Mmmmm…Sweet and Salty

October 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Let’s be clear: I am not one for salting things. I don’t believe I have ever used a restaurant salt shaker in my life, and I generally halve the salt called for in recipes because it always seems like a bit too much to me. I think the whole “salted caramel” trend that’s been going around lately is an abomination against caramel. But…but. Chocolate covered potato chips are one of my very favorite treats. And I do dig a nice chocolate-cashew combo. So when I came across this recipe for chow mein noodles mixed with cashews and covered in chocolate, I decided to give it a shot. It’s fast, easy, and delicious – definitely a keeper.

So, so nommy.

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips (the original recipe calls for 3 part chocolate chips to 1 part butterscotch – I didn’t have butterscotch so I just used all chocolate)
  • 1 c. chow mein noodles (maybe a little more – just throw the whole can in)
  • 1 c. cashews

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Melt chocolate (I used my fondue pot, but you can use your microwave or double boiler). Mix in noodles, then cashews. Deposit spoonfuls of mixture on prepared cookie sheet and put in fridge until firm.

Fresh!

August 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m not sure why this didn’t publish yesterday; it was supposed to. Bad blog! No cookies! Oh, wait — yes, there will be cookies soon.

Way back last month when I was in New Hampshire, I had the opportunity to go to out dinner with my good friend Sarah. We went to a lovely little Italian restaurant, where we were immediately marked as a lesbian couple who must be quickly fed and then hustled out of the restaurant. We had some fun with that, I can tell you. But I digress. One of the specials was a Caprese salad, which I had never heard of but which apparently consists of tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella. Sarah got one for herself, and a couple of weeks later when the heat got super-oppressive, I remembered how cool and fresh that salad sounded, and I determined to make one for myself. I’d been having a yen for pasta salad, too, though…so I thought why not combine the two?

How much more fresh could it be? None. None more fresh.

I grabbed some whole wheat penne, because I like the nuttiness of whole wheat pasta, and I thought it would be a good, earthy undertone with the basil and tomatoes. I tossed it together with some fresh mozz, some grape tomatoes, and some fresh basil (it’s a variety called Opal Basil, which is why it’s purple and not green), then dressed it with a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. The result? Well, to be honest…it was too fresh. I know, it sounds insane. But it was just really, too fresh. It needed something earthy (more than the pasta) to balance the intense brightness of the flavors, I think. Maybe a creamy yogurt dressing instead of the vinegar and oil. It was good, just not spectacular. I’m going to try it again with the creamy dressing and see how that works out for me. So hopefully I’ll have a good recipe for you out of this experiment soon.

It’s a Truffle Job, but Somebody’s Gotta Do It

July 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Grasshopper Truffles I told you about last week were so delish that  when I came across this recipe for chocolate chip cookie dough truffles, I didn’t hesitate.

Tasty little bites!

Now, this is a vegan recipe and as such, calls for vegan butter. I am not vegan (you may have noticed) and as such, do not have vegan butter on hand generally. So I used regular ol’ butter. It’s an egg-free recipe, so it’s safe to eat the raw cookie dough. However, the lack of eggs means the cookie dough is a little less rich than I’m used to. I think next time maybe I’ll experiment with using egg beaters. This recipe also uses only brown sugar, as opposed to the combo of brown and white in my regular cookie recipe, and I think that might be flattening the flavor as well. So, this one I’ll tweak a bit before posting my version of the recipe. In the meantime, the original is pretty darn tasty — give it a try!

 

Patience, Young Grasshopper

July 12, 2012 § 1 Comment

Pinterest is killing my waistline, I swear. Okay, also Foodbuzz and Foodgawker, but if it wasn’t for Pinterest I wouldn’t have anywhere to store all those yummy looking recipes. With pictures. So as soon as I go and look I am reminded of why I wanted to make the tasties in the first place. Such was the case with this recipe for Grasshopper Truffles. Each little ball is a mouthful of chocolate-minty delicious heaven.

Concentrated nom, coated in chocolate for extra nomminess.

I did modify the original recipe a bit…I found that the ratio of cream cheese to cookie was really high, so I adjusted that. I went with the straight up cream cheese rather than the frosting, and I’m glad I did…I think they’d’ve definitely been too sweet for me otherwise. And obviously, I didn’t use the sprinkles. I also didn’t use the mint extract and again, I’m glad I didn’t: I think it would have been overkill.

Here’s my tip for easy chocolate dipping: use chocolate chips in an electric fondue pot. Just set it to warm, as if you were going to actually fondue. Have your cookie sheet with waxed paper handy, and just pop the balls down on the paper as you take them out of the pot. Easy-peasy and makes clean-up a breeze, too. As tempting as it is to dump a bunch in and roll them around, resist. You’ll only end up melting them. One at a time is the way to go with these (that rule only applies to the dipping part, not the eating part).

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 box Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies
  • About a cup of whatever chocolate chips you have on hand (I used a mix of bittersweet and milk, because that’s what I had)

Crumb the cookies in the food processor. You probably don’t want to add them all at once, and if they’re still a wee bit chunky, that’s okay. You don’t really want any chunks bigger than, say, a sunflower seed. Add the cream cheese and pulse until mixture is uniform. Chill mixture for about an hour.

After mixture is chilled, roll into small (about 1″) balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

Pre-dipping…they’re kind of a gross dark taupe color. Cover them with delicious chocolate, stat!

Pop them back in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how soft the dough got while you were rolling them. You want them to be nice and firm and chilly for this next step, otherwise they’ll fall apart.

Melt chocolate in fondue pot (or using other method of your choice, but I promise, the fondue pot is really awesome). Roll chilled balls, one at a time, in melted chocolate, then place back on wax paper-lined cookie sheet. When you’ve dipped all the balls, put them back in the fridge until the chocolate hardens.

Baking cakes ain’t like dusting crops, boy!

February 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m working on a new recipe to give you next week (I’m in the testing stage, because I overcooked it while I was writing it down the first time. Oops.) so this week’s Tasty Tuesday is a rerun.

Originally published April 25, 2010 on  the A Frayed Knot Knits blog:

Somehow, my daughter Becky has become a huge Star Wars fan. I know, right, how could this possibly have happened? She has recently:

– cried when watching Darth Vader’s body burned on a pyre at the end of Jedi
– told me that I shouldn’t be watching Fanboys because “We don’t watch other Star Wars movies! Only Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi!
– declared that she wants Darth Vader to be her father instead of Luke’s because “Luke is a bad boy and doesn’t deserve him.”
– announced that she wants to be Han Solo when she grows up
requested demanded a Millennium Falcon cake for her birthday, with Han Solo, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia, but not Luke, “because Luke is too whiny.” Because I’m a sucker for the Millennium Falcon, and a challenge, and my little girl, I said, “Sure! How hard can it be?” And then I found out:

The party was Saturday at 4pm. Giant props to Kit for handling every detail of the party, from scheduling the space (Build-A-Bear) to taking care of the invites to greeting the parents and filming the party, leaving me free to concentrate fully on the cake.

I had originally thought to do gum-paste figures, but the tiny little sane part of my brain said, “Hey, dummy — they make perfectly good action figures, and then the kid will have a bonus birthday present, too!” So I went out and got everything but a Leia (because the Toys’R’Us I was at didn’t have one, but she was not terribly missed, so it’s okay). I had already ordered the most awesomest birthday candle EVAH for her: Darth Vader holding as his lightsaber a red candle.

After some hemming and hawing, Becky settled on both chocolate and vanilla for the actual cake. I do not particularly enjoy actually baking cakes, which means I don’t do it often enough to get really good at it, which means I bought mixes. My mom’s in town (hi, Mom!) and she helped me get the mixes all, well, mixed and into the oven. One large (13×9) chocolate rectangle for the bottom, and two 9″ vanilla circles for the top + accessories. They came out fine, and we were ready to carve them Friday.

Now that I think about it, perhaps “ready” isn’t the right word…I wasn’t quite prepared for the reality of carving cake, and got pretty frustrated, especially with the cockpit. I finally ended up with something I thought would work, but it was clearly unstable and would need to be attached just prior to putting the fondant on, which I had planned for Saturday morning. Here’s what it looked like Friday night when I was done:

Bright and early Saturday, Kit took the kids for a walk, and I started putting it together and getting it ready for frosting. I had done the carving on a board, but wanted to transfer it to the actual presentation board before frosting. This necessitated planning the layout, so we opened up all the action figures and the candle, which promptly broke at the ankles. All attempts to repair it failed, and actually broke the base even further. Lacking the time to panic, I decided to just set it aside and deal with it later.

We decided where the ship should be on the board, and I commenced frosting it (in case you’ve never worked with fondant before, you put a thin layer of regular frosting on to “glue” the fondant). This meant it was time to attach the cockpit, which promptly disintegrated. You can see in the picture above that I had originally carved the cockpit piece out of the vanilla cake, and as it turns out, the chocolate cake holds together a little better. So I quickly re-carved it out of a piece of chocolate cake that was in my big bowl o’ cake scraps, and skewered it on. And then the bottom fell off, and I panicked.

While part of my brain was panicking, the other part was applying frosting and considering the situation. I finally came to the conclusion that the solution was to cheat. So I went upstairs and got some styrofoam and carved my third cockpit. This one didn’t fall apart, and I moved on to the actually fondanting.

There were a couple of tricky things about applying the fondant, mostly because the shape has a lot of nooks and crannys and this is only the second time I’ve ever used fondant, so I’m not particularly well-versed in manupulating it. But I got it on the cake with no real problems, and despite some cutting errors and a little bunching on the back, I thought it looked pretty good. It was, at the very least, the right shape:

Oh! Before I did the big fondanting bit, I decided it would be a good idea to practice a little and remind myself of how the fondant moves and acts. So I built the sensor dish, which ended up being my favorite part of the cake:

Now that I had the fondant on, it was time for the decorating. I cut out the dots that are a recognizable part of the top of the MF, with the plan of spray painting them with the black frosting I’d purchased for the dual purposes of painting said dots and also dirtying up the finished ship. It turns out that the “black” spray frosting is really more of a “light silver gray,” even after several applications. So it was off to Michael’s for emergency black frosting coloring…and where I found food-safe markers, including black. Win!

Back home, I set Mom to the task of coloring the dots, while I began applying the details with white piping. Then I changed my mind and decided most of the lines should be scored, with a very few details sticking up. So I scraped it down and started over, and let the sane part of my brain convince the panicky part that we had plenty of time as long as we didn’t get too carried away. Applying the blue of the engines to the back was considerably less stressful than I had thought it was going to be, and it improved the lines of the back of the cake quite a lot.

Now, Becky had specifically requested that we included the red/rust detailing — it’s on the real thing, and it’s on one of her toys but not the other — so I used the red marker to color that in, and then went back and piped in a few details here and there, using her two MF toys for reference (incidentally, I highly recommend having a 3D model on hand when doing something like this — much better than trying to find pictures with the right angles on the internet). I redid the cockpit a couple of times, and never was quite happy with it, but finally I had to declare it finished. I took it outside and gave it a quick spritzing with the “black” spray frosting, just to scunge it up a little.

I have to say, I was pretty pleased with the end result. It’s not the best looking Millennium Falcon cake I’ve ever seen, but I think I did a pretty good job for someone who doesn’t really decorate cakes:

I was a little annoyed about only having the foil for it to sit on, but then I had an idea while I was in the shower (yes, I finished in enough time that I was able to shower and even iron my skirt before we had to leave for the party!)…on the way I grabbed a couple bags of brown sugar and when we set the cake up, I think it looked a lot like it was parked on the sands at Mos Eisley:

And look! I solved the Darth Vader problem and the gun turret problem (at some point I realized that I should have guns up there and I wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to do) in one fell swoop! Yay me!

Next time, I’m going to make someone else cut the cake — it was a lot harder than I expected it to be. It took about 5 minutes to go from the above to this, and I really felt like I needed a good lie-down afterwards:

(Incidentally, when you stack cakes on top of one another, don’t forget to put a layer of frosting in there — you’ll thank yourself when it’s time to serve.)

I have to give tremendous thanks to Kit and Grandma Tedi for all their help and encouragement and keeping the kids out of the kitchen/dining room/my way. And especially thank you to Becky, who told me at every stage how awesome her Millennium Falcon cake looked, and made me remember why I was doing this even when I was so frustrated with the cockpit that I was seriously considering sending Kit to the A&P for a plain old sheet cake. Love you all!

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