Friday, December 16, 2011

2011.12.15 - French Dip, Sweet Potato Fries, The Burger Cake!

Thursday was A's birthday!  I wanted to make a meal of some of his favorites + a surprise cake!

Deviled Eggs

I despise deviled eggs, but A loves them.  I tried to keep things simple and not gag when mixing up the egg/mayo mixture.

Modifications: I left out the shallot and substituted a dash of cayenne pepper for the tabasco. 

French Dip Sandwiches

Slow cooked meats are one of A's favorites.  I stuck with my tried and true french dip recipe, which I've made before.  Served on french bread with melted provolone and dipping sauce on the side -- pretty good!

Sweet Potato Fries

Amazingly enough, I did not use a recipe.  I sliced up sweet potatoes (skin on) and sprinkled with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  I cooked at 425 for about 30 minutes.  Unfortunately, my potatoes were more mushy than crispy.  Maybe cook at a higher temperature next time?
The Burger Cake

When I was taking cake decorating, there was a cake in the instruction book that had a piped hamburger on it.  This cracked A up to no end and he demanded a hamburger cake.  I told him I would make him one someday - and that day was Thursday, his birthday.  I decided to make a cake that looked like a hamburger, rather than a cake with a hamburger on it. 

I used this cake and this one as my inspiration.  Both types of cake used were gluten free -- a chocolate cake for the "burger" and a pumpkin spice cake for the "bun".  I glued the layers together with store bought chocolate icing.  The lettuce, cheese, tomato, and onion were all made of colored fondant.  I built the cake by putting a bit of frosting on the cake plate, then placing the bottom bun, then adding a layer of frosting, then placing the burger layer, frosting the burger layer, putting the fondant decorations in place, then placing the top bun.
  • Lettuce - I mixed some green and white fondant together and rolled it to about 1/8th inch thick.  I cut strips with a tool with wavy edges.  I then used ruffling tools to make the edges more ruffly.
  • Cheese - I mixed some yellow and white fondant together and rolled it to about 1/16th inch thick.  I cut triangles and placed them around the cake.
  • Tomato - I rolled out some red fondant to about 1/8th inch thick and cut out circles.
  • Onion - I rolled out some white fondant to about 1/16th inch thick and then cut out circles.  I used a slightly smaller cutter to cut out the inner circle, so I ended up with rings.  I stretched them a bit and draped them around the cake.
I then glued on some rice krispies with piping gel for the seeds on the bun.

I think the cake came out great!  I found it much easier to make a great looking fun cake when there was little frosting involved.  My frosting efforts still come out a bit messy and lopsided :)  Using the fondant was easy, although I did recommend that people pick it off the cake before eating.  A was surprised and pretty happy with the cake :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Baking Roundup, 2011

This post is embarrassingly belated, but I do like to keep a historical record of the recipes I try for Christmas baking each year.  The roundup from 2010 is here.

Orange Cranberry Brownie Cookies

I make these cookies almost every year.  They are delicious and versatile.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

These were great!  The texture and taste were both wonderful.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

TOO salty.  I like the idea of using whole wheat in cookies for texture, but I was not a huge fan of these.

Funfetti Sandwich Cookies

I used canned chocolate frosting as my filling.  These cookies are adorable and fun, although sandwich cookies always end up too messy to eat for my tastes.  I had not yet tried making cookies out of a box cake mix, but it worked pretty well.  You really can't go wrong with funfetti.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The recipe promised chewy cookies, but I thought these were a strange texture and bland.  Give me the Toll House recipe any day.

2011.12.08 - Crockpot Chicken, Herb and Cheese Biscuits, Honey Vanilla Pound Cake with Orange Curd

I'm always looking for new crockpot meals to try, since it is the easiest way to get a Thursday dinner prepared after work before guests arrive.  J moved back to town, so it was also time to start experimenting with gluten free recipes again!

Creamy Crockpot Chicken

This was ok.  Nothing special.  I didn't find it all that creamy, and the proportion of chicken to sauce was too low. 

Herb and Cheese Biscuits

These were delicious.  They had a great texture (I could barely tell they were GF) and were easy to make.  I used dried "Italian Seasoning" and a swiss/gruyere cheese mix, and the flavor combination was great.

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake with Orange Curd

As you know, I love the Barefoot Contessa.  I wanted to make her honey vanilla pound cake, so I was quite pleased to find that Jeanne had already done the GF conversion of the recipe for me using her awesome flour mix!  Jeanne's GF recipes always turn out the best for me, and this one was no exception.  The pound cake was delicious and had a great slightly crunchy crust.

The orange curd was a bit confusing to me.  It was a completely different way of making curd than I'd ever tried before.  It did not seem to thicken up enough, even when I hit the correct cooked temperature, and it didn't thicken up much more in the fridge.  This was somewhere between a sauce and a curd in consistency.  I don't know if that's expected, or a problem in my cooking somewhere.  It was good, though!

2011.12.01 - Parsnip Soup, Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad, Cranberry Sorbet

I forgot to take pictures this week!  Seattle is sliding into its dreary winter, so I figured a soup, some fortifying vegetables, and a seasonal dessert would be just the thing.

Parsnip Soup

Everyone loved this.  It was sweet from the parsnip and had the slight onion taste from the leeks.  I got to use up a substantial amount of my crazy-growing parsley plant, which was another bonus.

Modifications: I put in the zest of a lemon instead of putting in strips of lemon peel to fish out later.

Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad

This one got mixed reviews, but I liked it a lot. The dressing was nice and shallot-y and lemony and not too mustard-y.  It felt healthy in a good way :)

Modifications: I attempted to make the sauteed almonds, but I ended up burning them terribly.  I used regular raw almonds instead.

Cranberry Sorbet

What.  A.  Disaster.  This mixture never froze up in my ice cream maker and then only half froze up after an entire day in the freezer.  It ended up being mostly melty, syrupy cranberry sauce.  Blech.  I have no idea what happened, but this recipe did not work for me. 

2011.11.17 - "Fake" Thanksgiving

Every year, I like to make some Thanksgiving food for my friends at the last Thursday dinner before Thanksgiving.  I call it fake Thanksgiving :)

Whereas last year I was not working and went crazy, this year I was sick the night before and busy at work and ended up not making a single original recipe.  It's the thought that counts, right?

The Menu
  • Turkey breast (cooked by good old QFC)
  • Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing
  • Whole Berry cranberry sauce
  • Roasted brussels sprouts (I did cook these myself!)
  • The wonderful cake wreck turkey brownie seen on the right

2011.11.06 - A Dog Birthday Brunch

Thursday dinner was turned into a Sunday brunch, since it was the 5th birthday of our doggie, C.  We've only had C a few months, so it was our first birthday with him.  I thought a brunch sounded like a fun way to celebrate!

We picked up bagels and cream cheese from our favorite spot and I made some sweet and savory breakfast treats.  And I attempted to make a dog cake :)  Chewie only got to eat a little corner, as he is only a 12 pound dog and has a pretty small stomach.  I think our little birthday boy had a good time :)

Spinach and Cheese Strata

This was delicious.  It is definitely my new go-to brunch item.  You can't go wrong with that much cheese, really, but the bread, spinach, and seasoned egg mixture all worked well together.  Great crunchy toasted bread bits on top and good consistency too.

Fruit Baked Oatmeal

I needed something for a MSPI (milk soy protein intolerant) friend, so I found a lovely vegan oatmeal.  I think I actually prefer using almond milk in dishes like this, as it lends a nice flavor to the dish.  The raisins plumped up nicely and the apples had just a bit of bite left to them.  I would definitely make this again.

Modifications: I omitted the chia seeds (can't get ch-ch-ch-chia out of my head) and used unsweetened almond milk as my non-dairy milk.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are one of my go-to fall cookies.  I love the pumpkin and chocolate combinations and the cookies are very soft.

Modifications: I omitted the nuts and frosting.  I made these MSPI-friendly by using soy-free earth balance instead of butter and Enjoy Life chocolate chips.

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Doggie Cake

C loves peanut butter, so I liked the sound of this dog cake.  It came out with more of a biscuit texture than a cake texture, so it was a little messy to eat.  It definitely wasn't a texture or taste for humans, but C didn't seem to mind :)

I made my own frosting of peanut butter and pumpkin whipped with some almond milk until it reached a frosting-like consistency.  I added pumpkin because C loves the flavor.  He liked his birthday cake a lot!

2011.10.27 - Halloween - Mummy Meatloaf, Spaghetti Squash Braaains, Breadstick Bones

I am not a big fan of Halloween, but I do like making thematic foods for the holiday!  I found the mummy meatloaf last year after I'd already set my menu, so I knew I'd be making it this year.

Mummy Meatloaf

I couldn't find very wide noodles for the wrapping (besides lasagna noodles, which I probably should have used in retrospect), so my mummy had some very thin bandages.  The meatloaf was your basic, good meatloaf.  I really like the look of this for a Halloween dinner and it isn't too difficult to make.

Spaghetti Squash with Almonds

Finding thematic vegetables for Halloween is always the most difficult to me.  This one is a bit of a stretch - I thought the spaghetti squash could possibly look like some braaaaains.  Spaghetti squash is easy to make, yummy, and fun (it still amazes me that it comes out in strings like it does) and the almonds were a nice bit of crunch.  The lime, cumin, honey dressing was good and different from usual flavors I pair with squash.

Breadstick Bones

These were really fun and easy to make.  I served them with pizza sauce for "dipping blood".  I think these would work as well for a dog birthday party :)

Spiced Iced Tea

Bleeech.  I was NOT a fan.  I didn't have unground cardamom or cloves, so I tried to substitute with smaller quantities of ground.  I must have messed up the math somewhere, because this tasted like liquid potpourri.  Terrible.

Oreo Chesecakes

These were good, but kind of a disaster in the looks department.  I think that the recipe cuts a few corners (mixing all wet ingredients at once instead of in steps) that must only work with VERY soft cream cheese.  Mine was softened, but I never got all the lumps out of the mix and this translated to a "curdy" cheesecake.  I couldn't find Halloween Oreos in the store, so I dyed the cheesecake orange, which was another terrible idea, as it came out looking like vomit in a muffin cup.  Perfectly ghastly for a Halloween party.  It did taste pretty good, though.