Monday, October 25, 2010

I'm Back and Baking!

Well hello there!
I'm back!

After MUCH adventuring, I have returned---so look for updates in the next few weeks regarding all of the super awesome things I've been making!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

World's Easiest (Fake) Marzipan


Since I was a little kid, I've loved decorating cakes. Mom, as usual, has saved every piece of kitchen hardware she's bought since 1970 and so I grew up using one of those nifty pump action frosting appliers that looks like some sort of victorian medical device.

However, since then, I've grown substantially better at the whole icing thing, but lately I've wanted to expand my horizons to more challenging techniques. Fondants and marzipan being the most obvious choices, I've started experimenting on my own to see what sort of shennanigans I can get into.

Marzipan, traditionally is made from almonds. However, I am unemployed and broke as a joke. Therefore, I have to find new and exciting ways to make things that cost money. Like pounds of almonds. So this is the recipe I came up with. I realize that this is basically a modified fondant. Shut up.

A birthday cake made with fakezipan and painted with food color.

To make your Fakezipan you will need….

  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 1 tablespoon white corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla (or almond) flavor extract
  • 1/2 a bag of mini marshmallows
  • about three cups of powdered sugar

Run the shortening, corn syrup and extract through the mixer very briefly to combine. Gradually mix in powdered sugar. Mix will look like a bunch of powdered sugar in a bowl.

Melt marshmallows in microwave in series of 15 second bursts until melted through. (This usually takes me about 30 seconds total).

Grab a handful of shortening. Seriously. Rub it all over your hands. Don’t ask questions. Just do it.

Add melted marshmallows into bowl of powdered sugar. Now, with your greased hands (see? I have my reasons) knead together the marshmallow and powdered sugar until it forms a glossy ball. If you need to add a little more powdered sugar, do it to it. Mix is ready when it feels like thick playdough.

What it should look like.

What it should look like.

Hooray! you made fake marzipan!

To color: break off the amount you need and knead in food coloring until color is blended through.

To store: Roll unused fakezipan into a ball and rub the outside lightly with shortening. Wrap in plastic and keep in the fridge.

If it gets really dried out, knead in a DROP or two of water at a time until mix returns to its normal elasticity.

To make 3-D figures, simply use like clay. Create cute things. Eat them.

Gary The Fakezipan Penguin

Meet Marzi the Penguin.

Marzipan tips:

Don't roll out too thin! At it's thinnest (if you're using for a cake) you want about 1/4 of an inch. Make sure you ice the cake first so the fakezipan has something to stick to. (And make the icing as even as possible. this will help it lay flat and create a clean, non-lumpy look).

Roll out between two pieces of wax paper for easier transference/handling. (Handle as little as possible to get that sexy smooth finish).

Speaking of lumpy: make sure you beat your powdered sugar with a mixer to break up any lumps. And just avoid making this if your kitchen is at all humid because it will save you loads of stress. Lumps of powdered sugar in your fakezipan are just no fun.

I'm just learning, so right now it's a lot of experimentation (and abysmal failures).

That's the best part of new's going to be an adventure for a long time.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Update and Bonus Recipe!

Hey guys!
Well---I didn't win. BUT I won the popular vote and got third over all, so thanks for voting. A vote for me is a vote for adventure. and I believe in Harvey Dent!
Also, Jennifer English, who owns this amazing online spice store was so good as to hook all of the competitors up with a 25 dollar gift certificate. Chicka chicka yeah, y'all! (Also go and buy things from her. The selection is kick-ass).

I did cook sunday dinner this week, but I was busy working on turning pineapple and basil into something awesome so I didn't get around to putting it up. Because I am a lazy, lazy blogger.
But here, to appease you and the gods of cookery, is my very own personal recipe for English Roast Potatoes.
And a story.

Last year I spent the semester in England. It was, by far, one of the best experiences of my life. I miss it every day, and I'm not just saying that. there was just something about it. Anyway, the food sucked. Ha. While it is true that England has some of the most amazing restaurants ever, the Edge Hill Caffeteria was not one of these places. However, there was this one dish that I fell in love with, and, by the end of the semester (aside from Yorkie bars--even though they're not for girls)
was living off of. That dish, ladies and gents, is Roast Potatoes.
Crispy (if you do it right), filling, warming and delightful, I am counting down the days until I can go back JUST for some roasties. The other day I was in a Liverpool memory mode and, even though it was July, it was freezing here in Iowa, and this dish worked perfectly to satiate both my heart and hunger.

Anyway, here's the technique that has taken me quite some time to figure out.

Catie's English Roast Potatoes

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

1. Wash and chop 8-10 good sized potatoes into chunks, slices, squares, triangles...whatever you want, as long as they are no bigger than 3 inches.

2. Boil a big ass pot of water and, once it boils, add in your taters. Boil for 4-5 minutes. **Don't let potatoes get to soft or they will fall apart** Noob tip! This is called "par boiling".

2.5 While you do this, take a couple large roasting pans (or jelly roll pans, or cake pans...basically any shallow oven proof dish will do) and cover the bottom in about 1/4 inch oil. Place pans in the oven to get the oil nice and warm while your poatoes boil

3. Dump water and return potatoes to pot. Throw 1/2 a cup of oil in the pot, close the lid and shake what your momma gave you to coat the potatoes in oil.

4. Remove pans with oil from the oven BE CAREFUL FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! and place your coated poatoes in the pans. You can crowd them in there, but make sure none are overlapping.

5. Season with sea salt. You can add a mix of garlic, onion, chilli powder and pepper for spicier potatoes. Return to oven and let cook for at least an hour. Turn potatoes with a spoon (or your bare hands if you're into the whole Johnny Tremain thing) every 15 minutes or so.

6. Once cooked, remove from pans right away and sit out on paper towels to drain extra oil. Serve hot and fresh. They don't reheat well.

Tips: if they aren't getting crispy, cook longer (duh, but make sure you rotate the pans to avoid non-cookery. IE: switch top and bottom pans if you're using two racks and turn them 90 degrees as well every 20 minutes). I will sacrifice the soldiers in the corners to make sure the middle ones get really crispy. But this is also because I have really crappy pans and the oil flows to the corners instead of being flat.

Enjoy your delicious roast potatoes. Tell Liverpool I miss her.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Foodie Fights Competition: Pineapple Basil Sorbet on Flambed Rum Pineapples (with toasted crepes and Orange Caramel Sauce)


To begin, I'd like to give out a hearty thanks to the kind fellows at for including me as one of the competitors this week.
It was loads of fun and I was terrifically challenged--and ILEARNED THINGS! What an adventure it's been!

Alright so.
The big reveal:

I chose, for the Pineapple/Basil Foodie Fight, to bring to the arena
Pineapple Basil Sorbet on Flambed Rum Pineapple (with toasted crepes and Orange Caramel Sauce)

(A simple, light, delicious and crazily awesome dessert. Involving basil).

Here we go.
First off, I HATE pineapple. Of all the beautiful amazing adventurous ingredients chosen for this week, I get pineapple.
Seriously? Seriously.

I debated a lot. Dessert or Dinner? I went through SEVERAL recipes, including pineapple chicken and fritters and a whole bunch of other pineapple-y stuff.
You can find all of those recipes (here).
Then I realized that I was going to (gulp) have to EAT this. So I went with dessert. Live for adventure, right? Special heartfelt thanks to Mom, Mike and Brendan for being the taste testers.

Shut up and tell me how to make this!

Pineapple/Basil Sorbet:
Anyway, so I thought...pineapple. Light, fresh, fruity, "delicious"...basil. pizza, pasta, goes well with onions. obviously my next thought was "ice cream".
But seriously---this is delicious. I don't even like pineapple and this is ah-mazing. Trust me on this one. Just give it a try.
Life is an adventure, right? Bonus round: this entire dessert took me less than 3 hours. That's better than a cheesecake and ...4.5 times as healthy. (That's a lie).

I do not own an icecream maker nor have I ever made sorbet. It worked out wonderfully, thanks to some research and a lot of blatant making it up as I went.

You will need:
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar

2 apples (I used tart Braeborns and was quite pleased) chopped
2/3 cup pineapple, chopped
1/2 to 2/3 cup basil leaves, finely chopped. (Trust me on this. Just KEEP chopping). I used about 2/3 of a cup and was pleased.

1/2 cup pineapple juice (fresh is best)
3/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 tsp Orange Extract (if you feel like it. i did.)
*note: I tasted this before I added it, and since my pineapples were a little on the tart side (yes, I ate the pineapple), I reduced to 1/2 a cup. Just use your personal preference.

Okay. So.
This is actually not as difficult as it would seem. Sorbet is your friend!

1. Boil the sugar and water IN A POT BIG ENOUGH TO HOLD YOUR FRUIT! (oopies).
2. When the water boils, throw in your apples and your pineapple and simmer for 2 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and place HALF of your basil in the pot. Set aside for 15 minutes to let flavors infuse. (Don't you love that word?)

4. Once 15 minutes has elapsed, place the mix into your blender (please note that 1976 called and they want me to give my blender back) and puree until smooth. Hold onto the lid (oopies).

5. Prepare 2 bowls (one must be smaller than the other and fill one large with ice and water (thusly creating "ice water...see how that works?) and place the smaller of the two in the ice bath.)Observe this incredibly well-made chart.

Pour the mix through a sieve into the SMALLER bowl (oopies) and let cool. It will be a beautiful light green. That is impossible to make attractive in my light deprived kitchen.

6. Once cooled, mix your juice concoction into the sorbet mix and do one of two things.

A: place in your ice cream maker and do whatever it is the instructions bode you like the soulless direction following zombie you are. (Just kidding, I think you're cool with all your little kitchen gadgets).
B: make like a pioneer and do it old school and make it up as you go because you realize you don't have an ice cream but believe that cooking should be an awesome inspiring adventure.. (like me).

HOW TO MAKE YOUR SORBET WITHOUT AN ICE CREAM MAKER (Dedicated to poor college students everywhere.)
1. Place sorbet mixture into freezer in a bowl big enough to mix things around in.
2. Set timer for 30 minutes.
3. Walk away. (no, really). I made chocolate chip cookies in the mean time.
4. When 30 minutes has elapsed, whisk mixture briefly to break up any large chunks.

5. Rinse and repeat until frozen. My super-mega freezer froze the sucker in about 3 hours (ish). I whisked for about 3 minutes after each round and on the last round switched to a hand held stick mixer.
6. Store until needed.

Voila! You just made sorbet! Imagine the possibilities of making this with like, strawberries and raspberries and mango and.....not pineapple.

So you've got your delish sorbet (seriously! I swear!) and now what?


A Safety note:
The last time I flambed something I set the drapes on fire. Do not set the drapes on fire. Flambe away from all window dressings. And hair. And aprons. And little brothers.

For your
Pineapple Flambéed in Spiced Rum and Orange Caramel

you will need:

One pineapple cut into 6-8 rings (or strips depending on your preference. I like rings).
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup rum (warmed in microwave for 20 seconds.
Bravery and a friend with a camera to catch you with a flaming sauce pan in your hand. Or to put you out. You know. Whatever.

How to make!
1. Sprinkle brown sugar onto a plate and press your pineapple rings into the brown sugar, coating on both sides. Like so:

2. Melt butter in sauce pan on medium heat. Once heated, CAREFULLY place your pineapple rings in the butter and brown on both sides (2-3 minutes per worked for me). Your kitchen is going to smell like a caramel factory.

3. Get ready to flambé!

Okay. So. Flambéing (flambéing? flambeberating? I don't know, I'm a theatre major) is actually really easy. Just be careful. A tip: take your pan AWAY FROM THE STOVE! Or you might lose a curtain.

To flambé, simply remove your pan from the heat (far, far away) and carefully pour in the warmed rum. Using a LONG match or barbecue lighter, ignite the rum and put back on the heat, allowing the alcohol to burn off. The pineapple is going to come out beautifully caramelized with this amazing deep flavor. It's super awesome. Plus there's fire. And now a Flambe Montage.
Thank you.
5. After you’ve finished your pineapples (I did mine in 2 batches) take out the pineapples and let rest in a shallow pan for about 5 minutes.
6. Keep boiling the sauce for another 3-4 minutes and pour out half of it onto your cooked pineapples.

Add a ¼ tsp of orange extract and boil the other half for another 3-4 minutes until super frothy. This will make a super thick rich caramel orange sauce. Just keep cooking it. If you do it right when it cools, you’ll have to chisel it out of the pan. So delicious. So, so orangey and rummy and pineappley and delicious (and I don’t even like pineapple). Look at that. It's just sexy.

Dump it all onto your pineapples and let marinate whilst you make the last component….

Pineapple Crepes!

You will need:

2 eggs
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 stick of butter (unsalted or omit salt)
1 tsp pineapple juice and 1 TBSP shredded pineapple.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To assemble:
A note: To make the Perfect Crepe you gotta make sure that there are no lumps in the batter. I like to mix my batter in the blender for obnoxiously long periods of time at early hours of the morning to ensure a good consistency. So. I’m trying to get a Danny Kaye joke in here somewhere. It’s not going to work. Anyway.

1. Mix milk and eggs in the blender (you don't have to beat them first...bonus!)
2. Melt butter in small glass/microwave safe bowl.
3. GRADUALLY add flour (like 1/2 a cup at a time) and keep blending. Remember to slow and/or stop blender or flour will poof everywhere (oopies).

4. Add in melted butter and salt. Blend one more time for good measure.
5. Let batter rest in the fridge for 30 minutes to set. (If you’re in a rush you don’t have to, but I’ve had better results with a rested batter) Once rested, blend in pineapple juice and shredded pineapple and prep for cooking.

To Cook:
1. Butter a small frying pan and ladle a medium spoonful of batter into pan. Quickly swivel the pan to get a nice thin coating over the entire bottom of the pan. The trick is to get it as thin as possible without leaving any holes. See? Isn't it cute? It's just hanging out doing it's crepe thing.

It's just hanging out doing it's crepe thing.
2. Cook on medium high heat until the edges begin to brown. When this happens, you must make a choice. Choose wisely.
A: You can either fold your crepe and press into a cupcake pan to make little crepe-y wrap things like I did to hold the sorbet (tip--pour a little bit of the crepe batter into the bottom of the greased pan to make a full bowl!) or....

B: Cook flat for another 30 seconds or so until second side is juuuust cooked. Once cooked, place on a cookie sheet.
C: Make a swan. (just kidding but that would be AWESOME).

3. Once you've made your choice, place cupcake pan and/or cookie sheet into your preheated oven for 10 minutes to crisp them up really well around the edges (if centers start getting too brown, remove from heat).

To complete the dessert:
Top your flambéd pineapple with the sorbet and wrap the crepe around the whole nonsense. Garnish with a little fresh basil and frozen banana. Drizzle your orange caramel over …well, whatever you want caramel-y.

Enjoy and (cough) vote for me (cough). Please be sure to check out my awesome competition before voting. If you want to.

PS: Chocolate sauce + left over crepes==

Thursday, July 9, 2009

News, what ho!

So. Okay.
Awhile ago I came across this site known on the interwebs as
Thinking I would give it a whirl, I submitted The Adventure Gourmet and thought nothing more of it.

Guess who got picked for this week's competition?

I have until next Tuesday to figure out my entry and make something.

No pressure, right?



Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Dinner 7-5-09

The Menu:
Lemon Parmesan chicken (In Garlic) Orzo pasta salad Garlic herb twists and (ready?) Quintuple Chocolate Brownies.

Shall we begin?

First off, pretend there are gorgeous pictures. I suck at plating and I forgot to take pictures until the last minute due to a gigantic rush due t. Deal. I promise more pictures next week.

Lemon Parmesan chicken (In Garlic)

You will need:
  • 4.5 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
Mix everything together in a bowl. (I love easy prep!)
Toss in your chicken breast and let marinate for 8-12 hours (up to 24. Keep it in the fridge, please). DO NOT DUMP YOUR MARINADE WHEN YOU SEAR YOUR CHICKEN OR ALL WILL BE LOST!

To cook:
Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
Pan-sear your chicken until brown.
Throw like 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil into a skillet and heat until smoking. Place a chicken breast in oil and cook until brown (usually about 2-3 minutes). Flip . Rinse, repeat.

Once you've got your chicken seared up, throw some of the marinade into a shallow baking pan (like a jelly roll) and bake chicken until cooked through. (20-25 minutes). Halfway through, flip the chicken over and use a baster to dump some of the marinade on top.
I sprinkled on sea salt, lemon zest and ground pepper to bump up the flavor a little.
Garnish with a tomato (if you're into that sort of thing)

Garlic Herb Twists:
Also super fly easy!

Note: I made these the night before and regretted it. They are MUUUUCH better fresh. Thought to ponder.

So. You will need:
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 2 lb pizza dough.
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

I used my calzone dough recipe and it turned out awesome sauce. To make twists: make dough as specified, and roll out into a large rectangle. Cut into 2 inch strips and twist from top to bottom. (They are gonna stretch out like CRAZY. Be warned. I ended up with some that were 15 inches long. That is too long. Cut accordingly!)

Place on a baking sheet and bake in oven until browned (20-25 minutes). While they're baking, mix up some garlic oil.

Make your own garlic oil:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese.
Combine all into bowl. Let sit. (I LOVE EASY PREP!)

Once your twists are browned, brush garlic oil onto tops of twists. Delicious.

Orzo Pasta Salad:

SUPER delicious warm or cold.

You will need:

1 box orzo pasta
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 tomatoes (any kind!)
FRESH Parsley, basil, cilantro, green onions to taste

Make orzo as specified on box (I threw in 1 TBSP butter to help with sticking).
While that's going on, chop tomatoes into bite size pieces, along with all of your fresh herbs.
When orzo is done, toss with red wine vinegar, olive oil and your tomatoes and herbs.
Set aside to cool and then serve.

Quintuple Chocolate Brownies

These are...AMAZING. Just...Holy cow.
I got this recipe from Tuesdays with Dorie, but I modified it slightly. Here is the recipe verbatim with my modifications. (Because, you know, 5 kinds of chocolate just isn't good enough for me).
NOTE: my modifications/notes are in BOLD

(Source: Dorie Greenspan “Baking: From My Home to Yours” pp. 99-100)

For the Brownies:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 Tablespoons strong coffee*
I replaced the coffee with 1 tablespoon of chocolate syrup and 1 tablespoon of water.

1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
6 ounces premium-quality milk chocolate, chopped into chips, or 1 cup store-bought milk chocolate chips

For the Glaze:
6 ounces premium-quality white chocolate, finely chopped, or 1 cup store-bought white chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream

This is WAY not enough topping. I bought one 12 ounce package of white chocolate chips and used the whole thing. Also, don't bother with the cream. Just melt the chocolate and spread over the brownies. The "glaze" is all watery and lame. I did it my way and got a 1/2 inch of solid delicious on top of my brownies. Solid chocolate FTW

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, and salt.

To Make the Brownies:
Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add, in the following order, the butter, the two chocolates and the coffee. Keeping the pan over low heat, warm just until the butter and chocolates are melted – you don’t want the ingredients to get so hot they separate, so keep an eye on the bowl. Stir gently, and when the mixture is smooth, set it aside for 5 minutes.

Using a whisk or a rubber spatula, beat the sugar into the chocolate mixture. Don’t beat too vigorously – you don’t want to add air to the batter – and don’t be concerned about any graininess. Next, stir in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. You should have a smooth, glossy batter. If you’re not already using a rubber spatula, switch to one now and gently stir in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. Finally, stir in the milk chocolate chips . Scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out streaked but not thickly coated. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the brownies rest undisturbed for at least 30 minutes. (You can wait longer, if you’d like.)

Turn the brownies out onto a rack, peel away the foil and place it under another rack – it will be the drip catcher for the glaze. Invert the brownies onto the rack and let cool completely.

To Make the Glaze:
Put the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil and pour it over the chocolate. Wait 30 seconds, then, using a rubber spatula, gently stir until the chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth.


Hold a long metal icing spatula in one hand and the bowl of glaze in the other. Pour the glaze onto the center of the brownies and use the spatula to nudge it evenly over the surface. Don’t worry if it dribbles over the edges, you can trim the sides later (or not). Refrigerate the brownies for about 20 minutes to dry the glaze.

BLah Blah blah......

Cut into 16 squares, each roughly 2-1/4 inches on a side.

That is way too small. Eat the whole pan if you want, life is an adventure. Enjoy it.

And that is this weeks dinner!!!

Stay tuned for more Adventures.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Emergency Fallout 3 Birthday Cake

Sometimes people forget to tell me things. Like my friend Parker, who neglected to tell me until yesterday that it was his birthday today.
The poor guy has had quite the week, and I wanted to do something special for him.
Unfortuanately, today Catie learned that rushing marzipan has ugly consequences. (Literally). But hey--its the thought that counts, right?

The cake is a basic chocolate chip maple cake and the whole thing is made of Fakezipan (see my recipe).
The blood spatter is fake, don't worry. Parker likes to blow heads off mutants in the game, so I thought it'd be funny.

The body was constructed from 4 cupcakes, which I regret. I need to get some alternate cookware, because my designs can't keep up with my product. It's a learning curve. As you can see, the cupcakes collapsed under the weight of the fakezipan, so the body looks really jenky. Ah well. Still tastes like awesome.

If I have some time, I'm going to work on this design. I'd like to make it REALLY close to the actual design in the future, but for 3 hours and a bottom-of-the-barrel style ingredient scrounge, I'd say I did ok.