Sunday, October 31, 2010

WE'RE STILL HERE!

Hi! Don't stop following us! We've been really busy with Halloween and chickens and whatnot and haven't been to the store in weeks. Really, I've been living off of Conley's, PB&J and party food.

see


mmm



We promise to be better this week. We will be conducting Thanksgiving Test Kitchen AND telling you all about the Belmont Chicken Coop Tour we went on, as well as a decision we made about chickens. You won't want to miss it!

In the meantime, here's a sandwich recipe. Tell us how it turns out.




Thursday, October 28, 2010

CHICKENS!

Some of you may know that we have been interested in raising and keeping chickens for the purpose of eggs. We've been doing our research and think we may be ready to embark on this little (ha) adventure sometime late this winter/early spring. I found out today that the neighboring town from us has a tour of chicken coops (we do tour of homes all the time...tour of chicken coops, why not?) this Saturday. I am excited to not only see the coops but talk to the backyard farmers themselves! You are probably starting to get the image of Harriet the Spy with her secret notebook and magnifying glass. You're not far off base...I'll definitely have my camera along and probably and notebook too. 

Right now, we plan on building a modest little coop for our hens. This will be a great chance to see firsthand how other people went about their chicken housing. We are no carpenters but hey, we have great design skillz and aren't afraid to ask for help. Hopefully we can nudge in the network of chicken farmers in the area and create some new friends too. 

Here are the two kinds of chickens Mandi and I are geared toward getting: 

Buff Orphington-They are friendly, curious, hardy and good egg layers.

Golden Laced Wyandotte-They are docile, hardy and good layers.



Just wanted to share a little poultry enthusiasm with you today!


 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Black Forest Cake!

So, I have this thing I love to do. Baking. Obviously. Well, I especially love baking for people on their birthdays. If you live near me or with me you know. I made Mandi tiramisu for her birthday (I can post this another time if you want. Let me know!) and then recently for my other roommate Rajiv, I made his favorite, Black forest cake.


If you've ever had the chance to make a bonafide black forest cake, then you know it takes a few steps.


First things first:


Ingredients

(For the cake itself)
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  •  
  • (For the filling between layers)
  • 1/2 cup kirschwasser
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon strong brewed coffee
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans pitted Bing cherries, drained
  •  
  • (For the icing)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon kirschwasser
  • 1 (1 ounce) square semisweet or dark chocolate

Some but not all of the ingredients.


Having three separate lists of ingredients gives you an idea of the detail oriented-ness of this cake. Also, kirschwasser is cherry infused brandy. You can get the cooking style which is fairly inexpensive at your local liquor store. It's handy that I live next to Magnolia Wine company!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. I usually wait later in the game to do this. A lot of directions tell you to do this as step one and then I feel like I have my oven on forever because I take my time. Next time I will list it as Step 4 maybe. Anyway, line the bottoms of two 8 inch round pans with parchment paper circles or you can just spray them well. Mix together flour, cocoa, baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

I can't not post a photo of this. Seriously people, don't ask me why but it makes me think of how Scrooge McDuck in Duck Tales swam in is room of golden coins. I wish I had a room of cocoa to swim in. I know, I am weird. 

Dry ingredients. They look so soft.

Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk, until combined. Pour into 2 round 8 inch pans.

A note on buttermilk: If you don't have any, you can make it!! You can make it out of whatever milk you have on hand by putting 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in 1 cup of milk and let stand for 5 minutes. I love this trick. There are a few other variations on how to make your own buttermilk, I believe there's a way with cream of tarter too. 

It tasted as good as it looks. You know you want to lick those beaters.


Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when you poke it in the middle. Cool completely. Patiences my friends! Cut each layer in half, horizontally, making 4 layers total. Sprinkle layers with the 1/2 cup kirshwasser.

Two layers after cooling.

I thought it was going to be more difficult to cut the layers in half (4 total). I took it pretty slow. I think that is the best advice. Try and make them pretty even otherwise your cake is going to look pretty uneven and wonky. 


In a medium bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add confectioners sugar, pinch of salt, and coffee; beat until smooth. If the consistency is too thick, add a couple teaspoons of cherry juice or milk. Spread first layer of cake with 1/3 of the filling. Top with 1/3 of the cherries. Repeat with the remaining layers.  The cake is pretty tall which I like! 

I forgot to take pictures of this process. Sometimes I get in the zone and/or my hands are too dirty to touch the camera.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream to stiff peaks. Beat in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon kirshwasser. Frost top and sides of cake. You can garnish with the chocolate however you desire. I grated and chopped some chunks up to sprinkle on top. You could use a potato peeler and make chocolate curls. Which reminds me, I need to get a potato peeler. 

Voila!
There are different ways of icing and garnishing this cake. This one seemed most authentic to me. The icing is rich but not too sweet. Perfect. For what it's worth, icing that is too sweet takes away from the whole of a cake in my opinion. 


Ok, so I mentioned my pumpkin scones with ginger molasses icing and pumpkin chocolate chip-walnut cookies. I'll post those soon! What do you like to bake? Also, I am willing to accept most challenges of something you'd like me to try out baking! I dare you to dare me. 


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Impromptu dinner #2

Hey guys! Tonight I'm on my own, and there is a giant bag of kale haunting my refrigerator. Let's make some kale chips!

This is an easy way to use of the rest of your kale (if you happen to have a large quantity and don't know what to do with it...) without feeling like you're eating a giant soggy bowl of greens. I've never done this before, but I'm told it's easy.




All you do is trim the stems and cut them into chip-size pieces. Like so.





Toss them in a freezer bag with some olive oil.




...and lay them out on a parchment-papered cookie sheet and add some seasoned salt. Then bake for 10-15 minutes.

A side note about kale: In case you haven't cooked with it before (I hadn't until recently), kale is a firmer, leafier cousin of spinach and escarole. It doesn't cook down as much as his relatives, so it I wouldn't recommend it as a substitution unless you really enjoy kale. A couple weeks ago I substituted it for escarole in a soup, and it was over-powering, in my opinion.

While those are baking, I'm going to start dinner...

Warnings: The following meal was pulled out of my ass (not literally, gross). Also, I realize that the pictures get blurrier as the night goes on and my wine glass empties. My apologies.

This is how I normally cook. Recipes stress me out. It's easier for my brain if I just focus on what I'm doing and not bounce back and forth between a book and the stove (ADHD, remember?).

I had some chicken, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, pasta, capers. So, obviously, Italian is what's for dinner tonight. I wanted a white wine sauce, but all the recipes called for heavy whipping cream. I don't have any of that, so I'm a-fixin to wing it.



I worked from a basic white wine sauce recipe that I found on the web. I started by heating a tablespoon of butter (which in the Land of Paula Dean, where my people come from, translates to a couple of heaping tablespoons, y'all)


Then I added some white wine and cooked it at medium heat. I don't know how much, so don't ask. I tend to keep adding things until it looks and tastes right. Try it. DSM-IV calls it Impulsive. I prefer spontaneous.


Oops, I burned batch #1


This photograph really captures the speed at which I whisked the flour, also, a metaphor for life. Thoughts?



Once that cooked down, and after I added more and it cooked down too, I reduced to a simmer and whisked in some flour.





When it became clear that I didn't ruin the sauce, and it looked the way I thought it should look, I added the mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and a little Parmesan cheese and left it on low heat while I cooked the chicken and pasta.




Here it is guys, and it's really good. Seriously, if you had doubts that the sauce would turn out okay, it did. Next time I might add some fresh herbs, or maybe a little lemon juice. If you want to try this at home but my sauce approach stresses you out, then find a recipe that you can follow to your type-A personality's content. Far be it from me to cause anyone an anxiety attack. Don't forget to finish off your white wine (like I did)!


Oh, and the kale chips are delicious too!!

Have you ever cooked an amazing impromptu meal? Do you want us to stop using the word 'impromptu'? Does your ADHD hinder your cooking abilities? Do you think Paula Dean uses too much butter? Tell us about it in the comments below! Don't be shy!

~Mandi

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's the (second) most wonderful time of the year

This weekend marks the 20-something birthday of our favorite man-roommate, Rajiv! To celebrate our new friend, we threw him a Fall-themed party complete with tasty hors d'oeuvres, a little pumpkin carving, and of course, a living room dance session. Sanne baked his favorite: Black Forrest Cake. And Mandi baked some frozen Trader Joe's appetizers and mixed some apple cider cocktails. Yum!

cheesy fried rice balls, thanks Joe!

caramelized onion and feta cheese in puff pastry
Sometimes, I like to give myself a break and just serve frozen appetizers. They're cheap, fast and the work is done for you. During the holidays, I'll mix a few in with homemade appetizers (you can't let Joe take all the credit...) so that we can spend a little more time cleaning and getting ready and less time prepping in the kitchen.


pumpkin carving
We had intentions of all carving pumpkins together, but the cocktails and pumpkin beers were already being served, so we didn't think it wise to start passing our paring knives.

roasted pumpkin seeds: a must for October soirees
a happy party-goer
apple cider, rum, cinnamon, perfection.


dance party!
Black Forrest Cake done right. 









birthday boy

So ends another successful party, and a few new recipes added to our repertoire. Tomorrow we'll tell you some tricks to a really impressive Black Forrest Cake and... something else that we haven't decided on. Maybe an impromptu dinner?

Do you have any time-saving party tricks?

Friday, October 22, 2010

feelin' soupy

It's getting colder and we haven't brought ourselves to turn on the heat yet. Tonight we're making a potato soup with mushrooms. Last time Sanne made this, it was a little too thick, but ended up being a perfect mashed potato recipe. Tonight, we are definitely going for soup consistency.

So first is the chopping of the onions. Saute a chopped red onion with some butter. We roasted a couple of large garlic cloves in a garlic roaster, which will be added when they're done. If you don't have a garlic roaster, just toss them in the pot with the butter and onions.

chop chop
I ask you: Is there a better smell?

When the onions are translucent, add chicken stock and chopped potatoes. We didn't have a whole lot of potatoes, so when just kinda added a little stock at a time until it looked right.




Then, we added some chopped mushrooms, the roasted garlic and some rosemary and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender.

I (Mandi) have to confess, I hate directions. I don't like following recipes. While we do use cookbooks and recipes, we more or less use them as references or for inspiration.  We will try to be as detailed as possible, but if you have any questions or need clarification on anything, just ask.  :)

When the potatoes are tender, smash them up with a potato masher (or, if you want a smoother consistency, puree everything in the blender). Once the mixture is the right consistency, add milk or cream. We didn't have any heavy cream, so we used our milk and a little sour cream. Then add cheese until its cheesy enough for you.



This soup isn't very pretty. The mushrooms and purple potatoes made it this muddy color. Actually, it looks like something that would be served to the orphans in Oliver Twist.

Please Sir, I want some more!

But it did the trick.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Scrounging for Fingerlings and Promiscuous Honey Wheat Bread

A few months ago, I picked up this Raspberry Merlot Glaze from Cardullo's, put it in the pantry and forgot about it. As we were wandering around Trader Joe's this week, trying to figure out what to do for dinner, I saw pork tenderloins and remembered that bottle in the pantry. We bought the least phallic piece we could find and started marinating for Monday's dinner.

(FYI, there's no such thing as a non-phallic pork tenderloin. They don't exist. However, last time we cooked pork tenderloin, I believe we found THE most phallic one that ever did exist! There is photo documentation but I am afraid it is too offensive. Seriously, we could get reported for it. )






We added some sea salt, pepper, and oregano, baked it in the oven for some minutes and viola.
Sorry it isn't more inspired or complicated, but it is what it is, and it is good...

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about is the vegetables. This is my favorite easy thing to do when there is nothing to eat and it's nice and autumnal outside. For those of you who don't know this, trying to figure out what to eat after about 3 1/2 weeks since my last trip to the grocery store is one of my favorite things. Because there is ALWAYS something. We can almost always scrounge up a potato or two, at least a couple of onions, and lots of seasonings. We just chop up a bunch of whatever root veggies we have lying around (in this case, carrots, potatoes and red onion), toss in some dried rosemary, s+p, douse it with oil and balsamic vinegar and roast it until the potatoes are tender. It is the tastiest! 

before cooking


Whatever, you've probably all done this before. Let us know if your bored or if you haven't heard anything new by next week. We appreciate any feedback! Seriously, it won't hurt our feelings! We can handle it! My sister told me tonight that I'm on the ADHD spectrum and I only cried a little bit!


I'll end by saying, the only thing to drink between the months of September and November are...

(the Dunkelweizen is Mandi's fave and Sanne's is the Black Lager)

This concludes my portion. Keep reading for Sanne's recipe for Promiscuous Honey Wheat Bread.  It's so delicious, and scandalous, too!

Oh yeah, we have a tie-- vegetarian chili and impromptu chicken dinner. Send your mom a link! She loves this crap. Or if you haven't commented yet, show us you love us! (I'm looking at YOU, Mrs. Hill!)

--Mandi


So, I bet you are wondering just how Honey Wheat Bread could possibly be slutty. Well, you'll see.

I like baking a lot. Fall makes me want to bake double time. Lately bread is what I have been wanting to bake most. It is the most time consuming but also the most rewarding end product. Because cooking and baking are relaxing for me, I usually devote part of my day off to do them. This past Monday I made Honey Wheat Bread. Here's the recipe:

3 cups of warm water (ideally 110-115 degrees, too cold or too hot won't activate the yeast)
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 tablespoons yeast
3 eggs
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup shortening or butter 
2 tablespoons salt
10-12 cups of whole wheat flour

A note on the shortening vs butter. Butter has richer aroma and deeper taste.  Shortening results in a lighter textured loaf. It depends on your preference of fats, flavors, aromas, etc. You could always do a combo! 

This recipe is for 3 loaves. If you are going take the time to bake bread you might as well make more than one loaf! You can always save some dough for a later batch in the refrigerator or freezer. I have recently learned that adding old dough to a new batch adds a lot of flavor. The old dough helps new batches of dough because it already has lively yeast and the flavor of wheat from the flour has had some time to develop.  The old dough method is said to produce a full-flavored loaf with a lighter, open-textured crumb than a straight yeast dough and last longer too. This is something I will be exploring more soon...

Here are some instructions and photos chronicling the Promiscuous Honey Wheat Bread:

I started with these two bowls. Slight underestimation.

The yellow bowl was the appropriate size for the yeast mixture. However, you are going to need a jumbo bowl for the flour bowl. I underestimated how much 10-12 cups of flour is sans all the other ingredients. 


Give the yeast about 10 minutes to mingle with the sugar and water.
Mix water with yeast and sugar and let sit until foamy. In the meantime, put the 3 eggs (in the shell) in a bowl of hot water (to bring the eggs to room temperature).

Then, put flour and salt in the jumbo bowl.

Pour in yeast mixture and stir until combined. 

Combine honey, eggs, and butter/shortening and then add to flour and yeast mixture. Mix well. This is where the elbow grease starts to come in. 

Add more flour as needed. I like to start with a little less and add more. You want it to be smooth but not too dense. Slightly sticky is ok. 

Know knead that huge lump until it is pretty smooth. (Don't hurt yourself.)

Let set in warm place for about an hour until double in size. If you live somewhere hot just the counter will do. I like to preheat the oven for 175, then turn it off and put the bowl in there to its business. You can always heat a moist towel and drape it over the bowl too. 

This is the dough before rising.
A word on kneading: 
Kneading is essential bread making. I find that most people have seen it done or natural somehow know how to knead. Maybe I just had the instinct. It's pretty hard to mess up kneading though. I firmly believe that if you take out your day's frustrations on the dough you'll both be better off when you are done. Punch it, fold it, squish it. Heck, use your elbows. (Not really, scraping dough off of your elbows and/or potentially hitting your funny bone isn't worth it.) 

Here is the wiki how on how to knead if you need it. (hehe) http://www.wikihow.com/Knead-Dough

doubled in size! 

Divide into 3 loaves. Or in my case I decided to do a sandwich loaf (in a loaf pan), a braided loaf (I'll teach that in another posting) and buns! Let the dough rise again in warm place until doubled (about another hour). Just keep an eye on it. 

Bake it at 375 for about 30-35 minutes or until (if you want to get this technical) the interior gets to 190 on a thermometer. I don't have one of those. I usually gauge on the browning of he crust and time. 

I don't think I have to tell you about the satisfaction of making bread. For one, your whole house smells like heaven on a stick (you know that saying...everything tastes better on a stick...right? I am doubtful you can improve on heaven but I already said it.) and then you have an entire warm, soft, crusty, buttery loaf of bread fresh out of the oven to eat. The satisfaction is better when there are friends and family there to share it with you. You want to show off your skills and you probably shouldn't eat the entire loaf yourself. So make sure you have a neighbor or friend or loved one around. 

Teen Mom: The sandwich loaf and the braided loaf produced hot crossed buns of love. 
So maybe the Honey Wheat Bread isn't all that promiscuous but it sure is tasty. Bread making can be daunting to undertake but I promise, if I can do it, you can do it. Just take a deep breath and remember that your efforts will fill the house with the most wonderful smells (unless you start watching Jurassic Park and forget that a roaring t-rex, triceratops and velociraptors drown out the sound of your oven timer thus producing crispier bread and the firemen to show up. Neither of which I find bad...). The crispier bread happened but sadly no firemen showed up. True story but not with this batch of bread. 

We will soon be doing a pumpkin post. It is October after all. All Hallow's Eve is just 10 days away!! I have a great recipe for pumpkin scones with ginger molasses icing and pumpkin chocolate chip-walnut cookies to share. 

What is something you like to cook when the weather starts to turn chilly? 

Leave us some love!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Vote or Die!

We thought for our first post we would dig through some of Sanne's food porn and find a few of our favorites. Tell us which meal you would most want the recipe for, and we will tell you how to make it in the near future. Let's take a look at the contestants...

#1 Impromptu Chicken Dinner


#2 Parmesan Sausage Pizza

#3 Mandi's Vegetarian Chili

Okay, leave it in the comments! Tomorrow we'll tell you all about the pork tenderloin we had for dinner tonight... and the Honey Wheat biscuits Sanne made.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Welcome friends!

We're finally on the blog wagon! Through the encouragement of family and friends we are taking our kitchen adventures and creative endeavors online to share. Our hope is that you not only get to enjoy our successes and laugh with us at our missteps but that you will also give us your opinions. Tell us what you like, what bores you and share new ideas and challenges for us.

Many of you already know how excited we have been recently about the idea of self sustainability. Some topics we are especially interested in are raising chickens and keeping bees. These are a couple of topics that you will be hearing more about from us.

In the short-term, we will be conducting a Thanksgiving Test-Kitchen. We're looking forward to  planning our menu (we're dorks, we know this.) and are going to be trying out stuffing recipes.

Now that the formalities are out of the way, we promise that our blog won't be as boring as this welcome post.

Alyssanne & Mandi