30 January 2008

Super Bowl Playoff Eats

The following took place on Playoff Sunday

There's a trend regarding Super Bowl food that includes meat. In fact, some might say you are committing a sin if you don't have meat at your tailgaiting party or your party at home. I don't really know about that, seeing as I couldn't care less about meat, but meat we made nonetheless.

Before I get to the meat, Super Bowl parties must have snacks.

Wasabi-coated peas are one of THE best snacks in the world. Crunchy, savory, and very spicy!

Now back to the main course, which was Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs for sandwiches, though I used chicken breasts.

Clockwise starting at the top: Kosher salt, garlic powder, chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, and red pepper flakes for the dry rub.

This rub is so great that you should double it and keep it around. I forgot I did that back in March, when the recipe first came out in the Cooking Light magazine. Yes, I had whole bottle of it and I forgot...

Rub it on the chicken

I could just have used mayonnaise and mustard, but I don't like mayonnaise (unless it's homemade or horseradish mayonnaise) and I wanted to make it extra special, so I made a cilantro pesto. It also tastes great as a chip dip.

And here is a pile of meat, sure to satisfy anyone. (Unless they don't eat meat, in which case you're screwed. >.<) Make sure you cover the chicken, or any meat, with foil and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. It will give the juices a chance to redistribute within the chicken so it won't ooze out when you slice it. Especially if it's chicken breasts, which we all know lacks flavor to begin with.

Another very important component to a sandwich, besides the innards, is the bread. If you're making subs, you want a roll with crusty and chewy outtards (but not difficult to chew through) and spongy, flavorful innards. If the bread reminds you of sawdust, get rid of it. If necessary to fit more innards in, you might need to hollow out the insides a bit.

For me, the best part of events such as the Super Bowl isn't so much the eating of the food as it is the making of it. A foodie always looks forward to an event that requires food, which sometimes means we develop an interest in the main event itself. (Giants!! And they are going to win because Conan's turtle race said so. HA!.) Sometimes. But mostly, from our viewpoint, it's usually about the food.

28 January 2008

Daring Bakers and the Lemon Meringue Pie

There is no good month to miss when you're a part of the Daring Bakers. This month's challenge looked to be a fun one, but I wasn't able to fit it in. That doesn't stop you from seeing how the other DBers did on the challenge, though!


24 January 2008

Natl. Peanut Butter Day and Happy Belated Birthday to Elvis Presley!

The following took place on 24 January 2008

I know what you might be thinking, "What the heck does peanut butter have to do with Elvis Presley?" If that's what you were thinking, SHAME ON YOU! As punishment, you must watch the King make is favorite snack, a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. Too bad Elvis didn't know he was a foodie. :(

Despite what you may have thought about peanut butter and me, it's not my favorite snack. It gives me a claustrophobic feeling, though I swear that a tablespoon of natural peanut butter cures hiccups, followed by a few swigs of water (so says my brother, and he's right). But Elvis, however, brings out my peanut butter love in the form of warm, gooey peanut butter. In fact, I meant to celebrate Elvis' birthday by making a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich, but I forgot. Now it's your turn to say SHAME ON YOU, Christina! As soon as I saw the recipe for King Cupcakes from Cooking Light, I knew I could rectify my mistake, and since this is National Peanut Butter Day, talk about killing two birds with one stone!

Are not these the cutest? The perfectly domed crowns are beautiful! When I talk about a great-looking cupcake, this is what I mean.

Cream cheese-peanut butter frosting. The lighting gives it a jaundiced-hue...

Glamour Shots by Deb

This is the cupcake's equivalent to a mug shot. It's punishment is to be consumed immediately.

The perfect amount of frosting is the same for the espresso-milk ratio in a cappuccino, which is 1/3 frosting (espresso) to 2/3 cupcake (milk).

Did this recipe do justice to the King?

Cupcake: For the little amount of banana in the recipe, I was worried it might not stand out well in the baked cupcake. I was kind of wrong, as there was a pleasant banana essence, though it didn't scream "OOH, BANANA!!" That usually means it has the potential to be overpowered by the frosting...

The texture of the cupcake was between dense and light. It had a decent amount of sponginess without being rubbery, but it didn't have that wonderful melt-in-your-mouth feature. It was also decently moist without being sticky or gummy and didn't immediately turn to mush as soon as you begin to chew it.

Frosting: If you recall from the last post, I really enjoy peanut butter frosting. What intrigued me about this recipe was that it called for cream cheese. Tasting the finished frosting alone, it had a wonderfully subtle tanginess that I felt enhanced the peanut butter frosting experience. I'm adding this to my recipe box. It was very light and airy, like the frosting for the chocolate-chocolate-banana cake was.

(I added an extra ounce of cream cheese, 2 Tbsp. of peanut butter, 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar, and 1 1/2 Tbsp. of milk to make more frosting. If you don't want to make more, you still need at least 1 1/2 teaspoons (1/2 Tbsp.) of milk or else it's too thick.)

The combined effect: As I said above, the ratio of frosting-to-cupcake is 1/3-to-2/3. Why? You don't want to overpower the cupcake. (The only reason to overpower the cupcake is if it's a terrible cupcake, which usually means the frosting will be terrible, which in turn means you shouldn't be eating it to begin with.) Well, the banana flavor of the cupcake wasn't as noticeable versus eating the cupcake itself. If you take a bite with too much frosting on your fork, it really overpowers it, but if you stop thinking about the taste, it all melds together into a subconscious banana-peanut buttery fusion. I would, however, prefer a cupcake with more banana taste next time.

The only part I wasn't able to do was sprinkle chopped peanuts on top because I didn't have any. It would have given it a great texture contrast, as well as cutting the sweetness, though this wasn't really uber sweet at all.

Personally, I think the King would have approved. Upon biting into a cupcake version of his supposedly favorite snack, he would have replied, "Thank you, thank you very much. ;)."

(Another foodie, Culinary in the Desert, blogged about King Cupcakes back in February. Read it. Click this here link!)

20 January 2008

A Very Merry Unbirthday Birthday Post

The following took place on the beginning of the third week in December.

We have a family tradition for birthdays that my mom started a long time ago. To make our birthdays more special, she started making breakfast crepes.

This is my brother's plate (he has the same birthday as I). The crepes are spread lightly but evenly with lovely morello cherry preserves (lovely because it isn't too sweet) and topped with sweetened strawberries and raspberries (we used frozen because December isn't fresh fruit season), and caramelized banana slices, which were a great contrast to the sweetness of the strawberries and somewhat tart raspberries.

My plate, topped with whipped cream.

My brother's plate. He really loads up on whipped cream.

(Before this entree, I made a really good miso soup, but I forgot to take pictures >.<)

For dinner, my mom made sticky chicken served on a bed of jasmine rice. It's a really quick and simple dish that's full of flavor. She made it a bit differently this time by adding grated orange rind, which gave it a nice orange essence.

The cake was my brother's idea. (Normally, two cakes would have been made, but I didn't really care so I opted not to have one. Blasphemy, I know. **I'm rolling my eyes right now**) My brother wanted a chocolate-chocolate banana cake with banana chunks and peanut butter frosting. I used the banana-caramel cake recipe from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, but I replaced some of the flour with cocoa powder and added dark chocolate chips. (To digress for a moment, I've since come to realize that adding chocolate chips to a cake batter isn't such a brilliant idea. Since chocolate chips are made so they won't lose its shape, having large chunks of chocolate dispersed throughout the finished cake works against being able to cut even slices without bits of cake dislodging from the slice. Mini chocolate chips probably would have been a better idea, or maybe just not using Ghirardelli, as their chips are larger than other brands' and better suited for brownies and cookies.) I did follow the directions for the caramelized bananas, though I cooked mine a bit too long and the bananas were mushier than I intended them to be. I used a different recipe for the frosting, which I thought was too sweet. To cut the sweetness, I added some kosher salt after the frosting was made and folded it in; the sweet and salty combination rocks!

Cake innards! If you look closely, you can just see the outline of the caramelized bananas in center.

Overall, the cake was lovely and the flavors melded well together. The cake wasn't too dense, and the peanut butter-caramelized banana flavor is a winning combination. But, I thought it was more on the sweet side than I prefer in a dessert, though not sore throat-inducing.

09 January 2008

Christmas Cookies

The following took place the second week of December.

I need to write a baking list. Why? Because having a baking list written out means I'll actually get to it in a timely manner. I've been wanting to bake pumpkin-cranberry biscotti ever since reading the recipe in Once Upon a Tart about two years ago. Now you see why I need the list!

The Once Upon a Tart biscotti recipes are interesting in that some call for whipping egg whites for the batter. Some cream the butter with the sugar, others call for melted butter. I also formed mini logs because it makes perfect gift-size biscotti and because miniature is cool.

It bleeds. Oh, the pain!

I know what you're thinking. I don't know what it is, either.

After the logs cool a bit, they get sliced and baked again. It makes for perfect coffee dunking.

I then melted some of the above...

To do that. I wanted them to be extra special since some were to be a gift.

(The pumpkin-cranberry biscotti were great. It didn't have a strong spice taste, but rather a subtleness. The same with the pumpkin, though it was apparent that it was pumpkin and you didn't have to wonder what that taste was. In the words of LeVar Burton, "You don't have to take my word for it!" Go make some. I'm sure you still have a can of pumpkin puree leftover from the holidays!)

For the second part of the gift, I cut mini snowflake shapes out of the honey-spice dough.

Fun times! Royal icing is the ultimate for making perfectly iced cookies. (I added a teaspoon of lemon juice this time.)

I was so stoked to make these because I had decorating sugar. Besides making it look better, it adds a nice crunch.

All wrapped up.

05 January 2008

Daring Bakers and the Bûche de Noël (Yule Log)

I am a very, very bad little Daring Baker... This was supposed to be posted no later than 23 December, and I had it finished then, but it didn't get eaten until a few days later, though it was meant for Christmas. How in the world I could foresee into the future, I haven't a clue. Let me know if you find out.

What a challenge in store for December. A Bûche de Noël, with lovely meringue mushrooms (or marzipan, but I chose the other), was chosen by Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice (<--- click here for the recipe)and Lis at La Mia Cucina.

The components that stood out to me were the genoise, which did not contain butter, and the Swiss meringue buttercream. I had made neither of those before.

The making of the genoise went along quite easily, though it never really got thick to the point where thick ribbons streamed down.

Then the timer binged! and I went to rescue my genoise from hell... But apparently it already suffered a terrible blister. Look at the picture, now imagine it puffed up. Not cool.

In the words of Miss Clavel, "Something is not right, something is quite wrong. And so, I sing this song." Something was definitely not right, and that something was my buttercream. The beginning step reminded me of a 7-minute frosting in that you dissolve the sugar with egg whites over a double-boiler, but unlike a 7-minute frosting you remove it from the heat when you beat it. Well, mine never quite thickened. I added the butter anyway (an amount, 3 sticks, I thought too much, but it tasted wonderfully), got a really creamy texture, a slightly off-white hue, but still quite runny. Next, it was time to add the dissolved espresso powder. It curdled the beautiful mixture. I think it might have been due to dissolving the powder in cooled coffee instead of water... Or something.

After skinning the genoise, I decided to roll it up with the incredibly runny buttercream. (Despite the repulsing sight of the skinning, which very much reminded me of a real blister, and I know, I've had my share of blisters, I ate some of it anyway and it hands-down beats blister skin. No, wait, I'm not implying that I've eaten blister skin...)

I rolled it up and wrapped it in plastic wrap, then stuck it in the fridge.

The next night, I realized that, due to the runny buttercream, the center was not filled adequately.

Next, I made the meringue and piped out little mushroom caps and stems.

As the mushrooms baked, I took out the frosting only to find a curdled, thick mass. It didn't taste grainy, though, really smooth and dissolved easily. I added the remaining meringue to a bit of the buttercream because I was going to pipe more filling into the center of the roll.

The assembled meringue 'shrooms.

Sliced, then frosted. It was a bit difficult because the frosting kept coming up from the log. I made it work, however.

I heard this noise, and I realized it was coming from the container in which the 'shrooms were kept... Lo and behold, it was 'Shroom Dude with a special message!

The decorated 'shrooms, smudged with cocoa powder.

A bit late in the week, for Saturday's breakfast, we partook of the yule log. Everyone loved it, and the crunchy-chewy meringue 'shrooms were the perfect touch. My mom was especially surprised at the lightness of the dessert; knowing how much butter and stuff went into it, she expected it to be on the heavy side. The polar opposite, however, as the genoise was amazingly light and fluffy, the buttercream very creamy, and after consuming a slice with some mushrooms, it didn't feel like a log in the pit of my stomach. (Yes, pun intended.)
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