A look into the daily agenda of the average American.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Stabilized Whipped Cream: The Perfect Cupcake Topper

Stabilized Whipped Cream: 
  Have you ever tried to use whipped cream as a lower sugar alternative frosting for cakes, cupcakes, or other desserts?  This recipe keeps the whipped cream stable at room temperature and above for hours.  Obviously, you don't want to leave cream out at room temp for too many hours but this recipe will at least assure it won't melt off your cupcakes and will hold its pretty piped on appearance.  

       Start with 1/2 a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of cold water.  This will soften the gelatin.  Next, scald two tablespoons of cream and stir into the gelatin, make sure you stir until all of the gelatin is dissolved.  Put this concoction into the fridge for a few minutes until it appears to be the consistency of uncooked egg whites.  Whip it a little with a whisk to smooth it out.  Finally, whip 1 cup of cream with 2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt.  Once it has been whipped to your liking (nice peaks) mix in the gelatin mixture thoroughly.  You are ready for your delicious stabilized whipped cream to be used in any number of desserts!




       I find folks who want a cupcake but don't want too much sugar enjoy this recipe.  They can indulge in a nice topping that is very lightly sweetened.   



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tired of Turkey? How about soup?

       Gobble gobble gobble!!  Turkey broth!

       We all spent the past week reflecting on what we are thankful for in life, as well as gorging on delicious holiday fare.  These days after Thanksgiving we eat tons of leftovers, from delicious roasted veggies, mashed potatoes with gravy, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, stuffing (my favorite!), and of course the turkey.  Now most of us, the omnivores at least, have a turkey carcass floating around in the fridge somewhere.  I know carcass conjures up images of something only vultures would be picking at, but in fact a turkey carcass is a beautiful thing which makes the best broth for these cold wintery days!

     
       First thing you want to do is ready yourself a mirepoix (onions, celery, and carrots).   In a large stock pot lightly fry the mirepoix to release the flavors.  Now, put that turkey carcass into the pot and just cover with water.  Fritz recommends using boiling water, which he heated in the electric kettle.  It makes the broth come to a boil much faster, obviously.  If you need to disassemble the bird a bit to get it to fit into the pot better feel free, this will also allow you to use less water.

       After the water comes to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer on low for at least an hour to break down the connective tissue which will give your broth that amazing taste.  You can add any spices you want to your broth, depending on the flavor you want.  A little thyme often goes well with poultry, but for this broth Fritz used more exotic spices such as star anise, juniper berries, bay leaf, and allspice.

     
       The final step for this broth is just to strain the solids out, after which you can pull the rest of the meat off the bones, and save whatever veggies you would like to be in your soup.  This recipe is meant to be very simple.  That is pretty much it.  You can now add anything else you want to your soup.  I was getting over a little cold so I enjoyed mine a bit  more brothy, but we also added orzo which makes it a little more substantial.

       Be creative and enjoy your holidays!! :)












This is the finished soup with orzo in it.  ----->
Some discard their veggies,  I like them and always return them!  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sauerbraten

Sauerbraten


sau·er·bra·ten/ˈsou(ə)rˌbrätn/


       If you love deliciously tender beef braised for hours, then sauerbraten is for you.  Go find a German grandmother and kiss her right now, because this recipe is amazing.  As a general rule, if Alton Brown has his name on a recipe, IT WILL WORK!!  I often type a recipe into a search engine with his name just to see what advice he has to offer. 
       Back to sauerbraten now.  It is a traditional German meal, as is schnitzel, and according to Wikipedia (and my German boyfriend) they are two of their national dishes.  So get crackin' and go make some sauerbraten! 
       Please take note that I doubled the recipe in the photos.  I was making extra to feed my hungry rabid co-workers.  Your pot should not be this close to overflowing if you just follow this recipe.  :) 
Ingredients: 









  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, additional for seasoning meat
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 12 juniper berries
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) bottom round
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 18 dark old-fashioned gingersnaps (about 5 ounces), crushed
  • 1/2 cup seedless raisins, optional



  • Directions

    In a large saucepan over high heat combine the water, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, onion, carrot, salt, pepper, bay leaves, cloves, juniper, and mustard seeds. Cover and bring this to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

    Pat the bottom round dry and rub with vegetable oil and salt on all sides. Heat a large saute pan over high heat; add the meat and brown on all sides, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side.

    When the marinade has cooled to a point where you can stick your finger in it and not be burned, place the meat in a non-reactive vessel and pour over the marinade. Place into the refrigerator for 3 days. If the meat is not completely submerged in the liquid, turn it over once a day.

    After 3 days of marinating, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

    Add the sugar to the meat and marinade, cover and place on the middle rack of the oven and cook until tender, approximately 4 hours.


    Remove the meat from the vessel and keep warm.  Strain the liquid to remove the solids. Return the liquid to the pan and place over medium-high heat. Whisk in the gingersnaps and cook until thickened, stirring occasionally. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps. Add the raisins if desired. Slice the meat and serve with the sauce.






    
    I was crushing the gingersnaps in the ziptop bag with a rolling pin.  I got bored
    and decided that a finer ground ginger snap might make a smoother sauce...  soooo........
    ..... so I threw the crumbled cookies into the vitamix.  It quickly pulverized
    the little gingery delights into a "gingersnap flour".  It made the sauce come
    together much quicker and was deliciously easy

    
    










           Here is the finished sauce made from the marinade/braising liquid and gingersnaps.  It was thick and beautiful.  Such an amazing recipe!  Next time I will try the full 5 days in the refrigerator, I stuck with three days and it was delicious enough. 

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    Limoncello


     
    Limoncello
     

           Ah, limoncello!  The mere name ushers a pulsating salivary moment.  It is clean, lemony, and soothing at its best, however, many imitators use cheap trickery employing such methods as lemon extract and other horrible nightmares I dare not mention.
     
           Take heart, for you have the power to remedy this situation.  With just a few days and a few ingredients you are well on  your way to a decadent after dinner digestif.
     
           The following recipe is once again from the almighty Alton Brown.  I do recommend looking at several recipes beforehand to make sure you like the technique they are using. 
     
           In my case today I am using an extremely fragrant Buddha's hand citron, also known as a fingered citron.  Yes, I said fingered citron.  The truly magical thing about the Buddha's hand is that the whole interior consists of a white pith that, unlike other lemons, is not bitter!  This means I am using a good portion of the citron to flavor my vodka.  Remember, get a decent vodka, something you might actually drink, so you don't end up with cough syrup or "lemon pledge".  Now, to the best of your ability, follow the following recipe:
     
     

    Limoncello

    Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2009 from FoodNetwork.com

    Ingredients


    • 2 pounds lemons, about 8 to 10
    •       (or in my case 1 Buddha's hand citron!)
    • 750 ml vodka, 100 proof  
    • 2/3 cup water
    • 2/3 cup sugar

    Directions

    Carefully remove the zest from the lemons using a microplane or rasp grater, being careful not to remove any of the white pith. Reserve the lemons to make lemonade or squeeze and freeze the juice for later use.
     
    Put the lemon zest into a lidded glass container that is at least 2-quarts in size. Pour the vodka over the zest, and let sit in a cool dark place for 7 days.
     
    After 7 days, strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer lined with muslin or several layers of cheesecloth and return the vodka to the container.
    Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan set over high heat and cook, stirring continually, until the sugar is completely dissolved, approximately 3 minutes. Once completely cool, add the sugar syrup to the vodka, and stir to combine.
    Cover and put the container in the freezer for at least 4 hours. Limoncello can be stored in the freezer for up to a year.
     
     
     
     
    I hope this batch turns out great.  I will update you later to show how I will be packaging these bottles as Christmas gifts.  Imagine how memorable a bottle of homemade limoncello can be.  Show you care, make limoncello!

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

    Jamaican Style Banana Fritters

    This meal is simple and quick, so let's not waste any more time.  I halved this recipe since I was only cooking for two...

    Ingredients

    • 6 ripe bananas
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

    Directions

    In a large bowl, mash the bananas and blend in the eggs. Stir in the flour. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Drop spoonfuls (2 to 3 inches in diameter) of the batter into the hot oil. Reduce the heat to medium. When bubbles begin to appear, turn and cook the other side until golden brown. Repeat the process until all the batter is used up, keeping the cooked fritters in a warm oven. Serve them with maple syrup or honey.
     
     


     
    The warm gooey banana fritters needed something,
    so I added some delicious crunchy cashews.
    I also had some maple syrup which I had to add. 
    Enjoy!
     
     
     
     
     
    Of course, I got this recipe from my mentor. Check out her site ;) http://www.marthastewart.com/349036/banana-fritters
     
     

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    Origami Chocolate Gift Box

    This is the origami 'box within a box'.  I talked briefly about origami and an amazing website to use with detailed instructions in a previous post.  Here is the link to the instructions for this box... http://www.origami-instructions.com/origami-box-in-a-box.html
    Ater folding the box from a 12" x 12" paper (I used scrapbook sheets), I then lined it with two strips of wax paper.  The wax paper was cut to be as wide at the inner box.  The wax paper serves several uses.  First, it protects the paper from getting stains.  Second, it fills the space in above the truffles keeping them in place when transporting them.  Finally, it will keep the chocolates from drying out to quickly, so they can be enjoyed longer (if you don't eat em all in one sitting). 
    Place your chocolates in the inner box.  Now just embellish and tie up your box to keep the chocolates inside!  I found these free printable Halloween lables on Pinterest, but I think I will actually be giving these away for Christmas this year. 
    Remember, there are many other boxes on the origami website you can try out, I just liked this one alot.  Please be creative and enjoy!

    Sunday, October 7, 2012

    Fritz's Fantastic Tomatillo Salsa Verde

    Fritz's Fantastic Tomatillo Salsa Verde
    <===  These are tomatillos.  The two in the back still have their "paper" husk attached, the front one has been cleaned and is now ready to use. 
    This salsa recipe is a great way to clean out your fridge,
     today we are using tomatillo, bell pepper, jalapeno, onion,
    a very ripe tomato, some garlic, and cilantro. 


    *************
    First,
    cut out the pithy
     area where the stem attaches
     and quarter or half
     your tomatillos
     depending on the size.
      Fritz prefers the bigger ones,
     as there is less work,
    and face it,
     kitchen prep
    sucks!
    *************

    <== When chopping, attempt to keep the size fairly uniform so it will cook evenly.  This mix contains the tomatillo, 2 green bell peppers, 1 ripening bell pepper, 1 1/2 (or 2) onions, and 3 jalapenos.  Remember the garlic (and black pepper) will burn if you add them during this stage.  Coat lightly and evenly in oil, we used canola.  SALT LIBERALLY! 

    The photo below is the veggies post roast.  They smell amazing already.  Now you just have to blend this all together and add the finishing touches! 


    Now add your ingredients to a blender.  You can also use a stick blender (immersion blender) if you put the veggies in a bowl or pot.  Add a little chopped garlic to your taste, white pepper, oregano, and finally cilantro.  Blend together and you will have a delicious, slightly tart, salsa verde in very little time... however, if you find the sauce is too tart for you, just add about a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla to curb the sharp flavor. 

    With this recipe our favorite application has been enchiladas, which I will post pictures of later.  You could use this sauce in a number of ways, eggs would be particularly delicious (huevos rancheros verde!). 





    Go ahead and try using different amounts of each ingredient depending on what flavors you like. Our sauce varies month to month depending on what the fridge holds.







    You are done now, go forth and make enchiladas!


    Saturday, October 6, 2012

    TGA Test Kitchen, Halloween: Delicious Mischief!

    As Halloween nears, I begin to finally get into the holiday spirit.  I like to drag out the holiday season from October through January 1st!  This time of year I don my gay apparel, also known as an apron, and begin creating goodies for all of those I love.  In the past I made chocolate truffles, but this year I wanted to improve upon my recipe.  While rolling up the chocolate ganache I came up with a grand idea after I squeezed one of the truffles to hard... a disturbingly delicious little doggie doodoo!   This year I plan on serving these decadent droppings at our Halloween party and look forward to seeing guests reactions.  



    Friday, September 21, 2012

    Cheap books for a great cause! Betterworldbooks.com

         In this modern age of computers, cell phones, and instant information I still prefer a good book!  Not that technology isn't freakin' grand and all, but I just love leafing through a good book from time to time.  I will say I mostly prefer books with pictures like my orchid encyclopedia, cookbooks, gardening guides, or most recently an origami instructional.  I tend to get through novels faster by listening to audio books which I get elsewhere.  I finished one book recently in just two weeks, only listening during my commute to and from work!  ....  but more on that later... I am getting off point. 
        
         Anyhow, what I was originally on about was a fantastic website called BETTERWORLDBOOKS.COM.  They are basically the eBay or amazon of new and used books, connecting sellers from around the country with buyers.  For example, tonight I purchased a book from their site and I was able to choose from 10 different sellers.  I picked someone who was relatively close to me so shipping would be quick...OH!  I forgot to mention, all of the books on betterworldbooks.com SHIP FOR FREE!   Yes FREE!!  My favorite price. 
        
         Now free shipping sounds like the final selling point but get this last one... they donate a book for every one you purchase*.   Kids who are unable to get books easily or can not afford them can get the gift of knowledge!  So this website not only has thousands of titles (everything I have every looked up was on here) they also give you the gift of free shipping and someone else the gift of a free book.  I will never buy a book from another place again.  I got all of my books in excellent condition USED!  You can buy new buy I like saving old books. 
     
          There you have it, I have said all I can about this site.  Check them out and buy a book.  Also, look at their other non-profit organizations they work with.   Cool people! 

     
    This is a picture of the books I found in and around my living room that I
     have purchased off of betterworldbooks.com in the past year.   
    All are used and all are in near perfect condition!
     
     
    * This is the link to info on their book for a book program:  http://www.betterworldbooks.com/go/book-for-book
     

    Thursday, September 20, 2012

    Learn Origami (or any new hobby)

         Do you have a hobby?  Some people are really into theirs, while others just sit around and watch TV during free time.  Although watching TV is argued to be a hobby too, I tend to think of my hobbies as hands on activities.  My hobbies involve using both mental and physical abilities, like gardening, cooking, and crafting.  Hobby's can often be done while watching TV, although I prefer my music for better relaxation and focus. 

         At an after Christmas sale this past year I purchased a book on origami for about $5, which included about 50 sheets of origami paper.  After finishing the book, I put origami aside for several months.  I was busy working and gardening and didn't have much time for my origami.  Then, one day last month I purchased actual origami rice paper from Michael's craft store.  The papers were beautiful prints of cherry blossoms, lotus flowers, bamboo, and other fun Japanese designs. 

      So, I had the paper but didn't have any idea where to start, which prompted a google search.  The next thing I found changed my origami ability forever!  http://www.origami-instructions.com/index.html  This website will give you detailed instructions on how to make simple to very complex origami.  Check it out, and try a new hobby today.  Don't worry if you don't like it, pick something else, just give it a fair try.    
    Here are just a few of the items I made in just a few sittings. 
    Paper cranes, box with divider, standing container, and fortune teller. 

    Sunday, September 16, 2012

    Sinless Caprese Salad

         Some folks think that eating well involves long hours in the kitchen slaving over hot stoves and ...  well you're wrong!  Sometimes the most simple of foods are the best tasting, not to mention the best for you.  Just think how many hands and machines have molested your fast food processed crap on a bun before you get to eat it, and then think of a delicious Caprese salad, so pure and still in a form that nature would approve of (and would still recognize). 





        

        Now, for those of you who have never had the joy of experiencing a Caprese salad, here are a few simple instructions.  You will need a few ripe tomatoes, a ball of mozzarella cheese, some fresh basil, a little olive oil, and a nice balsamic vinegar.






         You are going to slice the tomato and mozzarella into medallions of similar size.  I tend to leave my basil whole, but you can chop or chiffonade it which is also acceptable.  Next step is the construction.  See, isn't this easy so far! 


         If you are serving these at a brunch or dinner party you can be more formal about it, or you can just have folks build their own to save you the time. 
    First, lay down a slice of tomato.
    Follow that with a piece of the mozzarella.

    Arrange two or three fresh basil leaves on top of that, this basil came straight from the garden and is super fun and easy to grow.

           Finally repeat until you reach your desired height.  I finsihed it off with a tomato slice and a little basil garnish.  Then lighty drizzle in olive oil and balsamic vineger.  You can add a little salt or pepper to taste but at this point most of my guests are halfway done with theirs. 
        

         This salad is a great way to eat healthy!  Don't eat those cardboard box portions of sadness when you could be eating this well.  Give it a try and live the good life, your body will thank you later!  

    Saturday, September 15, 2012

    TGA Test Kitchen: Baked Brussels Sprouts with Romano Cheese


       I love Brussels sprouts especially when baked in the oven!  They acquire a nutty almost-sweetness that makes them amazing.  I prepared these sprouts by drizzling some extra virgin olive oil over them, just enough to coat them.  I placed them onto parchment paper, which I prefer over foil, and lightly salted them. 
       

         Next, they went into a 325 degree (F) oven for about 25-30 min.  Once they were cooked through and slightly caramelized on the outside I took the micro-plane to a block of Pecorino Romano cheese and tossed them around with my tongs to mix.  Finally, I shredded a little more cheese on top to form a crunchy cheesy crust and baked them for an additional 5-10 min.  The Romano should be crispy at this point.  If you don't like Brussels sprouts now, you might not have any hope. 


    Friday, September 14, 2012

    TGA Test Kitchen: Fresh Apple Cupcakes a variation on Paula Deens Pearlicious Cake

      This is a people pleasing recipe right here!  It comes from Our Lady of Butter, Paula Deen.  It is called Pearlicious Cake and it is amazing with or without the sugary pear glaze.  My variation uses fresh apples and a slightly different amount of ingredients.  The following is the recipe for Pearlcious cake:  

    Ingredients:
    1 1/4 cups oil
    2 cups sugar
    3 eggs
    3 cups all purpose flour
    1 t salt
    1 t baking soda
    1 t cinnamon
    1 t vanilla
    2 cups chopped canned pears, well drained but save the juice for glaze
    1 cup pecans-chopped


    In a mixing bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and eggs, and beat well. Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add this to the creamed mixture and stir until blended. Stir in vanilla. Fold in the pears and pecans. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan or Bundt cake pan and spoon in batter. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes at 325'.

    Glaze:

    1 T butter-at room temperature
    1 1/2 cups powder sugar
    2-3 T juice from pears

    Mix butter and sugar first and then add juice a little at a time until you can pour it.

    I personally don't care for the extra sugar on top of a delicious moist cake, so I skipped it. 

    This time I used a Fresh Apple Cake recipe to make cupcakes instead of a bundt cake.  The apple cake recipe is actually much simpler than the pear cake.  The most difficult step is peeling the apples, and you only need about 4 or 5 of them.  Here is what you need to do for fresh apple cake:

    Mix together well:
         1 cup salad oil (I used canola)
         2 cups sugar
         3 eggs
         3 cups flour
         1 teaspoon salt
         1 teaspoon baking soda
         2 teaspoons baking powder
         1 teaspoon cinnamon

    Then Add:

         4 cups peeled, cubed apples.
         1 1/2 cups chopped nuts

    The batter will be VERY thick and heavy.  Do not panic!  This is where you have two options... bake in a bundt pan for 1 hour and 20 min at 325 (F) or bake in cupcake form for only about 40 min.  I was pleased to find that the cupcakes came out just as moist as the bundt cake and were still moist and gooey. 

    Now go into your kitchen and play.  Make a bundt cake for your next brunch since they are so pretty on a nice platter, or make individual little cupcakes that are great for sharing with friends or even stick one in your kids lunch box to show them how much you love them!