Monday, July 30, 2007

Poppy Seed Cake

I'm so proud of myself, you have no idea. I used the rest of the can of poppy seed filling. Do you hear me? Used it and not just sat there and wanted to. It's a wonderful thing.

Anywho, turned out nicely. I mangled it coming out of the bundt pan. Does anyone know how to get it out smoothly? Mine has one of those geometric design in it. I crisco'd the living hell out of it, but still had it break apart. Well, that and the bottom (top of the cake) burned. I'm not sure why since the rest turned out fine. Hence, fugly cake.

Scrape off the top and the inside is good. A little bland, but goes nicely with milk or tea. But behold! The crispy sides that didn't get burnt- yes, there are some of those- they are the real score. Crunchy and heavenly. It tasted completely different than the rest of the cake. Almost like blondies or butterscotch. Guh. It's not as good as my mother's recipe, but a very nice little thing to whip up if you just happen to have a can of poppy seed filling lounging around. Also, hey! New layout for new post. Why not?

Solo (brand) Fancy Ground Poppy Seed Cake

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cup sugar

1 can Solo Ground Poppy Seed Filling

4 eggs, separated

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup dairy sour cream

2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

Confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan or 10-inch tube pan.

Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add poppy seed filling and beat until blended. Beat in egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add vanilla and sour cream and beat just until blended. Stir flour, baking soda and salt until mixed, and add to poppy mixture gradually, beating well after each addition.

Beat whites in separate bowl with electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold beaten egg whites into batter. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on rack . Dust with confectioners sugar just before serving.

14 to 18 servings

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I Cooked Dinner!

It was a proper meal and everything. Barring that fact that I filled up on my tasting plate and wine, so I didn't actually eat dinner. I just sort of nibbled. Nevermind that. I cooked damn it.

I think the recipes were good. I'm just not quite fond of them. I made chicken with juniper and wine sauce and roasted root vegetables. The chicken was tasty, but I think it could have been better. The vegetables were good, but not something you could get your kids to eat. If you actually like the taste of the vegetables you're adding, then this recipe really shows them off. If not, you're stuck with junk you don't want to eat and don't know what to do with.

I'm not going to post the chicken recipe yet. I think it has potential to be something more than it is now and would like to try again later. It didn't look much prettier cooking either.

The vegetable recipe is a mangled version of Giada's Roasted Root Vegetables in her Everyday Italian cookbook. I omitted the carrots because, hey, I don't like them. I've never had parsnips before. They... weren't bad in this recipe. A nibble was good though because it's not something I could eat a lot of. They smelled heavenly- like ginger, or maybe licorice, or something that I want in a room spray. Not so much on my plate though since they taste just like they smell. She had a whole seasoning list too, but it was so much like Italian seasoning that I saved time and just dumped that in. I'd like to try it with other vegetables next time, because roasted potatoes are an all-time favorite. Nonetheless, here is what I had last night.

Roasted Root Vegetables- adapted from Everyday Italian

1 bag frozen brussel sprouts

1 large sweet potato

4 medium parsnips

1/3 cup olive oil

1-2 T Italian seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 4ooF while you prepare vegetables. They all need to be peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces. It suggest chopping the brussel sprouts in half, but I kept them whole. Toss with the olive oil and seasonings. Place on a cookie sheet or in a large casserole dish and bake for roughly 30 minutes or until fork tender, stirring occasionally.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hamantaschen Cookies

I've had a can of poppy seed filling lounging in my pantry for almost a year now. I bought it when the Winn-Dixie in Tifton went out of business because I'd never seen it before and it excited me. Inside the label, they have two nifty recipes using the filling. The second was for these little cookies. How do you pronounce them by the way? I'd read about them before- or the story behind them at least- and thought they'd be a nice change of pace. Since I'd decided to make them, I longed to have little tri-cornered cookies gracing my counters with poppy-goodness filling I could nibble on with tea. It was not to be.

I would like to state that this is not the recipes fault. At least, I don't think so. Rather, my rolling skills and the questionable taste of the filling. I've been making drop cookies for so long that I forgot I even had a rolling pin. Certainly, I've forgotten how to use it. The cookies weren't thin enough by far. The dough kept sticking to my pin no matter how much flour I used, thus were too heavy to be pinched into the traditional tri-corner hat look. Notice the weird indents on the bottom two cookies in this picture. Those were where they were folded for those few brief moments of brilliance only to fall down.

So I fudged and decided that poppy-seed thumb-print cookies were in order. After tasting the canned filling, I decided to be safe and use jam on most of them; the filling was just so... seedy and strange tasting that I couldn't imagine eating many of them. Luckily, the jam didn't bubble and overflow the wells while baking. I also only used about a fourth of the dough. The outcome was sort of mediocre. They tasted like jam and biscuits to me. That's all fine and good, but if I want jam and biscuits, I'll make them. I've contemplated using it to wrap cocktail sausages, but have yet to do it instead simply eating the dough. For now.

I'm adding the recipe, because it's not a bad one despite my dislike of the filling and inability to shape them. If you like this sort of thing, I'd say this is a good place to start. Personally, I'm going to use the rest of the can to try to other recipe suggested. I'll let you know how it goes.

Solo (brand) Hamantaschen Cookies

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 T baking powder

1 tsp grated orange peel

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup butter, softened

2 eggs, beaten

2 T milk

1 can Solo Ground Poppy Seed or Prune Plum (Lekvar) filling

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 T milk for brushing (I skipped this)

Stir flour, sugar, baking powder, orange peel, and salt in large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Side Note: I took this picture less because I thought you needed to know what coarse crumbs looked like and more to show that I finally got to whip out my pastry blender again- oh, how I love thee. Also, use a bigger bowl.

Add eggs and milk and mix until dough binds together. Knead dough in bowl 5 to 8 strokes or until smooth. Divide dough in half and wrap each pieces separately in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease baking sheets and set aside. Roll out 1 piece of dough on lightly floured surface to 1/4" thickness. Cut dough with floured 3" round plain cookie cutter. Spoon 1 tsp poppy seed filling into center of each circle. Bring 3 edges of circle together into middle of circle to form triangle. Pinch edges upwards to make slight ridge, leaving small hole in center. Place on prepared baking sheets about 1 1/2" apart and brush with beaten egg yolk mixture. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheets and cool completely on wire racks.

Makes about 32 cookies.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Stuffed Tomatoes

Well, I was a little late on making my stuffed tomatoes. Life happens. But today was the DAY! I used Giada’s recipe from my Everyday Italian cookbook and boy did they hit the spot. I’ve made them before, but never this light. They just tasted bright and fresh and everything summery. I guess it also helped that I accidentally used cilantro instead of parsley. They look so similar! But what does parsley add taste-wise anyway? Cilantro added a nice vibrant touch that was especially nice, although I find it hard to chew because, you know, “finely chopped” is a nice idea and all but those of us without knife skills generally resort to chunk-style. Barring that, I would definitely make these again as a side. She uses rice as the main stuffing ingredient whereas I usually use bread crumbs and cheese for something more filling. These almost qualified as an aperitif because they whet my appetite something fierce, but I have to leave the rest of the tomatoes for the roommate. Wah.

These were incredibly easy and fast. The only time-consuming part might be the rice, because I always seem to do something stupid. That and waiting for the fire in your oven to put itself out. Whoops. They finished nicely in the toaster over, which will remain the main cooking appliance until I do some cleaning.

Stuffed Tomatoes
From Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis.

2/3 cup Arborio rice or med-grain white rice
1 tsp plus 2 T olive oil
4 ripe but firm large tomatoes
4 T chopped fresh basil
3 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (I still suggest cilantro)
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
¼ c freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook rice until just done and rinse under cold water. Drain well and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease your baking dish with 1 tsp olive oil. Cut ½ inch-thick slices off the tops of each tomato and set aside. Scoop out the insides into a bowl. Arrange tomatoes in baking dish.

Add ¼ cup tomato pulp to the rice. Stir in the basil, parsley (cilantro), garlic, 2 T olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and parmesan cheese. Adjust seasonings to taste. Spoon rice mixture into tomatoes. Replace reserved tops on tomatoes and bake until rice is heated through- about 20 minutes. Serve hot or room temperature.

I don’t have an after picture because I just made one, saving the rest for my roommate and one for me for later. More importantly, I made sweet, sweet love to it the second it popped out of the toaster oven. But don’t the rest look lovely?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Woe is Me and My Roomate

We all remember what it's like to be a kid. Lazing around all day daydreaming and subsisting on junk food. Those days where gaining weight is a non-issue and healthy living even less so.

Unfortunately, some of us are still living like we'll never make it to 30 and could care less if we don't. It's not because we feel invincible. It's not even because we don't care about our health. Mostly, if we're not busy we're lazy. And that's the rub.

For my room mate, she's busy all day long and too tired after she gets home. Well, that and I'm afraid of her cooking. I however am the opposite. I'm taking the summer off and instead of doing all the things I didn't have time for during school like I'd planned, I spend most days on the computer or staring at the ceiling. I have no motivation and no reason to have any. It's when I'm crazy-busy that I want to cook everyday, though whether I actually have time to do so is iffy. We eat junk all day because it's easy. Period, no other justification necessary.

But we WANT to change. It's not about even eating a truly healthy diet. It's about having ONE serving of vegetables a day. Depending on at least ONE round meal a week. Since I've stopped my Sunday dinners, we don't even have that anymore. I'm running out of my freezer rations of my favorite (chock full o veggies) soup, so it's time to restock and start cooking. Vegetables are a priority, but any real food counts.

Since we've decided to try, I've started craving vegetables like a fiend. I forget how much I like them when I'm not eating them. We're starting off with a simple recipe for stuffed tomatoes, and you have no idea how much I'm salivating at the thought. After that, who knows? Vegetable stir-fry? Vegetable kabobs? At least a salad? We'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Homemade Oreos and How to Break Your Mixer

I've been so incredibly lazy this summer and I know it. Wah. I haven't really cooked anything since, but look! I'm making the effort to bring you the wonderful recipe I promised near a month ago. I said I was going out the next day to bake cookies, and by God I did!

I first found the recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog (link at bottom) and found I had all the ingredients to make them. That's usually the deciding factor on whether I ever get around to making most recipes or not. Well, it was the cookies' lucky day. They were just as great as promised- sweet but not overly so and chocolaty good. It's uncanny how they taste exactly like real oreo's. I think I'll make the chocolate cookies again because I loved the almost savory quality to them, but I'll skip the filling. I forgot before I made them that I'm not an Oreo freak.

A few pointers and a how-to:

Make sure that your dough balls for the cookies are small- like really small- if you want them to be Oreo sized. Mine spread like crazy and turned out HUGE. Also, unless you like the double-stuffed Oreos, you might want to cut down on the filling amounts.

If you've ever daydreamed of new and inventive ways to break kitchen appliances, step right up. I chose the ziploc bag technique for filling. If you feel so inclined, make sure to insert beaters into filling bag and turn mixer on high. The cream filling will immediately cling to the insides of the bag and put up just enough resistance to rip the plastic casings right off your machine. Yay!

Don't be appliance stupid like me. Instead, be smart like me and try these cookies. While you're over there, make sure to surf around her blog; it's chock full of goodies.

Smitten Kitchen: