Friday, December 31, 2010

2010.12.30 - Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs, Cranberry Spritzer, Pac Man Cake

Last dinner of 2010! This was also the first time baby F, the daughter of P and M, attended! She's too young to sample thursday night dinner food, but she'll be ready someday :) [not "ready" in the jonathan swift way, of course]

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs

I've never had spaghetti squash before, and am still kind of amazed that it really does come out looking like noodles! This recipe was delicious and seems fairly healthy. I doubled it and served five, so I'm not so sure about the stated servings (4 for the recipe as is).

Roasting spaghetti squash is quite easy, although I was unsure how to tell if it was done. I ended up flipping the squash over and sticking a fork in it to test tenderness. It was rather awkward trying to flip the squash over (mine was over five pounds) when it was hot out of the oven. Pro tip: the squash cools off a lot more quickly for handling if you flip it over so cut-side is up, rather leaving it cut-side down and keeping the steam trapped beneath it. d'oh.

The parmesan cheese added a *lot* of flavor to the turkey meatballs. Definitely essential.

I left out the mushrooms from this recipe altogether because I don't like them. I skipped straight to simmering the browned meatballs with the reserved onion mixture and stock. I should have reduced the amount of stock to account for what would have been absorbed by the mushrooms, so my end result was pretty watery (I also just dumped the whole skillet into the bowl with the squash rather than prettily plating individually as Martha would have done).

White Cranberry Spritzer

Since I've stopped drinking Crystal Light iced tea (expensive, trying to eliminate artificial sweeteners besides coke zero at restaurants), I try to remember to make a special drink when people are coming over, usually not succeeding. This week I managed to remember. I made this spritzer without the booze, but believe it would taste great with the suggested rum too. It was a little overpowered by rosemary, so I think I would adjust the proportions of mint and rosemary next time. Overall, very good though. White cranberry juice definitely is a lot more mild than regular cranberry juice.

Pac Man birthday cake, inspired by this and this

A turned 30 in December, so I wanted to make him a birthday cake based on one of his favorite things - Pac Man! I found some good inspiration links by searching the net and made a pretty neat cake.

I baked brownies (box mix, gasp) in the Baker's Edge pan to make the course (right term?). I put parchment in parts of the pan and oiled it well, and luckily the brownie came out of the pan just fine. I then outlined the edges with blue frosting (Betty Crocker decorator icing in the spray can, gasp again) and used a star tip to make the pellets.

For pac man and the ghosts, I made sugar cookies using this recipe. I could not find a tulip cookie cutter, so I had to hand cut the ghosts, which was a minor disaster. The cookie dough warmed up extremely quickly (even in my cold house) and was then impossible to work with because it was so sticky. I needed the speed provided by a cookie cutter, but unfortunately had to settle with cutting one out by hand, freezing the dough, and then doing another.

This was my first ever attempt using royal icing. I used meringue powder instead of a raw egg white. I was so worried about the initial thickness of the icing that I added way too much water to thin it out, and then had to add in a ton more sugar to thicken it up. In the end, it still wasn't thick enough and ran a little bit. I used ziploc bags as the piping bags and the tip from here about putting the bags in cups for easy filling was great.  I always make such a mess of filling piping bags, but not this time!

I thought the icing tasted too corn-starchy and not good at all, I will have to experiment with other recipes. The cookies themselves were delicious -- the buttermilk adds a much needed interesting flavor to the otherwise typically cloying sugar cookie.

Other Goodies

C got a breadmaker recently, so she volunteered to bring some corn bread. As soon as I heard corn bread, I thought honey butter, so I made this recipe. I looooved this honey butter. The cinnamon and vanilla added an amazing taste.

C also brought some raspberry Chocovine, a chocolate/wine combination. I had been seeing this stuff in stores for the last couple weeks and was curious/disgusted. It was pretty terrible -- I compared it to yoohoo mixed with cough medicine. It is seriously disturbing.

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