Monday, June 27, 2011

So sweetly

I promise I haven't given up on this thing! With the chaos of finals, moving, starting my research job and a summer school class, this has been the least of my worries! Most of my meals have been sandwiches (not to say that sandwiches can't be exciting - they can be) or leftovers my mom sends back to Austin with me or other things I throw together. No big cooking adventures. However, the baking adventures have been intermittent through this whole time. My sweet tooth cannot be silenced as easily as my desire to prepare a wonderful meal. It has been a good rule of thumb to not eat sweets that I don't make. That keeps me from buying whoopie pies at HEB with my boyfriend and devouring those... oh wait, that's happened. Or finishing off a box of Oreos in a few days with my roommates... nevermind, guilty again. But as a whole, this rule (easily bendable) is good to stick to. Maybe it is not a rule as much as an idea. Oh well.

May 4 was my roommate//best friend's birthday so needless to say, this called for sweets a plenty. Every year, I have tried to make her a cakeball creation of some sort. Cakeball caterpillar (fondly known as a cakerpillar), cakeletters to spell out "Happy Birthday Theresa", and of course just regular cakeballs have filled many wonderful years of getting to celebrate her birthday. Being an engineer who likes to bake, I have always wondered about the structural component of cakeballs. This year something about "cakeball fortress" just sounded so deliciously majestic. (I will probably do a future post on cakeballs, but they have caught on in popularity, so everyone probably has read about them already! They used to be a novelty. sigh. Haha.)
All the supplies for building a cakeball castle!
Here is the castle terrain: brownie dirt, green coconut grass, and a tropical punch fruit roll up moat!
And here are the bricks: funfetti cakeballs!  
To construct, I just used icing as "mortar" and put some stabilizing kabob sticks on the corners. With Nutty bars for a bridge and cookies for doors, the castle was complete!
 So that was birthday sweet number one. Then, we surprised her with a party, because she deserved it! She is a wonderful lady! What is a birthday celebration without sweets? By this time the castle was in ruins so another treat was necessary. I've always been infatuated with cupcake cakes so I decided to try a version of that. Theresa is allergic to real flowers, but not cake flowers!!
I started by just arranging the mini cupcakes in semi floral shapes. Then, out came the icing bag and the food coloring!
Tah-dah! These were super easy and make a fun party snack.
After that came finals and the move and all that busy stuff, but the next two projects were undertaken in my apartment for the summer! New kitchens are always exciting! I am living with some really wonderful ladies, Michelle and Lauren, and I have loved getting to know them better! They've been so kind to invite me into their space and their lives. Tis a joy! One day at work, the guy I work under told me he made homemade bagels once and showed me pictures. I knew I had to experiment with these for myself. I used this recipe, and I forgot to take pictures along the way (oops), but the link explains it way better than I would. One of the many fun things about bagels is that you can play around with flavors.
These were plain with just an egg wash.
Cinnamon Sugar!
Rosemary and Thyme
Sesame Seed
Homemade bagels = so fun and so good. I know this is getting lengthy, so I'll just end with one last sweet treat. More flower food actually. Sunflower cupcakes, errr cupcakes that look like sunflowers. The center is an oreo! I am told this is in a cupcake book somewhere, but I just saw a picture that was posted on my facebook and was inspired.
The vanilla buttercream icing is just a really simple recipe. Cream together 1/2 cup vegetable shortening and 1/2 cup butter. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Gradually add 4 cups powdered sugar and then add 1-2 Tablespoons of milk to get to desired consistency. Then add food coloring! I used my leaf tip to make petals, which took some practice! But by the end, I think I finally got them to look like sunflowers!
Happy summertime!!
Hopefully your summers are going well and now that summer school is over, I might have more time for summery cooking adventures!!

Friday, April 29, 2011

You make beautiful things out of the dust

Happy week after Easter, my friends! Easter is my favorite holiday, I do believe. Salvation is here, our debt is paid, the curtain is torn, the grave is beaten! Hallelujah indeed! Because this covenant is eternal, so shall be my praise! I got to spend this lovely weekend at home with my family, which was so fun and wonderful.
So, with Easter comes the end of Lent, and after not having a sweet for forty days, my taste buds were ready for some sugar! Over Spring Break, my mom got me a cupcake magazine full of recipes and decorating ideas and all sorts of stuff. She knows me so well! The ones that caught my eye the most were these cupcakes made to look like lambs and little chicks! Totes presh. (Sometimes I just have to use abbreviations when thing are so cute! Or adorbs, if you will.) I just used box cake mix for the cupcakes, chocolate for the lambs and yellow for the duckies.

After being iced and covered with coconut (both tinted yellow for the duckies), they were ready to have all the other details added to them! SO fun!
My sweet sister, Julianne, and friends, Randy and Lauren, came to help me. They were so great! I was not very good at documenting the process of the lambs, but first we coated big marshmallows in icing and rolled them in coconut. After freezing those, a few were cut into sixths to be ears with pink icing for added detail. There were hooves and snouts made out of Tootsie Rolls cut into fourths, mini chocolate chips for eyes and I think that is it!!
Oh, hello, cute little guy!!
So many cute baby lambs. I was freaking out at how adorable they were. Admittedly, some did look a tad like ewoks, but hey, still precious.
In this whole process, there were a total of four store runs. My mom went first, my dad went second and third, and then my sister, friends, and I went last. Turns out, these need a lot of icing and a lot of coconut!!
Then, for the duckies, big marshmallows were coated in yellow tinted icing and yellow tinted coconut, a messy process to be sure! Ritz crackers cut in half were coated with icing and yellow coconut too. With slits cut into the marshmallows, orange Reese's Pieces were slid in for beaks and mini chocolate chips for eyes!

A few of the beaks are falling out in this picture - that is pre-slit cut. But aren't they precious? I think so!

The final product!! They were so so fun and I hope my wonderful helpers enjoyed themselves as much as I did! And the three headed ducky on the top of the cupcake stand was mine and my sisters creation. What to do with extra mallows? A three headed duck of course! That was the one that I ate for my Easter dessert. haha. Welp, I hope these cuties made your day, because I sure had fun making them! I hope Easter celebration and excitement lasts for you year round!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pack up your troubles

The past few weeks have just been assorted food experiences, nothing as exciting as a fire, but also things worth sharing. It's just been consistently fun in the kitchen. This is kind of indicative of life lately - just chugging along with ups and downs, but celebrating every little joy. No matter what the weeks hold there are also random day-brighteners and problems solved and things to praise Jesus for. I think this entry will be mostly be cooking anecdotes - not extremely focused on one thing, but surveying the kitchen adventures of the recent times.
Last Monday, I made saffron chicken. I had a little saffron left over from my trip to Turkey a few years ago and thought this would be fun.
Saffron is just pretty. I mean most spices are, really. It is super entertaining watching the color of saffron spread, and always surprising that the color is adds is more yellow than red.
This was the final dish. See how the chicken turned yellow? Quite interesting! And since it is not used often in these parts, I had forgotten its unique taste. I enjoyed it. Served over rice and with naan - nomz.

Then, on Wednesday, Matt cooked for me!! Y'all, he is quite the chef! He made chicken and couscous with onions,  dried apricots, cinnamon, etc as well as yummy little rolls made from scratch with yeast! He claims his palate is not developed, but after a meal like that, I beg to differ! It was quite the treat having him cook for me!
He also surprised me with these beautiful little roses. Soo good to me. :O)

On Thursday, I needed a quick meal - I forget now what it was... perhaps dinner? That's the only one that makes sense. Anyway, we had a can of tomatoes, a can of chickpeas, bread, olive oil. I made a "poor man's bruschetta" by sauteing the chickpeas and tomatoes in olive oil and basil and oregano and put it on toasted bread. Easy, quick, and nomz. Not very classy though.
This weekend was a surprise party for my dear friend Lauren! I asked if there was a cake the day of, nd there was none! Unfortunately, this was short notice, but there cannot be a birthday celebration without some sort of variation on cake! I just did a box cake and used my icing tips to play around, plus this awesome sparkley pink Wilton icing. (This is my last sweet to make until Lent is over! So soon until I get to eat a sweet!) Anyway, I think she liked it.
Last, but not least, was today. I am trying to cut back on the dollars I spend. Indulge myself with ingredients too often. So, in disciplining myself, I actually produced a really satisfying meal! Adventure of today: the grill. My mom taught me how to grill once, but I have never put it into practice without her. Grilled chicken, salad, and bread. Easy, but so satisfying. I made a little marinade with olive oil, minced garlic, and Penzey's Garden Salad and let the chicken breasts sit in it for awhile in the fridge. Then came this:
This was a thoroughly rewarding experience. I was quite excited and felt slightly powerful.
SO GOOD!!! :O) Then I made a big salad - so colorful!
The bread was this. (Not my own beer, might I add.) I did the Garlic and Herb variation - rosemary and thyme are my favorite spices together.
And that, dear friends, is the end of my cooking week. Twas loads of fun.
I won't write again until after Easter and I am so so so excited for it. Seriously. Easter changes everything.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

actually, I did start the fire.

So, sometimes things just go crazy. I really love adventures and trying new things, but sometimes I am not prepared for the skill required for such undertakings!! If the title is not enough of a hint for you... I did start a fire in my kitchen this week. Not my finest moment, but all's well that ends well!

Let's back up here. So, I had decided earlier in the day that I wanted to make Mediterranean food. For some reason, falafel has always interested me and I thought it wouldn't be that hard. So I attempted to! I was going to put falafel with lettuce, tomato, and cucumber on a pita with green Greek sauce! Good idea, right? I also wanted to make a yufka boregi. This is a cheese pastry that I learned to make in cooking class in Istanbul a few years ago. It is the dish from that experience that I make the most, but still not often enough. This Mediterranean feast was sounding awesome in my head.

I found this recipe for falafel, but didn't have time to soak the dried chickpeas, so I just used 3 cans of chickpeas/garbanzo beans. I know, I know. Canned food is just not as good as the real thing. But I was in a crunch.
Pretty ingredients!
So the first thing that went wrong was that I didn't have a food processor. I thought a blender would work, since chickpeas are pretty smushable and all, but it just got all thick at the bottom of the blender. meh. So, not really knowing what to do... I just mixed it all up with my hands. I don't know. It was weird. 
If you haven't noticed yet, I am nowhere near an expert in food. I like explorations, but my taste for adventure and my taste for flavors are about all that motivate me. I wish I was excellent at this, but I really am just having fun. Along these same lines, I don't really know much about falafel except that it tastes good when other people make it. I'm not sure is this is the right consistency or not, but whatevs. It tasted good. 

Meanwhile, I was working on the Boregi. This one actually worked out as planned. Probably because I have made it before. Haha. The recipe was adapted from The Flavors of Istanbul by Sharon Croxford. I used filo dough instead of making my own dough and for the cheese filling, I just used Athenos feta cheese with garlic and herb. It is a process of layering, egg washing, etc. 

Yufka Boregi
1 package filo dough
1 package Athenos garlic and herb feta cheese
3 eggs
3/8 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
-Mix cheese and 1 whole egg and 1 egg white (leaving yolk in another bowl for glaze) in a small bowl for filling.
-Mix 1 whole egg, water, and melted butter for the egg wash.
-Butter a circle pan and layer in two layers of filo dough to cover the bottom of the pan and draping over the sides.
-Apply egg wash over this layer of dough and add another. Then add another layer of dough the same way as the first. Repeat this step. 
-Spread filling evenly over this layer of dough. Then add another layer, egg wash again and repeat that 2 or 3 more times. 
-Fold all dough from the side of the pan in across the top and  glaze with egg yolk
-Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes.
-Allow to cool. Slice, and serve!!

While I was making this, oil was heating up for the falafel. I have never fried anything before in my life and I do not have a thermometer. It said to heat up to 375 F but I just thought "Oh, as long as it is not boiling, it will be fine." Wrong.
The second I put in the first rolled ball of chickpea mixture, the oil started bubbling and sputtering all over the place and the little ball completely fell apart. In this eruption, oil got out of the pot and into the stove and started smoking. (Smoke alarm #1) Except I didn't realize it had gotten into the burner. Naively, I tried to use a different pan - a little more griddle-esque - with just some olive oil drizzled in it to cook the falafel, because deep frying scared me. Once I turned the burner back on, within seconds I saw an orange glow coming from the bottom of the pan. I lifted it up only to be greeted by flames!! Panic ensued. "Michelle!! .... FIRE!" I yelled. (Smoke alarm #2) She told me to get the fire extinguisher and in my rookie usage, I put the fire out. Here was the aftermath.

There was grease everywhere and fire extinguisher dust even more-so everywhere. Derp. I could not have remained composed without the help of my wonderful roommate. While I was waiting for the stove top to cool down so I could clean, I decided to cook the falafel balls in the oven. Well, that failed too - they were too squishy. But they tasted good. And in the end of the day, that's kind of all that matters for a food adventure. Here was the final product:

It actually made a really good dip for the pita, and if you put this on first and then a little bit of green sauce, it actually tasted great! The boregi tasted great, too. All in all, it was a nice dinner with a lot of craziness behind it.
Then came the million hours of clean up. My really cool boyfriend, Matt, came over and so sweetly offered to clean the whole thing. I couldn't let him do that though, but he scrubbed and cleaned right along with me for a few hours. I was just blown away by his generosity with his time and how caring he was in making sure I was ok. He even wore an apron!

After he left, I scrubbed for a few more hours. Barkeeper's Friend was the cleaning agent and it worked wonders. In the end, the kitchen was cleaner than it had been in a while.
As I said before, all's well that ends well and end well it did. Praise God for friends, fire extinguishers, sympathizing souls, Barkeeper's Friend, protection, and a good meal in the end.

In penitence for setting our stove on fire on Monday, I unclogged the bathroom sink drain today with a hanger, a paperclip, and my do-it-herself tool kit. I feel like those balance each other out.

Friday, April 1, 2011

put it in the pizzaaaa...

Helllooooo! This past week was pretty busy, with 3 tests, 4 homeworks, and a lab report due. So there was not a lot of adventuring in the kitchen happening this week. Perhaps this weekend!
Last week, however, was a pizza extravaganza. After my yeast experience in cooking for my sister, I got pretty interested in using it in other forms. What to use it in? Pizza dough!!

I wanted to make something different than just pepperoni - I mean nothing is wrong with that, but this blog is all about adventuring. After brainstorming for a while, the idea came to me to use the same ingredients in the pasta for my sister, but subbing pizza dough for noodles! So that was pizza number one. Pizza number two was just veggies galore. mmmm.

Dough hooks are such a cool invention!

Kneading. Remember how I said using egg whites was therapeutic? So is kneading dough!
Then you just put the dough in the fridge overnight! And it rises! I love yeast! So cool. When science and food collide, I get a little giddy.

 So many pretty ingredients

Tah dah! This one had brocollini, shallots, garlic, sausage, cheese, pizza sauce, oregano, and basil.

Pizza number two: veggiessss

nommmzzz. zucchini, mushrooms, shallots, artichoke hearts, tomato, cheese, sundried tomato vinaigrette, basil, and oregano.

That was pizza experience number one. The roomz, the boyfriend, the boyfriends of some of the roomz, and I all enjoyed this a lot. The crust was so good!! SO fluffy and flavorful (and easy!). YUM. 
That was Monday. Then, Friday night, two of my sweet friends, Anjali and Alysse came over for pizza. It was like the veggie one, except there was spinach instead of zucchini and no tomatoes. Also good! (No picture, sorry!) There are really so many good ingredients that you can't go wrong! On Saturday, my Ignite camp came over! We had so much fun and I made 4 pizzas. I started with cheese because I knew everyone would like it. And it was really good! Just cheese, oregano, basil, and sauce and that was it! Next in was another veggie pizza exactly the same as the first. After that was my first attempt at a meat lover's - sausage, pepperoni and ham. And, well, that one was pretty great too. The last was a half and half cheese and meats. After making 7 pizzas in a week, one might say our apartment turned into a PEETzah PAHRlor! Twas quite fun!
veggie pizza number 2!
cheesey goodness
and the meats!

So, there was the pizza adventure. Quite fun, I must say! Also, if you can name where this blog title comes from, well, I don't know what I can offer you, other than my appreciation and high respect. Hope your week was wonderful!