Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Apple Turnovers

Holy amazing these were good, but extremely rich. They are composed of butter, bread, sugar, and moutain dew (and of course apples) which explains the richness. I barely got a picture b/c I wanted one as soon as it was out and while they were still hot. I gave them away, don't worry. I still had one to satisfy my craving though. It was worth it.

Check out Pioneer Woman's blog for the recipe and browse through her other recipes.. they're all amazing! She's not afraid of butter though, just as a reminder.

TWD: Snickery Squares

This week the recipe chosen was creme brulee but you were allowed to sub an already completed recipe if you weren't comfortable with creme brulee. I would be more comfortable with creme brulee if I had a torch. I think all the fun of creme brulee is being able to torch something and since someone doesn't think I need a torch for the kitchen, I decided to make Snickery Squares.

These don't really taste like Snickers bars but the flavors are great together. I only have a picture of the top of the squares right now because they're still cooling. I tasted a corner out of the side and these were really good and I'm sure they'll be even better when they've firmed up.

To view the complete recipe, visit Erin's blog at Dinner and Dessert. She chose this recipe back in March and it was a good choice. There are a lot of past recipes that really looked good and the ones that are chosen for this coming October look amazing. I usually just bake every other week so that I'm not overloaded with sweets (or so that Casey's co-workers aren't overloaded with sweets), but I might have to break that this coming month.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

He learns (kind of)

This is the progress of my daily training sessions with Tuck. It might not seem like a lot, but getting a 5 month old puppy to stay is big stuff to me. Just watch out Greatest American Dog, once we get these tricks laid out we're moving on to the big stuff. I taught him these few things on my own but I'm reading Victoria Stilwell's (Greatest American Dog judge) book right now so hopefully I can learn to teach him some more things.

A couple of things:

1. Excuse my misshapen claw in the beginning. I have treats in my hand and my dog is not smart enough to work for something else besides food right now. We're working on it.

2. Excuse the high pitched voice that I talk in. It's training talk and he likes it.

3. He has way more interest in the treats then paying attention to me, but we're working on that too.

4. The way to teach your dog to lay down is to drag a treat across the ground which forces your dog to lay down to get to it. This doesn't apply to dog's who have 2 inch legs and can just lower their head to get to the treat. Where's the training for the stumpy dogs, Vickie?!?

Last Wedding Weekend

We have another wedding in December, but this is our last one until then. I love the couple very much and I know they're going to enjoy being married =) The wedding was partially outside, and it was a gorgeous Fall day. Technically it was 2 days before the first day of fall, but there was a coolness in the air and the sun was setting and it looked absolutely gorgeous.

We ended up going in and staying with my family on Friday night so that we would already be in for the wedding. Our first night away from home w/ Tuck. Things went good. He loves being at my house mainly for the hardwoods and the air vents (two things we seriously consider when looking at home just for the pro-Tuck factor). Somehow Tuck has somehow evolved into Tucker Duck, Ducker, Duck, and now we just call him The Duck. I bet people think our phone conversations are weird when I call Casey at work and they hear, "I left the Duck out today, he's being a big boy" or "The Duck pooped at lunch". Whatever, there are many other things that are weird about our conversations beside what we call our dog.

We went to the wedding on Saturday and ended up just driving back home at midnight just b/c I think all 3 of us wanted to sleep in our own beds. We both love going home and seeing our family, but we're definitely routine driven and we don't sleep as well away from home. It was fun though and we got to catch up with some people that we haven't seen in awhile, which is always good.

Nothing new is going on in our household, we're pretty standard =) I think I'm going to sign up for the Wilton cake decorating class next month. I'm slowly becoming Suzie Homemaker, but that's ok with me. I'm going to try some Bourbon Pumpkin Bars tonight and hopefully I can get them made before work tomorrow so that I can send them with Casey. We're also about to head out for a friend's birthday once Casey's softball game is over. Guess where we're going?


We're not predictable.

Don't look at me like that.

Here's some pictures from our weekend. This is the view going up the mountain for the wedding. I was raised here (well not on this mountain), but anyway, isn't it gorgeous?

Casey and I posing before the wedding and in case you can't tell, I dyed my hair red. I feel like a fall leaf. I lurve it.

This is our view from the ceremony. I tried to get the mountains in the background but I was just holding my hand in the air and snapping pictures, so this is what we got.

These are my hairs. They are red now. I also cut my wedding hair off. It was pretty gross and in need of it.

The Duck got a haircut too, you can see his eyes. Hi eyes!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Chunkers

This was my first Tuesday's with Dorie and I'm actually posting this on a Wednesday since I was gone all day yesterday. I'll be posting these on a Tuesday from now on, which is the whole point of TWD. There is a recipe picked every week and you must bake 2 out of every 4 recipes. It's a pretty cool way for me to try to improve baking. I don't think I'm a bad baker, I just know how many more variables go into baking and it's a bit more temperamental than cooking dinner for example.

This week was Chocolate Chunkers and they were really good. I probably wouldn't have made them if I was picking out a recipe on my own (which is another reason I'm doing this), but they turned out really well. Just like with the rest of my baking, I gave these away. Casey's co-workers are looking fordward to my TWD and for the record the entire bag of cookies was gone by the end of the day.

Chocolate Chunkers
(Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coursely chopped (I did 4 oz and then 2 of milk choc)
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup store-bought semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1 cup store-bought milk chocolate chunks
1 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I used pecans)
1 cup moist, plum raisins (I omitted these)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheets with Baker's Joy.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add butter, bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate and heat, stirring occasionally, just until melted (chocolate should be smooth and shiny). Remove bowl from heat and set on counter to cool.

Mix eggs and sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until pale and foamy. Beat in vanilla and scrape down bowl. Reduce mixer to low and add melted chocolate mixture and mix just until incorporated. Scrape down bowl and then on low speed add dry ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients disappear into the dough. Your dough should be thick and shiny. Scrape down bowl and mix in semi-sweet and milk chocolate chunks and raisins.

Drop dough by generous heaping tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets with about an inch between mounds of dough.

Bake cookies one sheet at a time for 10-12 minutes. The cookies will look dry but the interiors should be soft (mine were like gooey brownies on the inside, so good!). Using a spatula lift the cookies onto a cooling rack to cool to room temperature. My cookies were more mound like because I froze my dough. I always freeze cookie dough b/c I like for my cookies to be thicker and chewier as opposed to thinner. These were great!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Butter Cake with Cocount Cream Cheese Icing

This is the cake I baked for my sister's birthday. I got the butter cake recipe from the Joy of Baking and the icing recipe from Epicurious. The butter cake is not a cake that rises a lot (and the recipe warns you of that) but it had a really good flavor and the cake was really moist. I definitely plan on using this cake recipe again. The icing I used was meant to spread on top of a sheet cake so it probably wasn't the best idea to use for a layer cake and also the coconut flavor wasn't as prominent as I was expecting. I ended up increasing the powdered sugar in the recipe and adding more cream of coconut but I never got the coconut flavor I was looking for. The icing was good, don't get me wrong, just not really what I was expecting and I probably should've used a thicker icing in order to layer. It just ended up tasting more like cream cheese icing which was still good.

In the recipe it tells you to smooth out the cake batter to be even and I kind of semi-spread the cake like I usually do and it settles in the oven. This batter is so much thicker that it's very important to have the batter even when it goes into the oven. I also let the eggs, butter, and milk set out until room temperature. The modifications I made to the icing were that I added an additional 1/3 cup of powdered sugar and 1 tbsp. of cream of coconut. I tripled the recipe.

Yellow Butter Cake
(Source: Joy of Baking)

6 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with Bakers Joy, line bottoms with parchment paper, then spray again with Bakers Joy. Set aside.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the egg yolks, milk, and vanilla extract.

With hand or stand mixer, combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds or until blended. Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup milk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake's structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually add the egg mixture, in 3 additions, beating about 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the egg.

Divide the batter and pour into the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with an offset spatula. (Pans will be about half full.) Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in center.

Place the cakes on a wire rack to cool, in their pans, for about 10 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto a greased rack. To prevent splitting, reinvert cakes so that tops are right side up. Cool completely before frosting.

Coconut Frosting
(Source: Epicurious)

3 oz cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup confectioners sugar I added an additional 1/3 cup to increase thickness
3 tablespoons well-stirred canned cream of coconut (not coconut milk) I added an additional tablespoon
1 teaspoon dark rum (optional) I used vanilla extract instead
1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Beat together cream cheese and butter in a bowl using cleaned beaters at medium speed until smooth. Reduce speed to low, then add confectioners sugar, cream of coconut, and rum (if using) and mix until combined. Increase speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Frost cake and sprinkle with flaked coconut.

Birthday Weekend

Well not mine, but we went in last weekend on Sunday to celebrate my sister's birthday a couple of days early and I took some pictures while we were there. It's been chaos the past few times we've been in with my niece and the two dogs. He loves to chase Maddy (my sister's lab) around. She's about 80 lbs and when he tries to play with her she takes off sprinting through the house and hops in the air and lets out these yelping barks and the baby is laughing during the middle of all of this. It's pretty entertaining to watch but when there are two dogs, a baby, and 7 people in the house it can get hectic.

It was fun though. I made a cake and ended up getting a back-up ice cream cake when I realized my sister didn't like cream cheese frosting (whoops). We got to play badminton and volleyball outside and it was a gorgeous day. Tuck's doing well on the car rides in but we haven't stayed away from our home since we got him just b/c I don't know how he'd do through the night. We'll find out next weekend when we go in for a wedding.

Lillian and Casey watching football

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Do you want to know...

...why I don't mind cooking? It's because I never have to do the dishes. That would be a job for the boys and they do it so well.

I also want to share with you two small things that have made my life easier this week. Number one would be my lid holder as shown below.

Since we've decided to halt our house hunting, I've been looking for ways to make everything more organized. Really, my only complaint about being in an apartment is the lack of kitchen storage. We have storage out the hoohah everywhere else in the apartment. Our closets are huge, we have a big bedroom, a big laundry room, a big second bedroom, a huge outside storage building etc. The kitchen, not so much. I decided moving my lids out of the cabinet where I keep my pots would keep my sanity and I found this lid holder on Amazon for like 7 bucks. I stuck it in the pantry b/c I didn't want to drill holes in the cabinet and it works really well.

The second thing is the Green Machine.

If you have a dog you'll especially appreciate this. It's a handheld carpet cleaner. You can even leave the cleaning fluid in it and just pick it up and plug it in when you want to use it. I think I got it for like $70 off of Amazon and it's come in handy so far. We haven't had to use it on accidents yet (go Tuck!) but I used it on a couple of spots that I knew he caused when he was younger. I have a tendency to be the spiller in the house anyway so I think we'll get our money's worth. Plus you can use it for your car, which isn't a bad idea.
I just realized I got excited over a carpet cleaner and a lid rack. Oh well. I'm waiting for my cake to come out of the oven and I felt like blogging. I'm making a butter cake with coconut frosting for my sister's birthday so I'll blog about that when I'm finished.
I hope everyone's having a good weekend!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lemon Cake

Another dessert.. I promise we don't eat desserts all the time. I just haven't updated in awhile =) I pulled this one from Erin's Eats as well and I think I'll definitely be making it again. This cake has a strong lemon flavor from the glaze which I really thought balanced out the subtle flavor in the cake from the lemon zest. I served this with strawberries and whipped cream for Labor Day and it was really good. I made this cake on Saturday so by Monday the flavor was so good.

(Source: Erin's Eats)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces sour cream
1 1/3 cups sugar, dividied
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 1 1/2-2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegatable oil
1/3 cup freshley squeezed lemon juice (approximately 2 large lemons)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup of sugar, sour cream, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla.

Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it is mixed together well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

While the cake is cooking in the oven, cook 1/3 cup lemon juice and the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Cover a baking rack with wax paper and carefully place the loaf on the rack. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow for it to soak in.

Ribs and Crash Hot Potatoes

It was Casey's night to choose dinner in case you couldn't tell. I've been wanting to try Pioneer Woman's crash hot potatoes anyway so ribs were a good excuse to do this. For my ribs recipe I tried a rub from Epicurious that I found at Erin's Eats and then used some barbeque sauce (Sweet Baby Rays) towards the end.

BBQ Baby Back Ribs
(Source: Epicurious)

1 rack of pork baby back ribs (I think mine was around 2 1/2 lbs)
BBQ sauce to taste (I used Sweet Baby Rays)

Dry rub:
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon oregano (I think I used 1/2 tablespoon)
1/2 tablespoon or less of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder

First remove the membrane off of the back of your ribs. You might not be able to see it but it's a thin strip that can be pulled off with a paper towel if you tug a little bit. Be careful not to remove the layer underneath the membrane that holds the ribs together. Mix together your dry rub and then pat the rub all over your ribs on the bottom and top. Wrap the ribs in aluminum foil and refrigerate until you're ready to cook.

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Make sure your ribs are wrapped securely in aluminum foil and then place on a cookie sheet (some juices will probably escape). Cook for 2 1/2 hours.

Unwrap your ribs and brush BBQ sauce all over and place them back in the oven with the aluminum foil open at 350 degrees for another 30 minutes. 

Crash Hot Potatoes
(Source: Pioneer Woman)

New potatoes
Olive oil
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
Rosemary or other desired herb (I used parsley)

Preheat oven 450 degrees. Bring salted pot of water to a boil. Boil potatoes until fork tender. Drizzle olive oil on baking sheet and place boiled potatoes on the cookie sheet. Take potato and press down until potato slightly mashes. Rotatoe potato masher 90 degrees and press down again. Brush each potato with olive oil and sprinkly kosher salt, pepper, and herbs on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Skins should be crispy. 

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I borrowed this recipe from Brooke over at ...and a cookie for dessert and Casey and I really enjoyed it. My bananas were getting to that point where I had to make a decision to bake or throw them away and I decided on muffins. This definitely isn't the healthiest recipe, but we got to eat a few and then I sent the rest to work with Case. There's a way to bake and stay healthy, it's called taking a bite and giving the rest away.

(Source: ...and a cookie for dessert)

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Mix sugar, banana, oil and eggs in a large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into a greased loaf pan or prepared muffin tin. Bake at 325 degrees until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Mmmmm.. right out of the oven.

Between Casey and I taking bites, we started to run out of our muffin model.