Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dr. Teeth and the Origami Mayhem

The Tooth Fairy is putting in overtime these days, and going broke. We've had several years with nary a tooth being lost and now it's a veritable tooth avalanche. Here at Chez Hatch, the Tooth Fairy brings GOLDEN DOLLARS. ooooooooooh. It used to be the one with Sacagawea on them, now the Presidents are out and about. The Messy One actually turned up his nose at Martin Van Buren, saying that he had one of those already. Excuse me? The Tooth Fairy isn't keeping track of what you have and what you need for your collection, kid. Suck it up and take the money.

It also turns out that the Tooth Fairy recently lost her mind and decided to surprise the kids with origami money holders. It takes her a really long time to make each creation. She told me that it took her almost 45 minutes to make a dog basket for No Thank You Boy which held his loot. Unfortunately, since she started something (and didn't realize that so many teeth would be coming out in such short order), she can't stop. Rumor has it that tonight she'll be making a panda for the Messy One as that's his favorite animal. (Edit: Holy cow! The Tooth Fairy just showed me the diagram for the panda. No way, Jose. Each kid gets one paper creation and she calls it a day.)

We have at least 8 more loose teeth over here between all 3 boys. It's going to be interesting...

The Hatchlings read this blog occasionally, so please post any comments with care. :D

Messy One - Tooth #9

April 26, 2009
Origami basket

No Thank You Boy - Tooth #9
April 27, 2009
(Yes, the very next day, because he can't be outdone by his brother and have him get money, fame and origami and he not. It "just fell out" at school. Riiiiight.)
Origami dog basket thingy

The Little One - HIS FIRST TOOTH! awww

May 3, 2009
Origami dog (he thinks it's a cat though)

The Messy One - Tooth #10
May 5, 2009
Origami Panda - maybe. We need to see what turns out.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge, April 2009: Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

If my camera was working you would be able to actually SEE this infamous cheesecake, but The Little One got hold of it and the lens is stuck in the partway open/partway closed position and it won't budge so there are no photos, AND I get to try and find someone local to fix it. (sigh) That being the case, you'll have to rely on my riveting narrative and incredibly descriptive descriptions to help you visualize this masterpiece.

I do love cheesecake. My grandmother passed along a recipe for Fire Island Cheesecake from the NY Times from back in the 50's and it's my go-to recipe. It was with some trepidation that I made Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake, because you don't mess with my grandmother. She's 93 and healthy as a horse - her short term (and increasingly her medium term) memory is shot because of Alzheimer's but she's a feisty one, that one is. She almost got into fisticuffs with her roommate at the nursing home over a sweater, so now she has a private room. (Yes, she's THAT little old lady) But enough about her for now... let's move on to the recipe, shall we?

I have a set of 3 springform pans - 8", 9" and 10" as well as 4 wee little pans that measure about 3" to 4" across. I debated using those, but since I just used them for February's challenge, I decided to go full size and pawn off the results to school, as sadly there is no cheesecake to be eaten in this house for some time to come. With the victims lucky recipients in mind, I set to work.

I decided to do a Kahlua flavor cheese cake: coffee liqueur in the batter and a little instant coffee mixed in with the graham cracker crumbs. I used about 2 tablespoons of the instant since I didn't want to overwhelm the flavor, but I was also hoping that it wouldn't be underwhelming either. I'm a bottom and little bit of the sides crust girl, so I extended it up about a 1/2 to 3/4 inch past the bottom. The batter came together flawlessly. Sooooo finger-licking good.

Grandma's recipe doesn't call for a waterbath, so I waffled: yes, no, yes, no, nes, yo. Do I have a pan big enough to hold both the water and the pan itself? Will my pan leak? It's not the way grandma did it.... In the end I decided to follow the directions (don't faint, it's not THAT unheard of for me) and did the waterbath but made sure that I wrapped the bottom tightly in foil - I had a blowout in that pan once with something too liquidy leaking out, so I assumed that the reverse would be true as well. Cooking was uneventful and I felt comforted knowing that both recipes have the cheesecake chilling out in the oven for an hour after the formal cooking process was over.

It was beautiful! All waxy looking on top, hiding that luscious interior, giving me that seductive "come hither" look.... I resisted temptation and took it away the next day to class. The kids were in CRCT testing (which I won't describe here but it's REALLY high pressure for both teachers and students) and they needed a small respite. My offering up to the testing gods was well received. The teachers were in Heaven over it and they went on and on about how wonderful it was. Ok, with feedback like that.... I had to taste a small piece. It WAS good - it was very creamy and stuck to the fork just like it's supposed to and it had a nice subtle coffee flavor. High marks all around.

Thanks to Jenny for selecting this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge. You can find the complete recipe on her site. To see what all the other DBer’s did, you can find the blogroll here and if you’d like to join the monthly party, info about that can be found on that page as well.


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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stir Fry Pork Tenderlion w/Asian Veggies

I've been dabbling with all sorts of heart healthy recipes, but this is the first one I remembered to photograph. There's no real recipe here, just a bunch of healthy stuff stirred up together into one big smash. I used very little oil for the "frying" part and also used very lean pork tenderloin sliced up into slivers. (Tip: meat slices easiest and you have more control when it's slightly frozen or slightly defrosted, depending on which way you meat is coming from - fridge or freezer). I used very little soy and teriaki sauce (mucho sodium) and got creative with fresh ginger and garlic instead. The sauce packets that came with the frozen veggies went into the trash since I couldn't trust the sodium, msg and other weird stuff in there. DH and I had only a little bit of rice and a monster salad alongside it with Trader Joe's Soy Ginger Fat Free salad dressing. Without further ado - the pseudo recipe. Vary amounts based on your family.

Stir Fry Pork Tenderlion w/Asian Veggies

1 - 2 lbs lean pork tenderloin, sliced thin
2 -3 cups frozen Asian vegetables, cooked/defrosted per package directions
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon teraki sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Spray a non-stick pot with cooking spray and quickly sautee/brown the slices of pork, working in batches to assure even cooking and so that the pan doesn't cool off. Remove meat to separate plate. Heat the oil and add the defrosted vegetables and sautee briefly, to warm through and add flavor. Whisk together ginger, garlic, teriaki and soy and add to pot. Return meat to pot together with any accumulated juices, stir gently to combine and heat all items through. Serve over rice.


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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, one and all!



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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sheer Heart Attack (alas, no Daring Bakers)

(part of my new cookbook collection...)

Yes, my internet friends, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth and there is no Daring Bakers March Challenge to be found in this post. Why? Well, things have been quite interesting here at Chéz Hatch of late....

My 49 year old DH was driving to work and he felt like he had indigestion, so he stopped for a Chick-fil-A chicken biscuit. That didn't help. He then felt like he was wearing about 4 or 5 layers of shirts and that they were all bunchy at the elbows and about 10 sizes too small (aka: squeezing in the chest and arms). He got to work and tried to lay down to see if that would help his "indigestion" which by now in his head had morphed into "The Flu" since he was now also nauseous and sweating. When his flu and indigestion didn't improve, one of his co-workers asked him if he needed to go to the hospital. He said he was ok and to give it a minute. After a minute and when he refused to take a call from one of his important clients, the co-worker told him "That's it. You're going to the hospital. Now."

So, my DH gets to the emergency room. One of the nurses came out of the back, took one look at him and hustled him back to the triage area at which point he was relieved of his shirt, hooked up to a bunch of monitors, had an EKG, and IV with blood thinners pumped in.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I get a call from one of the company's owners telling me that my DH has been taken to the hospital with chest pain and she thought I needed to go there now. I called school, arranged for the hatchlings, tried to call other people to no avail, resolved to cancel T-Mobile as soon as the contract is up in May (no bars my damn a**) and waited for the calm to wash over me. It did.

I met with the doctors in the triage room and they told me that they were going to take him to the Cath Lab and take a look to see what was going on. The main doctor came out after about 45 minutes and told me that he was all done. Huh? How is he? What did you find? Will he have to have surgery? When will you operate??? Um, Mrs. Hatch, it's all done. Really all done.

Modern medicine is so amazing. They fixed him up completely in that 45 minutes. They ran a cathater (cath) up through the artery which runs from your groin to your heart and took x-rays. They found that the main artery which runs down the front of his heart and one of it's tributaries was completely blocked at the junction point. If he had gotten to the hospital 15 to 30 minutes later there would have been a completely different outcome. {shudder} Via the catheter, the doctor took "a balloon with little knives on it" and roto-rootered out the tributary and put a stent in the other. I saw my DH shortly afterwards and he was awake for the procedure (thanks to the chicken biscuit they couldn't knock him out since he had food in his stomach). They officially admitted him and took him upstairs to the heartcare floor. The nurses all thought he was going home the next day and kept trying to convince us of that opinion, but the doctor kept him for an extra day. There were probably more tests and monitoring to be done, but secretly, I think that the doctor wanted to make a real impression on my DH and kept him the extra day so that it wouldn't feel like a drive-through lifesaving. (I'll have a medicated stent please, and hold the onion.)

Bottom line is that he is fine and that he knows that he has some serious lifestyle changes to make including dates with the nutritionist, physical therapist, sleep apnea/sleep center people and maybe a yogi. Unfortunately nagging wives don't have the same impact as a cosmic 2x4 wakeup call up-side the head. A nagging wife with a real 2x4 might be a different story though.

Please learn the warning signs for heart attack and stroke. Heart attack symptoms are different between men and women. Please learn what the different risk factors are for heart disease and resolve to make better choices, especially if you have more than one risk factor. Listen to your nagging wife, husband, partner, friend or child. Please. You matter.

I may be MIA for a little while longer, but we're all doing well here and taking baby steps on the road to a new heart-healthy life. For those of you who knew about this and who have been supporting us, who brought us dinner, offered childcare, kept us in your prayers and more, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of MY heart.



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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge, February 2009: Chocolate Valentino (Flourless Chocolate Cake)

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Nothing says February quite like hearts, flowers and chocolate. And Birthdays if you live in our house. Rolling (quite literally) off Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years comes February, host to 3 birthdays and Valentine's Day and all the associated merry-making that goes along with it. I've not dropped off the face of the planet, by the way, I've just been a little, ah, busy of late.

I looked at this recipe and it was similar to one that I already make, but in this one the egg yolks and whites stand in opposite corners and then come to play separately in the form of egg yolks mixed directly into the chocolate and the egg whites beaten into stiff peaks and then folded into the batter. Ok - I'm up for something new.

Since I didn't want to use the whole POUND of chocolate the recipe calls for I halved it. I added 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper powder to give it some interest. The batter was tasty and it had lovely golden fat blobs floating about in it, shimmering like molten sunlight. Since I was using individual pans, I reduced the baking time significantly and dropped it to about 10-15 minutes. I decided to use this cake/recipe for The Little One's birthday cake since I was cupcaked out from making a batch for school. My DS had given me these mini springform pans years ago and I've finally used them. We were going to have a small gathering of 8 people for his birthday "party" so I cut these little babies in half - each person got to eat half a cake! We really know how to celebrate around here.

Since these were such unique sizes/shapes I dug out 2 platters that were probably supposed to be used for appetizers or dips or somesuch, and repurposed them as party plates. I went for the homemade whipped cream topping option - I have made ice cream before - but transporting all this and 3 kids with ice cream was a little out of my league at the moment. Two cakes, a blob of whipped cream in the middle and a light dusting of cocoa powder to keep everything for looking so stark and Bob's your uncle.

Thanks to Wendy and Dharm for selecting this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge. You can find the complete recipe on their sites.

To see what all the other DBer’s did, you can find the blogroll here and if you’d like to join the monthly party, info about that can be found on that page as well.



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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nutella Cake (don't get overly excited...)


I can't BELIEVE I missed World Nutella Day 2009 back on February 5th. I found out about it on the 7th and hastily moved to correct this heinous oversight. Since my kids all lovvvvvve Nutella, I decided that I needed to make a Nutella Cake for the Big Boys' birthday. Scrounging around the internet I found one from Nigella Lawson's book: How to be a Domestic Goddess.

I actually had all the ingredients on hand. (No way. Way.) I had ground hazelnuts left over from the French Yule Log Cake we made for the December Daring Baker's Challenge and I had a fresh, unscathed jar of Nutella waiting in the wings.

This cake looked so amazing! Too bad it didn't taste amazing. I was so disappointed and the kids were too. They were so jazzed about a NUTELLA BIRTHDAY CAKE!!! (singing: Mom is great, made us Nutella cake!) They were dancing around for joy, but after we sliced into it, it tasted absolutely nothing like Nutella when all was said and done. It just tasted like a so-so chocolate cake, although the ganache was good. Even my DH said "This isn't your best." Now that's saying something.

To make up for the Nutella-less birthday cake, on their actual birthday I joined them at school for lunch....... with a full jar of Nutella and three spoons. Happy boys. Happy girl. Happy Birthday.

I'm including the cake recipe here for posterity. Maybe I did something wrong, so you may want to try, but personally I wouldn't waste the liquid gold Nutella again on this one. Chalk it up to a learning experience, but it all worked out in the end with a little ingenuity and a few spoons.

Stiff egg whites
*sniff*
Batter with egg whites folded in

In the pan - it was very thick batter - it did not pour. I had to spread it in and around.

Skinned, toasted hazelnuts

Le cake

Le cake avec ganache et hazelnuts

Nutella Cake
adapted from Nigella Lawson and her book: How to be a Domestic Goddess.

Cake:
6 large eggs, separated
pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 13-ounce container Nutellla
1 tablespoon Frangelico (hazelnut flavored liqueur) or rum
1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Ganache/topping:
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Frangelico or rum
4 ounces whole hazelnuts, toasted

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees; butter a 9-inch springform pan.
In a large bowl (preferably metal), whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff. In another bowl, cream the butter and Nutella, then add the Frangelico, egg yolks, and ground hazelnuts. Fold in melted chocolate.

Add a blob of beaten egg whites to the chocolate batter, and mix gently until well-combined. Fold in the remaining whites, one-third at a time, very gently but thoroughly. Pour into springform and bake for 40 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting tester, which should come out mostly clean; lightly pressing finger into top to check for a slight bouncing-back; and observing edges beginning to separate from pan. Let cool completely, in pan, on a rack.

Toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet, shaking them around frequently. Do it for about 5 minutes, or until they are lightly browned, then let cool completely. If hazelnuts came with skins on, put them in a towel after toasting and rub around; this will remove most of the skins.

Chop chocolate, and add to sauce pan with cream and Frangelico over medium-low heat. Once chocolate is melted and components are combined, whisk until mixture reaches desired thickness, then cool. Remove rim of cake pan and pour cooled ganache over, spreading lightly to create a smooth, shiny surface, and apply hazelnuts all over.


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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pantry Raid: Snack Time

Ok folks, another snackage that I came up with. The pictures aren't so hot, but you get the idea. The kids came home today from school: "We're hungggry and there's no snacks." Not proper English, but you get the point as did I. I've committed to paying off any new charges on the credit cards every month so that there aren't any carry over balances, which means no grocery shopping until the next statement cycle comes up. This translates into the Pantry Principle: I'm going to use up as much of the stuff in my pantry/fridge/freezer as I can before going shopping again. This is good, because some of this stuff hasn't seen the light of day since I bought it, or it's been lingering in limbo - half used/half eaten and just hanging out in the aforementioned locations.

Here's what I came up with today: using the tortilla concept that Chocolatechic came up with earlier in the school year, I broke out the tortillas that have taken up permanent residence in the fridge. Check! One package used up. Then I thought about Nutella. (I always think about Nutella, but today I decided to actually use it instead of eating it with a spoon on the sly.) What else do I have hanging around here? Nestle chocolate chips - monster Sam's club size bag - check. Cream cheese - check. And this other weird thing: about a third of a roll of sugar cookie dough. Don't ask where the other 2/3 went. So that was in the freezer (it's harder to eat when it's frozen) and I thought that it might be good chunked up and rolled into the tortilla. Check! Another thing used up. So, I stick the cookie dough in the microwave to defrost. Guess what happens to cookie dough when you forget to check on it? It melts and gets spreadable like peanut butter. Woo Hoo! A happy accident for once.

Use any combination of the following and spread on the tortillas and roll up:

Nutella
Chocolate chips
Melted sugar cookie dough
Cream cheese (they weren't really crazy about the one that had this in it, but your mileage may vary - YMMV)

Aside from the cream cheese ones (and the Messy One gladly ate those) they were a big hit all the way around and everyone loved them So, the kids are snacked, I didn't spend any money and my fridge and freezer are a little cleared out. It's a good day.

Melted sugar cookie dough is spreadable

The finished product.



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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chocolate Chip Crescent Roll Snackage

Easy peasy and big impact. They LOVE these and it takes about 15 minutes from the time you pop the can to pulling them out of the oven.

Chocolate Chip Crescent Roll Snackage
1 Can cresent rolls
chocolate chips

Unroll the cresent roll dough and place a small (or medium :D) amount of chocolate chips on the wide end.
Roll up the crescents like normal with the pointy end last
Bake according to package directions.

Serve and enjoy lavish praise.

I may stick mini marshmallows in with the chips next time.....






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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chocolate Bourbon (Batter Buzz) Cake


I don't like football, or most sports for that matter. The Superbowl is remotely passable if there's a party with friends and even at that, I only actually watch the screen when the commercials come on OR during halftime when the chances are significantly higher that someone will have wardrobe malfunction. (Last year however, the thought of a Tom Petty wardrobe malfunction kept me in the kitchen the entire time with my eyes averted. {{shuddder}}.

You'll remember from my Toffee Crunch (aka Ghetto Toffee) post that I like to bring food fabulousness with me wherever I go. What to bring, what to bring? I thought about making my famous marbled sour cream pound cake, but eh, I'm tired of that one, even if it does rock. Then across the RSS feed comes Chocolate Bourbon Cake from Elise at Simply Recipes. Hmmmmm. It's not the Derby, but I'll stretch those culinary sports alcohol bonds and go with it anyway.

Having said that, if you have a grownup affair to go to, you need to make this cake. I'm not a hard liquor fan at all (at all!), and never would I have thought it was possible to get a "batter buzz" from like, ah batter, but oh yes you can! I didn't even eat that much! This stuff packs a wallop.



Learn from Elise and her dad's experience and use the whole cup of whiskey. The bundt pan will be very full when you put it in the oven - place it on a cookie sheet just in case it decides to flee the bonds of bundtpan-dom. Mine started this abstract art type of thing when the sides cooked faster than the middle and started to flip over. Cool.



When the cake is done, leave it in the pan for the prescribed 15 minutes and then flip it out onto your serving dish. Sprinkle with a little more bourbon. At this point, I covered it and put it in the fridge. I made it on Saturday and was going to serve on Sunday. I've found that most of these bundt pan cakes are so much better the next day. The flavors have had time to meld and the cake is 10 times easier to slice. Dust with powdered sugar before slicing. Use a serrated knife and voila! It's cake.

I also whipped up (tee hee) some whipped cream and added a little confectioners sugar and about a tablespoon of the bourbon to create Bourbon Spiked Whipped Cream to serve on the side. Everyone went nuts over this one and the kiddos were sad that they couldn't have any, but hey, that's why I made the toffee. I think I even spotted one guy eating the whipped cream plain. Winner!

Chocolate Bourbon Cake Recipe
from Elise at Simply Recipes

Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting pan
5 ounces high quality, unsweetened dark chocolate
1/4 cup instant espresso (can use instant coffee)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup
bourbon whiskey (can use 1/2 cup), more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar), for sprinkling

Method
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a large
bundt pan (10 cup capacity), or two 8- or 9-inch loaf pans. Melt chocolate in a microwave oven or in a double boiler over simmering water. Let cool.
2. Put instant espresso and cocoa powder in a 2-cup (or larger) glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to come up to the 1 cup measuring line. Mix until powders dissolve. Stir in whiskey and salt; let cool.
3. Beat softened butter until fluffy (2-3 minutes on high). Add sugar and beat until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, baking soda and melted chocolate, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula.
4. With the mixer on low speed, beat in a third of the whiskey espresso cocoa mixture. When liquid is absorbed, beat in 1 cup flour. Repeat additions, ending with whiskey mixture. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes for Bundt pan (loaf pans will take less time, start checking them after 55 minutes).
5. Transfer cake to a rack. Unmold after 15 minutes and sprinkle warm cake with more whiskey (about 1 - 2 Tablespoons). Let cool. (I refrigerated mine at this point). Sprinkle powdered sugar through a mesh sieve over the cake before serving.



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Monday, February 9, 2009

10

Hey, you still asleep? You sleep alot. I don't want to miss ANYTHING.
Hey, wake up will ya? Guess what? We're gonna be best friends.

Yes, they were actually that small. 4lbs, 9oz and 5 lbs, 2 oz.
(but do the math - you're looking at 9 lbs, 11oz. of baby right there)
7 weeks early. They would have been HUGE full term. I might have literally popped.


The first 2 hatchlings (pictured here just shy of 10 years later),
along with the 3rd one.
(That story to follow in about 16 days. February is a busy month around here...)
Happy Birthday boys,
Love,
Mommy


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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chocolate Almond Saltine Toffee Crunch {swoon}

When I saw these on Baking And Boys! by Katrina I KNEW I had to make them, especially when they also popped up on Lisa's Jersey Girl Cooks blog on the very. same. day. It was totally in the stars and fate said that I would be making these at some point, soon. Edit: Props to Lisa over at The Cutting Edge of Ordinary too (I love all my Lisas ;D), plus Ghetto Toffee sounds wayyy more like it.
Superbowl Sunday party. DH's Office People. Must make and bring something fabulous, yet incredibly easy.
Enter Chocolate Almond Saltine Toffee Crunch. I had 2 women almost tackle me (pun intended) wanting the recipe. Good thing it's easy to remember. This stuff IS addicting and so simple to make. In fact, you probably have all the ingredients on hand in your pantry RIGHT NOW to whip up a batch of these. Be sure you have somewhere to take them as I promise you will eat them all in one sitting if not.
Chocolate Almond Saltine Toffee Crunch
1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers (or as many as it takes to completely cover your tray)
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional - a little goes a long way)
2 cups chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350º. Line jelly roll pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray. (If you use a silicone baking mat, use the foil underneath anyway - makes it easier to lift out.) Lay crackers out flat on foil.
Melt sugar and butter. Add almond extract and bring to boil, whisking until all are incorporated and mixture looks "foamy" (about 3 to 5 minutes). Pour over crackers and spread to coat. Bake 5 minutes in 350º oven or until bubbly.
Remove from oven. While hot, sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips, let soften and melt, then spread. It will take about 4 - 5 minutes for all the chocolate to melt enough to spread. Offset spatula works great here. Sprinkle with whatever toppings you like or leave plain - I used toasted almonds.
I put the tray into the freezer for a few minutes to flash freeze, removed it and popped the slab of toffee out of the pan and peeled off the mat and the foil. Lay it on a cutting board and using pizza cutter, cut into squares. Alternately, you can break it into pieces. Keep stored in the refrigerator (if they last that long).


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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Baker's Challenge for January 2009 - Fortune Cookies! (aka: Tuiles) with Bonus Video

The red cutout is by No Thank You Boy. It's the Chinese symbol for spring (or so he's told) and they did it in school.

This month's Daring Baker's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

The Challenge was not a recipe per se, but more of a technique used to make tuiles. "Traditionally, tuiles are thin, crisp almond cookies that are gently molded over a rolling pin or arched form while they are still warm. Once set, their shape resembles the curved French roofing tiles for which they're named."

Okaaaaaay. So, I went a-searching for what the heck to make since the butterfly example and the use of a template didn't really float my boat, when I realized... EGAD! These are fortune cookies! AND Chinese New Year was Monday, January 26! Happy Year of the Ox! (So tonight we're gonna party like it's 1999 4707).
You so know I would have inserted a link to an appropriate music video here, but His Royal Purple Badness has threatened to sue YouTube if they put any up, and goodness knows we don't want to get Himself's knickers in a twist, not that he probably wears any. But again, as usual, I digress.

Here's the "how-to" on the fortune cookies. Recipe and tweaks to follow.

Part I : Baking Prep

video

Part II : Cookie Formation

video

My modified fortune cookie/tuiles recipe is below or you can find the original one at Bake My Day here. Additional equipment needed to make fortune cookies: muffin tins, cotton gloves, coffee mug, spatula and fortunes printed on little paper slips. You can see how I used the equipment in the above video. For fortune cookies, the batter is best if it's a little runny, but I did chill it for about an hour (30 minutes is fine, I just got busy doing other stuff) to let the flour integrate and then pulled it out of the fridge and let it re-soften for about 30 minutes. You need the thin cotton gloves to safely handle the hot cookies without burning your fingers and the mufin tin is so that they hold their shape; they will unbend if you don't put them in there. Store in an air tight container.

Confucious say:
Try make cookies. Much fun and you can do with ease.
Man who run in front of car get tired.
Man who run behind car get exhausted.
Man with one chopstick go hungry.
Celebration of Lisa's 100th post with giveaway coming soon.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
(Confucious really say this last one)

yes, I did wrap the tripod (Joby's Gorillapod) around the cabinet frame to shoot the video :D

Thanks to Karen and Zorra for selecting this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge. You can find the complete recipe on their sites.

To see what all the other DBer’s did, you can find the blogroll here and if you’d like to join the monthly party, info about that can be found on that page as well.

Fortune Cookies
Following is a recipe adapted from a book called “The Chocolate Book”, written by female Dutch Master chef Angélique Schmeinck.

Preparation time: batter 10 minutes, waiting time: 60 minutes, baking time:10-12 minutes per batch. I made a double batch and got about 28 cookies.

Ingredients:
¼ cup softened butter (not melted but soft)
½ cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 dash of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
½ cup sifted all purpose flour
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet or use silicone baking mat or parchment paper

Unique Equipment:
muffin tin(s)
thin cotton gloves
spatula
coffee mug
fortunes printed on slips of paper
tablespoon measuring spoon

Using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed), mix/cream butter, sugar and vanilla and almond extract to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to an hour to allow the flour to incorporate. Take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a tablespoon measure, spoon out tablespoonfuls of the batter onto the baking sheet. I did 6 at a time. Swirl the batter into a fairly uniform circle about 3 ½ inches in diameter. Don’t worry if the batter seems a little see-through in places; it will even out in the oven. Bake for about 10 – 12 minutes, checking at the 9 or 10 minute mark. You want to see that the edges are turning golden brown.

Before you're ready to pull them out, have your cotton gloves, muffin tins, fortunes, mug and spatula at the ready. Pull the pan out of the oven. Working quickly, use the spatula to lift one of the circles off the sheet and lay it in your gloved hand. Take a slip of fortune paper and lay it on one half of the circle. Fold the cookie in half, gently holding the outside edges. Move to the coffee mug and bend it in half over the edge. Voila! Fortune cookie!

Place the newly bent cookie in the muffin tin so that it will hold its shape and not unbend. You may have to put some of the remaining cookies back into the over for a few minutes to re-soften so that they bend nicely.


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Monday, January 26, 2009

Shirley's Beef Stew


Not that Shirley, our friend Shirley who used to live down the street until we moved. We still go over there every Friday (we have Date Night with her) and sit and visit after the kids get home from school. No matter what she makes for dinner, the kids eat it. I've made stuff at home and smuggled it into her house and she's served it as if it was hers and they've licked the plates clean, whereas at MY house they would turn their noses up at it.

This is her recipe for beef stew. It's rather a loose recipe, and I've used my imagination along the way and adapted it for what I have on hand, so feel free to morph it yourself and judge quantities based on your family and number of servings.

Shirley's Beef Stew

1 lb. beef stew meat, cut into bite size cubes
flour for coating meat
vegetable oil for browning meat and sauteeing veggies
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
a couple of handfuls of peeled, baby carrots, cut in half
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
2 cans of diced tomatoes (14 oz)
4 cups beef broth / beef stock /or water with Better Than Bullion swished in it to make 4 cups
1 cup dry pasta, shape of your choice
parmesean and crusty bread for topping

Take the bite size cubes of meat and flour them all sides - I throw them in a plastic grocery bag (check for holes first!) along with a cup or so of flour, a teaspoon of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Leave some air in the bag and tightly twist the top to seal. Over the sink please, shake, shake, shake until all pieces are evenly coated. Add more flour if needed. Reserve some of the flour for thickening the stew if needed at the end.



Brown the meat all sides in a large dutch oven or pot, working in batches so that the pot doesn't cool off and so that any extra moisture doesn't steam the meat. Remove all meat from the pot and set aside.
Take your chopped veggies and garlic and saute them in a little vegetable oil until the onions are soft.

Pour in the beef stock and red wine, deglazing the pan if needed. Add the meat back to the pot, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, add the dry pasta to the pot and cook for time indicated on the package. Add more liquid if needed, or conversely use some of the reserved flour to thicken.

Serve with crusty bread and a dusting of parmesean cheese.

Mmmmmmm.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pizza... Thingies

Yesterday we were at a friend's house and she had Rachael Ray on. Rach (Raych?) was making these pizza thingies and I mentally noted them. Fast forward to tonight where SURPRISE! I have nothing planned for dinner for the kids. (MY dinner is a completely different post, let's say it shall be thusly called "Lettuce Topped With Precisely 2 Tablespoons of Fat Free Salad Dressing, Equaling 2 Points Total, Since the Prescribed Allotment of Points for the Day Has Already Been Consumed". Ah, well there goes that scintillating post.)
Messy One ate FIVE Thingies, No Thank You Boy ate FOUR (yahooo!) Thingies and the Little One ate TWO. DH gets the last one, unless Messy One gets there before bedtime. Without further ado, I present you with -

Pizza Thingies
Easy! Fast! Fun! Customizable! Winner Winner Winner!
Use one tube of Pillsbury (or whoever) croissants (I used the giant croissant 6 pack, but you could use biscuits just as well) and unroll all the sheets flat. Preheat the oven according to the package directions.
Take each of the 3 rectangles (equalling 2 croissants) and divide into quarters. Ditto for the other 2 sections.
Lightly spray a muffin/cupcake pan with cooking spray. Shape each of the dough pieces into a circle shape and press into the pan.
Bake the dough for the time shown on the package or until they become browned. My time was less. Remove from oven and using the back of a spoon (or Pampered Chef wooden dumbbell looking item) make a hollow in the dough, deflating it a little.
Brush the dough with olive oil and spoon a little spaghetti sauce into the well, exact amount to taste, but maybe a tablespoon or two. (This isn't an exact recipe ya know)

Fill up the wells with your choice of "toppings". We used various combinations of pineapple, pepperoni, ham (ala sliced up lunch meat), Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.


Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Pop out your mini Pizza Thingies with a spoon and serve.



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