Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Year of Daring Baker Challenges!

Perhaps I'm a complete dork, but sometimes marking special anniversaries make me a little loony. Okay, I am definitely a complete dork, but that may have more to do with telling every single family relative I've encountered over the holiday that my terrific husband bought me a Super Peel. It's a seriously cool thing.

So yes, anyway, I find anniversaries to be pretty cool. And this month will mark my one year anniversary of being a Daring Baker. My mom even made me this cute little cupcake pincushion. This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand

Yeah, I had no idea what that was either. I thought we did it last December. But apparently the French have two logs and this one is more of a frozen dessert. Actually this one was WAY more complicated than the first one. There were six elements to my "log": A coconut daquoise, a dark chocolate ganache, a dark chocolate mousse, a white chocolate coconut crisp layer (that there was a teensy error in the recipe resulting in what is best described as white chocolate and coconut coated Special K), a vanilla creme brulee, and a dark chocolate glaze. Make sure you check out the rest of the Daring Bakers to see what flavors they came up with. Everything went really well except that I'm a rebel and just made the whole thing in a 9 inch springform pan. The glaze then didn't really cover the whole cake.

And I have to say, we taste tested today after spending the day celebrating Christmas with my dad and stepmom. So there we were. My sister M., Super G and the Tummy, me and the Brain, my mom and my stepdad. And really by this point in the holiday celebrations (I've already had 3 separate, but equal, Christmases) none of us really wanted to eat yet another sweet thing. So we were kind of dreading the cake. But it was REALLY REALLY tasty! I did leave it up at my mom's, but all of us tasted it and not one of us had anything negative to say about it. It was rich and chocolaty and the coconut was subtle. I will definitely make this one again. But probably not after a week of feasting on approximately 9 million Christmas cookies.

I'm not emotionally stable enough to get on the scale after the past week and a half.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

If I manage to accomplish the Daring Baker Challenge for December, I'll post it, but otherwise I think I need a little break from things. It's just gotten to be too much for me right this minute. So I wish you all a very merry holiday season and the happiest of new years. Please don't forget about me and check back in January.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Celebration Cookies for OBG!

I am terribly behind. I'd like to say it's not entirely my fault. But really I'm behind because I have been poor at time management. See, I put off baking the Christmas cookies until I finished with school (last Thursday). But the teacher who I'm long term subbing for just had her baby on Tuesday so my Christmas cookies had to be baked around teaching math to about 60 or so 7th graders.

So while I've been off enjoying myself with 7th graders, I've had this package sitting here to send off to Kevin for Operation Baking Gals. My team this month is hosted by my bloggerganger the every so lovely Calamity Shazaam in the Kitchen. She's awesome. I have filled his package with Celebration Cookies from my mother-in-law's excellent recipe, candy canes, red and green m&m's, and a loaf of home-made stollen. I'll post on the stollen later, because you really want my mother-in-law's cookie recipe. Trust me on this one, it's like a peanut butter cookie wrapped around a Snickers bar. It's at the bottom of the post. But, before you go look at the recipe, let me show you my week in the kitchen in random photos.

Thank God I'm done baking the cookies because I'm so sick of eating cookies right now. Who knew that could happen? I'm also sick of having spaghetti for dinner. But don't you love my 6 tiers of stackable cooling racks? They would make an excellent Christmas present for a cookie baker on your list. Another very nice Christmas present is my lovely salt box that I purchased here. If you live in Minneapolis you might be able to get one by Christmas. Sorry, I meant to post about it MUCH sooner. The box was made by the lovely Marti the Potter who blogs over here.
Megan pointed me in the direction of my happy smiley faced spoons that I got at TJ Maxx for about $3 each. They would make an excellent stocking stuffer if you can find them at TJ Maxx, or a present for yourself because you can order them here and yeah, probably not in time for Christmas.

So I apologize for posting on these so late, but I really wanted to show them to you. Because I love them. Both the box and the spoons make me smile every time I see them. Well, the spoons make me smile because they're so silly, and the box makes me feel like I'm some jazzy classy chef type person as I grab a large pinch of salt to stir into my spaghetti water. I really need to start cooking again...

Celebration Cookies
from Peggy my mother-in-law
2 sticks butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
3 1/2 cups flour
2 bags mini Snickers bars
Cream butter and sugars, add peanut butter, eggs, vanilla, soda and flour. Mix together well. Chill 2 hours. Roll into balls a little bigger than a walnut. Make an indentation in the center the size of the candy, place the candy in the indent and wrap the dough completely around the candy bar. Bake 350 degrees 10-12 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on the cookie sheet and transfer to a cooling rack. Yield: about 4 dozen.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chocolate Mint Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting

Um. I appear to have lost a week. Sorry about that. See, I had finals week. And I had a last minute meeting with the very pregnant teacher I'll be subbing for in January (unless baby comes sooner and I have to sub before Christmas break). And I met with my hairdresser and I'm not blond anymore. And there's some other stuff going on.

So, for the last day of class, my Effective Instruction class decided to mutiny and have a party instead. I brought cupcakes. I can pretty much be counted on to bring cupcakes.

When I was growing up, my dad always had the same birthday cake. It was a chocolate cake. And my mom would get one of those great big peppermint sticks and beat the living daylights out of it. She then would mix the crushed peppermint into the fudgey chocolate frosting in the middle layer and then frost the whole cake with just the chocolate frosting. I was thinking about that cake and decided to see if it would translate into cupcakes. Of course, then I got sidetracked (probably obsessing about my 8 page research paper analyzing my own adolescence for my psych class) and added mint extract. Shoot.

Being that I happen to love marshmallow frosting, I figured I'd try that on top and I already had the smashed up peppermints so I sprinkled them on too. All the while hollering Christmas carols at the top of my lungs.

Chocolate Mint Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting
an original Shazamer recipe.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp mint extract
2 large eggs
1 cup milk

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the mint extract and then eggs one at a time, making sure each is incorporated.
Alternate adding the flour and the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Beat for 30 seconds.
Fill 18 paper lined muffin cups and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F. for 11 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool completely.

Marshmallow Frosting:
1 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff
6 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk
pinch of salt

Cream together all ingredients.

To assemble:
8 crushed peppermints

Spread each cupcake with frosting and sprinkle with crushed peppermints.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lamb Stew with Spinach and Garbanzo Beans

There's a nasty cold/flu that's going around. It flattened me for the weekend. It flattened the Brain for most of last week. That's one of the things about being married. We usually make each other sick. HAHAHAHAHA! (sorry, I couldn't resist.) But really, it happens with roommates or brothers and sisters. It's the nature of the beast. The nice thing is we have someone to take care of us once they've passed the bug on. For example, the Brain was right there with the Sprite and the cold medicine. He turned up the heat and gave me extra blankets. He was very nice.

When the Brain was sick, I made him this Lamb Stew. It's nice and hearty and full of healthy vegetables. The lamb gets so tender in the tomatoes that it almost falls apart. I suppose if you didn't buy an entire lamb at a county fair or lamb is hard to find, you could probably substitute some pork or beef, but I think the lamb adds a nice quality. This is a nice stick to your ribs kind of stew and it's really pretty easy to throw together.

Lamb Stew with Spinach and Garbanzo Beans
inspired by Bon Appetit

1 pound lamb stew meat
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup tomato sauce (one small can)
1 can petite diced tomatoes with juice
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach thawed and drained

Sprinkle lamb with salt, and pepper. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add lamb and saute until brown, about 10 minutes. Add onion and carrots and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and saute 1 minute more. Add garbanzo beans, broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer gently until lamb is tender, about 1 hour.

Add spinach to stew. Bring back to a boil and cook for 5 minutes or until spinach is warmed through.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Vermont Baked Beans

Sometimes I feel like living in rural Ohio is similar to living in a Laura Ingles Wilder book. It's not quite the prairie, but it's certainly flat. Really. And as I drive back and forth to school I travel between huge fields of farmland. I see cows and sheep and deer and corn and wheat and soybeans. And there is a huge dead zone of probably 25 miles that I have no cellphone coverage. So when I travel the 30 miles back and forth through sleet and snow and rain, I become a very careful driver. And there has been a lot of sleet and snow and rain going on here.

This cold and dreary weather combined with Legume Wednesday, makes it the perfect time for baked beans. With salt pork. Yeah, salt pork is available in rural Ohio. Salt pork is actually a deliciously chewy addition to baked beans. The maple syrup is a nice tasty addition to the beans too. And the house felt all cozy and smelled so great as these beans cooked all morning. They really made such a cold and dreary snow soaked day much much better. And the urge to put twin braids in my hair passed nicely.
Vermont Baked Beans
from Cooking Light

1 pound dried navy beans (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup diced salt pork (about 4 ounces)
5 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup maple syrup, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)

1. Sort and wash beans; place in a large bowl. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; cover and let stand 8 hours or overnight. Drain beans.
2. Preheat oven to 325°.
3. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and pork to pan; saute 5 minutes. Add beans, 5 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup syrup, mustard, salt, and pepper sauce; bring to a boil. Cover and bake at 325° for 2 1/2 hours or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup syrup.