Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Apron Achieved

After the discovery of a giant dress at SalVal, I present to you my One Dollar Apron!

Hand sewn (the ruffle nearly killed me, but the big white buttons made it AWESOME.)
Please note my super tall socks. And my mom's feet.

I'm going to add the blue back to my hair very soon---I look way too much like Harry Potter right now for my taste.

Knots in my Apron String.

I have a fairly well stocked kitchen. I have tools and gadgets that are less then necessities but i find them indispensable: namely, my croissant cutter and ridiculously long rolling pin.
But there is one thing that I realized I don't have and really need: an apron!
And so I have made it my goal to craft the perfect apron.

That is today's adventure. (Oh. And a header/logo that doesn't make this site look like it was designed by a 3rd grader learning MS Paint for the first time).

No more will my towels be sullied and my jeans be stained, my hemlines used as potholders.
I don't know what it will look like or what adventures will come, but as tomorrow is dollar day (read: bargain day at sal-val) I will come up with something.

I thought about it, and the Perfect Apron needs many things.
One, it has to be cute. Preferably of the vintage indie style that I am so terribly fond of.
Secondly, it should be at some point, blue.
Third, it should be of cloth that will not easily catch fire/tear/stain/rip/blow around in the breeze. (After grilling in a flammable dress, I've learned my lesson).
Fourth, it must have pockets of some kind.

The design of the perfect apron is yet to hit me, but I'm hoping I'll find something awesome at Sal Val that I can deconstruct and use in creating the Perfect Apron.

Here goes nothing.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Catie's Grilled Calzones

I love calzones. The crust, the hot steamy filling, the way I don't have to fight anyone for the last piece of chicken pizza....it's like having your own personal pizza sandwich filled with delicious.

It came as a suprize to me that grilling your pizza crust and/or calzone is fairly unheard of around these parts. I am a huge advocate of grilling-it's faster and the flavor is INSANE if you get it right, especially with these calzones.

When I cook, I try and make as much by hand as possible, so for my calzones I also included my pizza and alfredo sauce recipes. Enjoy.

For your calzone crust:

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups flour (I like to use 1/2 and 1/2 of wheat just so I can pretend I'm healthy).
  • Extra oil (for your bowl).
  • *BONUS INGREDIENTS!!* Basil, thyme, oregano, garlic, onion, etc--add them to your dough for a twist.

Assembly Instructions

Proof your yeast by combining the yeast, brown sugar and warm water. (I use instant yeast because I'm impatient. If you use instant yeast, make sure your water is a little hotter, around 120-130 degrees). Set aside for 10 minutes or so until bubbly. If your mix doesn't bubble, it's dead like 8-tracks so throw it out and start over.

Once your yeast has proven its worth, add in the oil and the salt.

Combine that mixture with about half of the flour until sticky. Turn out the mix onto a well-floured surface and knead in the rest of the flour until no longer sticky. Form it into a ball of doughy goodnes and set inside an oiled bowl for about an hour, until risen. After rising, punch out air (relieve stress) and roll into a ball. Then roll out, my homie.

Tip: Throw a cakepan full of hot water into the oven (with it turned off) and rise your dough on the shelf above it. The hotness and moisture will help it rise and the oven will keep it away from drafts. Awesome.

So you've got your crust. What now?

Time for some sauce.

Pizza Sauce

You will need:

  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 6 fluid ounces warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons white wine
  • salt to taste


  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Assembly Instructions:

Mix everything together* in a large pot over medium heat.

Let simmer for at LEAST 30 minutes (if you're in a rush) but the longer the better. I usually shoot for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally. A good simmer for this sauce has it occasionally bubbling but not going crazy.

*What I love about this sauce is that you can make it completely to taste. This sauce took a LONG time to get perfect. I'm very picky with my sauces. I like a little kick but I hate that residual mouth-burning that happens sometimes. There are a lot of options to this sauce. My dad liked anchovies, my mom doesn't. I like white wine in my cooking, my brother is a recovering alcoholic and so I try not to add in wine out of respect and support for him. My friends like it spicier, I like it less..this recipe has been modified a billion times, but it always ends up great. Just swirl a spoon and taste it once you get past the 15 minute mark (If you taste it before, the flavors may not have completely blended and you will end up overseasoning).

TIPS: If you like a sweeter sauce: Include the honey. If you like a spicy sauce: add in the pepper.Etc. It's an adventure. Choose your own.

I am a garlic WHORE so I always add about twice the onion and garlic called for.

I also like to add in other cheeses: romano, a little motz, maybe some asiago...everything is good.

Alfredo Sauce:

This tastes kind of like the sauce at the Olive Garden, but awesome because you make it yourself.

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder OR 1 clove garlic, crushed.
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon basil

Assembly Instructions:

Melt your butter in a medium saucepan and add in the cream. Simmer for about 5 minutes but be careful not to turn the heat up or your cream will go all gross. Add in garlic, basil and cheese and whisk until cheese melts. Stir in your parsley last so the heat doesn't wither it.

Tips: When I make this, it always comes out more of a cheese sauce because I LOVE cheese. If you are like me, double (or triple...) the cheese called for.Try different blends and types of cheese (just not american or cheddar, okay?) and see what you can come up with.

Alright. So. You've got two sauces and a kick ass crust. What now?

First, preheat your grill to medium heat and let it warm up for at least 20 minutes.

Then assemble your toppings.

Suggestions: Onion, garlic, peppers, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, chicken, pinapple, anchovies, ect. If it's on the menu at your local pizzeria, its fair game.

Don't forget the motzarella and Parmesan! (You're gonna need loads).

After you've gotten your stuff together, mix a few tablespoons of melted butter and a few tablespoons of parmesean cheese together with a teaspoon or two of garlic and onion powder and maybe basil if you're feeling adventurous. Set aside. (This comes in handy later).

Roll out your dough until it's about 1/2 an inch thick. The first time I made these I think I got about 5 calzones out of the recipe, but as I improved my techniqu

e, I started making them bigger, so just play with your dough until you get the size that feels right to you. I shoot for about a 15-inch circle. (It sounds huge, but to big eaters it will be a good size and for lighter eaters, the leftovers make a perfect portable lunch).

Tip: Roll out your crust between two pieces of wax paper for easier assembly.

Spread your sauce of choice on the bottom half of the dough and sprinkle on a goodly amount of mozarelly. Then add whatever toppings you so choose. Sprinkle more cheese on top of that and then fold the top half over and pinch closed. Roll the edges up so it forms a crust and brush with the butter/parm mix you made earlier.

You can either put it directly on the grill or use a pan (I like to use a pan just because it's easier to turn). Cook for 5-1o minutes per side, until the dough is nice and brown and crispy.

Now, turning these babies takes patience and often a friend. I dropped a good few before I got the hang of it. Use two non-bendy spatulas and use one to lift and the other one to steady. Flip carefully, but remeber, this is an adventure, and adventures don't come without a bit of peril.

Once cooked, let sit for about 5 minutes to avoid grevious cheese-related injury and then serve. Try not to let your head swell too much when people start raving.

This is half of the finished calzone. Where's the other half?

My brother the t-rex was too busy eating it to let me take a picture. Notice dishes.


The Official Cooking Playlist

There are some things I can't cook without.

Good ingredients, a nice set of knives, and an awesome play list to shake your groove thing to whilst you slice and dice. Here's mine.

To listen to this playlist, it's now available on Grooveshark:


Catie's Cooking Playlist:

Add in Equal Parts--

  1. Twist and Shout
  2. Louie Louie
  3. Moondance
  4. Don't Trust Me
  5. My Girl
  6. Pour Some Sugar On Me
  7. I Would Walk 500 Miles
  8. She's So Lovely
  9. Sugar Pie Hunny Bunch
  10. The Way You Look Tonight
  11. Brat Pack
  12. Straw Dog
  13. Rhubarb Pie
  14. I Want You To Want Me
  15. I Love Rock N Roll
  16. Fight the Sky
  17. Do You Believe In Magic?
  18. Son Of A Preacher Man
  19. Grace Kelly
  20. Love Today
  21. Everlasting Love

Mix In

  1. The Worst Pies In London
  2. A Little Priest
  3. Provincial Life
  4. Into The Fire

Enjoy at loud volumes.
Dance pants off.

Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake

I don’t know why I’m telling y’all this recipe.

If Optimus Prime was a cheesecake, he would be this cheesecake. Wesley would leave Buttercup for this cheesecake. I don’t even like cheesecake and I like this cheesecake. [It’s good cheesecake].

Making a cheesecake for the first time is an awesome adventure. You can read up on it and do all sorts of research, but you have to really do it to experience the glory of cheesecake making. I have learned this first hand, as this was the first cheesecake I ever made. I wisely decided to go ahead and modify the recipe straight off. (My GOODNESS I'm a cheeky baker).

You Will Need:

For the crust-

  • 3 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

For the first layer:

  • 1 (5 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 package individually wrapped caramels OR caramel chips.
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • Chocolate chips (as many as your heart desires) (Also optional)

For the cheesecake:

  • 2 packages cream cheese, softened (16 ounces total)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust:
Mix together the vanilla wafer crumbs, melted butter and brown sugar. Press into a 9 inch springform pan. Make sure you go up the sides, as well, otherwise things will get sticky up in here. I usually have a little crust mix left over. This is okay.

A side note: A springform pan is the kind with the latch release to make a standy-uppy cake. If you don’t have one, a pie tin will do, but I don’t guarantee your results. Also: I don't mean to treat the more experienced cooks like morons. But these are the things that I didn't know before I started baking. So I'm just trying to spread a little nooby love.

Once your crust is pressed into place, throw it in the oven for about 10 minutes. Let cool while you do the other stuff. (This step ensures your crust won’t get soggy later on. No one likes a soggy crust.)

For the filling:

Step One:

Mix the caramels and evaporated milk together in a saucepan. Melt over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once melted through, pour into the crust and add pecans if it pleases you. Save about 1/4 of a cup of the caramel for later on. (If you’re allergic to nuts or whatevs, omit the pecans. Consider replacing with the chocolate chips. Or put in both. It’s your cheesecake. No one’s going to tell you what to do.) Set caramel aside and let cool in the crust while you move on to….

Step Two ( with a lesson in cheesecaking).

The object of a good cheesecake is to create a silky-smooth cake without the dreaded “Top Cracks”. Now, I’ve made a lot of cheesecakes that have cracked, and the earth has not exploded. No one has refused a bite of triple chocolate mint cheesecake because the top was a little cracky. However, if you want the super sexy “Cheesecake Factory” professional look, you gotta do this right.To do this right, here’s your plan of action.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

1. In a large bowl that fits in your mixer, combine your cream cheese and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

2. While you’re beating your cream cheese like it burned the pot roast, melt your chocolate chips.

3. Add in sugar, beat again.

4. Add in each egg separately, and beat again.

5. Once you’ve beaten everything together, beat in the melted chocolate.

6. Pour on top of caramel pecan(maybe) layer and prepare to bake.

Step Three

Baking a cheesecake is ridiculously easy, contrary to everything ever written online. The first time I made a cheesecake I spent hours researching and all I ended up with was a headache and twice as confused as I was before. There are a billion different ways to do this right. Basically it comes down to your style of baking, your oven, the cheesecake you choose to make , and the weather, and pure undiluted luck. You just gotta keep at it until you find what works best for you.

Here’s what works for me.

Fill a large cake pan with warm water and place in your oven on the bottom shelf. The oven should still be on and preheated to 350 so try not to injure yourself doing this. I usually do.

Place cheesecake in oven.

Set your timer for 40 minutes.

When timer dings, take out your creation and run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the sides. CAREFULLY! The caramel will be sticky. Check the center of the cheesecake. If it looks gooey, you may have to throw it in for a few more minutes.

Let it chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours. Top with the rest of your caramel, maybe some melted chocolate, whipped c ream, sprinkles, crushed candy canes…whatever floats your boat. I like to top mine with shaved chocolate.

Chocolate Cheese Cake

Chocolate Cheese Cake ( The chili powder doesn't go in this recipe).


A couple of notes:

There is an alternate way of baking your cheesecake that is slightly more complicated, but can lend good results if you have a problem with the top cracking.

Here’s what you do:

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees (instead of 350)

Place cheesecake in oven.

Set your timer for 10 minutes.

When the timer dings, turn your oven down to 250 degrees and let bake for 30 minutes.

When timer dings, turn off oven. Yep. Turn it off. And walk away. Don’t open the oven. Don’t accidentally fall on the handle. Don’t move the oven. Don’t breathe on it. Turn it off and let the cheesecake sit for an hour inside with the oven off.

Follow the rest of the instructions as follows.

If you like your cheesecake cakey-er, throw in a tablespoon of flour. This can also help with cracking.

And in the end…if it cracks? So what? You still made a delicious cheesecake. Everyone wins. Cracks give your cheesecake character.

The Beginning

It's late, and once again I can't sleep. I haven't decided if it's just my horrible schedule or a real decline into insomnia, but either way, I have to fill the time somehow. I have decided, therefore, to start a completely new blog JUST for cooking/baking/adventuring.

My writing/poetry/other was getting too busy and with the addition of all of my cookery, it was a little too much to handle. So I decided to separate the entities. Here goes nothing.

In the next few days I will be taking down my posts on my OTHER blog and moving them here as time allows. In the meantime, sit back and fix yourself a bowl of oatmeal.

Or whatever it is that you do.