Friday, March 25, 2011

Desserts! Lots of Desserts!

I spent a lot of time today shopping with my mom and my friend, Karen, but I also baked four desserts and made a giant pan of macaroni and cheese. Darren and I are getting married Saturday (HOORAY!!), and his mom and stepdad are hosting a BBQ for us tomorrow night. All of this deliciousness is for the BBQ. I didn't do a good job documenting the process, as I was just trying to get the desserts finished in a reasonable amount of time, but I will share the recipes. Here's a peek at the desserts.
At the top is a chocolate chip cookie cake, with mint chocolate brownies in the middle-left, brownies with pecans in the middle-right, and peanut butter chocolate blondies at the bottom (which were covered with chocolate ganache after they cooled). The giant cookie is for Jaydyn, our junior bridesmaid. She will be 13 next week! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JAYDYN!! Also, it's a good thing I am a better baker than decorator.

(slightly altered from an Emeril recipe)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup toffee bits
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 16 inch pizza pan.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Add the eggs, beating well after the addition of each.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix with a whisk. Add to the butter mixture, mixing to incorporate, and add the vanilla extract. Fold in the chips and chunks. Spread across the bottom of the prepared pan, leaving ~3-4 inches for the cookie to spread, and bake until the edges are golden and the cookie is set but the center is still slightly soft, 20 to 25 minutes.
(before baking)
(My friend Amanda used to make the original study avoidance brownies when we were working on physics lab reports in college. Thanks for the original recipe, Amanda! I have altered it over the years.)

3 squares unsweetened bakers chocolate
¾ stick of butter
¼ c. + 1 T. firmly packed brown sugar
½ c. + 2 T. white sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
½ c. + 1 - 2 T. flour
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. chopped nuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8” x 8” pan with butter.
1. Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler or over low heat in a heavy sauce pan stirring to blend. Allow to cool.
2. Add sugars to butter-chocolate mixture and mix well.
3. Beat eggs and add beaten eggs to chocolate mixture. Mix well.
4. Add vanilla and mix.
5. Fold in flour until blended. Mixture will be thick.
6. Add chips or nuts, if using.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
**For mint chocolate brownies, add 1 - 2 t. peppermint extract and replace nuts with mint pieces (Junior Mints, York Premier, or Andes chips).

(I altered this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, who I believe altered it from some other source.)

For brownies:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cups sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cups all-purpose flour
1 chocolate chips (semisweet or bittersweet)
For ganache:
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (semisweet or bitter sweet)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
Make brownies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in middle. Butter an 8-by-8 inch baking pan.
Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until mixture is light and fluffy, then add peanut butter and beat until incorporated. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Reduce mixer sped to low, then mix in flour until just combined. Mix in chocolate chips then spread batter in baking pan, smoothing top. (It will be thick, almost like cookie batter.)

Bake until brownies are deep golden, puffed on top and a wooden pick inserted in center come out with some crumbs adhering, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

Make ganache: Put chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl. Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour over chocolate chips and let mixture stand for one minute. Gently whisk in butter until it is incorporated, chocolate is melted, and a smooth mixture forms. Spread ganache on cooled brownies and let stand until set, about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mount Breakfasuvius

Today we made a mountain of breakfast with scrambled eggs, hash browns, cheese and sausages.
Cook hash browns in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Brown some sausages and drain well. Scramble some eggs. Layer eggs, cheese, hash browns, and cheese on a plate. Serve with sausages.
Mount Breakfasuvius!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lo Mein

Tonight we had lo mein for dinner. Darren and I cooked it together. We have been making lo mein for a couple of years now, and we have finally worked out a recipe that we both really like.

You will need:
4 slices of thick bacon
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced
~10 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 lb. spaghetti or fettuccine
1 c. cold water
1 t. (heaping) chicken bouillon
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. sriracha chile-garlic sauce (or less, we like things spicy!)
3 T. soy sauce
1 T. sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste

Start by cutting the bacon into bite-sized pieces. Cook the bacon over medium heat in a large skillet or wok until done.
Add the mushrooms and carrots, and cook until just tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
While the bacon and vegetables are cooking, boil the package of noodles according to the package directions, drain, and set aside.
Mix the water, bouillon, cornstarch, chile-garlic sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a small sauce pan. Whisk together and bring to a boil. Stir while boiling 1-2 minutes until sauce begins to thicken.
Add the pasta to the skillet/wok and toss to mix.
Pour the sauce over the pasta-vegetable mixture and stir to coat. Allow to stand a few minutes before eating.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Navy Beans, Navy Beans!

Today I made navy beans with ham hocks and cornbread for dinner. We are getting married on Saturday, so I wanted to make something that would make a lot and will reheat well during the week. Friends and family start arriving on Wednesday morning, so we probably won't be doing too much cooking this week.

First, the beans:
I started with 2 pounds of dried navy beans. I rinsed them and soaked them overnight. I took 3 ham hocks (1 1/2 to 2 lb.), scored the outsides with a sharp knife, and placed them in the bottom of the crockpot. I added the drained and rinsed beans, and then added enough water to completely cover the beans by about 1/2 inch. I also added:
1 T. chicken granules
2 pouches Goya ham flavoring
1 T. paprika
1 T. black pepper
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1 t. red pepper flakes

I cooked the beans for 6 hours on high, and then I used the back of a spoon to mash up some of the beans and continued to cook them on low for another 2 hours or so.

Then, the cornbread:
Start by coating the bottom of a cast iron skillet with vegetable oil, and place the oil in the oven and heat to 400 degrees. Then mix the batter, as follows:
1 3/4 c. cornmeal
3/4 c. flour
2 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. milk
1 can cream style corn
Whisk together the dry ingredients, and then add the liquids and mix until well blended. Pour into the hot skillet and cook for 35 - 40 minutes, until firm and the edges and top are golden.

Serve with hot pepper relish, if desired. Eat up! YUM!!

First Post

Lately I have been posting pictures of things I cook or things Darren and I cook on FB. He suggested that I start a blog, so here it is. Since we often cook together, I named the blog for both of us. 

Darren and I both like to cook, and he will eat almost everything, but I am a bit picky. I don't like tomatoes or English peas, so if those things are in a recipe, I try to find a way around them, like in this lasagna. I left out the peas and used two 12 oz. packages of spinach instead. I also added some black pepper to the sauce and extra to the ricotta mixture, because I am a fan of pepper! It tasted great and looked really pretty.

I hardly ever follow a recipe as written, and I often don't measure spices, which makes it difficult to duplicate a dish that tastes really good. I am trying to get better at writing down what I do as I go along. Hopefully, this blog will inspire me to write as I go.