Tuesday, March 31, 2009

buffet of tapas

at the end of each cheer season i host a party at my house for the team. it gets them off campus and allows them to eat something other than pizza. this year's theme was spanish tapas. i used a book i got for christmas from my dad (thanks, dad!) for all of the recipes except the drinks and dessert. here's the full menu:

spanish tapas party
olive platter
roasted almonds
catalan toasts (tomato, manchego, serrano)
toasted sourdough with goat cheese and prosciutto
spicy moroccan chicken kabobs
spanish meatballs with green olives
sun-dried tomato and goat cheese tarts
roasted potato wedges with rosemary and shallots
grilled zucchini ribbon skewers
cilantro dressing
roasted red pepper dressing

non-alcoholic sangria
cinnamon chocolate cupcakes with dulce de leche and vanilla cream cheese frosting


there are so many full recipes, i'm not going to include them here. please feel free to leave a note with any requests and i'll send the recipes along. they're all pretty easy, but it's kind of hard to make everything all at once - i had a minor melt down and pushed the party back by a half hour to accomodate the cooking schedule.

i also had one flop - the eggplant tortilla i tried was a mess (x2). i spent lots of time cooking the eggplant and as soon as i added the eggs all went awry. they stuck, they burned and in a fit of rage i made husband throw them in the yard. that was the first thing i made the morning of the event, so it set in motion a bit of panic. but everything came back together and the rest of the food prep went a lot smoother.

i think the team really enjoyed the food and fun. the meatballs (all husband's doing) were a huge hit, as were the potatoes. but college kids don't really used dipping sauces, i learned. we have so much leftover roasted red pepper sauce!

the sangria also went fast. i refilled the pitcher a number of times. here's the simple "recipe": add sliced oranges and nectarines to a mix of cranberry/grape cocktail, orange juice, cinnamon, and whole cloves. refrigerate for a few hours and add spakling grape juice, blood orange soda, or 7 up (i used all three for different refills) just before serving.

sadly, i did not get good pictures of the dessert. i'll post about them soon, because they were so, so good...but the warm house and the rushed day really prevented me from getting good shots. you'll see :)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

aren't they pretty?

oh boy. these cupcakes have a story. we'll get to it, i promise. but first, these are the cupcakes i paired with the s'mores (posted below) to bring to the doctoral celebration. when searching for a good complement to a rich dessert, i wanted fruity. i found these lemon cupcakes on apple a day and figured since i used martha's chocolate cupcake recipe, i couldn't go wrong with using her lemon one. once lemon was decided, i wanted a berry component. easy pick was husband's favorite: raspberry.

extra lemony cupcakes with raspberry filling = yum

1-2-3-4 lemon cupcakes (martha stewart adapted by apple a day)
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 c all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 c granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 c buttermilk
zest and juice of 2 lemons

1. sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and set aside
2. cream butter on low speed to fully soften; increase speed to medium and beat until fluffy and light in color 3. continue beating and gradually add the sugar until fluffy, about three minutes
4. gradually drizzle in eggs, beating between additions until batter is no longer slick
5. alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk on low speed, a little at a time, starting and ending with the flour
6. beat in lemon juice and lemon zest
7. divide batter between cupcake liners and bake for 18-20 minutes at 350F

once cooled, i cut out a cone from the top of each cupcake and filled it with all fruit raspberry preserves (not overly watery). i replaced each cone and topped with a basic raspberry buttercream.

raspberry buttercream
2 sticks room temperature butter
2-3 c powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp raspberry preserves

1. cream butter until fluffy
2. gradually add powdered sugar until frosting consistency
3. beat in raspberry preserves until a pinkish hue and light raspberry flavor is achieved

(i never follow a buttercream recipe...i stop when i like it)

pipe over top (this won't work to spread with a knife all that well with the whole cone cut out deal) and pop a raspberry into each center.

pre trashcake

these were also very good. the cake was moist and had a perfect lemon flavor and the raspberry filling and buttercream was sweet and fruity. they were less popular than the s'mores (that's usually the case with fruit vs. chocolate), so i had some left over. i decided to treat my coworkers (poor them! they never get anything from me!) and bring in the rest (in a giant box) the next morning for work. enter cupcake gate 2009.

9:15 am: i have a training all morning so i ask husband to deliver the cupcakes to my office, placing them next to the coffee machine - our snack area.
9:23 am: i gchat with tsquared, telling him to try the delish cupcakes by the coffee.
9:24am: tsquared responds that there were none, but he works in a satellite office, so what does he know.
9:27 am: i gchat with another coworker in my office to ask him to check on the status of the cupcakes.
9:28 am: status confirmed - all cupcakes gone.
(WHAT? 20 cupcakes gone from an office of 11 people in less than 15 minutes??? impossible.)
9:29 am: i tell him such.
(meanwhile i am supposed to be learning stuff at my training course.)
9:30 am: coworker gchats that he has found the cupcakes...all of them...in the garbage!
(i faint at my training.)
9:31 am: i regain composure, slightly, and frantically gchat to figure out why brand new, fancy cupcakes were tossed.
10:00 am: time passes. i have gchatted with husband and every coworker about this tragedy and have not learned a single thing at training.
10:05 am: gchat status' change to "RIP cupcakes", "who threw out the cupcakes", and "there were cupcakes?".
(i try to learn stuff at training.)
11:30 am: i return to the office to find my cupcakes mangled but on a plate next to the coffee. coworker tells me they've been removed from the trash.
(i faint again.)
12 noon: all but a few cupcakes have been eaten. coworker #1 eats one. he likes it enough to have a second.
12:30 pm: coworker #2 eats a cupcake.
12:45 pm: i throw the rest away and close the book on cupcake gate 2009.

i later learned that these cupcakes were accidentally dropped on the floor, must have all fallen out of the box, and were subsequently thrown out to prevent harm to others. harm from floor particles, i guess. but then people ended up eating floor and (clean!) garbage liner particles. yes, our trash is changed every night and the liners are always brand new in the morning. still!

this was hilarious (although not so at 9:30 -11:00 am) and awesome and tragic all at the same time. trashcakes for everyone! or not, since many missed out. what made it even better, and possibly could have been noted earlier, was that my training was in a computer program that likes all caps. SO ALL OF MY MESSAGES IN GCHAT LOOKED LIKE THIS. it only added to the extreme nature of my posts and desperation to find out the story. next time you want to chat with 6 people and do a training, i suggest using all caps.

moral of the story: cupcakes never, ever get thrown in the trash. OK?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

a campfire treat in cupcake form

a few weeks ago husband asked me to bake cupcakes for a celebration of one of the doctoral candidates in his program. she was defending a few days prior and he had heard her favorite treats were cupcakes. i had no idea what kind, though, so i began browsing interesting flavors that i hadn't made before. i was in search of two kinds: something rich and chocolatey and something light and fruity. i came across these s'mores cupcakes on sew darn cute and was sold. hers look so adorable and delicious, i knew people wouldn't be able to resist.

chocolate domes!

as sew darn cute suggested, i used the one-bowl chocolate cupcakes recipe from martha stewart. i'm not going to rewrite it here because i'm feeling lazy and because it's linked right there! one note, i am sensitive/allergic to safflower oil and substitued with plain old canola. it didn't seem to negatively affect the recipe. these cakes came out beautifully domed and didn't even settle too much after cooling.

naked vs. dressed

the marshmallow frosting is where.it's.at. seriously.

marshmallow frosting (sew darn cute)

1/2-3/4 lb. (2 or 3 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 lb. (2 cups) confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
16 oz. tub of marshmallow cream

1. cream the butter on high until light and fluffy
2. add the confectioner's sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, and beat until fluffy each time
3. beat in the vanilla until incorporated
4. add the marshmallow fluff and mix until creamy

this came together easily. sadly, husband could only find 14 oz tubs at the store so it was not quite as marshmallow-y as it could have been. but there's no way i need 12 oz of leftover fluff in my house, as good as fluffer-nutters are...no way.

top the piped frosting with crushed grahams (i put them in the food processor until they were fine crumbs) and an individual piece of hershey's chocolate.

boxed and ready for the party

i made about 24 of these, plus a few small ones for testing at home (very important). the frosting doesn't hold up as well as some and fell into itself a bit overnight (you can see this in the boxed picture above), but we kept the cupcakes in our cold pantry and they still tasted fantastic the next day. the doctor and grad clan loved these. there's no mistaking the s'mores taste - the chocolate cupcake was rich and dense, frosting sticky and sweet, and people cannot resist a cake that has a chocolate bar as decoration.

the worst part about this recipe was the leftover frosting, hershey's, and grahams. what to do with these? husband and i were forced to eat them. it was extrememly difficult. what's more, i was then talked into eating 2 of the cupcakes at the event. by talked into, i mean i was forced, yes! by, um...by myself.

stayed tuned for the fruity cupcake option!

Friday, March 20, 2009

fresh and delicious crab quesadillas

i just cannot get enough of the intercourses cookbook. to my dear friend laura - this book has been so much fun. i'm going to facebook message you to let you know, but thank you thank you!

this must be how everyone in the tuesdays with dorie cooking club feels about her book. while i don't make what everyone else is making every week - i can understand wanting to try more and more and share the experience with others. these crab quesadillas are up there as one of my favorite new recipes that i can see myself making over and over this summer.

first time using a tomatillo

as a bonus, they are so simple and like most quesadillas, require almost no prep or cooking. plus they are packed with fresh ingredients and i'm certain they would only be enhanced by a nice frozen margarita. (dreaming of summer much?)

avocado? sign me up.

i'm sharing the recipe for the quesadilla but skipping the peach salsa accompianment the book includes. i often shy away from fruity salsas and am working on that. plus it's the middle of winter round these parts and peaches just aren't good right now. i used a basic pico de gallo with chopped onion, tomato, and cilantro mixed with salt and lime juice.

crab quesadillas (intercourses)
2 medium avocados
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro
6 6-inch flour tortillas, preferably freshly made from the grocery store or a restaurant
1 tomatillo, husked, washed, thinly sliced and peel removed
1 8-oz container high quality crab meat, picked over for shells
2 limes
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 teaspoons olive oil

1. slice avocado in half lengthwise, remove the pit, and make thin slices lengthwise through the flesh
2. scoop out the sliced halves with a spoon
3. combine cream cheese and cilantro until evenly distributed
4. spread a layer of cream cheese over on entire side of each tortilla
5. place a few pieces of tomatillo over half of the tortilla, then top with crab meat
6. squirt fresh lime juice over the the crab, season with salt and pepper, and top with a layer of avocado slices
7. fold over the tortilla, pressing down lightly so everything stays in place (like a half moon*)
8. swirl oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add 2 quesadillas to the pan and cover
9. cook 2 to 3 minutes, until underside starts to brown - flip to cook other side until golden
10. slice in half for easy eating and serve with peach (or whatever!) salsa

(*instead of half moons i did full tortillas, 1 bottom/1 top, and cooked them as whole circles)

cannot resist

have i mentioned that i loved these? the cream cheese and cilantro gets all warm, the avocado and tomatillo are perfect together, and the lump crab doesn't need any help. it's 10 am right now and i'm hardly able to keep myself from pawing at the screen. when we made these, we used only half the can of crab meat, allowing for a second meal of this tasty treat. i wish i had some this instant, with leftovers for about an hour from now.

Monday, March 16, 2009


my dear bff tsquared has a birthday very near my own. last year my gift to him was a day of gocco - he is a designer and i knew that he would love it and create something excellent. fast forward to now. until a few weeks ago, there was no design, no gocco day, no gift. our birthdays are in may! we were coming up on a year and have little time left together (he is leaving me) and figured it was literally now or never (wah!).

i had the gocco supplies and he had the paper goods of his selection. he drew a fabulously elegant peacock riding atop a bold elephant, perfectly fitting his personality. we made a saturday date and finally got the gocco gift show on the road.

inking up

when he arrived i got all the goods out and we set about creating the master. as you are probably well aware (since i have mentioned it 11 billion times), gocco supplies are limited, so we planned to use one screen for both the card design and the envelope. in went the bulbs, screen, and design sheet. i let tsquared press the machine to flash the master. pop and reveal...OH NO! the design only showed up faintly on the peacock of the card...we screamed and cried some, desperate for answers.

after closer inspection we found that the second bulb hadn't flashed because our paper was in the way of the eletrical connection. to save screens, tsquared lined up the design and i reflashed the original. one very bright flash later, the screen was set. we blocked the bottom from the top and used navy ink (i have 20+ inks but my last 3 gocco projects used this color...). i let tsquared do the work from here on out. it might not seem like a good birthday present (making your own), but i promise it was right for him. he likes crafts!


he printed the elephant design on small blue and large green cards - 60 total, i believe (though, it might have been only 40). we also inked a variety of other stock and cards i had laying around.

envelopes are important, too

since the elephant was already inked, we decided to cover it with paper so it wouldn't get on the enevelopes while printing. tsquared randomly inked flaps and fronts for a totally individual look. to further customize, we lined each of the large and small envelopes with coordinating scrap paper of different designs.


as you can see in the finished design, there is some noise around the peacock due to the overlapping flashed image. tsquared was ok with that, as gocco itself often results in a very imperfect, one-of-a-kind product. with the cards and envelopes all over my living room furniture, i'd say the extremely belated birthday fun was a success. we let them dry for a day and i brought them to work the following monday. now tsquared has a stack of custom cards to send me when he moves away. i promise i won't get sick of seeing this design in my mailbox on a weekly basis ;)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

it's so good!

i told you i had more recipes from the cookbook intercourses. this is one of them. when husband and i were searching for recipes for (not saying it because i've previously closed the book on unsaid topic), it was such a hard decision. this pasta dish didn't make the initial cut but still got put on the to-make-soon list.

angel hair pasta with fresh fennel pesto (intercourses)
3/4 c boiling water
1 1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes
small bulb fennel, thinly slic and divided
1 clove garlic
1/4 c pine nuts
1/4 c fresh basil leaves
1 tsp fresh oregano leaves
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
8 oz cooked angel hair pasta, al dente

optional garnish:
roasted pine nuts
sliced kalamta olives
fresh grated parmesan cheese
black pepper
fresh basil and/or oregano

1. pour boiling water over sun-dried tomatoes, allow to sit for about 5 minutes until soft
2. drain and reserve liquid
3. combine 1/2 fennel with tomatoes, garlic, pine nuts, basil, oregano, lemon juice, salt, and olive oil in a food processor
4. process until smooth, adding tomato-water until desired consistency is reached
5. allow to rest while preparing pasta (the longer, the better)
6. toss warm cooked pasta with pesto, remaining fennel, and garnish with whatever you choose

looks kind of fancy with the fennel frond

this was such a refreshing change from basil pesto. i really love fennel and would have never though to make it into a sauce. the olives, whole fennel slices, and pine nuts really added to the dish and of course, it needs parmesean. i'm probably going to make this again this week because these pictures make my mouth water. and if you care, the aphrodisiac in this recipe is the pine nuts.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

swirled heart sugar cookies

yes, i know it's march. i also know i already posted 4 things related to valentine's day...a holiday i don't necessarily support for the reasons lots of other people do. i only like it because there's pink stuff and food, often sweets or chocolate. or maybe that's why everyone likes it...

either way, this is the last post about the day of love, i promise.


i made these cookies for my cheer team during our last set of home games, which fell on valentine's day weekend. i had big plans for them...but that all went to hell in a hand basket when husband and i cooked all day on the 14th. i baked these cookies between appetizers and the main course, then frosted them at midnight after making and eating fig bundles. my hand was tired, my head was tired, but i guess my previous attempts at late night decorating didn't keep me from doing this anyway. i really didn't have a choice!


i used martha's sugar cookie recipe from the baking handbook. coincidentally, this book has been serving as my mouse pad for the last 2 months as i've set up shop in the living room to keep from freezing to death in the office.

sugar cookies (martha stewart)
4 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
3 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/12 tsp salt
5 c all-purpose flour

1. beat butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy, about 5 min
2. add eggs, vanilla, and salt; combine
3. on low speed, mix in flour in two batches until just incorporated
4. turn dough out on a clean surface, divide in half, and wrap in plastic
5. refrigerate for at least 2 hrs or up to one week
6. on a floured work surface, roll out half the dough until 1/4 inch thick
7. cut out cookie cutter shapes and place on cookie sheets
8. refrigerate or freeze for 15 minutes
9. bake at 350F for 15 minutes or until cookies are golden on the edge and slightly firm
10. repeat with remaining dough; allow to cool before icing

i top my sugar cookies with royal icing, which i did not use a recipe to make. i didn't even use measuring tools. unfortunately, i accidentally dumped in a very, very large amount of meringue powder for these...oops. possibly i won't pour from the xl container next time. i have posted a basic royal icing recipe before (also for cheer stuff!), so feel free to use that if you don't want to "wing it" and wind up with extra lemony icing.

meh, imperfect but still tasty

for the team, i made big hearts and little hearts. each little heart was dipped in red sugar and "glued" onto a big heart...one giant cookie for each person. i do wish i had straighter lines, but it just wasn't important at the time.

for the extra cookies, i made swirl designs because i love them. both big and little leftover hearts were swirled up by using a toothpick to drag one color icing into the other. easy, pretty, and no decorating/artistic "skills" required.

::closes book on valentine's day 2009::

Friday, March 6, 2009

custom scotty tank top

this is a super easy craft that almost anyone can do (as long as you don't like to ingest bleach). i saw it first on kimberly michelle's site and hers turned out really fantastic. inspired, i created a reason to head to target (do you have to do that? it's target!) and picked up a bleach pen with two tips. then i searched for clearance tank tops (oops, found some other things, too...) that i could possibly ruin or possibly make cuter. husband stood in the main aisle, outside of the clothing racks, and kept asking "now what are you doing? why do you need these?". duh, i'm going to draw on them with bleach!

as a note, i'm sorry about the quality of the photos in this post. i seem to have a really hard time with red pictures! i'll keep practicing.

helpers "helping". reason #1 why you shouldn't craft with bleach on their level

i picked this little (it's tiny; it does not fit me) red ribbed tank with ruffles on the shoulders as my trial run. i drew a scotty and printed it in three sizes. to place the image on the shirt, i squeezed (literally) into the baby shirt and taped the paper onto it. i was trying to follow directly the instructions from kimberly's site, so i took off the shirt, put a tin foil wrapped piece of cardboard between the layers and got my bleach pen ready.

then my helpers came by to see if i knew what i was doing. they always sit right next to or directly on whatever it is i'm doing. the middle pictures is blurry because i was trying to shoo them. once shooed, i began to bleach. i traced my whole design and waited a few minutes. it appeared as though nothing was happening to the shirt. i lifted the paper and sure enough, the bleach was not even touching the fabric... it worked for kimberly, but not for me!

let's try this again!

so i tried something else. i put the shirt on my light board and traced the dog with a white sewing pencil. i replaced the tin foil/cardboard and used my pen directly on the fabric, ensuring contact. this worked much better, but it's not fool proof. the pen bubbles and even the thin tip dispenses an uneven, sometimes thick, line of bleach. i suggest working slowly and using a design that doesn't need to be perfect. plus, i noticed that my original bleaching had gotten some dots on my shirt, so things weren't exactly as i'd hoped.

i let the bleach soak in and came back to do a little "shading" with the pen. after it seemed lightened enough i washed it from the inside, trying to keep the stream of water from smearing the bleach across the shirt. this worked pretty well. once the bleach bits were gone i scrubbed with soap a few times to be sure everything was clean.

cute little puppy!

i finished the shirt by adding a little plaid bow (hot glued on) and a glue-backed rhinestone for the eye. it's pretty cute and i think you can tell it's a scotty dog. i have no idea what it looks like on because i'm not subjecting myself to that again. i'll find an 8 year old to test it out.

i do want to try this again with a non-ribbed shirt and a larger design. something that takes up more of the shirt, like kimberly's castle.