Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Saying Goodbye and a Bit of Hope

I'm sorry I haven't posted since the 10th. The next day I found out my cat, Chisum (as seen in this post), was very, very ill and last Tuesday, the 16th, Aaron and I had to say goodbye. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.. I've said goodbye to pets before but this was the first time I had to make the choice. Posting about food didn't seem like a priority. I took the next day off from work and on Thursday doing a Things I Love post seemed wrong.
Aaron adopted Chisum during the summer of 2001 when he was 2 months old. We all moved down to Portland together at the end of May 2002 and have been a little family ever since. Even with the addition of Doser, our ridiculous dog that he was only really starting to not hate, Chisum has been a good friend and nighttime snuggler. I miss him every day, but it's slowly getting easier.
My tomatoes are starting to turn red. My basil plant has gone insane in the good way. The rosemary and oregano make my backyard smell so good. My gypsy pepper plant may actually put out another pepper and the jalapeƱo one is giving me presents. My mom, as a graduation gift, gave me lavender, rosemary, oregano/thyme, and sage plants. Things grow and change. The night we said goodbye I had a plate of nachos from Cha!Cha!Cha! and a veggie burger with goat cheese from Little Big Burger and we watched Role Models and tried not to feel so bad.

It's getting better. I'll be posting again soon because I still love food and still have my anniversary cupcakes to tell you about. And I grilled pizza for the first time! And I made mint chimichurri and a delicious salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Looking at my photos, I have a lot more to share.

With love,

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream and Bourbon Chocolate Ganache

What do you do to celebrate finishing the most important weekend of your graduate school career? You make cupcakes, share them with your friends, and then forget to eat one. I love cobbling together recipes and filled cupcakes are one of the easiest ways to put three different things together, including the filled part of these cupcakes that I have never done before (my friends enjoy whiskey). Plus, I love my Settlement cookbook (despite its horribly sexist tag line) because it always turns out great baked goods.

So even though my capstone ended a couple of weekends ago and since grades are officially in and I am officially graduating on Sunday (!!!), I am officially posting these. Officially. And maybe it'll remind me to make them again so I can actually eat one instead of tasting all of the individual parts in the baking process.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream and Bourbon Chocolate Ganache:

Makes 12 cupcakes so good you'll get marriage offers

Vanilla Cupcakes from The Settlement Cookbook -
1 c. sugar
2 c. flour
¼ tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
¼ c. shortening
1 c. milk
1 egg, well beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

Bourbon Chocolate Ganache modified from Dinner & Dessert:

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
3-ish teaspoon bourbon (probably more. I wasn’t measuring and non bourbon lovers might not like this as much)

Rich Vanilla Buttercream Frosting from Baking Illustrated:

Makes 2 cups

2 large eggs
½ c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt
½ lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, each stick cut into quarters

To make the cupcakes, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together. Add melted shortening to the milk, egg, and vanilla together. Combine mixtures well. Pour into cupcake pans filled about ¾ of the way. Bake for about 20 minutes. What is hilarious about this recipe is that it is supposed to make 24 cupcakes. I didn't want 24, I wanted 12, so I made a half recipe and upon seeing the amount of batter in my mixer bowl, I made the other half. I'm not sure these would have made 24 mini cupcakes!

Anyway, while your cupcakes are cooling, move on to the ganache and frosting.

For the ganache, chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains.) Add the butter and bourbon and stir until combined. It should be creamy, but if not, add a bit more cream and bourbon. It’s okay, it’s delicious.

While the ganache is cooling, make the frosting by combining the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer; place bowl over a pan of simmering water. (Do no let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). Whisking gently but constantly, beat the mixture until it is thin and foamy and registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer.

Beat the egg mixture at medium-high speed until light, airy, and cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add the butter, one piece a a time. (After adding half the butter, the buttercream may look curdled; it will smooth out with additional butter). Once all the butter is added, increase the speed to high and beat 1 minute until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined. It's a deliciously decadent frosting and it will make extra. It can be covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days. This is a half recipe and it made too much for 12 cupcakes, though not the too much I generally seem to experience.
To assemble the cupcakes, use your awesome cupcake corer your mom got you (or a slim knife cutting to about 2/3 of the way down) to remove the centers. Eat these since you might not eat a cupcake later. Fill the holes to the top with cooled ganache (it should still be pipe- or spoon-able). Cover in frosting. Try to be gentle about this if you don't want the chocolate mixing in with the vanilla. A big glob of it that you slowly swirl around is a good way to go about this.
These are really good. Well, I know that the the individual parts are really, really good. The ganache isn't too sweet and has a very distinct bourbon taste, which was perfect for the crowd I made them for. The frosting is so ridiculously good and the cupcakes are not too sweet and an a perfect light complement to the heavier filling and frosting. Everyone I spoke with said the cupcakes as a whole were really, really good. And yes, I did get a marriage offer, just in case I need a back up hubby. It is contingent on these cupcakes. So make them! And don't forget to eat one!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Cookie Dough Ice Cream

The semester is over. School is over. I feel really, really good about that, but before it was all over, I was a giant ball of stress. That's how this ice cream came to be. If you combine this (minus the OJ) and this, you get delicious, delicious ice cream. I've made two batches now because it is easy, everyone likes it, and it can take stress down a notch.

Cookie Dough Ice Cream mostly from Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book:

Makes one quart

Sweet Cream Base #1 -
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 cup milk
and 2 tsp. vanilla

½ recipe peanut butter M&M cookie dough

Make the cookie dough and roll into small balls. Put it on a baking sheet and stick it in your freezer while you work on the ice cream base.

Prep the sweet cream base with vanilla. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. . Pour in cream and milk and whisk to blend. Then whisk in the vanilla. Easy.
Get it going in the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. About 2 minutes before it is done freezing, add in the cookie dough balls. Transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze for at least 2 hours (overnight is better) to get hard pack. 
And then you eat it and it is good.  I'm really proud of this ice cream and though it can be a bit messy to make, the smiles on the faces of your husband (if you have one of those) and your friends (if you have these...which are really nice things to have) makes it so totally worth the mess. Plus, the smile on your own face because seriously...so good.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Real French Onion Dip

Sometime last month Aaron and I were invited to a late night barbeque. As is always the case, we asked what we could bring. The reply was French onion dip. Not being one who likes to purchase when I can make for potlucks, I was ready to tackle it even with not much time prior to the event.
I had saved a recipe just for an occasion such as this and I was very pleased with the results. This is best made a day ahead of time, but it can work well even a few hours ahead. I made a half recipe of the original, but I am posting the full one below. Either way it's easy and worth your time as it is so much better than the stuff you get at the store. Promise.

Real French Onion Dip from Serious Eats:

Makes about 2 cups

2 tsp. sugar
3 large yellow onions, finely diced (about 1 qt.)
1 Tb. butter
¼ tsp. baking soda
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ c. water
¾ c. sour cream
½ c. mayonnaise
1 tsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ oz. finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tb. finely sliced chives (I used green onion since I had it on hand)

Heat sugar in a 12” stainless-steel skillet over medium-high heat until completely melted and light brown, about 3 minutes. Immediately add onions and stir with wooden spoon to coat onions in sugar. Add butter, baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds black pepper. Toss to combine. Cook, shaking pan occasionally until onions release all their liquid and brown coating builds up on bottom of pan, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add 2 tablespoons water shake pan while scraping with wooden spoon to deglaze brown bits from bottom of pan. Continue cooking, shaking occasionally until coating begins to build up again, 3 to 5 minutes. Repeat deglazing and cooking steps three more times until all water is used up and onions are deep brown. Transfer to medium mixing bowl and allow to rest at room temperature for 5 minutes.
Add sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, parmesan, and Worcestershire and whisk to combine. For smoother texture, run through blender or food processor. I did not do this step as I felt it was fairly smooth on its own. Chill in a sealed container for at least 1 hour and up to 5 days (flavor will improve with time). Spoon into a bowl, sprinkle with chives, and serve with chips.

This was a big hit and went well with the burgers and other snacks.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Things I Love Thursday: Aug. 4, 2011

(because my hubby and I are world travelers)
Hey guys, guess what today is? Oh, I don't know, just my 5 year wedding anniversary. It's rad being married to someone as awesome as Aaron and it's also rad being able to use rad and awesome in the same sentence and be totally sincere about it. I am filled with love and though I am not currently wearing my wedding dress, I'd like to share all the love I feel. But about food! Happy Thursday and happy anniversary to Aaron. And also me.

Bourdain to Host Second Travel Channel Show: I think Anthony Bourdain is the bee's knees, so the fact that he's getting a second show is wonderful news to my eyeballs. This is why it's worth your time - "unlike No Rez, you will actually be able to do the stuff covered on the show." Yup! I would've called it a Hot Minute with Tony, but I'll watch it just the same.

In other Travel Channel/food news, check out this interview with my other favorite travel food guy Adam Richman.I cannot tell you how many hours of Man V. Food I've watched (it's even better at the gym). I think transforming his format was really smart and probably a million times better for his health. The dude is a consummate entertainer and just seems like a really nice guy.

Bread People: Want to see something really creepy, but oddly entertaining? Click on that link. James Earl Scones might be my favorite, but you know I also am disturbed, but in love with Han Soloaf.

(because we love Mario)
Russia Classifies Beers as Alcoholic: This just in - beer is not food. I guess Murderface won't want to move to Russia now.

Cheese Pencils: This link comes to me via Brittany, who is someone who knows cheese. How are these real and how do I not have one right now? Can you imagine shaving this over your fancy arugula salad? I can!

Dinosaur Comics - Everything You Need to Know About Kitchens: Turns out dinosaurs can teach you about more than just ecology. They also know things about kitchens! I feel kind of silly because I learned about a backsplash from a webcomic, but I think I'll live. On a side note, you should be reading this comic. Don't forget to hover your mouse over the comic for the alt text!
(because we love bacon and bacon turned me into a meat eater...which Aaron loves)
Sugar and Shirts: So Threadless makes really fun shirts and now they have a competition where people make cakes that look like their shirts. As you may have guessed, the cakes are also fun. I think my favorite one is the of the triple scoop ice cream cone. If you want to enter this year, you have until the 15th.

Toasty Illusions: I can totally see the cat face, but I'm usually really good at these things.

Fishin' for Revolution: I hope this doesn't end up on a t-shirt.
(because we love the farmers market)

I'm also loving: National Ice Cream Sandwich Day (yup, that's a real thing); eating cardamom ice cream between two lemon cookies at Ruby Jewel because it's National Ice Cream Sandwich Day; surprisingly delicious vegan corn dogs at Hungry Tiger Too!; buckets of ginger mojitos (I will have this!); goat cheese on everything all the time, but especially pita chips; the smell of garlic when you've pulled it from the ground; discovering the delicious flavors of Rogue whiskey (thanks LeGrand!); excellent after a long (FINAL!) class weekend BBQs with your lovely school friends; having someone offer marriage based on a cupcake; B's getting a new food cart and actually getting it on the barge; Reed's ginger beer every day; conveyor belt sushi (and Aaron eating conveyor belt sushi); bagels for breakfast lunch and also dinner; anniversary dinners (tonight!); anniversary drinks with friends (tomorrow!); giant freezepops in the park; all food and everything because today is my anniversary and everything is good.

What are you loving this week?  

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Restaurant Review: B's Bakery and Bistro

This is a totally not impartial restaurant review. My sister-in-law, also named Becca, runs a food cart (B's Bakery & Bistro) in our hometown of Juneau, Alaska and it is ridiculously delicious and you should know about it. I knew I liked her food already, but I didn't get to try the cart food until I was back up North for my 10 year high school reunion (go Bears!).

Anyway, it is good. She's currently rocking out some cupcakes, cookies, and paninis. There's a special panino every week and they all come with a lot of love. I had the special, which that day was goat cheese, asparagus, and prosciutto. Salty, a little sweet, crunchy, and all amazing. Aaron had the Twisted Cheese Steak, which Becca says is one of her most popular. We split a Salted Caramel cupcake and it was the perfect density and fluffiness. I unfortunately missed out on the pumpkin cupcakes with maple cream, but I heard they were awesome. I'm not the only one who loves her. The Capital City Weekly interviewed her and the Juneau Empire caught a snap of her moving her cart.

This fall she'll be opening up a bigger cart in a new location, so be on the look out for that. Currently she is located on 4th and Main, across the street from the Capital Building, and is open Tuesday-Friday from 11:30-2. If you're in the area and haven't checked her out yet, get on it! If you're not...well...another reason to visit Alaska? I think so.

Become a fan on Facebook or follow her on Twitter (if only to get her to actually tweet!).
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