Saturday, November 29, 2008

Yeah for Caramel! DB: November

When I started this blog, I was so excited because I could finally join the Daring Bakers! The essence of this group is facing your fears in the kitchen. For me, it was a definitely facing my fear of making caramel. I adore the flavors, but I am always afraid of burning sugar.

This month's Challenge is a recipe from Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater and her Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting courtesy as published on Bay Area Bites. The hosts for the month of November are Dolores and helping her out are Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo), Jenny of Foray into Food . And since none of us know jack about alternative baking, we’ve once again turned to Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go to assist us.

I was a little nervous making the caramel syrup. Here it is at the start.

And here it was right before I added the water. When you add the water, definitely stand back. I always have my sous chef with me, but this was not the time for her to be in the kitchen. If you have kids that help you, please have them take a break while you wisk.

The cake recipe was simple and was delicious. Instead of using a 9 inch round pan, I baked mine in 4 heart shaped ceramic dishes. The frosting used browned butter, something I have never tried but will definitely try again. A lot of times I find frosting too sweet. So for the frosting listed in this recipe I used about 3/4 pound of powdered sugar instead of a full pound. Definitely add salt, I used sea salt and I will add more next time.

I also wish I had left the caramel syrup cooking until it was darker. I was nervous making it for the first time and didn't want the mixture to burn. I do wish that the recipe said exactly what the reading on a candy thermometer should read, or even how long it should be on the stove. However, that is definitely what these challenges are all about!
It will just be an excuse to make it again!

As an added option I could have made Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111. Time ran out on me...but I'll definitely be trying these soon. I'll post when I do!
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Iron Cupcake Voting is OPEN!

ICE: Cranberry voting is now open! Read through the submissions and then post your vote in the poll. Voting closes at 12 noon, central, on Friday, December 5th.
Please go vote!! Tell your friends!

I would, of course, love it if you voted for little me, Calm In The Kitchen. But, of course, if you see one that you think is fabulous by all means vote for them! This is such a fun competition. You can bet that I'll keep trying until I win!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

BB: Mexican Chicken Soup

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Today is Thursday and as it happens, it is Barefoot Blogger day! This week's recipe comes from Judy from Judy’s Gross Eats
who chose Mexican Chicken Soup
which can be found in Barefoot Contessa at Home.

I have had this cookbook for some time and have always wanted to try this recipe. I halved the recipe and also used rotisserie chicken (one of my kitchen staples) instead of roasting chicken breasts. I also used diced tomatoes instead of the crushed whole tomatoes. The recipe calls for coriander, which I did not use.

If I make this again, I will use the corn tortillas. I had flour tortillas in the fridge. When I put them into the soup they turned more into noodles than anything. However, the soup was still delicious!
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Monday, November 24, 2008

Random Bits!

This is a fairly new blog, and I am still getting used to how long it takes me to get everything done. The cooking and developing of the recipe is the easy part! I would definitely post more often, but it just takes me forever to type, edit, post pics...I seriously don't know how people do it.

When I started, I selected a design from cutest blog on the block because I liked the black and white design. However, the green layer is kind of bothering me. I think the entries are kind of hard to read. I am still figuring out how to streamline everything, but hopefully over this week I can do a little at a time and hopefully make my blog easier to read.

Even though I am new to the blogosphere, someone is reading. I got an awesome compliment from NCFoodie who tagged me. She is a professor and writer who still finds time to tempt my tastebuds with her blog. It totally made my day. Little old me got tagged! Tagging is what you think it is. I post random facts about myself, tag others, and hope that they continue the randomness. There are a few golden rules of tagging:
  1. Link to the person who tagged you
  2. Post the rules on the blog posted
  3. Write six random things about yourself
  4. Tag six people at the end of your post
  5. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog
  6. Let the tagger know when your entry is published

So here are some random facts about Calm In The Kitchen:

  1. I have no lumbar curve in my spine.
  2. I have lost a little over 15 pounds since the beginning of September.
  3. I think Neil Diamond rocks.
  4. I'll never turn down a good glass of red wine.
  5. I've had a kitchen torch and a fondue pot for almost 5 years and I have never used them.
  6. I'm usually asleep by 10 p.m.

And now to tag some of my favorite foodies!

Snippets and Bites. Sharon is a fun read. I love how she catalogs her day of food.

Food Network Musings. What a great idea! Sue writes about not just the Food Network, but offers great tips. She also loves Ina as much as I do!

Creative Confectionery is just that. Jennifer's sweets make my mouth water. She just won The Best Pie Bakeoff at Congratulations Jennifer!

Dozen Flours. I just discovered Julia's blog and am in awe of her creativity. Check her out!

IYcuppycakes! is an awesome site for any cupcake lover. Check out her caramel apple cupcakes that she won Art You Eat: Autumn cool. Her recipes are great and she takes tons of pictures, making it easy to follow. She also has a great foodie site too!

Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice. Reeni offers great recipes, and has a kitchen cat....awesome. Check out her recipe for Spaghetti ala Carbonara...yum.

Chipotle Chicken & Corn Chowder

I am not a big spicy food fan, but there is something about the smokiness of chipotle peppers that I like. Having a can of chipotles in adobo is definitely one of my pantry staples. They save forever in the fridge, but they never last long in our house.

This chowder came from a desire to use chipotles, and to use up some rotisserie chicken in the's super simple and feeds a crowd! With Thanksgiving leftovers looming, this would be a perfect use for the turkey and potatoes sitting around.

Chipotle Chicken & Corn Chowder
  • 1 can chipotles in adobo
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 large chicken breast halves, about 1 1/2 pounds, cooked, and shredded
  • 2 cups potatoes, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 16 oz frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  1. Take one chipotle chili and 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from the can. Reserve the remaining sauce and chilies. Finely chop the chili.
  2. Place about a tsp of olive oil in the bottom of a dutch oven over medium heat.
  3. Put the first 8 ingredients (through garlic) and saute until the onion is tender, about 6 minutes.
  4. Take this mixture and puree in a food processor or blender in batches. Put back into dutch oven and add chicken broth.
  5. Stir in potatoes and frozen corn, allow to come to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are just cooked
    Stir in shredded chicken and cream, cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and add tomatoes and reserved adobo sauce. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Serve with cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

I present, Iron Cupcake: Cranberry

I am so excited, I finished my first Iron Cupcake: Earth Challenge! This month's secret ingredient is cranberry, one of my fall favorites!

My creation: Cranberry Orange Cupcakes with Candied Cranberry Buttercream

Are there prizes? You bet! Prizes this month are provided by:

A one of a kind pin doll from the LOLLIPOP WORKSHOP
An illustrated book by COOKIE SUNSHINE
A pair of cupcake earrings from LOTS OF SPRINKLES
Also, IronCupcake:Earth is excited to welcome back CAKESPY, who is now going to be doing a piece for our winner each month until further notice!
As an added bonus for November only we have a delicious apron compliments of SWEET CUPPIN CAKES BAKERY AND CUPCAKERY SUPPLY.

Corporate prize providers:
HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson
Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers

If you want to be a part of Iron Cupcake:Earth, visit IRON CUPCAKE!

Voting begins Sunday, November 30th and ends Friday, December 5th at noon at NO ONE PUTS CUPAKE IN A CORNER

Okay, now that I have you all excited about Iron Cupcake, check out my cupcake submission.

First, I had to make cranberry sauce.
6 oz fresh cranberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

Bring water and sugar to a boil, add the cranberries.
Lower heat and let bubble for 10 minutes.
This should give you a yield of about 1 1/4 cups cranberry sauce.
Set aside to cool.

The Cupcake
makes 24 cupcakes
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup white sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1/2 tsp orange extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups cranberry sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer.
While that's going, wisk the flour, bp, salt, and pie spice in a seperate bowl.
Add the eggs, one at a time to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until well incorporated.
With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture until just mixed.
Mix in the cranberry sauce by hand.
Fill cupcake pans about 3/4 way full (about 2 tbsp).

Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

Candied Cranberry Buttercream

Candied Cranberries
6 oz cranberries
1 cup sugar
Put the cranberries in a buttered dish, and cover with sugar.
Place in a 350 degree oven and let cook for 1 hour.

For the Buttercream:
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 lbs powdered sugar
2 tbsp meringue powder
1/2 cup milk

Mix all ingredients together and add the candied cranberries.
Top the cooled cupcakes and enjoy!!

Phew, I'm about you?

Ultimate Mac & Cheese or Everything Tastes Better With A Bacon Topping

Okay, I know, it's a long title. But isn't it true?
Last night I made Tyler Florence's Ultimate Mac & Cheese. The recipe itself is nothing special, but it is the inclusion of bacon that makes it the "Ultimate". Good thing I went to the gym today!
The bacon and onion topping:
I followed the recipe online, except I used 4 cups sharp cheddar & 1 1/2 cups fontina. I also used skim milk, not for any reason except that is what we have in the house. In my haste to finish so that my sous chef could mix, I pour the entire amount of cheese into the milk mixture....oops! My husband helped out and grated parmesan cheese to put on top. It made the most perfect crust!
The recipe calls for pouring it into a 3 quart baking dish. I don't remember what or how I made it before, but this is a 2 1/2 quart dish. I put a baking sheet underneath it, just in case.
Here it is after taking it out of the oven and putting the bacon/onion mixture on top.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

BB: Chive Risotto Cakes

Today was another Barefoot Blogger day! This recipe was a bonus recipe chosen by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen for referring the most people to the BB site. Congratulations, Deb!

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, page 174-175; Serves 6
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice

½ cup Greek yogurt

2 extra-large eggs

3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

1 ½ cup cups grated Italian Fontina cheese (5 ounces)

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¾ cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)

Good olive oil

Bring a large (4 quart) pot of water to a boil and add ½ tablespoon salt and the Arborio rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The grains of rice will be quite soft. Drain the rice in a sieve and run under cold water until cool. Drain well.
Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, chives, Fontina, 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, and the pepper in a medium bowl. Add the cooled rice and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, until firm.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
Spread the panko in a shallow dish. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Form balls of the rice mixture using a standard (2 1/4 –inch) ice cream scoop or a large spoon. Pat the balls into patties 3 inches in diameter and ¾ inch thick. Place 4-6 patties in the panko, turning once to coat. Place the patties in the hot oil and cook, turning once, for about 3 minutes on each side until the risotto cakes are crisp and nicely browned. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Continue cooking in batches, adding oil as necessary, until all the cakes are fried. Serve hot.

I thought the recipe was easy enough, but you definitely need to have at least 2 hours in the fridge. They are a little hard to keep together, but I did make a few adjustments. I used regular plain yogurt that I drained through a sieve to get a more greek yogurt-like consistency. I couldn't find it at my local store -- kind of a bummer. I used dried shallots instead of chives because I forgot to buy them at the grocery store and wasn't about to schlep my two little ones out in the cold. However, with those adjustments, I still thought they were fantastic.

An observation on this recipe: mine were a little bigger than Ina's. It says that it serves 6, but it doesn't say how many you should make. She says to use a standard ice cream scoop or large spoon. I used the latter. While she does say how big they should be, once you have the mixture in your hands, the last thing you want to do is to take stuff away from an already delicate mixture to make it the size recommended, in my opinion. I also had my lovely sous chef helping me. If you have ever made anything with a preschooler, you'll understand when I say that once you start, you really can't stop. It would have been easier to know from the get-go how many patties the recipe yields.

That being said, they were delicious, and my husband has requested that they go into the rotation. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Ina has never done me wrong!

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Great giveaway

Okay, I know this is a cooking blog. But, I just had to post about this cool giveaway from the Warm Biscuit Bedding Company. The site is just great, with cool retro fabrics and fun gifts. They do giveaways each Monday, and today is an awesome one that I would love to have.

I haven't blogged too much about her, but nothing would be possible in the kitchen without the assistance of my sous chef, seen here taking the pits out of kalamata olives for me. The cookbook and cooking set would be such a welcome addition to our kitchen!

Wish me luck...and enter yourself! Even if you don't have kids, I know of a 3-year old who would love this (hint, hint).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Herb Roasted Onions

First you may be wondering, what the heck is a Barefoot Blogger? It is a great group online that tests out Ina's recipes twice a month. You can imagine my excitement to find such a group!

I was supposed to have this up last Thursday, so I have failed in my first post. But, as long as I get it up by the end of the month I am good, so here goes!
Herb Roasted Onions
This week's recipe was chosen by Kelly
Funny thing, the recipe in the book is for more servings, and I didn't even look online which sets it to serve 3. I just halved the cookbook recipe.
I like onions okay, but I am not a huge fan. I had reservations, but seeing the excitement on my three year old's face over peeling onions made making them worth it.

The recipe is simple enough and really is just the same as if you were roasting anything else. It has a simple viniagrette

The recipe calls for fresh thyme, but I was out. I just used dried.

Before roasting

After roasting

I served them with a simple grilled steak. I was not a huge fan. They were good enough, but just having them on the side wasn't that exciting. I felt like it needed something. Maybe mixing Maybe mixing them with sausage would be good...I'll try that next time.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pumpkin Cranberry Cupcakes

It's been a crazy week and I have about 10 things that I need to post. So, to get started, I thought I would share this cupcake!

I was actually working on a recipe for this month's Iron Cupcake challenge. But, this wasn't quite cranberry-y enough. However, it was darn good!

Pumpkin Cranberry Cupcakes
this recipe makes 32 cupcakes
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup dried sweetened cranberries

I don't know if anyone really needs to know how to put this together. I can add that if someone needs it. But basically it is the same method that I always use. Mix everything together, add the flour 1/2 cups and a time, then stir in the cranberries.

Scoop into cupcake tins lined with papers and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes!

I started out making 24 cupcakes, then had enough batter left over to make mini cupcakes for my daughter's class the next day. So, the amounts are a little bit of an estimate.

To top, I made a maple cream cheese frosting.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 cups powdered sugar
Mix together and top cooled cupcakes.


Monday, November 10, 2008

white chocolate cranberry cookies

I made these cookies for my a care package for my sister's 22nd birthday. I wanted to wait until she actually got and ate them before I sent the recipe on to the bloggerworld.
So far I haven't heard any complaints!
White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
this recipe makes 32 cookies
2/3 stick butter (11 tbsp), room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups dried sweetened cranberries
3 oz white chocolate, chopped
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time until incorporated.
Add the vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Add the oats.
Mix in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time until just mixed.
Remove from mixer and add the cranberries and white chocolate.
Scoop onto baking sheets and bake!
My scoop is about 2 tablespoons.
375 degrees 10-12 minutes
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Thursday, November 6, 2008

chicken and blue cheese panini with carmelized onion jam

Whew! That's a long title! Ah well, I guess I am channeling my inner Giada. Have you ever noticed that the names of her recipes are titled with everything that's in the recipe? Okay, moving on...

It was sandwich night yesterday and I had some extra blue cheese that I wanted to use up so that basically inspired this recipe. First, I made a carmelized onion jam:

Onion Jam

this makes enough to top 4 sandwiches
One large yellow onion
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

Cut onion into half moon slices. Place over medium heat, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for 20 minutes or until carmelized. Add next three ingredients and set over low heat for another 20 minutes or so...until the vinegar is basically absorbed.

Grill two chicken breast halves. Set aside to cool and cut in half lengthwise. Meanwhile set out about 4 oz of blue cheese to soften.

I would use a thicker bread, but all I had was bread for my three year old's sandwiches. I also used my George Foreman Grill.

I assembled the sandwiches with the blue cheese, top with a piece of chicken and then with the onion jam. Then I just put them inside the grill and that was that!

They were delicious and opened up a whole new area of sandwiches. Next time I'm trying goat cheese instead of blue, balsamic instead of rice wine vinegar, and sun-dried tomatoes (my other love) instead of dried cranberries. Or, maybe golden raisins and fontina. Oh, the possibilities!

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

It is a classic battle. Some like them chewy, some like them crispy, but no matter how they are preferred they are always a great comfort when well made. I'm talking about chocolate chip cookies. I wanted to bake something and this is the fastest recipe that I could pull out of my head to both distract my three-year old's need to play with some new paints that she just received and to satisfy my need for something sweet that wasn't leftover Halloween candy!

This actually came from my mother-in-law who sent home cookies one day after a visit. I have always made the cookies from my trusted Once Upon A Tart cookbook. She too used that same recipe, but tweaked it just a bit so that she could make a smaller batch. A little less butter, a little less flour...and BAM, you can halve the recipe in no time flat!

And now, when I want some quick comfort of cookies that are ready in no time, I make these. Okay, on to the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookies
(this recipe makes 20 cookies, but you can always double it!)
  • 1 stick of butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp salt (I use kosher, cuz I like the texture in cookies)
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • scant 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Whip the butter and sugar together until creamy, add the egg and vanilla.
Add the salt and bs, then the flour 1/2 cup at a time mixing only until blended.
Stir in the chocolate chips. Scoop onto cookie sheets.
I use a cookie scoop, I think it is 2 tablespoons.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.


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Monday, November 3, 2008

steak with arugula and balsalmic glaze

There is no question, I love steak. I can't help it. Blame it on my midwest upbringing. I love steak and definitely the potatoes that go with it. However, today is Monday and steak and potatoes would be a little much. Since Monday is "bistro night" at our house, we did the regular rotation of this recipe.

I follow the recipe pretty much exactly, although I will admit that I have made it so often that I don't really know if my measurements are what the recipe says. The next time I make it I am going to add goat cheese right when the steak is done cooking instead of the butter mixture.

It is super-simple and FAST....and on a Monday that is probably the best recipe of all.

I promise to make something sweet tomorrow. Waiting for the election results will most definitely bring out the baker in me!
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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Cranberry Chicken

I love this time of year. Not just the usual things; color on the leaves, the weather, the first smell of a wood burning fireplace, but the FOOD! One of my favorite ingredients is cranberries. I am so excited because my first entry in Iron Cupcake: Earth is with the secret ingredient that I love. But, until I submit my entry, I thought I would use cranberries in dinner!

I own a crockpot, but don't use it as often as I should. I came across this recipe and decided to try it out. It was delicious!!

Cranberry Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 can whole cranberry sauce
2/3 cup chili sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 package dry onion soup mix
Place chicken in Crock-Pot. Combine remaining ingredients and add to Crock-Pot, coating chicken well. Cover and cook on low 6 hours.

Serve on top of egg noodles.

When I took the chicken out of the crock pot, it easily shredded up. That made me think of trying this again with a pork roast, and shredding that on top of the noodles. I should have chopped up some parsley to give it a little color, but it is definitely something that we are putting in the rotation!

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