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Cake Baking

23 Oct

As many as I’ve tried to bake, that’s how many cakes I’ve ruined. I’m not talking about cupcakes (because let’s face it – that’s the cheaters method). Round cakes, 9X13 cakes, you name it. There is always some issue; and sometimes, it’s not even the same issue!

I’ve tried multiple years to bake my own birthday cake (especially now that I am out on my own), but if I’m home, Momma normally comes to the rescue. If I’m not at home, I stare at an ugly cake until I need to drown my sorrows in it.

Then, like a fresh start, some 9-inch round cake pans were calling my name one day in the store. I bought them, on a whim, thinking, “You know what? You either need to learn how to bake cakes, or figure out a way to salvage the bad cakes.” So, I couldn’t leave without them, you see?

During my biweekly grocery trip (every other week, not twice a week – geez that’s a lot!), I bought cake mix and some frosting. We went with Red Velvet because my fiancee is not the biggest fan of chocolate. Bummer. When I got home, I didn’t rush to bake them right away. I cleaned my new pans, packed the cake mix and frosting in the pantry and just rested on the idea of baking a cake.

When the time was right, I went for it. The mixing part was easy (as it always is). Mix plus egg plus oil. Bam. You’re done. Pour that into the cake pans and bake. Easy-peasy. (You’re thinking – why was she making such a big deal about this!? Cake baking is a piece of cake. And now you’re thinking – my god. Has she really sunk so far to pun within our minds!? Lame.)

38 minutes later, the toothpicks came out clean, so the cakes came out of the oven. I let them cool an inordinate amount of time in the pan, on the rack because this is where my first blunder seems to happen. If the cake is not cool enough, it rips out of the pan. Boo 😦 I’m happy to report, however, that this time around, they came out so cleanly, I almost cried. I kid you not, when I say no cake of mine has ever come out of the pan cleanly. So after another maybe 2-3 hours of cooling on the rack, I braved my next daunting task: frosting those suckers.

Here’s where I did something different. Instead of leaving them rounded at the top, I sliced through so that it would be even. I was afraid this would make frosting those carved sides more difficult since the cake wouldn’t be a smooth, even surface, but it was a non-issue! (I think it helps to stir your frosting for a good minute to loosen everything up.)

So, I frosted the middle section – probably could have used more – and put the cakes on top of each other. Then I began the sides. I left the top for last because I believed that to be the easiest. The sides were difficult, but again, a non-issue. I’m not sure why that was, but it was relatively easy 🙂 Pleasantly surprised with how everything turned out, I cut a piece and sat down to enjoy!

Image

Here’s where our story takes a turn for the worst. This cake tasted AWFUL. I followed the instructions and all of the ingredients were non-expired, so I blame the brand. I will be trying again soon with another brand, so I’ve got my fingers crossed it comes out tastier. Stay tuned!

I found the timing so perfect that around the day I decided to bake a cake, Bon Appetit sent out an email with cake baking tips and recipes for the best cakes. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Bon Appetit!

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Pinterest Recipes

21 Apr

Pinterest has taken up entirely too much of my time (may be why I haven’t been posting), but it’s TOO FUN TO STOP. Side effect of excess pinning: tons of new recipes to try!

When the opportunity presents itself, I make an effort to try a new recipe. It was a valiant effort, but I was never going to make a dent in my Recipes board. A few weeks ago, I decided to pick out 8-10 recipes to try for the next two weeks. I put together the ingredient list, went grocery shopping and tried to plan out best when to have each one. It went REALLY well, so I’m doing it again this week. Here is a list of the recipes I’ve already tried (if you’re not familiar with Pinterest, just click on the picture and it’ll take you to the original post):

Baked Southwestern Egg Rolls

Fettuccine Alfredo

Chipotle Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Pizza

BBQ Chicken Pasta Bake

Easy Pierogi Casserole

Penne with Corn and Brown Butter

Garlic Parmesan Edamame

Coconut Curry Noodles

Quinoa Mac N Cheese

In the next few weeks, I’ll post what we’ve tried again (I’ve got a great set picked out this week!), and who knows? Maybe I’ll get to try ALL of my Pinterest Recipes. Ha, yeah right.

Happy Cooking/Baking/Eating 🙂

It’s almost March!?

28 Feb

I’ve been slacking on my blog posts lately, but that does not mean that I haven’t been busy in the kitchen! I’ve got several (unfortunately picture-less) updates for you and then a brand-new idea I’m working on. It’s pretty top-secret for now, but I’ll give you some hints.

First, I missed the statute of limitations for posting about Valentine’s Day by about 2 weeks. Whoops. In any case, I pulled several recipes from Pinterest to try, rather than struggle with reservations, parking, crowds, etc. For our appetizer, I made Brie Bites, but I changed the recipe a little bit. Instead of honey and walnuts, I used Wheat Thins and blackberry preserves. Our friend made a baked brie slice at a get-together, so I was trying to re-create that. We had salads to accompany our main dish: Petite Lasagnas. These did not turn out the way I wanted, but that was my fault; I used egg roll wrappers instead of wonton wrappers. Whoops. After we let the meal settle a bit, we had dessert in the form of Reese’s Cheesecake Brownie Bars. (Please note: I did not take that picture and mine looked NOTHING like that.) They did, however, taste pretty good, but were so rich that we couldn’t finish our bars. In fact, I’ve still got some frozen that we haven’t finished. Overall, it probably cost about the same to have dinner at home since I planned special dishes, but it was worth it. 🙂

The next week was Mardi Gras and I wanted to do it up right. I made another King Cake like I did last year, and I think it turned out a little better because I had the correct mixing attachments this year. (Thanks, Momma, for the hand-me-down Kitchenaid Mixer!) For our main dish, I made a Chicken & Chorizo Paella. I don’t think I ended up using enough saffron, but honestly, I never want to use too much since it cost me more than two movie tickets! In any case, it was still a great flavor and something totally different from what we normally experiment with, so I’m really glad we tried it. I’ll try and take a picture for you next time.

Finally, I decided to surprise Boyfriend with lunch this past Sunday at Harborque. I just found out about it from a friend and couldn’t wait to try it out. It’s no Fire Station BBQ, but it sure hit the spot and made me miss home. Since I didn’t contribute to the main course, I brought some Banana Pudding along for us to finish off with. Definite crowd-pleaser. Again, not like the Fire Station, but it was so close that I’ll never look for another recipe because this was almost too easy. The whole meal was delicious and I anticipate having this regularly.

And now, for the top-secret idea!

Essentially, I’m drafting a menu.

For my hypothetical restaurant. 🙂

Let’s just pretend for a minute that I’m Superwoman and am brave enough to completely abandon my education/degree and pursue this entrepreneurial endeavor. I’m not sure I could ever do it – and am pretty sure I don’t want to run my own business – but, it’s fun to pretend that life isn’t complicated and all I really have to do to succeed is come up with menu ideas. It still needs some work and isn’t quite cohesive yet, but it’s still just an idea. Stay tuned to see if it develops into more. 😉

Happy 2012!

1 Jan

It’s hard to believe that 2011 is already over and so is 1/366 of 2012 (since it’s a leap year – ya know). 2011 brought many new recipes, tastes and foods, so I’m excited to see what 2012 has in store.

Boyfriend and I celebrated NYE with some “family favorites” along with a new dish and, of course, champagne. We were going to eat 12 grapes each at midnight, per Bon Appetit’s “10 Foods That Will Bring You Good Luck in the New Year,” but we forgot about them and they’re still sitting in the fruit crisper. #newyearsfail

We did make my go-to spinach & artichoke dip, some guacamole and a new dish that I’ve been semi-concocting for some time now. I guess I’ll call them Apple-Sausage Bites, but I’m not entirely happy with how they turned out this go ’round. Before I give them a page in this book, I’d like to at least revise, if not perfect, the recipe. This time, I started with a slice of apple sausage, on top of an apple slice and topped off with a small pat of brie. I thought it was a good idea, but none of the flavors meshed well and I was kind of disappointed. (Also, I’m pretty much avoiding most meats, so that probably didn’t help.)

I have several resolutions in the works, but I think the most relevant for this space is to eat healthily, while still being able to try new recipes and experiment with flavors. Also, rather than forcing it down, I’m going to cut my losses with seafood. I just don’t like it. And that’s OK with me. I’ll eat crab on some occasions (like a crab cake or when Shelley makes it into a dip), but everything else is pretty much off the table. Maybe I’ll try again in a few years.

No matter what your resolution is, I’m wishing you the best in 2012 and hope you are able to accomplish your goals and share some wonderful times with friends and family. Take a break. Do something fun. Don’t let stress and fear take the reigns away from you. This is going to be a great year! 🙂 Happy 2012!

New Recipe Weekend!

30 Oct

For the past few months, I’ve been running all over creation during the weekends that when this weekend finally rolled around, I vowed to relax and hardly do anything.

However, anyone who knows me knows that I can’t sit still for that long and not do something. So, I tried two new recipes to make up for it. 🙂

Saturday morning, I made Bojangles Biscuits for Boyfriend. He made them a few weeks ago, but wasn’t completely happy with the results. I offered to give it a shot, since I like to bake so much! They ended up coming close to Bojangles themselves, but nothing will ever compare. In any case, I tried one with honey drizzled over and I’m never looking back!

The second recipe I tried was a dessert: Nutella-Mallow Pillow Puffs. I came across the recipe on Stumble Upon, but the recipe site was Picky Palate. This recipe was fun, easy and delicious. You couldn’t ask for an easier crowd pleaser. I changed up the recipe a little to make the puffs smaller so we could have more than one, so that changed the bake time. Overall, I consider that a win.

Happy Baking!

The Bridal Shower

9 Oct

A few weekends ago, I had the honor of hosting my best friend’s bridal shower at my parents’ house in North Carolina. I had been planning it for a while and couldn’t wait to see everyone…and try some new recipes 🙂

I planned out the menu to include some brunch-y items, some vegetarian options and some dessert-y items. The final menu was:

-quiches
-monkey bread
-pepperoni puffs
-spinach and artichoke cups
-cake pops
-fruit and veggie trays with dip
-mimosas
-sherbert punch

This gave me the opportunity to try a few new recipes that I’ve had on my list for a while. The spinach and artichoke cups have been on my “Recipes To Try” page for quite some time, simply because I was waiting for an entertaining opportunity. I loved the way the spinach and artichoke dip just sat in each little cup, and it really tasted great! I haven’t used egg roll wrappers since my roommates and I made egg rolls in college, so this was a fun way to use them differently. The pepperoni puffs have been on my to-do list, as well, but just haven’t made it to the blog yet. They turned out great and were definite crowd pleasers. (My daddy came home after we all left and had some of the leftovers and gave them high marks!)

It also gave me opportunity to cook with our other best friend from school. He is a chef/caterer, so it was definitely fun to work with him and learn from someone with much more experience than I have. He made the quiches – and did a wonderful job, if I do say so myself.

The monkey bread, fruit dip, and sherbert punch are family favorites, so I’m glad they were able to make an appearance, too. The cake pops are a repeat recipe, but in a different capacity. I made Easter cake pops two years ago, so they were shaped like Easter eggs and were colored differently and thoroughly decorated. I learned my lesson from that (especially now that I was pressed for time): Less is more. I covered these in white candy melts and drew an “A” on them. Done. They were so moist and turned out as well as could be expected.

It ended up being a great time and I was so happy to be able to do it. My advice to me for next time (or to anyone attempting this in the future): Give yourself plenty of time to prepare the food. It also doesn’t to hurt to have some helping hands – special shout out to Sous Chef Momma and Chef Guy! Couldn’t have pulled it off without you!

So, funny story…

18 Sep

I was hanging out with my cousin yesterday and we were trying to see when we were both next free so we could get together. We decided that we wanted to do a chili cook-off in a few weekends, so I spent some time last night looking for some delicious-looking chili recipes. I found this great one for Pulled Pork Chili, so I decided that was the one I would use.

You can imagine my surprise when I woke up to a Facebook Invitation for the Chili Cook Off for today. Yikes! There was no way my 7+ hour chili would be ready for when we were trying to get together, so I looked for a different, quick, chili recipe. I found one that sounded almost as delicious as the pulled pork one. Boyfriend and I ran to the grocery store to pick up the necessary ingredients and whipped it up before heading out to Cousin’s house.

We pull up to the house and I notice her car is not in the driveway. We walk up to her boyfriend and he goes, “What’s up?” We’re thinking, “Um, your chili cook off is on Facebook as today. It’s not today, is it?” He went on to let us know that my cousin was on her way back home and that the cook off was really scheduled for October 9. Whoops.

In any case, I made some great Barbecue Chili with Corn today and decided to round it out with an autumn-inspired dessert: Apple Crisp. (On a side note: I’m so excited for fall foods! This is by far my favorite season!)