15 July, 2011

I love Harry Potter... and Cake Pops, but not humidity.

So, Harry Potter's last movie came out today. Fortunately, I already got the emotions out of the way when I finished the last book. Unfortunately, I haven't seen the movie yet- 7pm Saturday! So, to commemorate the occasion (and to fill in some free time), I decided to try my hand at making some Harry Potter cake pops.

I've been toying with the idea for awhile since Bakerella (the awesome chick who wrote the book/blog that got lots of people OBSESSED with Cake Pops) posted some fan-made pops. I hadn't thought to make people until after seeing these awesome South Park pops that another obsessed fan made.

HOW CUTE ARE THOSE!? And, when I saw this amazing Harry Potter birthday cake that was girlified on Bakingdom, I almost died.

Anyway, I knew that things would not work out perfectly, especially since our AC was not blowing cold air. But I've been getting better at accepting imperfections (is it because I taught all boys high school science?) So, when Snape slid off his stick and onto the styrofoam board, I had to laugh:
He truly looks mad :)
So, I used the recipe for Basic Cake Pops, a box of Funfetti cake and some Pillsbury low sugar vanilla icing. (Let me tell you, they are still a Diabetic's worst nightmare!)
To make the skin color, it turns out all you need is a few Peanut Butter melting chips tossed into the regular white vanilla. So, at 9am this morning, that's what I did first.

Then, I ran as fast as I could to JoAnn Fabrics because I realized I did not have oil-based coloring for the melting chips (regular food coloring is a no-no! It's water based and will ruin everything!) Luckily, I had just received a 20% off coupon via email, and whammo-bammo, I was back home making a mess.
For Ron, Hermione, Harry, Snape and Dumbledore, I just made balls. Oldie moldy Voldie, the dragons, and the "owl" were made using rounded triangular shapes.
By the way, for the black hair, I had to dump an entire pot of black coloring into about a cup of milk chocolate melting chips. Felt like a waste, but it worked.
My husband (who is not a TRUE fan) insisted that Ron's hair was "not red enough"- and implied something close to the color of blood, which I kinda shrugged off. And poor Hermione had an air bubble. I also had a lot of trouble figuring out how to make her have long hair.
My first attempt at Dumbledore was... hilarious. If you can't laugh at your mistakes, you're not having fun, and you shouldn't be doing it. I swear at the grocery store coconut sounded like a GREAT idea... now, not so much. So we'll call this guy Dumbledore-Homeless-Einstein.
The one on the left... is a little better, but now I think I've channeled Willy Nelson. Maybe Santa Claus. Who knows? He'll taste pretty darn good anyway.
Voldemort? I didn't think he deserved to look like everyone else, but again, the non-Potter fan at our house had questions "Why is there an alien in HP? Did I miss that movie!?" All in good fun though!
A Chinese Fireball dragon.
An attempt at the Sorting Hat.
Some Firebolts/Nimbuses.

Okay, this is the part where you have to REALLY be able to laugh at yourself:
No, I don't recall there being penguins in any of the books or movies. Yes, this was an attempt at making the owl, Hedwig :(
But at least the worst of them weren't as bad as the Harry Potter Cake Wrecks from Sunday!

I mean, how out of the loop do you have to be!?

13 July, 2011

Chinese steamed "pork" buns

For things not starting off well, they came out pretty close to how my MIL makes them!
First, it's okay to use chicken or beef, but I really wanted to do pork. So I was a little disappointed to get home from the FM and find that I had been given ground beef instead. Also, the dough was extremely sticky, not to mention much less white than my MIL's comes out. I swear I wasn't trying to "healthify" it, I didn't use my usual whole wheat flour, I used all purpose. It also didn't help that my wok was a little too dinky for the awesome bamboo steamer I had. But, I remedied that pretty skillfully, I think.
Before I share the recipe, I want you to see what I was working with... crazy metric system.

Steamed Pork (or Chicken, or Beef) Buns
First, knead these ingredients together and let rise 2-3 hrs (2 works just fine)

  • 1 cup All-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast (I added about 1 Tbsp of sugar to help the little guys out, no idea if that hurt/helped)
While it's rising, prepare your filling. I used 1 lb. grass fed ground beef, but you can also used ground pork, or chicken breast. If you choose to use chicken, MIL recommends added vegetable oil, as it can get very dry. Combine your meat with salt, pepper, green onions and cabbage. (I put mine in my Magic Bullet to get a good combo)
Roll them into balls and refrigerate while dough rises. Believe me, when you're ready to form the buns, this really helps to have the meat pre-formed.
Once the dough has risen, knead the following ingredients into the mixture:

  • 1 to 1-1/4 cup all purpose flour (I give a range because my dough was super sticky, so I added a little more as I rolled them into balls)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (minus the Tbsp added earlier)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp "rice vinegar" (I used white wine vinegar and it seemed to work fine)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
Divide into balls (depending on how many meatballs you made, you may want large ones or small ones, you have to kind of work with it a few times to figure it out).

At this point you should get your steamer ready. You have a few choices: you can boil water in a covered wok to later put your bamboo steamer in, you can buy a stove-top stainless steel steamer, or next time I'm going to see if my Food Network electric multilevel food steamer will work.

One at a time, flatten a ball of dough (I covered my hands with flour to prevent sticking). Place prepared meat in middle and pull edges of dough up like a purse to the top. Pinch the pucker so that it is sealed. BE CAREFUL NOT TO MAKE DOUGH TOO THIN! Unfortunately, quite a few of my meat centers fell out the bottom of the dough when I took them out of the steamer.

Place each bun on square of wax paper (Again, I was missing this, so I liberally sprayed the steamer with Pam and plopped each bun in some flour before placing it in the steamer... it didn't stop all leakage, but it wasn't so bad.)

Place in steamer basket with at least 1 inch between them. Cover and cook 12-20 minutes (I had to check the meat at 15min and it was still pretty red).

Innovative way to keep steam in when you have a dinky wok and huge steamer:
20 minutes later.... yum yum!
EDIT: USE THE WAX PAPER!!! I just spent 15 minutes trying to get sticky dough from between the wooden planks... not worth it! Would have rather made a 10 minute run to the store for it... You've Been Warned!!

Leftover ingredients make for good lunches

So, I'm currently waiting on the dough for the Chinese pork buns to rise, and I had some leftover cabbage for the filling.
Stir-fried it with some olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper, mushrooms, leftover baby spinach and salt and pepper. Cooked up some Jasmine rice (the smell of that makes my stomach growl!) And scrambled 3 eggs, since I had no protein that isn't already set aside for another recipe.
Hubby and I split it- yum, yum!

12 July, 2011

Spaghetti and meatballs

In my family, spaghetti and meatballs is an easy, pretty regular meal. Despite having eaten it twice in the last month, Hubby requested it after watching Handcock on TV last night (the little kid brings Will Smith some HUGE meatballs while he's in jail).
A few weeks ago, I threw about 8 tomatoes into a crockpot with garlic, olive oil, honey and salt. It was sitting in the freezer, so last night I took it out to thaw.
For the meatballs, I found to my dismay that I had no breadcrumbs. However, after Googling substitutes, I think from now on I'll be making them with rolled oats. I used about a pound of grass fed ground beef from Edelen Farms, an egg (also from Edelen Farms), 1/2 cup of oats, some salt, pepper, crushed red peppers, and some Mrs. Dash's garlic and herb seasoning. After rolling them up into bite-sized pieces, I baked them at 350 until they were cooked through.
I really thought this sauce was better than when I used to make it with canned tomatoes. I think the fresh basil helped! My mom in law sent me home with one... it's not fairing well in this heat. And something is eating it. Ah, well.

Tomorrow I'm making Chinese pork buns, but my steamer is too big for my wok, so I'll be experimenting a little. Toodles!

06 July, 2011

Fourth of July

Do you have a favorite recipe that you only use for family get-togethers or BBQs? How about only for the Fourth?
My absolute favorite summertime dessert is Mom's Fresh Strawberry Pie:

2    tablespoons cornstarch   
1    cup sugar
1    cup water
8    tablespoons strawberry-flavored gelatin (about one large box of gelatin)
1    quart fresh strawberries (approx. 2 pounds) 
1    9-inch baked pie shell, cooled
1    8 oz. container of whip topping

1.    Mix cornstarch and sugar in a saucepan; slowly stir in water until blended.  Cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly.  Add gelatin and stir until it dissolves.  Remove from heat.  Let cool at room temperature, but do not allow it to get cold, or it will be too firm to add berries.
2.    While mixture cools, wash and hull berries.  Dry well on paper towels. (I place paper towels on top of berries, too.)  Cut the berries in half or quarters.  Add 2/3's of the berries to the cooled gelatin mixture.  Stir gently, to cover all berries.  Add more berries if needed.  Pour mixture into a baked pie shell.  Chill pie 2 to 3 hours. 
3.    Just before serving, add whip topping.

You've got mail!

Is there anything better than receiving a package in the mail? I completely forgot that my aunt was sending me cooking supplies!

These are special pans to make Filipino Torta Cake. It is the best! It's like the best Angel Food Cake on earth. I cannot wait to make them! They are nearly impossible to find, even at Asian specialty markets, so I got lucky when our aunt went to visit family in the Philippines.

More Asian cooking:
My MIL is Chinese, and makes amazing dim sum. The favorite in the family are steamed pork buns. It's essentially a hot pocket, but the bread is not baked, it is steamed, so it's white and fluffy and delicious when you bite it. Same drawback as the torta cake: special equipment needed. Lucky me that I had a student who enjoys cooking as well who gifted me a bamboo steamer ;)

I am going to attempt to make these on my own for the first time. Luckily, not more than 2 days ago, MIL made them for me to observe!

My MIL is a huge gardener as well, so she sent me home with a basil plant- i don't keep plants alive for very long, so I will be using Basil in 2 recipes this week: a basic Thai noodle dish, and spaghetti (ugh, again!) But this time it will be from home-stewed tomatoes, nothing canned.

27 June, 2011

Oh dear, too long without cooking

So, summer vacation has been fun, but we have not been eating very well at all! I am pretty sure the lack of home cooked, mostly organic food has adversely effected our waistlines. After we get back from visiting the in-laws, I think I will be diving into cooking and visiting the Farmers Markets again. I am really excited to plan a trip to Austin soon to check out their new store In.gredients- it's a grocery store with local, organic, sustainable foods but none of it is prepackaged. Customers have to bring their own containers to take home their wares, but they do offer disposable containers, if people need them.

Anyway, tonight I cooked some white fish on the stove with coriander, basil, salt and pepper. For the side, I found out how Macaroni Grill makes their spinach orzo. So, I combined 8 oz of organic whole wheat orzo I pre-cooked in chicken broth, a red bell pepper, olive oil, garlic, baby spinach and salt and pepper. It was the perfect light dinner after feeling like we had eaten very heavy unhealthy food all week.

01 May, 2011

How to make green onions last longer than 1 week (and other weekend bumblings)

You know when you buy green onions and then a few days later find a slimy mess in the fridge? Well, I tried this technique awhile back and it worked! The onions lasted about 3 weeks without being slimy. They did get a little limp, but they still tasted like green onions!

So, here's what you do:
1) After tearing off any kind of slimy parts, separate them out on a paper towel (the roots can hang out, but try to cover the greens as much as possible)
2) Roll them up so that each one has some paper towel between the next- don't let them touch!
3) Dampen with water, but not too much, you don't want them soaked.
4) Place in plastic grocery bad- NOT the flimsy produce bags, but the regular plastic ones with handles. Place in fridge.
As you use them, rip off excess paper towel & re-wet as needed.

In other news, I will not be wasting time or money on raw artichokes anymore. Can you believe how little of those things are actually edible? What a waste! I was certain that I was over-peeling them at first, but after I boiled one whole, I still came out with very little edible portions. This might have to be the one thing I break my "nothing canned" rule with, because I love artichokes!

  The Farmer's Market had carrots yesterday! Exciting to see color come back after a winter of potatoes and turnips (bland!)

 And, I baked some organic whole wheat flax seed walnut bread! I thought I had let it rise too long, but apparently this is not a big deal. By the way, first time in the 4 years I've been married that I've made bread... I have no bread maker, that is my excuse! Oddly enough, homemade bread apparently has about 3x more calories than store-bought whole wheat bread. Uh, what? Yeah, 330cals per slice. I will be sure to eat one sandwich a day (and nothing else). I used this recipe, but left out the applesauce & cracked wheat, replaced the molasses with honey, and replaced the sunflower seeds with walnuts pieces.
By the way, sorry there have not been many recipe posts- we had family in town and the house is a mess, so we opted to eat out all week (believe me, my waistline is paying for THAT!) But this week, there will be fish!

23 April, 2011

Happy Easter! Cake Pops Easter chickies.

Well, it took almost all day, but I finally finished my Cake Pops! They were definitely difficult, but I think in the end they turned out very cute, for a first time!
Problems I need to address next time:
- How to get the correct consistency. I practiced yesterday with 12 and most fell off the stick into the frosting. I was sure this was because they weren't firm enough, so I popped them in the freezer and it worked. Today, however, I think I left them in the freezer too long because they were then, essentially, sweating through their candy coating! Poor little guys.
- How the heck do food markers work without getting gunked up? I had to eventually just dab them over and over until the eyes were the correct size, because writing with them caused them to stop working.
- How to get the candy coating to go on in an even fashion. I think some of my problems were because the candy coating was super hot when I was dipping frozen cake balls in, but when I waited for it to cool a little, I started to get lumpy chicks.

Well, regardless of appearance, I can assure you they are all DELICIOUS (there were at least 8 mistakes over the course of the past 2 days, so Hubby and I have been dining on carrot cake all this time.) I highly recommend checking out Bakerella's website, and definitely picking up her Cake Pops cookbook if you like baking, because these are awesome!

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take my army of chicks and attempt to take over the world! (Insert sinister laugh here.)

21 April, 2011

#16 Nom-nom Paleo's "Super Porktastic Bacon-Topped Spinach & Mushroom Meatloaf" with Carrot-Turnip Puree

 Oh... my... gawd! This was, without a doubt, the BEST thing I've made all year! Last week I told you about Nom Nom Paleo's food blog and her amazing meatloaf recipe I couldn't wait to try. Well, it was worth the wait! Not to mention that after fretting over all the added fat from the bacon, and then using MyFitnessPal to figure out the calories and fat, I was more than thrilled that a 9x5 loaf cut into 8 pieces yields only 317 calories and 20g of fat! Not to mention the turnip/carrot puree was mighty tasty, if not a little baby-foodish.

So, do you wanna know how I made it? Huh, do ya? Well, the link above has the original recipe (with absolutely amazing photography to assist with your step-by-step... believe me, I'm aware that my Canon PowerShot SD630 was not made for food pornography.)
I did make a few tweaks to the original recipe: my favorite farmer did not have ground pork last weekend (insert overly dramatic sad violin here), but he has the best grass fed ground beef I've ever tasted, so I went with that. Also, I had forgotten the bacon and celery on my after-farmer's-market-grocery-store-run last weekend, and was disappointed when I made a quick run on my way home from work to find that the nearby HEB did not have organic celery, the number 1 culprit on the Dirty Dozen list. So, I instead opted for some Pacific Natural Foods condensed cream of celery soup in place of the 1/4c of cream/milk. Delicious. Yum!

Edited Recipe
1 lb fresh chopped, cooked down, and drained spinach
1 1/4 lb ground beef
1/4 c flour (or a bit more, if you're like me and too impatient to let spinach cool before wringing it out & burning yourself)
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt + more to taste
1 1/2 tsp black pepper + more to taste
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup condensed cream of celery
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/2 lb finely chopped portabella mushrooms
2 large eggs
5 slices of bacon

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Heat butter and saute onions and mushrooms with salt and pepper.
  • Blend cream of celery and parsley until pureed.
  • Add all of this to a medium bowl (except for bacon) & mix by hand.
  • Transfer to 9x5 loaf pan.
  • Bake for 70-75min (I had to leave it a bit longer, some of the meat was still pink.)
  • Set oven to broil and broil for 3 min or until bacon is crispy.
  • Pour off grease and let sit for 10-20min.
  • Serve with marinara or tomato sauce on top.

15 April, 2011

1st time with Lamb (#14) and "Jerk" chicken with banana fried rice (#15)

This week included my first time making lamb chops. I just bought a small amount, as I was unsure of how they would cook or taste. I'm thinking next time I'll marinate them. To me they tasted like a lighter version of beef. I slow cooked it in the oven with some sweet potatoes and mushrooms. I had to broil the sweet potatoes for a few minutes to finish them off.

Then I had a risqué recipe I had been wanting to try: jerk chicken with banana fried rice. Now, to be fair, this recipe came from a magazine that I think more northerners than southerners read. I'm mostly placing this assumption on the little inset that said "wear gloves when you cut the jalapeño, I learned the hard way!" To be fair, a few of my non-Texan relatives cannot handle the heat. But here in Texas, a jalapeño is like a freaking cucumber. That should have been my first warning flag. I wish I had added 4 jalapeños and maybe a few seeds for fun, instead of the requested 1. Still, it came out a little better than I expected (since cinnamon was in the recipe and I have an aversion to cinnamon or pineapple in my non-dessert foods.) The banana fried rice won over my hubby, but I'm wondering if that had more to do with the fact that his poor Chinese stomach had not had jasmine rice in at least a month, and not the fact that it was a good recipe. Still, it was good. (Speaking of bananas, has anyone ever really been this bored before?)

I'm excited about this week's menu. I've been obsessed with this crazy girl's blog. She and her family are on the Paleo diet (no legumes or bread products- also called the "Caveman diet"). So Nom Nom Paleo has been posting about this awesome Super Porktastic Bacon-Topped Spinach and Mushroom Meatloaf and Carrot Parsnip Puree. I must make both. Now. I'm salivating as I type this, and I was well-fed today! I don't want to post the photos she took of her food because I guarantee my photos won't look as great (she does, after all, own a REAL camera for taking food pics.)

Now, as an avid reader of her blog, I must say that I'm still not convinced of going hardcore and becoming Paleo. If anything, I think as Americans we eat too much meat. I think there are alternative protein sources available that we ignore. (RE: why my students are excited/dreading Monday- can you say chocolate covered grasshoppers?) I also think that as someone who once struggled physically and now and then still struggles mentally with an eating disorder, removing any food group from one's diet can put already susceptible parties in danger of sliding down that slippery slope to adding everything to the "bad food" list. However, this blog has really helped expand my thoughts on how to incorporate more veggies into dinnertime meals, and given me some insight into how I may someday have to appease a young picky eater.

I suppose I shouldn't be waiting so long to post, or you end up reading a book when all you wanted was a quick peak at what we cooked/ate this week. One last snigglet, though. If you love baking and you have no idea who Bakerella or what Cake Pops are, you have got to educate yourself. (Hint: start by clicking those links.) So I was absolutely THRILLED when my day's long shopping adventure with a girlfriend turned up her book at a Michael's. I will die if I do not make those cute little chicks in the upper left hand corner for Easter next weekend. Family: prepare to melt from cuteness.

27 March, 2011

Recipe 13 and some bacon maple cupcakes

 Made the usual trip to the Leon Springs Farmers Market yesterday. Happy to see some signs of spring: strawberries that were all sold out (boo) and squash! I have to say, the coolest part about my "everything from scratch" resolution is seeing directly where our food comes from. Totally blows my mind every time I shake the hand of the man that slaughtered our chicken. Hah.
An added bonus with these resolutions is that I am now more fitness-conscious. And I'm not sure it's even a direct correlation. I think it's more of a "holy crap, I was in the kitchen for 3 hours Saturday maybe I should go run outside." Either way, the fact that my lazy butt is able to run for 5 minutes straight is an amazing achievement and all couch potatoes should bow before my un-laziness.

 Okay, so this week I had some repeats: spinach mushroom pizza and fish. The sides were good, though. Cooked down some fresh FM spinach with some shallots, olive oil, mushrooms and red bell peppers. Yum! The fish was more of a Lent-y Friday thing, but we had a special surprise Friday when we discovered that it was a rare occasion where Catholics were encouraged to eat meat. So, we made like carnivores and had some awesome burgers from a local favorite, San Antonio Burger Company and had the fish this evening.

Today was a long, lazy day of running, grading papers and... lazing around. So, It only makes sense that I finally decided to try the Maple Bacon Cupcakes I have heard so much about.
Two mistakes: next time, I will use REAL bacon and not turkey bacon (tasted absolutely NO crispy pig in there). And the second mistake: I had about 1/4 a cup of REAL DELICIOUS Vermont maple syrup (which actually comes from trees on my grandparents' property, how cool is that?!). But instead of saving it for the frosting, where you could taste it the most, I used it all in the batter for the actual cupcakes and had to use that crappy artificial stuff for the frosting.

Final score: meh. They were good because it was a carb covered in sugar and we were hungry after pumping iron at the gym, but it was hard to taste bacon or maple. There was a distinct fake maple scent, but no dice. Hope the Breakfast Club at school enjoys them tomorrow...

22 March, 2011

Hubby's fave: tacos in pasta shells

I really dislike that my husband's favorite dish is something that does not include any veggies whatsoever. Not to mention it's loaded with fat (but it's GOOD).

Hubby's Tacos in Pasta Shells (courtesy of my Momma) got a revamp. The original recipe calls for 3oz of full-fat chive cream cheese, 1 cup of cheese, crumbled tortilla chips, and regular jumbo pasta shells... not cool.

Here's the edited recipe (sans cheese, not for the fat content, but for the forgetfulness thing):
1 lb beef
8oz whole grain pasta
6oz cream cheese (1/3 fat)
3 chopped green onions
1-2 Tbsp chili powder (or more, if you have a Hubby that loves the spiciness!)
pinch of salt

-Cook the pasta as per the package directions.
-Cook the beef, drain, season with chili powder, salt and add the cream cheese & green onions.
-Stir until combined.
-Combine with cooked pasta, top with about 1 cup salsa (we use Texas-Texas Roasted Salsa- yum!) and serve.
If you choose to go ahead and add the cheese, it does make it super tasty! You'll need to bake it covered at 350F for about 10-15min and then uncover it, add the cheese and wait for bubbly deliciousness. You can also crumble tortilla chips on top, but again forgetfulness/healthiness.

20 March, 2011

Breakfast mini fritattas

Okay, calorie counters, you won't believe me after I tell you the ingredients that went into these babies and then how little they take up of a dieter's daily allowance. You can really have any kind of "filler," so long as you have eggs and cheese! I just listed below what I used this morning.

You will need:
6 slices turkey bacon
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 portabella mushrooms, finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
8oz baby swiss (shredded or finely cut into squares)

- Preheat oven to 350 F
- Beat together eggs, milk, pepper, and nutmeg. (Those not sensitive to salt can choose to add a small pinch- but I mistakenly added some, forgetting about the loads of salt in turkey bacon. Needless to say, Hubby loved it, I not so much.)
- Cook bacon and finely chop or crumble (crumbling was not possible for me with Butterball's thick turkey bacon)
- Saute spinach, mushrooms and shallot together with a smidgen of olive oil. Drain on paper towels to keep eggs from being runny later.
- In a greased mini muffin tin, pour about 1/2 Tbsp to 1 Tbsp egg mixture, followed by spinach/mushroom mix, topping with bacon and then cheese. If it looks too dry on top, add another 1/2 Tbsp egg mixture.
- Bake until brown and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.

Enjoy! According to my favorite calorie tracker (which allows you to enter recipes!!), if you go easy on the toppings and make 48, each one is only 31 calories! Awesome sauce!