more than once.
I realize it is hard to see the rack, but trust me, it's there.  I also used foil to line the baking sheet.  My backup dishwasher was doing his homework, and the cookie sheet won't fit in my primary dishwasher.
After I had all the sticks dredged and racked (okay, half the sticks, as I said, it was a BIG zucchini), I sprayed them with a cooking spray in order to ensure maximum crispiness.  I suggest you spray the rack with cooking spray also.  You don't want all that dredging ruined by getting stuck to the rack.
I then put them in my preheated to 425 degree oven, with the convection setting on.
These are the golden brown little nuggets of goodness:
They were so tasty, I had to stop my 15 year old from eating all of them, and he does not like squash of any kind.
I found this recipe to be delicious, and no less labor intensive than frying.  The mess was about the same, but I think that has more to do with the cook than the preperation.
Thanks for reading.  Next week, I test Samoa Bundt Cake.