Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

I love Halloween, it's probably my most favorite holiday all year (yes, even better than Christmas and my birthday). I think the main reason I love it so much is that I don't have to worry about getting anyone the "perfect gift" and I rarely have to deal with family like I do during the major holidays. It's usually just me and my husband, sitting at home, watching scary movies, carving pumpkins and handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters. And I love it.

My husband and I have this tradition that during the entire month of October, we watch nothing but scary movies. That includes renting as well as buying or watching on television. I have no idea how we came about doing it, we've been married four years, so it's a little blurry. Every year, it gets bigger and bigger, we actually went to three Halloween parties last Saturday night alone! So, needless to say, Halloween is big for us.

My favorite Halloween candy used to be those bite-size Snickers bars. Those were the major candy to get when I was a kid. Every year, on Halloween, after we got home from trick-or-treating, my brothers and I would play "Store". We'd put all of the candies in their respective piles (Snickers, Milky Way, etc in the Chocolate area, Blow Pops and Tootsie Pops in the lollipop area, then Smarties and Sweet Tarts in the Other Candy area) on top of our pillow cases, which were our shops. We'd trade, say, two Tootsie Pops for a Snickers, that sort of thing. So, Snickers had a lot of sway when it came to bartering against my brothers.

Ever since getting my braces on in March, however, I haven't been able to have one Snickers or Milky Way, since nougat is an orthodontic no-no. How depressing. I've now become a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup devotee. They fit perfectly upside down in my mouth, resting against the roof and melting away until there's nothing left. I can make a Reese's peanut butter cup (the wee little ones, not the monster ones) last about 10 minutes if I'm careful. And don't even get me started on Starburst! I know I'm not supposed to have those, but as an experiment one time at the movies, I made a single cherry Starburst last 35 minutes. My tongue was so raw after that!

Anyways, here's to the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Hated by most Australians, and loved by many an American consumer. I tip my hat to you, and reach into my desk drawer for yet another foil wrapped slice of heaven.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Daring Bakers Get Bostini!

Hello ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to another installment of the Daring Bakers Challenge! This month, Mary at Alpineberry chose a Bostini Cream Pie for us to make, and I couldn't wait to make it. But, with a week-long vacation in the middle of the month, combined with my brother moving out, I simply had no time to make it! I did, however, print the recipe and bring it with me everywhere, reading it and re-reading it to make sure I'd have enough ingredients in my house for when I decided to eventually make it.

As it turns out, I waited till the very last possible day to get crackin'! I was in a panic when I woke up on the morning of the 28th and realized I had T-minus 16 hours to bake, stir, whisk, mix, photograph, serve and post this bad boy. I got busy as soon as I rolled outta bed! And let me just add that there are a TON of eggs in this recipe. I bought two of those 18-count cartons, and had just enough (after accidentally breaking a few yolks while I was trying to separate them from the whites). I also had to make a last-minute run to Albertson's to grab some OJ, because my husband and brother in-law drank the stuff I had set aside for this recipe (darn them!). Seriously, they downed a half gallon of OJ in less than two days. I have no idea why, they must have just been really thirsty!

It was worth the troubles, though, and the results came out amazing and delicious. Here's the recipe:

Bostini Cream Pie
(from Donna Scala & Kurtis Baguley of Bistro Don Giovanni and Scala's Bistro)
Makes 8 generous servings
3/4 cup whole milk
2 3/4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 whole egg, beaten 9 egg yolks, beaten
3 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean (or vanilla extract, if that's easier for you to find)
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar

Chiffon Cake
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 1/3 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup beaten egg yolks (3 to 4 yolks)
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup egg whites (about 8 large)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Chocolate Glaze
8 ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces unsalted butter

To prepare the custard: Combine the milk and cornstarch in a bowl; blend until smooth. Whisk in the whole egg and yolks, beating until smooth. Combine the cream, vanilla bean and sugar in a saucepan and carefully bring to a boil. When the mixture just boils, whisk a ladleful into the egg mixture to temper it, then whisk this back into the cream mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the custard and pour into 8 large custard cups. Refrigerate to chill.
To prepare the chiffon cakes: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray 8 molds with nonstick cooking spray. You may use 7-ounce custard cups, ovenproof wide mugs or even large foil cups. Whatever you use should be the same size as the custard cups. Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, zest and vanilla. Stir until smooth, but do not overbeat. Beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten whites into the orange batter. Fill the sprayed molds nearly to the top with the batter. Bake approximately 25 minutes, until the cakes bounce back when lightly pressed with your fingertip. Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. When completely cool, remove the cakes from the molds. Cover the cakes to keep them moist.
To prepare the glaze: Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Place the butter in a saucepan and heat until it is just about to bubble. Remove from the heat; add the chocolate and stir to melt. Pour through a strainer and keep warm. To assemble: Cut a thin slice from the top of each cake to create a flat surface. Place a cake flat-side down on top of each custard. Cover the tops with warm chocolate glaze. Serve immediately.

I had a few variations to the recipe, because after waiting so long, I had realized that all the other Daring Bakers had already made theirs the way I was planning on making mine (grrr!). So, I decided to bake my chiffon cake on a baking sheet and then cut out fun shapes with cookie cutters. I used pumpkin and stars, as you can see in the photo below.

I thought they were so stinkin' cute! I plan on taking one with me in my lunch tomorrow, seeing as how the chiffon cake was my favorite part.

And here are a few photos of the finished product.

I served them in little scotch glasses that my husband had, and decorated the pumpkin one with festive lines, and just doused the star one with loads of chocolate. My husband's favorite part was the custard, though, he practically licked it out of the glass!

And here's a festive photo with one of our plug-in pumpkins (safer than jack-o-lanterns, so we can have it indoors).

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I do! Check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to right to see how the other guys and dolls of the Daring Bakers did with this month's Challenge. I gotta tell you, they're pretty amazing!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's Time For Another Royal Foodie Joust!

The lovely Jenn over at the Leftover Queen Forum is the lovely host of a little monthly competition we like to call the Royal Foodie Joust. Brittany The Pie Lady won last month's Joust with her very first entry (congrats!), so she was able to pick this month's ingredients. Up this month, we've got any kind of mushrooms, herbs and cheese. I chose Portobello Mushrooms, Oregano and Sage, and Asiago cheese (one of my very favorites):
For my entry, I had no idea what I wanted to make. For one, I loathe mushrooms. I hate their texture (they feel like slimy little slugs). Two, I'm not big on their flavor. And three, the thought of eating a fungus really does not appeal to me. But, in Royal Foodie manner, I manned up and picked up my first set of mushrooms in God knows how long. I even picked up a jar of mushroom spaghetti sauce. I chose to make ravioli, and just did not feel like making the sauce myself. So, without further delay, here's my entry for Mushroom and Asiago Cheese Stuffed Ravioli.

-1 portobello mushroom
-1/2 bell pepper
-3 cloves of garlic
-1/4 onion
-1/4 cup Asiago cheese
-1/5 cup olive oil
-1 or 2 sprigs of fresh oregano
-1 or 2 sprigs of fresh sage
-salt and pepper
-1 package of wonton/ravioli wrappers
-1 egg white
-1 jar spaghetti sauce (I use Classico)
-1 can of stewed tomatoes

Instructions: Chop up the mushroom, bell pepper, garlic, onion, oregano and sage into 1/8" bits and combine them in a bowl. Chop the herbs and add those to the other ingredients. Add the olive oil and spices and stir well to combine. Mixture should look like this:

Heat in a pan over low heat until the onions turn transparent and the mushrooms turn slightly brown. Heat a stock pot of water to a boil (you may want to add some olive oil to prevent the ravioli from sticking to each other). In another pot, heat the spaghetti sauce and stewed tomatoes over medium heat and season to taste. Sprinkle a couple baking trays with some corn meal to prevent the ravioli from sticking. Brush the edges of the ravioli wrappers with the egg white, then add a small amount (about the size of a large marble) of the ravioli mixture to the wrapper. Take another wrapper and brush the edges with the egg white, and place over the top of the bottom ravioli. Press the edges to create a nice seal and put on the tray. Repeat until you're out of filling (this should make about 10-12 ravioli). Place the ravioli in the boiling water and allow to soak until the ravioli become slightly transparent (I wish I had taken a picture of this step, because the ravioli somewhat resembled brains!). Once they're done, use a slotted spoon to carefully lift the ravioli out of the water and place on your plate. Pour the spaghetti sauce mixture over the top.
These were pretty good for someone who doesn't like mushrooms. You're looking at my husband's dinner, and he had me heat the leftover mushrooms in some olive oil so he'd have "something meaty" to eat with his ravioli. I felt like there should have been more cheese, or a different cheese, like ricotta, to bind all the ingredients inside the ravioli. Once they were cut open, the ingredients sort of just fell out all over the plate. But they sure were tasty, very flavorful because of the fresh herbs and you could really taste the mushroom. It was a nice combination of flavors, but the texture was just a little bit off. I'd give it a 7 out 10 points.

But, don't fret, for I came up with a tasty dessert to make up for my lackluster dinner!! We had quite a few leftover wonton wrappers, and I was craving chocolate. The only chocolate left in the house was a jar of Nutella, so I stuffed a wonton wrapper with about a half teaspoon of it, folded the wrapper in half and sealed it with some water. Plopped that bad boy in some heated oil for a few seconds (about 30, 15 per side) and tossed it in some powdered sugar when it was done. Heaven. My 2 1/2 year old neice looked at it and asked, "What is it." I said, "It's a Chocolate Dumpling" and she said "Ohhhh" and took a bite. Big grins all around! Success!

Now I'm off to come up with more exciting recipes that involve wonton/ravioli wrappers. That was just too much fun and way too tasty to never do again.


P.S. Let me just say how frustrating it is that the sun sets so early now that we're approaching Winter. By the time I get dinner done, there's not enough light left to photograph my little dishes and make them look good. My kitchen flourescents and camera flash will have to do until Spring. How sad!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Save the Ta-Ta's!

Hello, everyone! This post is mostly geared towards the ladies, so gentlemen, cover your eyes or proceed with caution.

I am a big Breast Cancer Research supporter, and was so glad to see that Minko at Couture Cupcakes (like to the left, in the blogroll) is hosting a Pinktober event in support of Breast Cancer Research in which she donates $1 towards Breast Cancer Research for every pink-inspired recipe that gets submitted to her by October 15th (yes, I'm cutting it close here).

While no one in my family has gone through such a trying ordeal as breast cancer (knock on wood) there have been a few scares in my family, and I know a couple of people from work who have gone through it. I do this for them.

Pink being my all-time favorite color, it was only natural that I should participate. I was so excited, I didn't know what I wanted to make that was pink, but also oh-so-girly as well. The pinup girls from Northwest Pinups For Troops had scheduled a group photo shoot at my house with a sleepover theme, so I figured what better chance to bake a girly cupcake than for a girly photo shoot, huh? On top of all that, my pinup character's forte is baking, so I would get featured in a solo shot posing with my beautiful pink cupcakes. What more can a girl ask for? I fired up the Pink Terror (my KitchenAid) and got to work!

So, here's my recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes with a Pink Lemonade Icing:

Vanilla Swirl Cupcake Ingredients (adapted recipe from Martha Stewart):
-1½ cups all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-½ teaspoon salt
-8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
-1 cup sugar
-3 large eggs
-1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
-¾ cup milk
-red food coloring

Instructions: Preheat the oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time; scrape down bowl, and beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture and milk alternatively, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Divide batter evenly between two bowls. In one bowl, add 4-6 drops of red food coloring and mix well. Pour batter into cupcake liners, alternating between the pink and white batter mixture until each cupcake liner is about three-quarters full. (The way I filled mine ended up looking like boobies, I kid you not!) Bake until golden and tops spring back to touch, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer pans to wire rack; cool completely (about 1 1/2 hrs). Makes 12.

Frosting Ingredients:
-1 cup powdered sugar
-2 tbsp warm water
-1 tbsp lemon extract
-red food coloring
-pink sugar sprinkles

In a small bowl, whisk together first three ingredients (add more powdered sugar if it's too runny for your taste). Add two drops of red food coloring and mix well. Frost cupcakes, then decorate with the pink sugar sprinkles. Gorgeous!

These cupcakes went over really well with the pinups, they received rave reviews from everyone who had one. They loved how the two flavors don't overpower each other, they actually are a really nice compliment to each other. They also loved the swirled cake, they thought it was a nice touch. I loved that they came out so beautiful, enough to get photographed with us in our photo shoot! Gotta love those retro tin cupcake papers!

I'll be sure to post some of the finished shots of us with the cupcakes so you can see how photogenic they are. Until then, you'll just have to enjoy the ones I took in my kitchen!

Aren't they lovely? I think so! Hop on over to Couture Cupcakes and check out the other entries and Save The Ta-Ta's!!!


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I Miss The Fair Already

I am one of those folks that is lucky enough to live within just a few minutes of the Puyallup Fair when it's in town during the month of September. I am a self-proclaimed Fair-Freak, I love the Fair, I could spend all day there, and still want to come back tomorrow. I love the food, the rides, the exhibits, everything about it.

My good friend Diana introduced me to the Fisher Fair Scones this year (I'm not a big fan of biscuit-y things, but she talked me into it) and I haven't been the same since. I've even gone so far as to try to replicate the recipe on my own, only to end up with dry, brittle little scone-wannabes. Not cool.

So, while perusing the local Safeway today in search for some ingredients for this month's Daring Bakers challenge (which will be fabulous, by the way!) I happend to see this lovely little red and white box perched atop the highest shelf in the baking aisle. I would have been able to spot that plaid label a mile away. Amen, hellelujah! I didn't have to order it online! Yay!
I knew immediately that I wanted to make some plain old-fashioned ones, and some cranberry orange ones (seeing as how it's officially Fall and everything). I couldn't wait to finish cooking dinner in order whip out the Pink Terror (aka my KitchenAid) and get to work on these bad boys. I divided the dough into three sections as directed by the instructions on the box, and made two thirds of them orange & cranberry, and only one third of them plain. The recipe is on the back of the box, and all you need is 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp of water, and presto! You've got yourself some world-famous scones, baby!!

The finished product: delightfully indulgent. A very light crispy outside with a warm, pillowy inside. To make them even better, I whipped some butter with some honey, and used my favorite Knott's Berry Farm Boysenberry jam. So good that I contemplated making these for my birthday, and that's 11 months away!

Istn' she lovely? Oh, how I love them. I bought two boxes, and fully plan on buying more while I still can, so keep your eye out for some Puyallup Fair Scone-redux style postings.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Time To vote: Royal Foodie Joust

Hello everyone! It's once again time to vote in the Royal Foodie Joust at the Leftover Queen Forum:

Lots of delicious entries this month, it's so hard to choose just one!!