This is my cookcabulary


Rocky Road Brownies and Lemon Tartlettes

This past week we had a party at work for our most favorite clients! We chose to have a post-holiday party instead of one during the Holidays and it turned out to be a great success! We served assorted wines, all types of cheese, brie, and then I made two baked goods!

My thought process behind everything was to make sure whatever I made was finger-friendly.  Meaning, if they didn’t want to use silverware, or even a plate, they wouldn’t have to.  That only seems logical to me at a party where Hors d’œuvres are being served.

I knew instantly that one item would be Lemon Tartlettes with Fresh Fruit, and the other I needed a little help from Marta Stewart on. I browsed her website looking for the perfect item, and voila! Rocky Road Brownies.  I could cut them up into bit size treats and the chocolate would pair perfectly off the lemon! Yes!

So on to the baking!

Rocky Road Brownies came first. This makes 16, but I cut super small bites and probably got double that.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (cut into pieces plus more for pan)
  • 1 bag (12 oz) semi sweet chocolate chips (I used mini)
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 c all-purpose flour – leveled
  • 1 c mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 c chopped nuts such as cashews, pecans, walnuts (I used just walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter 8″ square baking pan, then line with parchment paper, leaving two sides to over hang and then butter the paper.

Ok, and as a side note: I ALWAYS use wax paper, forgetting it’s not parchment paper. And half way through the baking process I smell the hint of smoke from the oven.  Then I realize, oh crap – I used wax paper again! Ha-ha. So, if you do use wax paper, its ok – but please be careful – it can ignite.  And I would actually recommend Pam, or a LOT of butter. The edges of the wax paper really stuck to my brownies.

Ok, next we need to melt the chocolate and butter to get a base for the brownies! Set a heat-proof bowl OVER a saucepan that is simmering with water.  Make sure bottom of bowl does not touch the water.  Combine butter and 1 cup chocolate chips.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until melted, 3 – 5 minutes.

Remove mixture from heat and stir in sugars, salt, then eggs – and finally the flour. Stir until combined, do no beat.

Then pour into our prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes.  You will know its done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with moist crumbs.  I cooked mine more on the 25-30 minute side to create more of a “fudge” effect, feel free to play around with this.

Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining chocolate chips.  Be careful to spread them evenly as they will start to melt immediately (at least the minis did). Then, add marshmallows then nuts.  Bake until chocolate is nice and shiny and marshmallows are puffy – about 5 minutes.

Here they are pulled fresh from the oven:

Let them cool completely and then use the over hang to lift from pan. Cut and serve!

I’ll show you the final product after we go over the tartlettes!

Now, I mentioned I wanted to do something that was finger-friendly. Well, I am all about baking from scratch, but I needed a little help this time as I had to bake everything on a Tuesday night and didn’t have time to make personal shortbread trays for the tartlettes. So, I went to the grocery and got those great little Keebler mini graham cracker crusts.  Well turns out they cannot be removed from their tin pan with out crumbling to pieces in your hand. 

:(

Sad I know! At least they are super cute right?! Unfortunately I had already started pouring my custard into the shells when the thought to spread butter and bake them came to mind. That might have given them more stability.  But anyway, it was too late.  It turned out they were very easy to eat with spoons…

Let start with our ingredients:

 Makes 2 cups (I needed 24 tarts, so I doubled everything)

  • 3 eggs
  • 5 tblsp butter, melted
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • juice and finely grated rind of 2 lemons (grate first, then juice)
  • Seasonal fruit (i used strawberries, raspberries and blackberries)

Here are the directions directly from my mom’s email!

“Beat the eggs into the melted butter; then stir in the sugar.  Beat until thoroughly combined.  Add the lemon juice and rind gradually.  Cook in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until thickened, stirring constantly.  I strain it while it is still warm – this strains any bit of cooked egg so your curd is nice and smooth.  Place plastic wrap directly on top of the curd and put in fridge to cool.  You can make this ahead and store in fridge for up to one week.”

You’ll know the custard is chilled with it has thickened even more in the fridge and, of course, cooled completely.  I used my hand dandy ice cream scoop and put one spoonful is each crust.  Then I cut up my berries and placed accordingly.

Can we say yum? Oh, and did you notice – curd (or I call it custard at times) is Gluten Free

Here are pics of the final product at the party, and all the food trimmings! Enjoy!

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Chicken and Bacon Cheese Casserole

Last night I was craving a home cooked meal.  Sam and I had a pretty hectic week and we didn’t seem to be getting home until 9 or so in the evenings.  I needed to cook, and bad.

He opted for a casserole, which is fine and dandy – but casseroles are certainly not gluten-free. 

I browsed the internet, thinking of ideas and pondering what meat I wanted to use.  As a Costco member, I bought chicken probably a month ago – and still have like 10 breasts, ha! So, I went with a poultry based meal.

I stumbled upon a fantastic little website that had a million casseroles to choose from. I was already going to convert everything to be gluten-free, but I needed a recipe that didn’t have cream of chicken/mushroom as they contain wheat themselves. I usually don’t have issues converting/omitting/changing things from recipes, but I haven’t tried making a cream of anything gluten-free yet, and removing that ingredient would change the entire dish.

So thank you Southernfood.com, you provided a nice starting point for me to prepare my husband and I a wonderful dish.

Ingredients that you will need:

  • 1 box gluten-free pasta (penne or elbow macaroni) I prefer Schaar.
  • 6-8 slices of bacon
  • 2 tbsp butter
  •  chicken large chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp pre-made gluten-free flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 can chicken broth (low sodium)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 8 oz Cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz Colby jack cheese (feel free to play around with different types of cheese.  I thought about adding jalapeno jack)
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 cup Corn Flake crumbs (gluten-free alternate to bread crumbs)

We start by boiling water in a medium pot; cook pasta.

Preheat oven as well to 350 degrees and grease a large baking dish (9×13)

It probably helps best to go ahead and cut chicken into small 1″ cubes, or whatever you feel is bite-sized.  I didn’t do this step until the butter and grease were going, but it will help to get it out-of-the-way before you begin.  Make sure to set aside and wash hands completely to avoid contaminating anything with your dirty little chicken fingers. ;)

In a large skillet, cook  bacon until delicious and crispy.  Remove and let sit on paper towel until cooled.  Then crumble bacon into little bite size morsel of heaven.  Refrain from eating! Remove remaining grease from pan, but leave about a tablespoon or so.  Add butter. 

*note, at this point – that little skillet is going to be smelling SO good. Butter and grease, are you kidding me? I felt like Paula Dean on a hot southern summer night! Woo!*

Add chicken and cook over medium-low heat until cooked throughly. 

(After the last few posts and using my work’s camera – these images are a little sad, but at least you get the idea)

Add flour one tablespoon at a time and stir until well blended.  Then, add milk slowly. Continue to cook and stir occasionally until it thickens slightly. 

Gradually add in about half of the chicken broth, and continue to cook a couple minutes.

At this point, the remaining ingredients can all be included.  Salt and pepper to taste and add thyme, cheese, thawed peas, and crumbled bacon.  Then, spoon over cooked pasta (which has been drained and transferred to our greased baking dish)

Look at those GF noodles, you can’t even tell they don’t have wheat!

After youve spooned the mixture over the pasta, go ahead and give it a light stir.  Then, evenly spread bread crumbs on top. Here are the kind I use from Southern Homestyle.

At this point its ready to go in the oven, but it wasnt enough for me.  I added an extra 1/2 cup or so of cheese spread on top, and poured another 1/2 cup or so of the chicken broth. It’s really hard to get that creamy consistency with GF flour, so I wanted to make sure there was enough liquid to keep the dish moist, and not dry out in the oven. So, feel free to add whatever at this point .

Place in oven and cook for about 20-30 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and the casserole is making that oh.so.sweet.you.know.I’m.ready.to.eat bubbly sound.

Serve it up with some greens and a garlic bread stick (I enjoyed the breadstick, I needed SOME gluten ha!).  Enjoy!


Whoopie!

Cheers! Hooray! Whoopie!

Of those three words, only one can be consumed.

A whoopie pie my friend.  Before I even get more into this blog can we all agree that Whoopie is super fun to say, and you can’t say it normal. It has to be exciting and playful! Forsuuure.

Ok, so we all know I had an amazing adventure at William Sonoma. What else was I going to make this weekend other than whoopie pies!? I havent a clue myself! So, I knew just the woman that needed to teach me that ways of the whoopie. (Whoa, we’re not makin’ that kind of “whoppie” here guys … don’t be alarmed). But who other than Martha! Martha Stewart, I summon you. Yea.

Oh, and I also went to Joann’s and got some super! cute treat boxes at an excellent price! Score!

I begins with a spatula. And not just any…. my Hello Kitty spatula.  Props to my mom, err, I mean Santa for a most excellent stocking stuffer!

Ok, let us list the ingredients.  Straight from MarthaStewart.com:

For the Cookies:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, not Dutch-process
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the Filling:

  • 2/3 cup natural, creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Coarse salt, optional
  • Make cookies: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a small bowl; set aside. Sifting is so towards the top of my list of things I enjoy while baking. I just love how everything combines into a fluffy powder of perfect. I love it.

    Put butter, shortening, and sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on high-speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add egg; mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in half the flour mixture, then the milk and vanilla. Mix in remaining flour mixture.

    Oh and I also LOVE how perfect packed brown sugar looks – its flawless. Do you ever notice these things … I totally do.

    Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. (Or you super cool new whoopie pie baking sheet!!!) Bake until cookies spring back when lightly touched, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks using a spatula; let cool completely.

    Make filling: Put peanut butter and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on high-speed until smooth. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add confectioners’ sugar; mix until combined. Raise speed to high, and mix until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Season with salt, if desired.

    Assemble cookies: Spread 1 scant tablespoon filling on the bottom of 1 cookie. Sandwich with another cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling. Cookies can be refrigerated in single layers in airtight containers up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

    I made mini ones too, using those new cutters I got as well!!! :)

    Stop it, they’re so cute!

    On a side note, I am seeing an old highschool friend and her new husband tomorrow night.  She lives out in Arizona but is in town for a couple nights – her husband is playing the Pacers tomorrow.  She was sweet enough to call me and ask to get together for dinner, and then take us to the game.  Its been at least 10 years since I have seen her, I cant wait!   I thought a little home-made treat would help her and her husband feel welcome to the Hoosier state! (Hopefully she doesn’t read this before I see her tomorrow night! Oh well if she does ;), it’s something to look forward to and I couldn’t wait to post it!)


    William Sonoma

    I had a half day at the office and as soon as I finished getting my hair did, I made a bee-line for the mall! I received a gift card to William Sonoma from my stellar boss! In my anticipation, I had tried to go online earlier to pick out what I would purchase, and pre-plan my shopping trip, but once I got online I couldn’t decide! I figured I might as well go and just buy what I want as I saw it!

    I walked into the store and was in pure awe with all the possibilities: a mandolin, mechanical frosting bag, mini tartlet cups, apple peeler, ahhh! How was a girl to choose?!  I circled that store about 3 times, asked 2 different clerks for recommendations on certain multiple items, and wound up with 4 fabulous finds.  One even on sale!

    First, 11 individual fluted cutters – the possibilities are endless with these!

    Next on the list, a sale item – appetizer trays! So cute! Perfect for entertaining. Or in my case, a lunch for two ;)

    The next two were an exciting purchase.  A tart pan and whoopie pie pan – these are PERFECT for my secret creation I have been conjuring up. Hah! And, maybe I will try making some whoopie pies! They do look quite appetizing!

    My life is so complete for the moment … also because I got this today as well.

    Yellow nail polish. 

    Ohh this is going to be a great weekend!


    Lovely decorations!

    As I mentioned in my post last night, I borrowed my works’ camera and had a fun time playing with it around my house.  I took pictures of some of my fave decorations around the house.

    This year I opted to do a simple themed tree. Silver and Purple! I even got a special new ornament this year.  The sequenced one matches the pink one I sent my bf out in Oregon.  :) We grew up as next door neighbors since we were 5 months old, and then moved to a new neighborhood together in 8th grade. We werent next door anymore, but I could walk there in probably 95 seconds! She’s so awesome and we’ve been exchanging presents over Christmas forever it seems! I love getting older and being able to buy different presents that are for different purposes for my friends … this will be a fun reminder every year we each decorate our tree.  No matter the distance, we’ll always be friends!

    I also have a simple ornament for my and Sam’s first christmas as a married couple back in 2007 :)

     

    Oh, and HAIL PURDUE!

    Then, atop my fabulous Crate and Barrel cabinet sits my Department 56 – Krinkles collections! I just love these reindeer and all the other items Patience Brewster creates. They are so whimsical and simply adorable! It’s a long story, but she has since left Department 56 to design under her own name, and the Reindeer are now a collector’s item.  She still creates the Krinkle line, but the mold are a little different and it just isn’t the same! So, every christmas I try to hunt down the ones I don’t have! Its gets harder every year but I’ll get them all!

     

    Sorry for the awkward lighting, I couldn’t get the settings right for this pic.

    Check out my newest addition – Cupid!

    Oh, and I love this pudgy little kitty on my Krinkles 12 Days of Christmas Tree

    Then finally, the last place I decorate is the mantle.  Just some simple garland, our stocking hangers (I have 3 b/c designing in 3 works better than even numbers, really – it looks better) and my glass bead tree cones!

    …yes that is a picture of me in my wedding dress. Haha, I have no shame.  I LOVE that photographer – Casalini is uhmazing! And this is the picture in Keystone mall. Sorry, just had to drop that in there – but im stoked he chose my picture to go along with the collection he’s currently showcasing. Actually, been showcasing. It’s been up since last December – I bet it’s swapped out for the new year.

    Anyway, thats my house. And now its all in a box in the garage until next year … :(


    Baked Bean Stew

    Today I had the joy of taking pictures with a Canon Digital Rebel XTi! It belongs to my office, but we had a site visit today after work and I thought I’d bring it home to play around with (and show Sam how good I am and that he should still get me a camera, haha!) I havent read the manual so I don’t KNOW what I am doing, but I played with the settings a LOT to get different shots.

    So what better way then to test it out while I am cooking! Tonigh’s meal I think can go in the Bachelor Meal category.  The only non bachelor part about it is the chopping, but I think you men can handle it! This is a great meal for a cold winter night! Perfect for the storm we’re about to get! I heart the snow b-t-dub.

    Grab the following ingredients (feel free to add more and make it up as you go, I did!)

    1 lb ground beef

    1 yellow onion

    1 can baked beans

    1 can stewed tomatoes

    carrots (chopped)

    celery (chopped)

    3/4c water

    1/2 tsp. onion powder

    cheddar cheese

    Start by chopping the onion and placing in a warm pan heated with EVOO, add ground beef and cook until brown.

    While the meat is cooking, chop the carrots, celery and stewed tomatoes. (I prefer my tomatoes in smaller bites)

    Combine everything into the pan (if it fits) or medium-sized pot.  Bring to boil and let simmer 30-45 minutes.

    plate in a bowl and top with cheese!

    I had SO much fun with this camera! I took pics of my Christmas decorations, that I was supposed to be taking down last night, but I’ll save those for another blog.  I did get this GREAT shot of my Kimoni-man! He’s so mysterious and handsome!

    Goodnight all! Think *snow*!


    Chocolate Cheesecake with Ganache

    Hello my fellow blog readers! This is my first post to the 2010 year! Whoop whoop!  I wish I had something grand and marvelous to show you, but its only chocolate. 

    …lots of chocolate.

    Chocolate cheesecake with ganache on a chocolate cookie crust.

    …maybe it is marvelous afterall!

    But first, I must apologize. This blog may or may not be detailed.  I just got back from Hawaii Sunday night and apparently the jet lag is totally hitting me.  I woke up at 3:32 this morning and never went back to sleep. So I ended up going to the gym at 5:00.  Going to the gym was great – I could make a blog of that on its own, but the waking up at 3:30 was just annoying! I don’t know how I am still function now at 9:18! I am just trying to get back on my schedule. Which is bedtime at 10-10:30.

    Back to baking!

    This cheesecake was so fun to make, mostly because I had the help of a dear college friend – Ian! (meep!!). Ian is my friend from college with whom I had just about EVERY single class with.  We obviously both majored in Interior Design and while he headed off to the west coast after graduation, he has since moved to the UK and is working in London. So, it’s always fun to hear his European tales and catch up!  So, this was a special time in the kitchen for me – nothing better than gabbing with your friend over chocolate!

    (it was late and the lighting was awful, so the pictures aren’t as fabulous as the cheesecake)

    Here is what you will need: (Recipe from Joyofbaking.com)

    Chocolate Cheesecake:

    Crust:

    1 1/2 cups (150 grams) chocolate wafer crumbs

    1/3 cup (75 grams) unsalted butter, melted

    Filling:

    12 ounces (340 grams) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

    24 ounces (680 grams) (3 – 8 ounces packages) full fat cream cheese, room temperature

    1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

    3 large eggs, room temperature

    1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    1 cup (240 ml) full fat or light sour cream, room temperature

    Ganache:

    4 ounces (115 grams) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

    1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy whipping cream

    1 teaspoon unsalted butter, room temperature

    We start with the crust, as always! We’re using some delicious chocolate wafers! Ian and I nibbled on the left overs, for sure!

    Begin by crushing the crackers.  I used my hand-held cuisinart, but you could put them in a bag and roll them/smash them if you don’t have the right machine. When the granules are nice and small, all you do is add the butter (mmm, butter) and press evenly into your spring form pan. P.S. you NEED a spring-form pan for this – I don’t think you can make cheesecake with out one!

    …grease your pan WELL before pressing in the cookie and butter mixture!

    …place in fridge while you are making the filling.

    Kimoni stopped by to tell us a thing or two. Just so you know.

    Ha, silly little fuzzball.

    Now for the filling!

    Melt the chopped chocolate in a stainless steel bowl ( I used glass) over a pan of simmering water – making sure the bowl is not touching the water.  Stir until smooth and set aside to cool. 

    Next, with your electric mixer (or hand mixer) beat cream cheese, on medium low-speed, until smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar. Add the melted chocolate and beat until fully incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 seconds) after each addition. Dont forget to scrape the sides and bottom of bowl occasionally, or as needed. Add the vanilla extract and sour cream and beat until thoroughly incorporated. 

    It’s now time to remove the crust from the refrigerator and pour in the filling. Place the cheesecake pan on a larger baking pan and place in the oven in case you accidently have a mess.

    Bake for about 50 – 55 at 350 degrees minutes or until firm.  The center of the cheesecake will still look a little uncooked and be wobbly. Remove from oven and carefully run a knife or spatula around the inside edge of pan to loosen the cheesecake (this also helps to prevent cracking as it cools). As it cools, place in fridge with some plastic wrap.

    Now the ganache!

    Take the remaining chopped chocolate and place in a bowl. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, but be careful not to burn the milk! Immediately pour cream over chocolate and let stand for a few minutes. Stir until smooth. After is has cooled slightly, pour it over the cheesecake. Take a spoon or spatula and evenly spread the ganache around on the cheesecake. Cover and return to the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. The recipes says it tastes better after a day in the fridge!

    This cheesecake was made specifically for our work Christmas party! It turned out excellent! Although, my tip would be to let the cake get to room temperature (a couple hours) before cutting! It will really help!

    And as a treat, I want you all the know I have begun to think of my signature and original, baked good! There is an industry event every October where designers submit and then sell their home-made items – it is my goal to create something made to order.  So my wheels are turning, I have some ideas, and I will keep you all posted, but I wont reveal what is until I have it perfected! I can’t wait – I’m pretty excited!

    Bring it on 2010 – I’m going to be a blogging ‘fene!