Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fudge and Cookies and a few dinner things :)

So this weekend I have the weekend to myself and have been kind of lazy, took this week to use up some random ingredients to make some actual dinner for myself. (Yes I too can cook, not just bake). So having had onion left over, given cans of asparagus, artichoke hearts and mushrooms I threw a few things together and created a dinner with it.

Found out that red onions WILL stain your hands temporarily. Oh well, just looked like I took a hammer to my hand. Haha, but the onion tasted good in my noodle pan stir fry thingy.

 My dinner consisted of ground turkey *80/20

Whole grain pasta - rotini

Artichoke hearts, red onion, sprouts and canned asparagus.

For a sauce I used the KC Masterpiece Honey Teriyaki sauce - quite delicious as a sauce not just a marinade.

I ended up with this while it was in the pan. Mmmmm delicious.

I then added the sauce on top as a garnish. Mmmmmm. Can I just say this was a stroke of genius? Delicious canned foods turned into a delicious and wonderfully simple dinner. If you're watching your sodium look for low sodium canned goods. I also used frozen ground turkey. My local grocer was having a hell of a deal on ground turkey and ground chicken. Of course today I go to the store and for 59 cents a lb I got two GIGANTIC chicken leg quarters (3.33 lbs) for $2. WOO SALES!!!

So mid week I decided to try this super simple fudge recipe I found. I didn't use white sugar like it said to since I was running low. I used brown instead.

The brown sugar peanut butter fudge tasted good but had a slight burnt after taste. So I made more last night and used white sugar, added some oats and topped with crushed graham crackers. And of course I forget to take a picture and give it away before I remembered for the blog :(

The fudge made with the white sugar tasted WAY better, less burnt and the add ins worked marvelously. Now if only I had had some cashews or peanuts (a suggestion from Mike) to add some crunch then drizzle with some chocolate. Mmmm, now we are talking.

This fudge recipe is soooo easy and simple that you can even help a kid make this. I would say about 8-10. You could even double the recipe to spread out in a 9x11 pan and cut out fun shapes once cooled (I place in freezer after cooking up to cool faster.)

Super Easy Fudge:

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk (I used skim - use whatever you have on hand)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup peanut butter
** add in whatever you like that would go with PB - cashews, peanuts, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, oats, Oreo bits - use your imagination.

Boil milk and sugar, once boiling boil for 2.5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, vanilla and any add ins you like.

Let set or place in freezer to set a bit faster. (I let mine sit for about an hour in the freezer before thinking about cutting.

YUM! See, easy and all ingredients on hand.

So today I spent the first half of the day in bed. I have my reasons, so around 1pm I decided it was time to get up and actually do a few things. I needed to run to the store so I could have pizza for lunch, which became dinner. I also actually shopped for food for more than just a day - that's unusual for me.

So I came home, unloaded groceries, cleaned the kitchen and then checked out knives on eBay that Mike told me I needed to see. Bid on a good chefs knife too :)

So then I made pizza. Turkey, mozzarella, Parmesan, onion, mushrooms, and red bell pepper. As you can see, fresh and oh so yum looking. Makes your mouth water doesn't it? (I did not make the crust, had that in the freezer - didn't feel like making crust.)

Pre baking
Post baking, and pre eating
 I enjoyed this pizza thoroughly. It was about 254 calories per 1/8th of a 12 inch pizza. Not too shabby.

So after that I got bored again and decided that to ward off cramps I would bake and feel less lazy that way.

I can only do so much lazy before I get antsy.

So off to the kitchen sauna to make "The End All for Chocolate Cookie Recipes."

I was curious about the name and wondered if it was as great as it was advertised. So off I went. I didn't have shortening - and also did not feel like going and getting shortening - honestly I hate working with the stuff and would rather use butter. I used oil and hoped for the best. Probably should have used butter but oh well.

Mixing dough
Flower shapes cut out and ready to bake

So after sweating my little tushie off in the kitchen just heating up the oven and cutting out flower shaped cookies I decided that peanut butter frosting would be best with a chocolate cookie. I mean, come on, peanut butter and chocolate just go together like bread and butter.

Peanut butter frosting before sugar is added\
Mixed peanut butter frosting
Frosted cookies
I must say I was having issues with my peanut butter frosting. Too thick and too oily I think. Probably could have left out the butter and just made with peanut butter and a little milk. Oh well, it's almost able to be rolled out and cut to be layed on the cookie, I think I'll do that with the remaining frosting and cookies. I had to stop after these four cookies because I was melting away in my kitchen.

The cookies have a fudgey brownie consistency in the dough. The cookie itself is the perfect texture but I find the chocolate flavor to be a bit chalky. Not a bad cookie but it will need a sweet frosting to accompany it. I think I'll try the vanilla cookies next time.

So this is what I do with alone time haha, I should get the girls together tomorrow but I"m in no mood for company really. Having me time is a good thing too. Though I will be ready for human contact again come Monday.

Enjoy your weekend guys - cheers!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beyond the Normal Steak and Potatoes

This weekend was a lazy weekend. We didn't really feel like doing a whole lot of anything. We were going to go to the lake and meet some new friends but decided it was 1. too hot, 2. we didn't get up till 10 AM Saturday morning and 3. We would have had to drive at 8/9 am after going to bed at 3:30 AM/4:30 AM. Yeah not so much. So we decided to stay in for most of the weekend.

We drove into the city to go to Best Buy and Bed Bath and Beyond. We looked for bread pans (the ones you would make french bread loaves in - or even find mini ones to make hot dog buns.) for my pretzel bread adventures. No luck, the man at the store that we asked said "It really isn't baking season." Um, excuse me, it's always baking season. I even said "It's always baking season." LOL

So we got whisks, my whisk recently broke - grr, granted I've had it for quite some years now and wasn't what I would call a SUPER sturdy whisk. Basic and cheap from Walmart. So got that and headed off to Bets Buy. Mike wants to get a good tough camera for when he goes duck hunting this fall/winter. From what he says he inevitably ends up in the water and so a water proof camera would be a fantastic idea. His phone stays in a zip lock or air tight container and he doesn't really want to ruin an expensive electronic device, phone, camera or otherwise. So we found what he was looking for and then they didn't have it in stock. We ended up leaving and going back to the apartment and he ordered it online. Should be a fun toy. Won't have to be just for hunting. :)

*the wheels are turning for food pictures*

So that day we went to "Mighty Melt" for lunch, I got the cheese sandwich on wheat where he got the Chili Cheese potato. HOLY CRAP was that a HUGE potato. The Frito's on top were meh and stale and the knock off type. The cheese was just your basic nacho cheese dip and the chili was actually quite surprising. I would say it was the best part of that potato. My sandwich was good, fair amount of cheese but not too much and the veggies that were on it were good too, lettuce, tomato and mushroom. The wheat bread was border line dry but not bad. will probably stick to the white when I go back.

Beer brats are the lighter ones and
chicken chipotle jack are the brown ones on the left

That night we did bratwurst on the grill and used the pretzel bread buns to hold them. We sauteed up onions and peppers to put on top and then topped with spicy mustard. They tasted great, the only issue we had was that the pretzel buns had gotten hard. They had been in zip lock baggies, so not sure how they got hard and almost rock like. Edible but the crust was tough.

sauteed peppers and red onion

I made mine work and finished it all, hand held. Mike chose to cut his up with knife and fork.

Brad on pretzel bread, onions, peppers and mushroom rice
So because I've posted pictures of Mike cooking he took my phone and decided it was time for one of  me cooking. Yes I do cook, I prefer to bake but I do cook. I help with the pan work while he works the grill and the knife. 

Me laughing once I realize what he is doing.
 So that was dinner Saturday night. We ended up falling asleep not long after, about 10pm on the floor and couch. Sprawled out and tired old people that we are. (26 and old already haha.)

So Sunday we got a take and bake pizza from Papa Murphy's. Mike wasn't feeling leftovers since that was what he had been eating for a week. We had a chicken, bacon and artichoke de-Lite pizza. Was fabulous.

Then we napped. Like I said, lazy and relaxing weekend. We then got up and headed out to our friends house for a swim and some people time. We were also told to take home some bags of groceries - they had a neighbor moving who cleaned out her pantry. Free food, not going to argue. She says she'll have baking stuff soon too. YAY!!! I'm excited about that.

So after getting some vitamin D and having some time with friends we headed out to come back and make dinner. We had, that morning, picked up some lamb steaks, sugar snap peas, sprouts, onion and Greek seasoning. So came back and Mike prepped the onion, tomatoes and garlic for the veggie stir fry that I would be cooking up and he prepped the grill for the lamb. He coated each side of the meat with a generous sprinkling of Greek seasoning (Go to Walmart and pick up some - fabulous on lamb).

Sprouts - fresh
Tomatoes fresh from our friends garden
Garlic Herb seasoning from our local farmers market
Snap peas and onion saute
All veggies mixed in and sauteed up

So after coating and chopping up veggies he got them on the grill, the grill tried to flame broil them at one point, making cook time shorter than expected but still turned out great.

Mike saving the Lamb from the flames
A little charred but not badly
Mmmmm grilled lamb steaks :)
So Mike saved the lamb from a fiery death and promptly brought them in at a medium rare temp and doneness. :) Then we heated up some of the left over mushroom rice from the night before and plated.

From the rice, my steak was
much smaller than Mike's MAN steak ;)
From the veggie side of the plate
Let me just say this about the look, fresh and crisp on the veg, rice was good and the steaks were beautifully pink. Oh, yum, come play in my mouth for a while.

Moving on to flavor, the char really did not affect the flavor much, if at all. In my case I thought it was pretty good.

I may have mentioned this before but when Mike starts grunting and making yummy sounds while eating you know it's good. I agree - it was FANTASTIC! Mike used choice phrases. "Fucking amazing" "God damn that was good!" "That was awesome!" and so on. Went on until we went to bed. I am in total agreement. I even would be quoted, while getting water 2 hours later "Oh my god that was amazing."

This was definitely a hit and was definitely worth the time and effort and will be done again.

Y'all should try this too, amazing. No real trick to it, just cook. So, allez cuisine folks!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Muffins and Creativity, that's what baking is made of

Again, this baking craze has taken all week. I won't be baking today as I'll be headed out to Mike's after work. Have to do physical therapy first though. But - in exciting news I'll be back out doing light jogging in about 1 1/2 weeks. Rugged Maniac here I come!!! :) I love to run, it's a release and so not being able to run has just totally SUCKED!

So Wednesday night I made banana muffins. Just delicious, classic banana muffins from my mom's recipe. I grew up on these things. Delicious, moist and just the right banana flavor (granted I add an extra banana to add some extra flavor). I also cook them slightly under done so they have that little gooey top. Mmmmmm, I'm drooling on my keyboard now. *wipes face* Yeah, add some butter on one of those puppies fresh from the oven and mmmmmm delicious for breakfast or a snack.
Fresh from the oven - beautiful

Just a little gooey, just right
Hot and Buttered ;)
Mom's Banana Bread

2 bananas, ripe and mashed (I usually have some saved up in my freezer - peeled and frozen right as the peel is turning brown - thaw and mash (easier to mash too))
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil (in this case I used butter because I didn't have oil)
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
2 cups all purpose (AP) flour

Mix bananas and sugar together. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Add eggs, oil, vanilla, and water. Mix well. Add soda, salt and flour. Mix until incorporated.

Put into desired device (cupcake pan, loaf pan, cake pan).

Bake at 350 for 15-20 min. Until golden on top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.


So then yesterday night, in my baking frenzy this week, I cam across a no bake recipe that I just had to try, since it doesn't involve my oven. That's a good thing when temps are reaching a hellish 108 here. Ick! My AC does NOT need to break down. So to avoid that I have a curtain between my kitchen and hall and then I keep my AC on the high side (unless Mike comes over, then I turn it down a bit).

So, these magical cookies I found, that require no baking and are totally ok to eat raw, since there isn't any egg in it. I found this amazing site that had these little gems, which also showed me two other sites that have equally delicious recipes for similar things...going to have to experiment for sure.

So, without further ado, here are the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Stuffed Oreo's.

Yes, that is what I said, chocolate chip cookie dough STUFFED Oreo's (or in my case, duplex cookies lol)

Why the world has not embraced these yet is beyond me. I mean come one, take an Oreo, open it up, fill it with chocolate chip cookie dough, put back together, dunk in chocolate and top with sprinkles if desired. O-M-G!

So I made these last night, sent out some pics to friends who immediately said "OMG AMAZING!!!"

Yes we all OMG'd haha.

I bought the Oreo knock offs, as I'm not spending $4 for a pkg of cookies that will not last long, let alone stay in my house. Then proceeded to buy other necessary ingredients that I didn't have on hand. (mini chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, butter - i ran out - and some yogurt because I wanted it)

So to make these beauties (mine didn't turn out so pretty but I will discuss later).

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Stuffed Oreo Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 (16 oz) pkg Oreo sandwich cookies or other Oreo like cookie
Chocolate bark (white, dark or milk) for dipping
Mini M&M's, sprinkles or other decorative bits for extra decoration (or more chocolate like white chocolate drizzle - oh the possibilities)

Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add condensed milk and vanilla. Add flour and salt and beat well. Mix in chocolate chips.

Separate each cookie and place 1Tbsp of cookie dough on one half of each cookie. Top with other half and press lightly. Repeat with remaining cookies. Dip in chocolate - either half or all of the cookie. Let excess chocolate drip off. Place on waxed paper lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with mini M&M's or sprinkles. Place in fridge until chocolate hardens (or place in freezer to have an ice cream sandwich feel).

Sounds delish right? Well you're right. It is, yum, I could just eat the cookie dough.

Straight from the mixer - OH YUM

I don't have a fancy scoop - spoons work.

Stuffed and ready for dipping

Dipped and in the freezer
(yes that's pizza crust under the plate)

So they turned out well, tasted great ----- one problem.

WTF Cookies!?

I pulled the plate out of the freezer to remove cookies from the plate and put in a container. Well, never having this problem before with my plates and chocolate, the cookies would not come off the plate easily. About 6 of them broke off and were cracked and missing good chunks of the cookie. Was a bit mad. At least 80% of the cookies survived and only are missing a tiny bit of the chocolate they were dunked in.

Still tasted good. They just aren't pretty.

Speaking of pretty, I found out I could still wear this cute/pretty dress I've had since high school. I haven't worn it since I was 17 - well I'm definitely not fat then.

So until the next adventure in cooking - which will be Saturday or Sunday - whenever we decide to have pretzel bread enveloped bratwursts. YUM!

Allez Cuisine mes amis!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Turning your kitchen into a sauna and mastering the art of a gas oven

Yeah that title will confuse you a bit. Turning your kitchen into a sauna is easy when you have a kitchen like mine. Galley style and one doorway to the rest of the apartment and in said doorway now hangs a curtain to keep the heat from my oven (gas) in the kitchen and not heating up the rest of my apartment. Since it is currently 100 degrees F here in the Midwest I would say keeping my apartment as cool as possible without cranking the AC and spending my hard earned money is a good thing.

So this week has been kind of blah and because I feel as such baking is a way to release that feeling. Let's see, Monday made brownies to use the chocolate coconut frosting I had made the week prior (sorry no pics). Then I made Tuesday, more pretzel bread by request of Mike so we could eat Brats inside the buns on Sunday for dinner/lunch - whatever. So I happily obliged in creating "brat buns" from the pretzel bread recipe. You can find the recipe here so you can make it too. Of course last time I made it into rolls rather than loaves, as the recipe suggests. This time I made buns. This is how things turned out

Activating the yeast in butter, water, milk and brown sugar

Dough fully mixed and ready for the oiled bowl
Dough ready to sit for 30 min
Risen dough after 30 min, time to knead for 5 min
Dough proofing/rising for another hour
Ready to degas
Degassing and ready to cut into pieces for buns
My attempt at bun shaped dough
Boiling water - ready for the baking soda. New pan is pretty huh :)
Boiled in baking soda boiling water
Dough boiled and cut tops. Ready for the 400 degree oven
Fresh from the oven
Beautiful are they not?
 Now note in the title - trying to master my gas oven. I have never used a gas oven until I moved to my current residence. I love the oven. Makes my heating bill cheaper in the winter. BUT regulating the temperature is another story.

Typically I seem to find that my baked goods keep coming out a bit over done on the bottoms. So I've had to adjust the time and make sure to pull goods out before they over brown. Mike told me to buy an oven thermometer so I could monitor it while baking. Glad I did. Didn't bother the brownies any, didn't bake as long as the recipe called for but having set the oven to 350 degrees the thermometer registered the oven at 350 degrees. However, going up to 400 my oven seems to think it's a blast furnace and cranks itself to 425/450!! HOLY CAT BALLS BATMAN!!! So I ended up baking for the first half of the time (10 min) and then reducing the last half to 8 min so as not to over cook my precious bread. It's soooooo delicious and the crust is just perfect and pretzely. The inside is fluffy and light. Mmmmmmm, yum. Can't wait to try them with bratwursts.

I only have one complaint about how my pretzel buns came out, they didn't puff as much as I would have liked them to, they stayed almost flat so they aren't as fluffy as a traditional bun, but part of that is due in part to the fact that I'm not making these with a loaf pan meant for things such as baguettes or french bread.

But these turned out beautifully - obviously.

So more to come later, I can't give everything away today in one post - well two since I did one this morning too. Banana bread and cookie dough stuffed Oreo's are on my brain. So you will see the results soon.