Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Going to L'Opéra

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was a bit scary. We had to make Opéra cakes! I have never heard of an Opéra cake before and it was a very long recipe that involved lots of folding, something I have ruined many a dessert from not doing right.

I made these over the weekend. It was perfect timing because my sister's birthday was on Monday and I made mini Opéra cakes so everyone could try a bit.

Usually Opéra cakes are chocolate in flavor, but the hosts for this month, Fran of Apple Peaches Pumpkin Pie, Shea of Whiskful, and the co-founders Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and Lis of La Mia Cucina, wanted these cakes to be in honor of the blog event "A Taste of Yellow" and the season of spring, for the northern hemisphere! We had to make sure our cakes were light in color. I decided to make a raspberry flavored cake.

I didn't see almond meal at my local grocery stores and I didn't feel like hunting for a health food store, so I just bought some almonds, blanched them, and put them in the food processor with a bit of flour to make my own almond meal. I felt like the joconde had a bit of a grainy texture, which is because I couldn't get the almonds fine enough, so I would prefer a finer grain, but it turned out well.

I love having my Kitchen Aid for this! I also love Alton Brown!

Kitchen Aid+Alton Brown=Robyn actually being able to fold!!!

With the Kitchen Aid, I was able to walk around and do other things while it was mixing, so I didn't get bored and I may have given up too early when mixing it with a hand mixer. I saw an episode of Good Eats when Alton Brown was doing some food that needed to be folded, and I saw him add the folds in thirds. I decided to try that for the joconde and the mousse and it worked a treat! I actually had a lot of air still in both and it didn't flatten.

I'm not a fan of white chocolate, so I ended up making a flavored glaze that didn't taste like white chocolate at all. It turned out fantastic and wasn't too runny at all. It actually cooled a bit too thick, so I had to heat it up before pouring it on the cakes. I didn't get the glaze as smooth and to the edges as I wanted, but it still looked nice.

For the assembly, I really feel it was easiest to make the cupcakes. I don't have any biscuit cutters, or round cookie cutters, so I used an egg ring to cut the joconde. It worked just fine. I put the buttercream in a pastry bag and piped it onto each layer of cake. It seemed piping would be the easiest way to get the buttercream neatly on the cakes. I also did this in another bag for the mousse. It didn't seem to flatten the mousse much, but the mousse did flatten once the glaze was poured on top and it set in the fridge.

The taste? These were really good! I thought it had a bit too much raspberry flavor, but apparently that was just me. Nobody else had that complain, even when I said I thought that and would change it next time.

For the original recipe and the techniques, you can visit any of the hostess's websites. I am posting the recipes I used for the glaze and mousse (for the buttercream, all I did was add some puréeed raspberries until it had a good color and flavor).

Raspberry Glaze (Thanks, Sandra!)

200g heavy cream, divided (13.5 Tbsp or 3/4 cup + 1.5 Tbsp or 6.71 fl oz)
50g sugar (1/4 cup)
40g glucose or corn syrup (2 Tbsp)
50g white chocolate (1.76 oz)
5g unflavored gelatin (2.15 tsp)
1 tsp aroma or liquor of your choice
40g fruit pulp or puree
a drop of food coloring (optional)

  1. Sprinkle gelatin over 1/5 cup (40g) of the cream in a small bowl and let stand for 10 minutes to soften (allow to soften while making the syrup).
  2. Mix cream, sugar and glucose or corn syrup in a saucepan, bring to boil. Continue cooking for 4 - 5 min stirring continuously.
  3. Add the chocolate and stir it in to melt completely. Remove from heat and add the gelatin/cream mixture, stirring until dissolved.
  4. Add the aroma or liquor, the fruit puree and the food coloring. Mix well and let cool until smooth and almost creamy.
  5. Refrigerate to set.
Raspberry Mousse

1 lb ripe raspberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Raspberry Twisted Smirnoff (or similar)
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream (or whipping cream)
  1. Puree the raspberries together with the confectioners' sugar in a blender.
  2. Whip the cream to stiff peaks.
  3. Carefully fold the cream into the pureed raspberries.
  4. Place in refrigerator to set.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Amish Friendship Bread

I'd never heard of Amish Friendship Bread before, but a girl at work brought some in and I got to try it. It was delicious! Apparently, it's the chain letter of the baking world. You get some sourdough starter and let it ferment for 10 days. You then split the starter into four parts and keep one to bake, one to start fresh, and two to pass on to others. Done righggt, you can have you and your friends baking forever! The recipe my colleague used tasted like a sugary corn bread. Definitely something I'll have to try to make myself sometime.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper Chips

To carry on with trying a few new variety of chips, I tried some Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper chips. MUCH better than the sea salt and vinegar chips! There was a distinct red pepper taste, but it wasn't overwhelming. I actually kind of like it and I don't usually like chips.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mac and Cheese, Third Time the Charm?

I decided to try another mac and cheese today. I had some evaporated milk in the cupboards and it had a recipe for spicy broccoli mac and cheese. Lee has gotten to the point where he doesn't mind the cheese as much if there is something else to balance the taste. I thought the broccoli might help.

Well, the brocoli did help him out, but I accidentally substituted too much mozzarella cheese (putting in 16 oz. when all I needed was 2 oz. to make up for having only 6 oz. of cheddar because for some reason I thought I needed four cheeses) and the macaroni was too cheesy and stringy. I'll have to try this recipe another time with the right ingredients! Even I didn't want the leftovers.

Here is the correct recipe from the can of Carnation® Evaporated Milk:

Spicy Jack Mac & Cheese with Broccoli

2 cups dry elbow macaroni
2 cups chopped frozen or fresh broccoli
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp. bread crumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Bring water for pasta to a boil. Add macaroni and cook per package directions. Add broccoli for the last 3 minutes of cooking.
  3. Drain.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, mix the cheddar, Pepper Jack, evaporated milk, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, and black pepper in a buttered casserole dish.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the rest of the Parmesan cheese with the bread crumbs (I did more bread crumbs for a more bready coating).
  6. Add drained macaroni and broccoli to the cassrole dish with the cheeses. Mix well.
  7. Pour the bread crumb mixture over the macaroni, cover with aluminum foil and cook for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove aluminum foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the bread crumb topping is golden brown.

Sea Salt and Vinegar Chips

I don't like to try things that are meant to taste like vinegar. I don't like the smell of it, so I figure I won't like the taste either. Well, Lee was eating some sea salt and vinegar chips, and I tried one. YUCK!!! Note to self: don't try chips that are meant to taste like vinegar, because they really do have a big vinegar flavor!

Texas Roadhouse Smokehouse Burger

For Mother's Day, we went to the Texas Roadhouse. I usually get the smothered BBQ chicken, but I decided to have a burger for a change. I wanted barbecue sauce, so I got the smokehouse burger which has sautéed mushrooms, onion, lettuce, and tomato on it. I decided to have it with just the BBQ sauce, two cheeses, and mushrooms. I'm glad I didn't get the onion, lettuce, and tomato on it. The burger was HUGE!! I could barely get my mouth on it to bite in.

The mushrooms were great, but the cheese was too thick. I liked the taste of the cheeses, but would have liked it better if they were a bit thinner.

Grilled Chicken and Vegetables

One excellent thing about Friday is that our new grill came! I've complained before about our George Foreman being too small and the fact that it seems to burn the outside in order to cook the inside of the meat. Plus, it cooks so fast, the food just can taste a bit dry, a little better than being microwaved.

So, how 'bout this indoor grill? The only thing I don't like is there isn't a cover for it, but I can live with that. You can adjust the temperature, cook just like you do on an outdoor grill, and the food just tastes so much better! The size of this thing is the same size as my parents' full-sized outdoor grill, so there is plenty of cooking space. On Friday I made cheeseburgers, but on Saturday I decided to so something a little more involved.

I decided I would try my hat at grilling vegetables on it. I have never grilled vegetables before, so this was a bit of a challenge. I read that you can cut them up and wrap them on foil before putting them on the grill, so that's what I did. I added a bit of the marinade (Lawry's Carribean Jerk) to the mix, closed it up, and placed it on the grill. I should have cooked it a bit longer. I placed the pouch on the grill after I turned the chicken the first time, but I was making four carrots and a head of broccoli, so it wasn't long enough. Some of the vegetables were cooked through, but others tasted raw. Next time, I'll put them on the grill at the same time as the chicken and see if that helps. I'm also wondering if there wasn't enough moisture in the pouch since I only put in a drizzle of the marinade over the top of the vegetables. I will tinker around with that next time too. I'm not posting a recipe since I haven't gotten it right yet, I'll do that another time.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream!

Friday was the last day of my school's Math Week. My school has done a lot of work to improve the English Language Arts curriculum over the past couple of years, so now it's Math's turn. To get the children excited about math, we did a whole week of math across the curriculum. We read stories that were about math, math poetry, and we did some fun experiments with bubble gum, a Math Vocabulary Bee, and graphing favorite flavours of ice cream. It was so much fun!

Anyway, on Friday it was the day to taste flavours of ice cream. Edy's was on sale and ended up being the least expensive, so I went with it. These brands really are coming out with some fun flavors nowadays. I had to stay away from any flavors with peanuts in it, but I decided to get some things I thought the kids might like, were sort of familiar, but with a twist. From past years I also had a good idea about what they may like, so I bought Cookies 'n Cream, Double Fudge Brownie, and Chocolate Chip Mint Brownie.

I am usually a big fan of Cookies 'n Cream and Mint ice creams (not peppermint, that green one and it may be just mind games, but I swear I taste a difference between mint chocolate chip that is white, and the kind that is green!), but I don't get chocolate unless I'm eating it plain. It just has too much chocolate otherwise. Chocolate ice cream with brownies on it is just plain decadence. We each tried a scoop of ice cream and the Double Fudge Brownie wasn't too bad. I'm not sure if a bowl full would be too much, or if I could handle it with chocolate sauce on top, but it was good and I won't mind finishing off the leftovers.

Pringles Loaded Baked Potato Chips

Oops! Time is flying! I didn't realize it had been so long since I'd posted!

Well, last Thursday I ended up making a dish we'd had before, so I made sure to try some of the loaded baked potato chips by Pringles. I was lucky to get a chance to have one because Lee ate so many of them! Anyway, they didn't taste like loaded baked potatoes to me. We both thought they tasted more like sour cream and onion chips, without the onion. So basically they tasted like sour cream! Not the best flavor in the world. We both decided we'd pass next time.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My First Attempt at Homemade Curry

I'm awful at remembering to defrost meat for dinner. We usually have a bit of meat at each meal, and I stock up when it's on sale, so we usually have quite a bit in the freezer. Remembering to take out some the night before is one of my biggest problems with cooking. Tonight was one of those nights. I was so focused on wanting to keep the chicken eggs safe and remembering to bring them to school, that I plum forgot to defrost something!

At first I thought of making a tuna noodle casserole, but then I remembered we had some Tandoori curry paste and Garam Masala powder. Lee loves curry, so I thought it would be a good way to help with the taste of chicken nuked in the microwave. I also wanted to use up some of the frozen peas and corn I had, and curry seems to be great for using up odd bits and pieces of things.

I spent some time searching around online for curry recipes. I've never made a curry from scratch before, and haven't had it, or paid attention to the ingredients enough, to know what goes in it or how much of the ingredients to put in. I had a couple of recipes I looked through online, but they all included ingredients I don't have. One person told me that curry is one of those things that you can play around with and really adapt to your tastes, that it may never turn out the same way twice (kind of like how I make my spaghetti sauce). I decided to take some of the ingredients I was consistently seeing in curry recipes and make my own. Of course, I recruited my resident curry enthusiast to help me out with the tasting since he loves curry and I'm not the biggest fan of curry.

I almost forgot to fix the rice! I had just added the peas and corn to the curry, which was almost done, and remembered about the rice. It was ok, the peas and corn needed to cook in the sauce for a few minutes and it would be fine to let the curry sit for a bit longer if needed.

When the curry was almost done, it didn't taste quite as spicy as Lee would have liked. I tried it and figured I could handle it a bit hotter, so added some powdered cayenne pepper. I added ½ teaspoon, but it was a bit much. It was pretty hot after that. Lee liked it, but it was too much for me. The final touch of cayenne pepper for extra heat is definitely one of those things for you to play around with for your own tastes.

Lee said he thought it was good, and to me it tastes about like other tomato-based curries I've tried, so I'll post the recipe.

My First Curry

1 medium white onion, diced
4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1 chicken breast, cubed
1 10oz. can Rotel
1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp garam masala
½ tsp ground ginger
cayenne pepper (as desired for extra heat)

  1. In a large skillet or a dutch oven, lightly coat with oil.
  2. Over medium heat, add onion. Cook about 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic cloves and chicken. Sauté until chicken is almost cooked through.
  4. Add Rotel , stir, and cook for a few minutes more.
  5. Add crushed tomatoes, garam masala, and ginger.
  6. Allow to heat for several minutes for garam masala and ginger to flavor the tomatoes.
  7. Add any vegetables.
  8. After about 5-10 minutes, test for flavor. If you want more heat, add cayenne pepper a little at a time until it tastes how you want it.
  9. The sauce may be runny, if so, you may add a bit of cornstarch to thicken.

Tomato Mozzarella Pringles

I hatch chicken eggs every year with my class. Yesterday, I drove out to get the eggs, so I ended up just grabbing food afterward. It was only about 25 miles to the farm, but it's all back roads and driving through town centers, so it takes about an hour.

Pringles were on sale, and I had a coupon (not the best coupon, but a coupon nontheless), so I got three different types. I bought Pizza, which I knew I liked, Loaded Potato, which will probably be another post on another day, and Tomato Mozzarella. The loaded potato and tomato mozzarella didn't sound exactly the best, but I like the real thing so I thought I'd give them a try. Lee was skeptical too, but we both ended up liking them.

They are a bit different...I can taste tomato for a second, then a hint of mozzarella, tomato, hint of mozzarella....

These aren't my favorite snacks in the world, but I do like these and would eat them again.


I've never tried quiche before. Something about it just scares me. I can't put my finger on it, but it's just creepy to me.

On Monday, there was a Teacher's Appreciation breakfast at school. One of the choices was quiche. I've heard loads of good things about quiche, so I figured it must just be me who thinks it's creepy. I was surprised to find that I liked it! These were tiny, mini quiche, but they were good. I'm not sure what was in it, but it was green. I'm thinking maybe it was spinach. I wonder if I'd like a full-sized quiche. I guess I'll have to try one sometime!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Rice Pilaf with Chicken and Vegetables

Well, after a longer day with a baby shower, cleaning, and some grocery shopping, I decided I needed an easy dinner. I was so excited from a great grocery shopping trip where I got $108 worth of stuff for $36, plus got a coupon for $5 off my next shopping trip. I am so proud of myself for that trip!

Well, I just couldn't really think properly about dinner, so I decided to just use up some vegetables I had bought earlier in the week and do a variation of a dinner I make with rice pilaf, chicken, diced tomatoes, and corn. I wanted to use up some zucchini, squash, and broccoli, so decided to use them instead. After chopping up the zucchini and squash, I realized the vegetables would overwhelm the chicken and rice if I also used the broccoli, so I left that out. This turned out pretty well. The liquid from the vegetables is really hot, so it takes a little longer to cool off enough to eat than the other version, but still quite good.

I really need to start setting aside some of these dinners to keep for my lunch the next day because Lee feels he eats too much and I would like some of these dinners as leftovers. It would really be best for everyone if I could remember to do that.

Rice Pilaf with Chicken and Vegetables
1 box Near East® Chicken flavored Rice Pilaf

2 boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed

1 small to medium zucchini, diced

1 small to medium yellow squash, diced

  1. Cook rice according to package directions.
  2. Over medium heat, cook chicken until almost cooked through.
  3. Add vegetables, cover and cook for a few more minutes or until tender.
  4. Drain vegetables and chicken, return to sauté pan, and add rice.
  5. Mix well and serve.

Fancy Shmancy Filet Mignon and Loaded Mashed Potatoes

On Friday night, Lee came home with some "beef tenderloin steaks." He was very disappointed, but I wasn't in the mood to cook and I had never heard of this type of steak, so at the time I was very overwhelmed and just not in a good mood. period. We had the tenderloin steak tonight.

A little research online for recipes told me that beef tenderloin steaks are also known as filet mignon! I had never had filet mignon before and was so excited to try it! I learned that filet mignon is the most tender cut of beef, so therefore the most expensive. Because it has little fat, it is frequently cooked wrapped in bacon. it can be seared on a flat pan or grill. We were tired of the George Foreman, so I decided to use my enameled cast iron dutch oven for the job.

When I have steak, I think potatoes go well with it, so I decided to do mashed potatoes as a side dish. Since the filet mignon was wrapped in bacon, I thought loaded mashed potatoes would be a good choice. I wasn't very excited when I learned that loaded mashed potatoes had sour cream in them since I don't like sour cream, but I went with it because I'd had loaded mashed potatoes before and liked them.

I had a little trouble with making the mashed potatoes; I didn't cook them long enough at first and had to throw some more water on top and try again. Other than that, the mashed potatoes were easy, especially since I left on the skin, and we both loved them! Lee asked me to make these often.

For the filet mignon, one of the recipes I found didn't have any seasonings, it just called for wrapping the filet mignon in bacon and cooking as is. I wanted a bit more flavour, so I did it differently. I thought that I'd try to make fewer dirty dishes and I cooked the bacon for the mashed potatoes, and sautéed the garlic in my dutch oven where I was going to cook the meat. I thought that helped give it a little more flavor. We both loved the filet mignon and I ate it all even though I was so full afterward! Hey, it's not every day we get to eat something so fancy, I might as well enjoy it!

Loaded Mashed Potatoes

lbs red potatoes
1/4 cup butter
garlic cloves
tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1/6 cup of finely chopped chives
1/4 cup sour cream
1/8 cup milk
1/4 cup cooked bacon, chopped
tablespoon kosher salt, divided (to taste)
tablespoon black pepper (to taste)
  1. Cook bacon, set aside to cool. Chop when cooled.
  2. Scrub potatoes, dice with skin on, taking care to cut out any black spots.
  3. Place in a pot with cold water and a crushed clove of garlic on the stove; high setting.
  4. When water boils, add ½ tbsp salt and cook until soft and a knife inserted easily comes out.
  5. Mince and sauté two cloves of garlic in olive oil until brown and caramelized.
  6. Drain potatoes and remove garlic clove.
  7. Mash and add sautéed garlic and remaining ingredients.
  8. Mix well.
Filet Mignon

2 beef tenderloin steaks
4 uncooked strips of streaky bacon (regular bacon in the States)
1 tbsp butter

  1. If making loaded mashed potatoes, cook the bacon and sauté the garlic in heavy-bottomed pan to be used for the filet mignon. Leave the fat and some garlic behind for flavor.
  2. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of steak. Wrap with bacon, two strips of bacon per steak. Hold bacon in place with toothpicks.
  3. Melt butter in pan.
  4. Add steaks and sear 7-9 minutes on each side. Filet mignon is meant to be on the rare side.
  5. Remove toothpicks and serve.

The Specialty Sandwich Shop: Cheeseburger

I wish I could say that I tried something really new, exciting, and different on Friday. Truth was, I had to spend a day doing curriculum work on the computer and I was tuckered out. I wasn't in the mood to be creative for dinner, or even cook at all, so I just had Cheerios for dinner (didn't make DB so cheery, but he didn't feel like cooking either).

Well, I had never had a cheeseburger at the place we ordered lunch from and so that was my new food. I thought it was really good! I'm not sure what it was, but it had a great, almost buttery taste to it. I'm wondering if the bun was buttered, then toasted. I'll definitely get a cheeseburger from this place again!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A New Chocolate Chip Cookie

Tonight I decided to bake. I really wanted to make S'more cookies, but couldn't figure out how I wanted to do them. I was browsing Recipezaar and I found a recipe for applesauce cookies. I thought they sounded very...interesting. I wasn't sure I would like these, but I have been playing it pretty safe the past couple of days and I really need to expand my horizons. I wasn't sure about the combination of the applesauce, nutmeg, cinnamon, and chocolate chips. I thought it sounded pretty strange.

I had some original applesauce and some cinnamon applesauce in the fridge, but went with the cinnamon just because it was slightly simpler than measuring out cinnamon from the container.

The batter was very soft and moist. I used my cookie scoop, which scoops out about a tablespoon of dough, and I couldn't use it the way I usually do with cookies. I usually press the scoop on the side of the bowl to level the dough, but when I did that with this batter, the dough stuck inside the scoop and it was difficult to get it out on the cookie sheet. It worked best to just scoop it out like a spoon and let it fall out onto the cookie sheet.

They actually tasted pretty good! I thought the nutmeg was overpowering and would reduce it, but Lee loved them, so I will definitely make them again.

Here is the recipe as I would try it again:

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup applesauce
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (omit if using cinnamon applesauce)
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Mix shortening and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add applesauce and mix until blended.
  4. Pour in the two beaten eggs and blend.
  5. Slowly add the dry ingredients.
  6. When fully blended, stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Bake on lined cookie sheet for about 8 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

Dutch Apple Pie

I try to make the new foods interesting, and foods that I cook myself, but I've been so busy and tired that I just need to do convenience foods sometimes. I can't wait until the summer when I'm home a lot and can do more experiments.

Anyway, yesterday was one of those nights. I was at work late and wasn't getting home until late because I had to run errands. We stopped at Burger King for dinner. Lee forgets that I can't always finish the meal, never mind even eat something else afterward! He ordered a slice of apple pie for each of us. I had to wait until later in the night to try my slice, but I did manage a bite. :-)

I thought it was ok, a lot better than I expected from a fast food pie!

Rice-a-Roni Rice Pilaf

I love Near East Rice Pilaf. On Tuesday, Lee decided to make dinner since I had to work late. He made Rice-a-Roni Rice Pilaf, which I bought because it was on sale and I was getting different flavors.

I still love the Near East Rice Pilaf, but the Rice-a-Roni has a nice buttery taste to it that made a fun change.


Have you ever watched a TV show that reminded you of a childhood favorite and you just HAD to run out to get some? I was watching one of those shows on the Food Network that talks about how food is made and they talked about Twinkies. I was excited to have some again and got a package at the convenience store. Well, I was very disappointed. I hadn't had them in years and my more adult, sophisticated ;-) taste buds thought they were gross!

Now, does this count as a new food when I hadn't had it in years and years? I'm thinking it does...


Made by Lena