Miss You

Hi friends,

I miss you. I miss writing in this blog. I’ve clearly been distracted and it’s time to get back on track. I was TOTALLY going to do that this weekend. I’ve made a mushroom soup and a mint, blackberry cocktail. I’ve made more poached eggs and some “healthy” granola, but … apparently I downloaded all my pictures at work. Fail. So, here is a picture of Jill’s cat. Image

And I had to bribe him to get that.

That’s all I got for today. I plan to get back on track. Cause I miss this. Stay warm (cause if you’re in Chicago, it’s not).

Kicking Iron Man Butt!

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Last fall I went to Tempe, Arizona with several others to watch our friend, Shaina, participate in her second IronMan. IMAZ 2013 was so much fun, and I can’t believe I didn’t write about it sooner. Shaina rocked her swim, bike and run finishing in 13 hours 18 minutes and 41 seconds. And the girl had the gall to look good at every point we were able to see her. Not cool, girl. At least pretend to struggle through a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a MARATHON (26. 2 miles) which adds up to a total of 140.6 miles!

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And these participants and finishers were amazing. At exactly midnight, the course shuts down in such a crazy way. If you look away from the countdown clock to check to see who’s coming around the bend next, by the time you look back everything has been taken down and all that is left is the bleachers. But in the minutes before the end, all the spectators and participants who finished earlier (sometimes several hours earlier) and standing along the course screaming and cheering. It’s a sight worth seeing.

Shaina rocked her time from the year before. She beat her old time by about three hours. It was so amazing.

Of course, we just had to make a cake to celebrate!

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This is not just any cake. This is Spoon Fork Bacon‘s Spicy Chocolate Stout Cake with Simple Peanut Butter Buttercream.

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For this cake I had to learn to make Mexican chocolate. I’m sure there is an easier way to make (buy) this, but I didn’t think of it. I melted four ounces of semisweet chocolate, added some almond extract and cinnamon, froze it and then grated it for the cake. It took forever (and the chocolate kept melting in my hands), but it tasted great!

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When I cut off the top of the cake to even it out is when I realized, unfortunately, that my oven was broken.

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But this guy definitely got eaten anyway. No complaints.

Spicy Chocolate Stout Cake with Peanut Butter Buttercream

by SPOON FORK BACON

WW Points: I can’t bear to calculate. It’s a cake, just have a little bit.

For the cake:

2 cups cake flour (all purpose is fine)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 ounces Mexican chocolate, finely ground (plus more for garnish)
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup superfine sugar (granulated is fine)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
12 ounces chocolate stout (Guinness is fine)

For the Mexican chocolate:

4 oz semisweet chocolate
2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 drops almond extract

For the frosting:

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer cream together butter and sugars. Add melted chocolate and continue to cream together.
4. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add milk and mix until just combined.
5. Add flour mixture and stout to butter mixture, 1/3 at a time alternating, beginning with the flour mixture.
6. Scrape down sides of the bowl and mix until everything is well incorporated and fold in ground Mexican chocolate. Pour mixture into a prepared 9×13 pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.
7. Allow cake to cool completely before frosting, cutting and serving.
8. For frosting: Place butter, and peanut butter in a mixing bowl and beat together with a hand mixer. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until fully incorporated. Stir in cream and vanilla until frosting is smooth and creamy.
9. To assemble: Spread frosting over surface of the cooled sheet cake and top with a sprinkle of grated Mexican Chocolate. Serve.

Baking Music: I can’t remember, but I was listening to Dinah Washington as I wrote this. Does that count? A little?

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This may be a tad belated, but CONGRATS FRIEND!

Pistachio Macarons

SONY DSCThis little green container has been staring me in the face for several weeks. Silently judging me for not adhering to my (secret) New Years goal of trying to post more timely content. (Just in case you don’t want to read about Christmas cookies three weeks after Christmas.)

This small green jar inspired me to make pistachio macarons for St. Patrick’s Day and then sat there in judgement when I didn’t do it quickly enough. Who does it think it is? Sigh.

I bought this crema pistacchi at the new Eataly downtown. I love the Eataly in New York, and treat it as a can’t-miss tourist destination every time I visit. So, when I heard about the one that was being built in Chicago, I was thrilled (involving all the chills that word implies), and it didn’t disappoint. I was very excited to walk away with this fun pistachio cream. Or is it créme? (P.S. I just figured out why you italicize foreign words! It’s so people don’t assume you’re trying to make up new words, or that you can’t spell, both of which are very true for me. Tangent over.)

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Macarons have a pretty rotten reputation for being hard to make, so I was surprised at how easily these came together. I read that you should age the egg whites … although how long they should be aged was not specific, so I separated the eggs in the morning and let them sit for a few hours. They whipped up quite nicely.

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Macarons seem to be typically made with almond flour or almond meal, which I could not find, but I read that the importance of almonds is that nuts don’t absorb the egg whites as easily as regular flour, so I used ground walnuts. They definitely tasted walnutty, but it worked.

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I used a pastry bag to pipe out the meringue-like concoction onto parchment paper, and let them sit about an hour. Heads up, they spread pretty thin. I pipped out way to much and made some pretty large cookies.  

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Assemble! And, ta-da! No, wait. I didn’t realize how wonky the cookie on the right looked until just now. Makes me love it more.

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Pistachio Macarons
Prep Time: 1 hr 15 min; Bake Time: 17 minutes

Ingredients for Macarons:
90 grams of egg whites (about three eggs), aged
2 tbsp granulated sugar
110 grams of ground walnuts (about 1 cup)
200 grams of powdered sugar (about 1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients for Filling:
Jar of Crema Pistacchi
Powdered Sugar
Milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 275°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Then, continuing to whip the egg whites, gradually add 2 tbsp granulated sugar. 

In a separate bowl, mix the ground nuts and powdered sugar. Fold the whipped egg whites into the nut/powdered sugar mixture. *If you want to color your macarons, add a couple of drops of food coloring about half way between adding the egg whites.

Put the mixture into a pastry bag with a large pastry tip. (Or, as I used, a Ziplock freezer bag with a hole cut out of the corner.) Pipe mixture onto lined baking sheet and let sit for an hour. This creates a hard shell. Bake for about 17-19 minutes. Let them cool on a wire rack.

Directions for the filling:

This is where I get really specific. The Crema Pistacchi was really liquidy, so I added a little powdered sugar to stiffen it up. But then it was too hard, so I added a little milk to make it more liquidy. That’s right. Go to town :). 

This macaron recipe was inspired by:

MarthaStewart.com
Taste.com
BraveTart.com

Baking Music: Flogging Molly (Not true, but it should have been! This was St. Patrick’s Day darn it!)

Shamrock Butter Cookies

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY (weekend)!!! I got the best St. Paddy’s Day gift when I got home from work.

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Isn’t she beautiful? Of course, I had to use her right away.

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Fortunately, I was already going to make butter cookies for my sister’s (Kori) annual St. Paddy’s Day party. So I didn’t have to think too hard about what to make. It was so nice to be able to throw butter and sugar in a bowl, start the mixer and walk away. I did a little kitchen dance to celebrate.

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Kori’s St. Paddy’s Day party is legend. She is a wiz at throwing a great party. I know she works her butt off decorating, cleaning, prepping food and alcohol, but she always makes it look effortless.

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Friends of friends are always welcome. It just a fun, comfortable place to hang out. Green beer? Of course. Corned beef sandwiches? Naturally. Also poker, sometimes jello shots, and lots of friends to round it out. Kids can stay until 9pm.

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She didn’t ask for cookies. But who can resist butter cookies? Nothing goes better with green beer. The worst part about making these cookies is that they are impossible to transport once they are frosted. Also, this recipe makes a million (exaggeration? pshaw!) cookies, so I figured I’d bring them home sans frosting and hope my nieces and nephew want to help decorate them.

SONY DSCI just frosted a couple to make the pictures look good. (Also, they’ll go well with coffee tomorrow.)

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Thanks for the mixer, mom and dad! She works beautifully! I love her. I promise to take care of her. Look! She has her own little home already.

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Butter Cookies

SONY DSCIngredients:
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
5 cups flour, divided
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda dissolved in …
2 tbsp milk

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, salt, cream of tartar, baking soda/milk mixture and 3 cups flour. Add another cup of flour until dough is workable. You’ll use the rest of the flour to roll out the dough.

Roll out and cut. Bake at 350° for 8 – 12 minutes.

Frosting Option #1
Mix powdered sugar and milk until you get the consistency you want, add food coloring and frost.

Frosting Option #2
Mix equal parts butter and powdered sugar. Add milk (and more powdered sugar) until you get the consistency you want. Add a little bit of vanilla and salt to flavor your frosting. Color, frost and decorate!

Baking Music: Happy Mix (includes Golden by Jill Scott, See the World by Gomez, Low Rider by War and so many more happy songs!)

Invalid Breakfast

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This was a weekend of big, heavy breakfasts. Jill had minor surgery this week which means that we were both home all weekend. That’s pretty unusual. We were both home, and we were faced with a refrigerator full of good intentions. Good intentions are ingredients that never put themselves together to form dinner. (Where is Remy when you need him?) Ground pork and mustard greens that we were totally going to turn into soup. Brussel sprouts that were clearly getting roasted. Duh.

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The pork was a lost cause. It was definitely the source of that weird smell we woke up to on Saturday. But the brussel sprouts were salvageable, so they became breakfast. Both days.

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Fry up some bacon. Quarter some brussel sprouts and cook them in the bacon fat. Which turns them from this:

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SONY DSCI burnt some garlic (woops) and scrambled some eggs. I topped the eggs with cheese (to hide the unattractive burnt garlic), topped the brussel sprouts with salt and topped the breakfast with bacon. Brussel sprouts and bacon became, what I’m calling, our invalid breakfast. Cause Jill’s an invalid.

Oh, and when I ask Jill for feedback, (what kind? what did you like, not like?) she said she liked everything and didn’t like everything. No, wait, didn’t not like anything. Double negatives. Too much work to bother. 🙂

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Oh, and, Jill’s doing well! Bon appetit!

Cooking Music: Herbie Hancock

Avocado Grapefruit Edamame Salad

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When I saw this salad on Joy the Baker‘s website I couldn’t resist trying it. Edamame and avocado? Sold!

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It was incredibly easy to make (as far as fancy salads with homemade dressing go), and super yummy. Leafy greens, grapefruit, blood orange, edamame, celery and avocado. The biggest pain in the butt was getting all the membrane off the grapefruit and blood orange segments.

BimyvG on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

The dressing is the best part because it’s so easy to make and really really good. Chop up a shallot (one shallot = about three tablespoons), some mustard and honey. It called for apple cider vinegar, but I didn’t have any so I used lemon. Works just as well.

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Put it in a seal-able container and shake shake shake. Shaking was the best part of putting together the salad. Totally made up for the annoying citrus.

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I had a lot of extra lettuce, edamame and celery, so I ended up eating this salad every day for a week. I stretched out the dressing and fruit. (The avocado was gone the first day.) Here’s what it looks like on day 4. Still pretty good.

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Avocado Grapefruit Edamame Salad 

from Joy the Baker

Serves: 2; WW Points: 8 (without dressing; 15 with dressing)

Ingredients

For the Salad:
about 2 cups leafy greens
1 grapefruit, segmented
1 blood orange, segmented
1 cup shelled edamame
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 small (or half of a large) ripe avocado, peeled and sliced

For the Dressing:
3 tablespoons finely diced shallots
1 tablespoon honey (for vegans substitute a bit of agave)
1 tablespoon dijon or whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (I used lemon)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Directions

  • In a medium bowl, combine all of the salad ingredients:  greens, citrus segments, edamame, celery, and avocado.
  • In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid combine shallots, honey, mustard, vinegar, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a few pinches of pepper. Place the lid on the jar and shake it up until the mixture is emulsified. Taste the dressing and season to taste, adding more salt, pepper, or acid as necessary.  Pour the dressing (as much as you’d life) over the salad.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Enjoy immediately!

First Ice Cream! Buttermilk Basil Sorbet

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Happy Snow Day! We have had our share of snowy and cold days this year. I much prefer snowy to cold. And what is the most appropriate thing you can make during a snow storm? Ice cream. Duh.

This is not, like, baby’s first ice cream. This is, like, Katie’s first attempt with an ice cream maker. I know you’re excited, but hold up, it was only a semi-success.

My parents are cleaning out their house. Sort of. And, as a result, I inherited their ice cream maker. It’s really hard to say no to an ice cream maker (even though free space in our apartment is quickly filled). There are just too many interesting ice creams and sorbets that go unmade because of lack of machinery. E says the same thing about pasta. We have different priorities.

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This 1970’s Waring Ice Cream Parlor came without directions. (At least I was unwilling to dig around my parents basement to find them. Basements are scary). However, the internet is a wonderful thing. I found instructions for this baby by searching the name on the side of the ice cream maker. Score! First hurdle, successfully cleared.

There is something that sounds so good about buttermilk basil sorbet. I had everything I needed. I just had to use the basil before it went bad, so … basil cut up.

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Lime zested.

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Buttermilk buttermilked. Wait … that’s not right. Well. Everything in the bowl, then.

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All ingredients in the ice cream maker (this will be so easy!). But again, wait … no. Do you have any idea how much salt you need to make ice cream? Like, lots and lots of salt. To keep the machine cold while it’s working your milk into ice cream you have to have about a dozen layers of ice and salt. I thought I had a whole extra box of salt, but nope. Second hurdle not only not cleared, but fell over with me like Danny Zuko on the race track … are Grease references allowed?

I only had a couple layers of ice in before I realized my problem, so then I had to do it old school. I pulled out some cheap metal pans and poured in the soon-to-be sorbet.

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If you’re not using an ice cream machine then you are supposed to scrape the pan each time a layer of ice forms. For the little muffin tin I was able to scrape up the ice three times, but for the larger bread loaf pan, it took too long to freeze (and I had places to be). What was most interesting about this accidental experiment was that the sorbet from the muffin tins was actually creamier than the sorbet in the bread pan. The bread pan sorbet was more like Italian ice. I didn’t really believe in the importance of scraping up the ice. Doubter. Either way the combination of buttermilk, lime and basil was pretty savory and satisfying.

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Lesson learned. And, it’s never too cold to eat ice cream.

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Buttermilk Basil Sorbet
Serves: 12; WW Points: 3
Prep time: 10 min; Ice Cream Maker Time: 50 minutes (otherwise, several hours)

Ingredients:
1 1/3 cup(s) sugar, granulated, divided
2/3 cup water
1 cup(s) basil, fresh, cut into ribbons, minced
4 cups low-fat buttermilk
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp lime zest, finely minced

Directions:
To make basil syrup, combine 2/3 cup sugar with 2/3 cup of water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, add basil and simmer for 5 minutes; set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine remaining 2/3 cup sugar with buttermilk, lime juice and zest; mix until sugar dissolves. Add cooled basil syrup to buttermilk mixture and mix thoroughly. Run sorbet mixture through an ice cream maker according to its package directions. Transfer sorbet to a container and freeze for 12 to 24 hours before serving. If you do not have an ice cream maker, poor into metal pan and freeze. Scrape through ice several times. Yields about 1/2 cup per serving.

Cooking Music: Doctor Who (it can’t always be music)