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Red Velvet Cake Redux

Posted in Cupcakes, Dessert, Uncategorized on September 14th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

So I (totally cheated) bought some store-bought red velvet cupcakes on a whim. After being thrown in my shopping bag, this is how they made it home.

Apparently I’m not the only one having trouble with slippery frosting.

I’ll forgive them for that since I couldn’t do better, not to mention my haphazard self-check-out bagging, but let’s see…

Texture: kind of dry, definitely not moist
Taste: A little off, chemically… red dye taste?

An expensive reminder of why I have the rule I can only eat junk food I make myself. It’s easy to resist store-bought when I know I can bake better.

(Except for Starbucks’ mini peanut butter cupcakes… so, so, so good… and less calories than a slice of banana bread.)

The cleaver

Posted in Uncategorized on July 23rd, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

So Michael wins again, assuming the game involves keeping me from eating cheesy rice. (Just one bowl. I can stop anytime, I swear!)

Friday nights at the coffee shop are usually followed by a shopping trip at the pathetic Safeway (so called because, well they are), a tradition started back when I wanted to atone for using their parking lot. I go home with thoughts of dinner, real food to balance out the bagels and Italian sodas. Then I walk in the door and suddenly The Tired hits. I don’t want to cook anything that takes more effort than boiling water, and I don’t want to wait for the water to boil in the first place!

After debating with myself over whether I wanted chili from the freezer stash (it’s a fact that debating whether to make something or not will always kill more time than just making it in the first place) I pulled out a frozen block:

Chili makes the perfect freezer food. It reheats from frozen on the spot, or thaws in the fridge overnight if you’re planning ahead. “Too bad I can’t cut this in half somehow,” I said.

“Well there’s the cleaver,” Andrew said.

“Which I’ve always wanted to use!”

The cleaver is the only unused knife in our block. Andrew says it’s for cutting through bones, but I choose to live in the naive supermarket world where meat doesn’t have real bones. My pork chops and chicken breasts come from pig and chicken blobs that ooze around their free-range farms.

I took a swing and… made a small dent completely off center. Another swing made another dent, on center, not the same place I hit the first time like I was aiming for. Andrew took a couple tries with similar results.

The aftermath…

Best first use for a cleaver I can think of myself. And then I ate some chili.

Mini raspberry (tidbit) muffins

Posted in Uncategorized on July 15th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

I had to order two bags of the raspberry tidbits to make the shipping costs worthwhile so I have to find ways to use up a whole lot of raspberry. Michael says, “I don’t know why you wouldn’t use fresh raspberries,” and the raspberry muffin recipe does use fresh, but as I said, I have a lot of tidbits to use up.

I also like that it’s a simple one-bowl (in my case, a one Kitchenaid mixing bowl) recipe that my addled mind can handle right now.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • Some powdered sugar (for sprinkling)

I think I actually wrote myself a note to take the butter out of the fridge when I got home this time. I’m the worst at planning ahead on these things.

Directions:

  • In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electronic hand mixer.

I rarely dig out the hand mixer because something is bent inside and it makes a lot of clacking noise. I did a lot of old fashioned mixing with a bowl and wooden spoon before we got the Kitchenaid… now I feel lazy using something that lets me walk away during the process.

From here an easy add one ingredient and then the next until,

  • Gently fold in the raspberries.

I wasn’t sure if the tidbits would need more or less than the amount of fresh raspberries so I added them little by little until it looked right (I think 3/4 of a cup in the end.)

  • Lay out a mini muffin pan and arrange mini baking cups.

Ohhh, I already learned my lesson about making mini things, but this recipe was explicitly for mini muffins. Besides having to make three times as many, I only have one mini muffin(/cupcake) pan.

So I had to do this three times, with a half hour wait between each.

  • Sprinkle the tops with a little powdered sugar. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned

I cooked each batch for a shorter time than the last and they seemed to come out progressively better. 25-30 minutes was too long – maybe I have mini-er mini pans than she does.

This is practically a side-by-side comparison.

They were complimented as usual but the true test is in the leftovers. There was a pretty good-sized Ziplock bag full of them left at work after the potluck, which I threw out after the three-day weekend. Next time fresh raspberries, and next time forget the mini thing and let it be somebody else’s obsession.

Why Andrew should guest blog: Part 2

Posted in Fish, Uncategorized on June 24th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

Because while I spent another evening sleeping, barely functional while adjusting to new medications, he cooked me this Ginger Steamed Halibut with Hana Style Sauce (another Hawaii-inspired recipe!)

He also has the presentation part down better than I do.

This is why Andrew should guest blog:

Posted in Uncategorized on June 13th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

Besides the fact that I’m barely keeping up with the writing to go with my cooking lately… and yet I can’t seem to stop cooking in the meantime. It’s like an addiction, plus that having to eat every day problem. What happened to the days I was content eating the same box of macaroni and cheese after class every day? (Oh yeah, that was called college…)

This is not a box of macaroni of cheese. When I asked Andrew if we happened to have any macaroni and cheese on hand he offered me couscous. When I explained why, he suggested that some college kids in India must eat couscous every day.

So while I was busy not writing blog posts, he was looking at a yummy ono fish recipe, remembered from our honeymoon in Hawaii. Reading the ingredients out loud he says, “A mild fish rub or paprika… I have ‘or paprika’.”

To be sure I grabbed our jar of paprika, and a sharpie, and….

Or paprika

On the other hand… maybe guest blogging wouldn’t be such a good idea until Andrew is not so stressed with school. I did overhear him ask “how many cloves of butter” he needed.

Tonberry Roll

Posted in Uncategorized on February 6th, 2011 by admin – 2 Comments

I am so excited I invented my own sushi roll, and inventing my own means I get to name it – the Tonberry roll!

First of all, I am not a sushi chef. Someone who knows sushi can probably nit-pick the thickness of my rice, the placement of ingredients, or my rolling style. I just know I make something that tastes good in the end.

I’m not allowed to impulse buy specialized kitchen utensils from Bed Beth & Beyond anymore, but I’ve spent enough time trying to slice avocados that I was able to justify this one:

I also used to have one of those nifty bamboo sushi rolling mats but it must have gotten lost in the move and I never replaced it because I never figured out exactly what it does that I don’t do by hand. However I’d like to pick up another so I have a surface to work on other than the cutting board I always use.

Now onto the Tonberry roll!

Ingredients:

  • Nori sheets
  • Prepared sushi rice (rice and seasoned rice vinegar)
  • Avocado
  • Green onions
  • Garlic

Layer your sheet of nori with prepared sushi rice, and then make a line of thinly sliced pieces of garlic.

The strong bite of raw garlic provides the “throat stab” effect of the roll’s namesake but the other ingredients will mellow it out. Next add slices of avocado and green onions.

I just happen to love alfalfa sprouts so I gave them a try on my second experiment. It was a take-it-or-leave-it effect so sprouts are not an official ingredient of the Tonberry roll. Look for them instead in my next sushi invention I already have in mind.

Roll and slice with a sharp knife. I try to remember to slice them thin to have more pieces… silly mind tricks. Serve with stuffed Tonberry.

Roasted Garlic Toast

Posted in Uncategorized on January 9th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

Every time I’ve seen the huge elephant garlic in the grocery store I’ve been tempted to buy some, but I put it off because of the cost. $4-5 (or more) for something that would be roasted, and eaten like candy, in one night. Jason has recommended I buy it cheaper from an Asian grocery store – not Uwajimaya who can still keep prices high because of the touristy factor – however I never think of it when I’m out running around. I finally decided the extra time and gas would even out the cost of buying it right then and there and gave into temptation.

It came in blue or purple mesh. I couldn’t see any difference so of course I went with purple.

For the roasting, this recipe says it takes 3 hours at 325 degrees. I’m too impatient for that. Better yet, this recipe said 30 minutes at 400 degrees. I went with recipe #2.

First I peeled the outer layers of the garlic and trimmed the tips. I didn’t want to cut too far down and lose too much precious garlic however that didn’t really leave much space for the drizzled olive oil to seep in.

It looked a little green on the edges. After roasting for an hour (I realized it would be twice as long for twice the size) it looked… very green.

I finally gave up on this batch after getting a very gross looking bowl full of mashed green garlic. It’s times like these I wish you could return bad food to the grocery store. I’m sure some people do and get away with it, but I can’t imagine doing something like walking in with a package of pork chops that went bad before the sell-by date saying, “My meat is defective. I want a refund!”

Determined to have my garlic bread tonight I followed the same process for a regular head of garlic I was expecting to use for cooking this week, which came out beautifully.

I squeezed the cloves into a bowl and mashed it up. The browned bits that didn’t want to mash I just popped into my mouth on the spot. Then I spread french bread with butter and the mashed garlic, and put into the oven set to broil…

for a few minutes.

In the end I had to make my garlic toast the old fashioned way… with garlic powder, in the toaster.

Baking soda vs baking powder

Posted in Uncategorized on December 23rd, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

I finally got the end of the brownies in the mail and delivered this week. I wish I had kept track for curiosity’s sake, but a rough estimate says I used:

4-5 dozen eggs
4-5 boxes of butter
1 1/2 pounds of sugar
6 bars of Ghirardelli chocolate
2 boxes of Baker’s chocolate
1 can of cocoa powder
2 boxes of Andes mints
1 jar of peanut butter

And a surprisingly small amount of flour. I didn’t realize before that brownies were basically all egg, sugar and butter with just enough flour to hold it all together.

Well while making the second batch of peanut butter brownies I pulled out the can of baking powder and thought, ‘This isn’t what I used last time…’ Yes, I had mixed up the two, and realized it after they were already in the mail. I tasted the leftovers and they seemed fine so I’m not telling anyone who got the ‘mistakes’.

This prompted me to look up what exactly baking powder is though. It turns out baking powder is baking soda (not surprisingly), with an additive. Cream of tartar, to be specific, the stuff that makes a snickerdoodle a snickerdoodle. Both are used as leavening agents, making carbon dioxide when the baking soda hits an acid, but baking powder has the acid built in. Soda for already acidic ingredients and powder for non-acidic. I learned about food science!

Yay science!

I also got a crazy little seed of an idea stuck in my head this week. While I never thought of cooking or baking as my “thing”… and even after it became my thing, I’ve not had any interest in culinary school or see myself cooking in a large scale or in a restaurant. I don’t want to turn a hobby into a chore, but I started realizing that if I was to take one of those career tests that asks what you like to do for the sake of turning it into a job – I like baking for people. I would like to make brownies and cookies and somehow make a living at it.

It’s still a crazy little idea, but I started doing some research. I had forgotten about Etsy which would make it possible to sell things right now if I was set up to. I know I would need access to a licensed kitchen and I found one that sounds both affordable and in a perfect location for me. This is either too good to be true, or fate is telling me to go for it.

“Eat me”

Posted in Uncategorized on December 12th, 2010 by admin – 1 Comment

I started my massive Christmas baking today. Unfortunately for the blog, this means lots and lots of time spent in the kitchen, and nothing new to write about since I’ve already covered all of this all in my test runs:

Test run #1 – Peanut butter brownies (not so good but my coworkers loved them)
Test run #2 – Chocolate brownies (Winner)
Test run #3 – Peanut butter brownies (Winner)
Test run #4 – Andes Mint brownies (Big winner)

Four batches made tonight – the peanut butter ones use a smaller pan so I have to make twice as many to keep up. I’m exhausted and not even halfway done by my count.


I did think I would hate for someone to get a box, and knowing that it was a Christmas present, hold onto it unopened until Christmas day. So to make sure people knew there were treats inside, I came up with these adorable Alice In Wonderland inspired stickers.

I promise that while my brownies will eventually make you larger if you eat enough of them, it will take more than a pan-full before you’ll need a new house.

No longer Scott’s Chili

Posted in Uncategorized on December 9th, 2010 by admin – 1 Comment

The chili recipe I inherited from my mom, I always knew as “Scott’s chili”. Even as I changed it, adding my own ingredients, as long as it kept the key ingredient – French’s chili seasoning (it had to be French’s according to my mom) – it was still “Scott’s chili”. Then one day I decided to make chili from scratch, seasoning and all, and realized I had my own recipe.

“Rebecca’s chili”?

I have no brand loyalty when it comes to canned food.

Ingredients:

  • A package of some kind of ground meat or meat substitute. The original was ground beef. I’ve used turkey, buffalo, and Quorn.
  • 1 can of kidney beans
  • 1 can of chili beans, any flavor
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • 1 can of water
  • 1 package of chopped onions – you could chop your own but do you really want to?
  • Chili seasoning

For the seasoning I used an Allrecipies recipe Chili Seasoning Mix I as the start and made some additions and subtractions. Of course every time I can never quite remember how I did it and I’m always trying to recreate the perfect seasoning I made my first try.

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • a sprinkle of cayenne pepper

Note that this recipe isn’t spicy at all… The allrecipies original had a teaspoon of cayenne so I just throw a little in trying to feel authentic. The original also had no chili powder, of all things, or cumin.

Directions

  1. Brown the meat in your chili pot and drain. In the case of turkey it’s more like “whitening” the meat. For fake meat you can just continue on to throwing everything together.
  2. Throw everything together in the pot – kidney beans drained, chili beans not drained, tomato sauce, a can of water using the same can, onions and seasoning. Mix it well and bring to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, covered.

One great thing about chili is that it’s totally customizable. Don’t like onions? Leave them out. They were my addition to begin with. More tomato? More peppers? Go for it. Then give it your own name because I won’t be eating it.

The other great thing about chili is it freezes, and reheats, very well. Put meal-sized portions into either a Ziploc freezer bag, or plastic container in the freezer. If you’re planning ahead, take it out the night before and it’ll be thawed for dinner. If you’re not planning ahead and need a mealdinner, run the container under hot water for a minute so the frozen block of chili will pop out, and then thaw and heat in the microwave or on the stove top.