Thursday, February 21, 2008

as i said when i started this blog, i've got some catch up posts to include things i've made recently, but pb (pre-blog). this is one of those posts. each year my husband and i host a themed holiday party. we decided on chocolate for 2007 and i went all out. i'm including my menu and some pictures, but if you'd like specific recipes of anything you see or read here, please send me a note. i'm happy to share - many are original recipes and all are very tasty.

2007 holiday party menu
white chocolate, pistachio and dried cranberry salad on endive leaves
extra dark cocoa chili dip
cocoa-bbq pulled pork on miniature biscuits
chocolate chicken satay with spicy peanut sauce
cocoa meringues
chocolate mint truffles
spicy chile truffles
helen's brownies
hot cocoa spiked with goldschläger or peppermint schnapps
chocolate martinis

what i learned from this party is 1. finding traditional appetizers with chocolate as an ingredient is difficult; 2. adding cocoa to many dishes works - it adds a deeper flavor without sweetness; and 3. people really do love to eat chocolate.

chocolate chicken satay with spicy peanut sauce

white chocolate, pistachio and cranberry salad on endive leaves

chocolate dog, chocolate husband

cocoa meringues and spicy chile truffles

chocolate mint truffles

Monday, February 18, 2008

scottie bows

scottie hair bows

i coach a college cheerleading team and made these bows awhile back for our homecoming game. 10 points to you if you can figure out the school. hint, not very many teams have our mascot(s).

anyway, i love these simple little bows and so did my team. i'm really big on swarovski heat back rhinestones (i am a clothing design graduate with an emphasis on specialty wear - cheer and dance costumes specifically, thus my love for sparkly adornments) and this plaid ribbon is just so cute!

paired with their regular hair bows, this was the perfect size

a cheer legal clip

honey pear cupcakes with white chocolate pistachio buttercream

i am back to baking in a big way. i took a bit of a break but my kitchen missed me and i it. so i've been on the prowl for interesting cupcake flavors and for recipes that allow me to try new things. we had some friends over for dinner and i found these very adult sounding cupcakes on

i have never used self-rising flour, so my feelings about this recipe may be due to my own newness to it's flavor (that, or i made some sort of mistake). my guests and husband enjoyed them, but i found them to be a bit heavy on the salty/baking soda/powder side - the texture was more like a biscuit than a cake and i couldn't really taste the honey, vanilla and pear like i'd hoped. they were by no means bad and i think if i make them again, i'll keep the salty flavor, but i might adjust the ingredients to a more conventional (to me) recipe. i really did love the flavor combo of the pear and the frosting ingredients. i'm including the original recipes with my own notes.

no, don't pick us! my pears fall into line...

honey poached pears
3 cups water
1/4 cup honey
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
2 large pears (as you can see, I used 4 medium ones because I wanted extra for eating)

1. combine water, honey and sugar in a sauce pan
2. scrape the seeds out of vanilla bean and add to pot
3. bring mixture to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes
4. add pears to the mixture and simmer until pears are tender (20 minutes)

first minute in the syrup
last minute - golden and soft

remove the pears from the heat and allow to cool. place in the fridge until you make the cupcakes. or, like me, sample while warm with a bit of syrup... if only i kept vanilla bean ice cream on hand. actually, this is probably why i don't.

hmm, one is missing? pears chillin'

poached pear cupcakes
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 honey poached pear, mashed
1 honey poached pear, sliced
1/2 cup syrup from pears
1 2/3 cups self raising flour

1. cream butter until light and fluffy (2 minutes)
2. add eggs one at a time, beating between each
3. alternately beat in the flour and honey syrup in three lots
4. fold in the mashed pear
5. divide batter into 12 cupcake tins and place a slice of pear on top of each
6. bake at 350˚F for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean
7. allow to cool completely before frosting
(i think i'll try using a basic vanilla cupcake batter with regular flour and adjust the ingredients a bit - i would love to taste more of the honey vanilla syrup and more pears throughout. my favorite part was the pear on top, so juicy and sweet.)

a not-so-grand picture of the baked cupcakes

white chocolate pistachio buttercream
5 oz white chocolate, melted
1/4 cup pistachios
1/2 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp milk

1. grind the pistachios with 1 tbsp powdered sugar in a food processor (i ground mine to a fine powder with minimal chunks)
2. cream the butter until fluffy (2 minutes)
3. add the lemon zest and ground pistachios and beat until combined
4. alternate adding the lemon juice and 1/2 the powdered sugar until combined
5. alternate adding the milk and powdered sugar until creamy
(i did exactly this and found there to be just under the amount of frosting i normally use/ i added a bit more to it. i probably used just under 3/4 cup ground pistachios and closer to 4 cups powdered sugar, adjusting the liquids to meet my tastes and consistency needs. i topped each cupcake with two raw, unsalted pistachios.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

soup's on

chicken noodle soup

after our non valentine's day dinner, i had a leftover chicken carcass. the only thing i can think to do with that is to make soup - chicken noodle, to be specific. it's an easy saturday lunch with plenty leftover for freezing. here's my non-specific recipe using items i had on hand (no onion because apparently i'd run out!):

chicken noodle soup
1 chicken carcass
1 carton chicken broth
3 cups water
1 bunch celery, chopped
5 medium carrots, peeled & chopped
1 bag egg noodles
salt and pepper
variety of dried herbs and spices (i used onion powder, oregano, basil, bay leaves & poultry seasoning)

1. place carcass, water, and chicken broth in a large stock pot and bring to boil
2. let simmer until meat and bones begin to fall apart (about an hour)
3. remove carcass and bones from pot and allow to cool
4. add vegetables, herbs, and salt & pepper to pot and cook until tender
5. when carcass is cool, remove remaining meat pieces and discard bones
6. return all meat to pot and bring soup back to a boil (adjust seasoning here)
7. add egg noodles and cook until al dente (these noodles continue to soak up liquids, so under cook them a bit)
8. remove bay leaves and serve

Saturday, February 16, 2008

mini chocolate cherry cupcakes with cherry buttercream

i love cupcakes. i read cupcake blogs almost daily. my favorite is, where i found this amazing recipe. i was looking for something i could use pink frosting on and when i saw her chocolate cherry cupcakes i knew they would be good. i made 1 1/2 times her recipe and used mini muffin tins/wrappers, but i'm including her original recipe amounts.

chocolate cherry cupcakes
15 tbsp unsalted butter, chopped
3.6 oz dark chocolate, chopped (i used a 100 gram bar Valrhona 56% cocoa, she calls for 61%)
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
3/4 cup flour
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried cherries

1. melt butter and chocolate over a hot water bath, stir until smooth
2. add sugar and stir
3. let mixture cool for 10 minutes
4. beat for 3 minutes with an electric mixer
5. add one egg at a time, beating for 30 second between each
6. sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into the mixture and beat until blended
7. fold in cherries
8. fill baking cups and bake at 350˚F until a toothpick comes out clean
(25 minutes for large, 14 minutes for mini)

i love my buttercream smooth and sweet. i don't like sugar crystals and i don't like that film that sticks to the roof of your mouth. if i'm making a cake i might use a little 0 trans fat crisco for stiffness, but for cupcakes, i stick to butter.

cherry buttercream
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
4 tbsp maraschino cherry juice
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
6-8 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1. beat butter in mixer until smooth
2. add vanilla and beat
3. add 1-2 cps powdered sugar and blend
4. add 2 tbsp cherry juice and combine
5. add more sugar and mix until smooth
6. add 1/8 cup milk, blend
7. repeat steps 3-6 until desired consistency

your buttercream should be stiff enough to pipe but not so hard that it is dry or chunky. for these cupcakes, i piped mine from a plain bag with no tip. once topped with frosting, i rolled them in chocolate jimmies and topped them with a drained and towel-dried maraschino cherry.
these were delicious - rich cake with fruity cherry bursts,
smooth creamy frosting with a slight cherry flavor.

i don't really do valentine's day. we don't celebrate with gifts, fancy dinners out, or even hallmark cards. i have, in the past, received lovely handmade cards from my husband and we often do a nice dinner in. this year i skipped my workout to come home right after work and pop in a chicken to roast. i've done turkeys and cornish game hens, but never a plain old chicken. i'm glad i did - it was so juicy and delicious! here's my recipe:

roasted chicken & potatoes
1 3-5 lb chicken
1 onion
8 garlic cloves, peeled
3-4 medium yukon gold or red potatoes
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp olive oil
fresh thyme
fresh rosemary
salt & pepper
butter (i used brummel and brown for this)
kitchen twine
1. remove bag of dog goodies from inside the bird
2. rinse and dry the chicken and place breast up in a baking or roasting pan (i used pyrex)
3. chop onion into large chunks
4. salt the cavity and stuff with garlic cloves, 1/2 the onion chunks, and a few sprigs of thyme
5. carefully lift the skin on top and spread butter inside, stuff with thyme
6. on the outside, spread butter and generously salt and pepper the skin
7. tie up the legs to close the cavity
(wash hands here)
8. chop potatoes in medium chunks
9. arrange potato and remaining onion around the bird and under wings for support
10. put rosemary and thyme sprigs in and around potatoes
11. pour broth into bottom of pan (not over the bird)
12. drizzle olive oil over potatoes and season with salt and pepper
13. put into an 425˚F oven and roast for 15-20 minutes
14. lower heat to 375˚F and roast for another 50 or so minutes
15. remove bird from oven when internal temp reaches 170˚ and skin is crispy and deep golden
16. place bird on serving platter and pour juices from pan into a sauté pan
17. while the bird rests for 15 minutes, return potatoes to oven to crisp (you can make gravy now, too)

simple gravy
juices from roasted bird
1 tbsp corn starch
glug white wine (i used sauvignon blanc)
salt and pepper

1. add cornstarch to juices in the sauté pan (over medium heat)
2. whisk until smooth
3. add wine and salt and pepper to taste
4. bring to a boil and simmer to reduce
5. strain into a gravy boat

during the time i crisped the potatoes and made gravy, i also sautéed some green and yellow zucchini with red peppers (olive oil, salt and pepper) to round out the meal.
the table was set (including our valentine's day candle stick set) and we drank a bottle of pouilly-fumé and ate heartily (ha!).

it was tasty!

Friday, February 15, 2008

gocco printing

i got a pg.5 gocco printer for christmas 07 from my husband. he made sure to buy every "pretty" ink color available so i am set for a bit on supplies. from the minute i'd seen a gocco i knew i had to have one...once i finally got it, i was a little nervous about using it. i admit, even after printing with it, i still don't actually understand it completely. i don't really care, though, because it's amazing and i am so in love with it.

my first print was a valentine's day card. i drew it in illustrator and printed my design on a regular b/w laser printer. i used a tutorial online (after watching the extremely informative japanese training video included with my kit) and it couldn't have been easier.

supplies - red, black, and brown ink and my original

my first screen went off without a hitch and i got right down to business. i blocked my screen and inked the three color design heavily. a good, sturdy press and the ink transfer was complete. i was surprised by how clean the prints turned out - i had only about 3 bad ones in the bunch.

inking as seen from the outside

inking and design on the screen

a finished product

a few presses later and i was done with 60 card sets. i sold these through my job fairly quickly - apparently people get llama humor.

printed cards ready to make a valentine's day appearance

i make things.

i make cakes and cupcakes of all sizes, posters and program advertisements, breakfasts, lunches and dinners, cards and stationery, clothing and other fabric items, and so many other things that aren't easily categorized. i've been reading other peoples' blogs about these things for months now and am finally so sucked in that i just must blog about my own creations.

i take pictures of everything i make but really, who am i going to share a picture of a perfectly roasted turkey or adorable little treats with? i can't bring pictures into to work (especially if they've already eaten a real-life version of said treat)...i can't just be emailing my family daily with a single photo of deviled eggs or a i'll put them all here and you can come look when it suits you. maybe i'll put pictures of things i haven't made but love. we'll see if my stuff, my life, is interesting enough to put down into words and images for all to peruse.

for my first post, i'll give you a picture of something i love. i've got many pics saved up of things i've recently made...and i'll post them to catch up...but for today, just my puppy loves:

miles on the left and hoss laying down on the right