Tag Archives: baking

Tapas Night!

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So I will preface this post by apologizing. I FORGOT TO TAKE PHOTOS!

I kindly borrowed these photos (see credits at bottom of post) so the rest will be a rather dull post, visually. But if you will bare with me, the food was really good. 

 

I had a few upstairs neighbors over (down?) for a tapas-style dinner. If you’re not familiar with tapas, get familiar. It’s amazing! The concept is basically eating/tasting several small dishes in place of one large entree or meal. It’s a fun way to eat, try new things and I think makes for a more social meal. 

 

The menu:

Salad: spring greens with fresh green beans, water chestnuts, grated pepper jack and sunflower seeds – dressed lightly in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, red pepper flake and lemon zest.

Light, easy and delicious way to start a meal!

Three-part tapas:

1) Egg in purgatory: Single egg baked in individual ramekin with tomato sauce.

I use store bought (Newman’s Own Sockarooni – yum!) but it’d be great with homemade. Just pour about 1/2 cup tomato sauce in a dish and then crack on egg on top. Pop it in HOT oven for 10-15 minutes. Also good topped with a little cheese, but I skipped that tonight since there was cheese elsewhere.

2) Kebabs: Shrimp, halved new potatoes and a variety bell pepper chunks marinated overnight in roasted red pepper Italian salad dressing. 

So easy. These are great on the grill, but as I don’t have one I just popped them under the broiler for a few minutes (until the peppers started to get that roasted look). The dressing is a great marinade – something my mom always did – and you can put just about anything on the kebabs. I used these ingredients because my guests don’t eat meat but chicken is also good. My parents like mushrooms too. If you’re doing things that cook at different times, be sure to put that ingredient all on its own skewer. It’s not as pretty but you don’t want some things underdone and other burnt.

3) Stuffed poblanos: Peppers stuffed with black bean, onion, pepper jack and corn meal mix, baked in spicy tomato sauce.

I followed this recipe from Martha Stewart pretty closely and was really pleased how it turned out.

The only thing I did different was cut it down to serve three and just cut out the top of the pepper instead of halving them. That way we each got one but it was a little more full than they would have been otherwise. The filling looked flipping disgusting when I mixed it up (especially the corn meal/water combination) but it really cooked up beautifully. The peppers were nice and tender and the cornmeal had a great texture, even though I made it the night before and the peppers sat stuffed in my refrigerator overnight. The sauce is essentially a basic salsa and was good too, although this recipe makes A TON. 

Dessert: Individual blueberry lemon snack cakes, served with a side of vanilla bean ice cream and topped with blueberry compote. 

I used the following recipe for an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook I have from the library right now. It’s called “Cooking for Two” and its the 2011 edition. The recipe is just for a blueberry snack cake, but I added lemon zest and subbed half the milk for lemon juice. I also adjusted the recipe to make three instead of two cakes and cooked them in loaf pans instead of mini bundt cake pans. That would have been adorable but I couldn’t find any in time. The cake baked up great. It was nice and springy, still moist but not gooey. It was absolutely delicious and I’ll make it again soon.

I served it with a side of vanilla bean ice cream, which was delicious but I think it would have been even better with lemon ice cream or sorbet. The whole thing was topped with a blueberry compote, which was AWESOME. It’s the first time I’ve made a compote and was shocked at how easy it was. Recipe follows.

Blueberry Snack Cake (makes 2 individual cakes)

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons whole milk, room temperature

1/2 cup ripe blueberries

Modifications I made: Adjusted all amounts to make 3 cakes. Also, I used almond milk and subbed half for fresh-squeezed lemon juice. I also added a generous amount of lemon zest.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in egg and beat until combined. Beat in vanilla (and zest, if using).

Beat in one third flour mix, then half milk (juice). Repeat with half remaining flour, then rest of milk (juice). Add in remaining flour until just incorporated – batter will be quite thick. Fold in blueberries.

Divide batter evenly among greased pans and smooth tops to settle batter. Bake at 350 until toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes. 

Blueberry compote:

2 cups fresh blueberries

3 tablespoons water

1/4 sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Add half the blueberries to a small sauce pan with the other ingredients. Cook for a few minutes, until skins burst. Add remaining berries, cook for a few minutes longer and serve warm.

 

So there you have it, folks! I great meal, shared with new friends and good wine. A lot of the prep can be done beforehand, so it only took about an hour for everything to come together tonight and a great time was had by all. 

Have you ever tried tapas at home? What do you like to cook for dinner guests?

ALSO!

I have actually been sewing a lot. I’ve made a few things, which I’ve yet to get pictures of and I’m close on another dress which I’m very excited about. Post to come soon. Until then though, here is a photo where you can kind of see a top I recently made and have been wearing to death. It’s Simplicity 1886 and though I struggled with part of it, as blogged about here, it turned out great and I really like it. The fabric is a Project Runway sale bin grab at Joann’s and I’m really pleased. I’ve worn this two work several times and out for happy hour as well! Though I didn’t understand some of the pattern directions, I’ll make it again (probably with the same make-shift neckline finishing).

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Our photographer, Tom Russo, caught this when I was interviewing Bill Murphy, director of the USDA’s RIsk Management Agency. He’s been touring the Midwest to talk to farmers devastated by the drought, which nearly all in Hancock County are. He stopped by a farm in Shirley, Ind., a couple weeks ago.

Food photo credits: NY Times, DukanItOutMartha Stewart

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Dinner extravaganza and the world’s best lemon cake!

Before we get to the food, a better picture of my first Sorbetto! It is making it’s debut at work today pained with dress pants from Loft, a a light pink cardigan from Old Navy and white sandals from Target. It’s a little cool today but the hot pink in the top matches my hot pink pedicure. I couldn’t resist.

 

So to thank my lovely boyfriend for driving all the way up to see me on a weeknight, I decided to make a rather extravagant dinner. Now, I usually cook nice meals for us on the weekends, but during the week I don’t do much special for just me. Honestly, probably 3 out of 4 nights I have a chicken breast with brown rice and edamame. It’s super easy and I’m not sick of it yet.

Anywho, Tuesday night was much more elaborate. I attempted to make not just a nice dinner, but a cohesive one. With a salad/vegetable, starch and protein. AND dessert.

So here’s the menu:

Snap pea, radish and feta salad

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Potato, apple and onion gratin

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Panko-crusted pork chops

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Lemon yogurt cake

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And it was a hit!

The first three were all added from Bon Appetit recipes.

The salad was a snap and I forgot to take pictures. Essentially, you just trim the peas and then cut them in half on the diagonal. Add thin slices of radish and crumbled feta. Dressing was super simple, but I left out the sumac the recipe calls for because they only sumac I know of is the poisonous plant. I’m too poor to bother with obscure ingredients I will probably never use again. Anywho, the salad was delicious (the boy even had seconds!) but was not so good the second day. It may have been better had I not already dressed it. Oh well, lesson learned.

The gratin was just about as simple. Thin slice the onions and cut down in butter. Toss with thin sliced potatoes and apples. Bake. I halved the recipe, but forgot to change the time which may be why it looks a little overdone. Or because I don’t have a glass dish and cooked it in a metal one instead. IDK if that makes a big difference or not… This gratin has no cream or cheese but still feels really rich. It kind of melts in your mouth – so good!

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The pork chops were not quite as successful but still good. The comments on the recipe said the red wine vinegar was too strong, so I used apple cider vinegar since that’s what I had on hand anyway and thought it would be milder. For some reason apple and pork just seem to go anyway. I also lightly rinsed the chops after they marinated to make sure they weren’t too sour. The vinegar ended up being pretty light but I’d rather have that than have it be too strong. After they marinate just dredge in flour, egg and the panko herb mixture. The crust was super delicious but it didn’t stick very well. I’m not really sure why that was. Also, you definitely want to be sure to pound them thin as the recipe suggest. Otherwise they don’t cook through all the way. I had to pop two of them in the oven for a few to get them cooked all the way through.

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The pièce de résistance though was the cake. It’s from a rather old Barefoot Contessa cookbook that was SO overdue to the library (which is really sad because I live across the street). It’s a yogurt cake, so there is no milk or butter.

Ingredients:
1.5 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
*I’m not sure about the amounts for the glaze. That’s what I wrote down but I needed WAY more lemon juice to get it the right consistency. Just add until the glaze becomes thin enough to stir smooth, but not runny.

Oven at 350, grease and flour loaf pan

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into one bowl. Whisk yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, zest and vanilla into another bowl. Slowly whisk dry ingredients into wet. With rubber a rubber spatula, fold the oil into the batter making sure it’s all incorporated (just keep stirring!).

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Pour batter into pan and bake for 50 min. Cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. When cake is done, let cool 10 minutes. While still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mix over cake and let soak in. Cool. Top with glaze (just mix confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and stir until smooth).

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Let me just say that this might be the most popular thing I’ve made. Pat was flipping over it and everyone at work raved as well. According to Pat, it’s even better the next after its been in the fridge for a day. I didn’t have anymore (not after so much indulgence and no gym the night before).

I highly recommend it and will definitely make it again!

PS: How do you make those gray border/boxes around the pictures go away? They’re driving me nuts and messing up my photo setup…

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Love the smell of fresh baked anything…

So this post was supposed to go yesterday, but I fell asleep typing. As much as I enjoy blogging, I think it’s bad for my health, or at least my sleep pattern.

Anywho, my apartment was filled with the DE-lightful smell of fresh baked banana bread last night! I had some bananas that were about to go bad – go figure – so of course there’s nothing else to do with them. The recipe I used is adapted from one of my all time favorite possessions. It’s a cookbook called “Nutbread and Nostalgia” and it was put together by the South Bend (Ind.) junior league in the 1970s. My mom and grandma both have a copy and so many of the recipes I remember them making while I was growing up were from this book. My mom found it for a reasonable price on Amazon and it was probably the best Christmas present I got, except maybe my sewing machine 🙂

It’s super old school and the recipes are awesome, like this banana bread.

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Adapted from “Nutbread and Nostalgia”: Banana-pecan bread

1 C softened butter
2 C sugar
4 eggs
4 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
7 medium bananas, mashed
1 C finely chopped pecans
1 T shredded coconut

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, soda and salt. Gradually add flour mixture alternately with bananas to cream mixture. Mix thoroughly. With a wooden spoon, stir in pecans and coconut until evenly distributed. Crease and flour three 9×5 loaf pans. Bake at 300 or 1 hour. Makes three loaves.

*Note: I halved the recipe and cooked it for 30 minutes in a 9×13 cake pan. Came out perfect! I also left out the coconut and added about a cup of chocolate chips instead. Chocolate chips in banana bread? Oh yeah, trust me. I also left out the pecans, instead sprinkling walnuts (they’re cheaper) just on the top of one half because there is a sizable anti-nut faction in my office.

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Into the 300 oven it goes…

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Then 30 minutes later… ta-da!

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It’s a really moist almost cake-like bread. And it got RAVE reviews at work.

Yesterday was a productive day for me. I also finished Pat’s robe (pause for reaction) and cleaned out my machine. I had never even thought about needing to clean the damn thing until I read this post on one of my favorite new sewing blogs: Did You Make That?

I didn’t even know you could open her up like this, let alone that you should. But as I was in between projects, I thought there could be no better time. I used a cotton swab to clean out all of the lint. I also replaced her needle so she’s looking all shiny and new again.

I did save the old needle though to use during some of my paper projects. That way I won’t have to worry about dulling or damaging a good needle on the machine.

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I will post pictures of Pat’s robe once he has it on because I just look too ridiculous. I’ve also got a post coming on my next project – this super cute. I got this great plaid fabric on sale at JoAnn’s so I’m pretty excited. I will also reveal the chicken and white bean chili recipe I chose! The cook-off is tomorrow, so wish me luck!

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The moistest (and most delicious) brownies ever.

I’m not even sure if “moistest” is really a word, but either way it is appropriate here.

While finally spending a weekend home alone recently, I got plenty of time to learn just how awful weekend TV is when all you have is the moist basic cable Brighthouse offers. Truly, awful.

I quickly discovered that the only thing at all worth watching is a few random cooking shows (no Food Network here) and was lucky enough to catch this brownie recipe on an episode of “Food for Thought” with Claire Thomas. After some searching I was able to find her blog The Kitchy Kitchen and the following recipe. I forgot to take photos – hey, I’m still a blogging novice – but Claire’s blog has tons of gorgeous ones that would have put my to shame anyway.

Brown Butter Walnut Brownies

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Ingredients

3 ½ oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa and up)
8 tablespoons of unsalted butter
4 eggs, at room temp
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, loose, not packed
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup coffee, cold
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, halved and toasted lightly

Preheat oven to 350 and pop in the walnuts until just toasted, about 5 minutes. Sift together the flour, spices, and cocoa powder. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water, add the coffee and stir to combine, then let cool. In a small saucepan, melt the unsalted butter until browned, and add to the melted chocolate. Beat together the eggs and sugar until thick and shiny. Continue beating on low while adding flour mixture and wet ingredients alternatively. Finish with the vanilla. Do not over mix. Fold in the chips. Pour into a buttered and floured 9 x 13 pan and sprinkle the walnuts on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Okay, a few deviations I made:

1) I did not include the walnuts. Pat doesn’t like nuts and neither do half of the people I work with. I have to pawn these off on other people, namely my coworkers, or else I’d eat them all myself. I’ve found that eating an entire pan of brownies is really self-defeating when it comes to one of the other thirds of my blogs… the whole working out/being healthy/getting in shape part.

2) The dark chocolate I used was only 60% cocoa because, again, the boyfriend doesn’t like dark chocolate. (Funny now, but not funny at the time, side note: He still hated them.)

3) I used an entire bag of semi-sweet chips instead of just one cup, because honestly can there be too many chocolate chips in anything? I think not.

Thoughts:

1) SO MOIST! Seriously, they are so moist. I made them last night, and they haven’t dried out at all. So fudgy.

2) If you don’t like dark chocolate, you will not like these. Is doesn’t matter how much sugar or anything else you put in them, they still taste like dark chocolate. That’s a great thing in my book but not so much for some others. Again, boyfriend hated them. One coworker commented “Wow, they’re really… cocoa-ey.” She did not go back for seconds.

3) You can really taste the cinnamon, and to a lesser extent the cayenne pepper. I thought it was a nice little twist… one of those “There’s something different about these that I just can’t put my finger on” type things.

4) The chocolate chips sunk. I may try tossing them with flour before I mix them in next time – I’ve heard that helps.

Conclusions:

I will definitely make this recipe again. I will probably use stronger coffee (I used a pretty weak French Vanilla variety this time around). I may try and make them with milk chocolate for Pat. I think they could still be good that way.

I wish I hadn’t made them on such a stressful day… it made it much easier to give in to temptation. As much as I love my job, the pressure can definitely rise out of nowhere. I’m still getting used to coming in expecting to do one thing and having a curve ball tossed my way first thing. Today and yesterday were those kinds of days. For example: yesterday I started my morning at a legislative breakfast (at 7:30 a.m., woof!) and came in to the office only to find out that I would not be writing a story about the issues our local legislators were currently pursuing, but instead about a high school sophomore who died unexpectedly. Today, I thought I’d be writing a story about the state’s apple crop which is in a particularly precarious spot right now but instead I went to Applebee’s and watched the Colts’ news conference releasing Peyton Manning and spent the afternoon mourning with fans.

Everyday is a little bit different and that’s what I love about it.

Now, it is way past my bedtime – I have ReadUp in the a.m., meaning I have to be in Greenfield by 7:30. Easier said than done, blogosphere.

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