Friday, June 29, 2012

Week 24: Berries - Mixed Berry Pie

I've had more strawberries in my house over last few weeks that I can even tell you. They are perfectly in season and they are SO good this year.  So good, in fact, that I have been unable to keep them around long enough to cook with them as I just eat them up too fast!  So, I decided for my berry challenge, to use some frozen mixed berries I had in the freezer that needed to be used.  I present: Mixed Berry Pie.  Maybe not all that inventive, but who the heck cares when it is delicious?!

I mixed about 5 cups of berries with 1/2 cup sugar and 3T corn starch.  The cornstarch is in lieu of tapioca, which I just don't keep around the house much, but will act similarly by thickening the berry juices.

Ever looking for a way to speed things along, I used some Pillsbury dough I already had in the fridge.  I never touch the store brand ones - they just simply are NOT as good.  But I've found the Pillsbury brand to be darn near as good as homemade. 

I let the corn starch and sugar sit on the berries for about 20 minutes.  This let the berries defrost and also gave the dry goods get soupy and, with frequent stirring, covered all the berries. 

I baked it at 425 for about 15 minutes, then turned down the heat to about 350 and cooked it for another 40 minutes.  It smells DELICIOUS.  My original plan was to give it to my dear friend as a house warming present (she and her family just moved in a few blocks away from us! yay!) but to be honest, I'm not sure I can wait till I see her on Sunday to dive into it.  I might just have to make a different treat for her... 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Week 24: Alcohol - Dirty girl scout cookies

I rallied the troops to help me with this challenge. A wonderful group of ladies get together every Tuesday and I was lucky enough to host last week.  They agreed to help me with my challenge in exchange for taking home cookies.  I think I got the best deal here (their help and awesome company), but they may feel differently given how delicious these were.

I followed the Cosmo recipe found here and it started with a pretty basic creaming of butter and sugar.

I went for years without a stand mixer or a hand mixer and I forgot how well-creamed butter and sugar look!  Doing it by hand just isn't the same.

The dry goods mixture included instant espresso powder and cocoa.  I used dark cocoa and two Starbucks Via packets.

The dough was a dark chocolate color and quite thick.  The recipe calls for 3T spoonfuls to be dropped, but that just seemed too large.  Since the ladies were going to take them home, I wanted to have more small cookies rather than fewer large ones.  I went with a generous tablespoon sized drops.

They are hard to tell when they are cooked since they are already dark but it was clear when I couldn't get the first batch off the baking stone without pulling apart the cookie that they needed more time.  It was a full 15 minutes for cooking time.

I set up a little station for decorating with lots of icing (holy crap was it good) and small bowls of junior mints.

A good time was had by all and they got pretty creative with their icing techniques.

The icing was so good we were all scraping up the drops and drips for eating!

We ate several then each lady got to take home a few.  It was perfect and very fun!  This was a bit of a going away party for our wonderful friend Emily who left to go on a cross-country (Bellingham to Boston) tandem bike vacation with her husband.  You can follow their travels here if you're so inclined!

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Week 23: Twenty minutes or less - Honey Chicken Skewers with Corn Salsa

I was a bit ambitious here.  I wanted to make our whole dinner in 20 minutes or less and I ended up doing it in about 28 minutes.  I am still calling this challenge complete because each dish was done in under 20 minutes, and I feel pretty proud of myself for having all of dinner done in 28 minutes.  The kitchen was a minor disaster (I usually try and clean up after myself as I go, but there was no time dammit!) but it cleaned up pretty quick. I followed a Real Simple recipe for the chicken and used their corn salsa idea, but made it with canned corn rather than grilled and I spiced it up a bit as you'll see.

The glaze was an easy quick ketchup, Worcestershire, and honey. This step took all of 2 minutes max.

I used three chicken breasts because that is what I had thawed and ready to roll.

After cutting each breast into strips I skewered each on soaked bamboo skewers and got them on the grill in a hurry. This step took me about 8 minutes. The recipe called for basting them as they grilled, but I needed to whip up the corn salsa so I ran inside to do that while the chicken started cooking.

The corn salsa I made had corn, black beans, a crap-ton (yes, that is my official measurement) of cilantro, lime juice (about 1Tbspn), and a tiny bit of salt. This step took me about 4 minutes - but it overlapped with grilling time so it didn't add to my over all time.

With the salsa made, I ran outside to baste the chicken. I basted and turned, then let that cook.  Then I basted and turned again. The chicken was on the grill for about 12 minutes.  If I'd had the forthought to bring the chicken to room temp ahead of time, it would have grilled faster, but it was cold right out of the fridge thus the longer cook time.

I brought the chicken inside and started on the salad.  I cut mushrooms and strawberries and added them to some lettuce.  I mixed up a balsamic vinaigrette and sprinkled some sunflower seeds on top and we were in business!

Twenty-eight minutes till it was all plated and on the table ready for eating.  It was delicious.  Every. Darn. Bit of it.

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Week 23: Copy Cat - Auntie Annie's Pretzels

I am such a sucker for these type of mall pretzels.  I almost always go for the cinnamon and sugar variety.  They are so gooey and soft and perfect.  When I found this recipe I knew I had to make them.

It is a pretty straight forward dough recipe.  I did not have the bread flour so I substituted for all-purpose flour.

It rose for about an hour and was ready for rollin'!

The rolling process was quite easy and I got better with every one.  At first my rolls were uneven and a few even broke, but by the end, I was a pro.

Once they were on the baking sheets, I let them rise another 45 minutes or so.  They didn't quite double in size, but they were noticeably risen by the naked eye. I wasn't sure how much they would rise so I spaced them generously.  I would put them closer together in the future.

My generous spacing meant I had to do 3 baking sheets.  I loath to bake anything not on my baking stone and I was right to have this fear.  My baking stone pretzels turned out the most evenly cooked without a brown bottom.

Once baked, I basted them in butter and then sprinkled kosher salt on top of two thirds of them.  Since kosher salt isn't quite as large as coarse salt, it sorta blended/melted in to the butter but whatever.  They  clearly have salt on them when you see them close up.

The last batch I basted in butter then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Eee I can't wait to eat them. I know... It is sad. I haven't even tasted one yet.  I am still waiting for them to cool a bit before I nom.

You can see the kosher salt better in this picture.  I can't wait to sink my teeth in to these and dip them in mustard!

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Week 22: Pastry - Cheese Danishes

I love cheese Danishes. I want to eat them all the time. I've never tried making them myself so I decided to be brave.

The cooks illustrated recipe for the filling was so simple (just cream cheese and sugar) i couldn't believe it. I like the cheese filling to be kinda fluffy so I sought out another recipe and ended up using Ina Garten's Cheese Danishthat used egg yolks to puff up the filing a bit. I also substituted lime for the lemon just because that is what I had on-hand.

After making the filling I rolled out the pastry dough to about a 16x16" square then with a sharp knife cut into 16 squares.

Each square got a dollop of filling.

The process of then wrapping two opposite corners over the filling was messy and I didn't get a picture of it, but I tried two methods and neither worked so well. I tried a twisting method and a squishing method. I read somewhere that I should score the dough and use and egg wash to get the two ends to stick together and I would try that next time. Although the ends came apart as the dough and filling rose, it as easy to lightly smoosh it back down as I moved them to the cooling rack.

While still warm I brushed a light glaze over them and once fully cooled I did the drizzle of frosting over the top.

These were amazing and really quite easy to make. I think these would be a huge hit to bring to a brunch. I'd also love to try other fillings either separate or mixed with the cheese.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Week 22: Tarts - asparagus onion gruyere tart

I don't have a tart pan so I wanted to make something free-form. Martha Stewart to the rescue! Her asparagus gruyere tart seemed perfect but I wanted a bit more flavor so I added some lightly carmelized onions.

First I cut up four walls walls sweets and put them in a pan.

I didn't fully cook them down cause I wanted some texture from the onions.

As those cooled I prepared the pastry dough by thawing and rolling it out. I then scored a square about 1inch around the edges and poked the center with a fork.

As it baked I shredded the gruyere.

I baked the crust to a nice golden brown.

I layered the onions first.

Then added the gruyere.

On to I put the asparagus making every other one up and down. Because my baking stone is square I ended up with some room at the bottom and so I put more asparagus across the bottom and basted it with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

I baked it all for about 25 minutes and took it out when a fork could pierce the asparagus.

It was fantastic. FANTASTIC.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Week 21: Lettering - WWU Graduation Cookies

Ok, so I wasn't so great at the frosting flowers, but the lettering I'm alright at! My wonderful friend Sarah graduated with her Masters in Education (same one I'm gonna get real soon!) and for her party I made sugar cookies frosted in the school colors.  She had a joint grad party with her friend Cate, hence the S and C cookies seen below. the single W is my attempt at the sporty version of the WWU logo.  Sarah works in athletics so I was trying to pay homage to that logo.

Once again, I think the tip I had was alright but not the best.  I did some research about icing that is good for piping and the recipe I worked with was alright. It didn't spread too much and it was easy to work with. 

Obligatory '12 for their graduating year!

I tried to draw a graduation cap and after making just this one, decided to stick with the letters and numbers. The party was fantastic, the company was delightful, and the cookies were gone in a matter of minutes!