Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jack Bauer is my Hero (Chocolate Chip Banana Bread)

What is better on Christmas Break then staying up late with a book and sleeping in? Baking of course. I was planning on doing it last night, but I ended up doing it this afternoon instead. Mostly because I was feeling lazy and I wasn't in a baking mood. I guess I have to be in the right mood to bake or else my treats don't turn out well. What did I make today? Two things, but I'll split them up. First, I made chocolate chip banana bread. A few weeks ago Alex bought bananas and never ate them. I snagged them before they went bad and stuck them in the freezer for later use. I had planned on a bread with them. I have been using my new mini blender for smoothies in the morning, but something is off with my day when I don't have to have something starchy or bready in the morning. So here it is, delicious banana bread. The original recipe is from I didn't want to make two loaves, so I halved everything and used a different sized pan. Also note that the original recipe says "nuts" in the title, but never mentions them in the ingredients...curiouser curiouser.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
2 mashed bananas
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, mashed bananas and vanilla. Add in dry ingredients. Add chocolate chips and stir until just blended. Pour into a greased, floured bread pan. (They say use 7 1/2"x 3 1/2", but mine was bigger) Bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees. Check after 50 minutes of baking time.

Look at the pretty pattern on my great grandma's apron. It's my favorite apron to bake in. :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winter Cleaning

Final reviews hit. Seriously. Hit hard. Not only did I have exams and a paper due, but my final design studio project was due. All at once! Therefore, no time to cook. I was really sick of eating the turkey casserole and baked spaghetti I had made when I had time with the intention of freezing it for when I didn't have time to cook. Regardless, it was a great day when I got home and threw the rest of it out.

I scheduled myself to work until 1 am and then be back in studio by 9 am. I did pretty well. My mom and dad came to the review and I'm pretty sure they enjoyed it. At least they can see what it is I spend all my time doing while I say I'm in studio.

When I finished up on the 21st, I came home with the intention of cleaning my house and stopping at the store for baking supplies. Turns out I was more exhausted then I though. I fell asleep at 10ish, but not before seeing Alex do dishes AND clean the livingroom.

I finally got to my baking on Tuesday night. It was a mess. The Merry & Bright Button Cookies I got from Tongue-N-Cheeky were super hard. Not in the sense of difficulty, though they were a pain in the bum, but literally hard. The dough was like little tiny balls and I had to squish them together. That meant, when they baked, they turned out hallow on the inside. Cool, but not helpful. I ate one almost straight from the oven and it was eh. Too buttery for my taste. (Insert Alex laughing at me because something is TOO buttery. I love butter) Anyways, Alex got home and poked at one, took a bite, and put it back down. He will pretty much eat anything, so when he didn't finish it, I took it as a sign they were pretty bad. I threw them away. Next up was the pretzel jello. In return for my birthday cupcakes, I told Terry I'd make him pretzel jello. For any disbelievers out there, it's delicious. I did everything by the recipe, but I still managed to mess it up. I guess I didn't spread the middle white stuff all the way to the edge and there was no seal, so the jello seeped down into the pretzels. AND the jello never set because I didn't cut back on the water when I added the raspberries. It was a mess, but Terry and Joe both enjoyed it when I stopped by Metro Group the next day.

Wednesday I whipped together a batch of shortbread cookies and they turned out! I did a glaze with some food coloring to get into the holiday spirit and created red and toxic green frosting.

Thankfully, I wasn't really allowed to do anymore cooking over break except for dessert on Christmas Day. Arvilla (my 99 year old Grandma) is finally feeling her age, so I was given the task of dessert. I decided on Apple & Ricotta Tartlets from Confessions of a Tart and they turned out pretty well. The custard in the middle didn't puff up like the pictures on the blog, but I think it was because I made them and then took them to Aunt Sue and Uncle Frank's to bake them after dinner. Next time I'll do them fresh and maybe add some raspberry or chocolate in there. Delicious.

I still haven't gotten the pictures from my dad's camera, so I can't update any of my old entries, but I promise I will soon.

Today I spent cleaning and organizing my life/room/desk/shelves and tomorrow I'm attacking the kitchen. First to do sugar cookies for Manuel and Sam and then to actually clean the kitchen.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me! (Belated Cupcakes)

I'm going to warn you now, there isn't a recipe attached to this post. Just some pictures of yummy cupcakes.

I used to work at an architecture firm with a guy named Terry...he grew up on a farm. We got along really well and have stayed in touch since I left to go on to bigger and better places last winter. This means that they didn't have anything for me to do so I was out of a job. Anyways, Terry likes to fish. There are lots of stories about Terry fishing, but none of them are as important as some of the most recent. Lately, Terry has been having problems fishing. He doesn't catch anything. He blamed it on the fact that I was bad voodooing him into no fish. This being because he hadn't gotten me my birthday cupcake. About a month before my birthday he had seen an article about a giant cupcake in the newspaper. He sent me an email about it with "hint hint" on the bottom. I sent one back, "My birthday is on the 15th." And that is how, on Monday night, I ended up with these two boxes on my kitchen table.

What was in those boxes? Cupcakes! Two of them. One in each box. A chocolate one with chocolate frosting and a vanilla one with white frosting.

I'm almost done eating them. I still have half of a chocolate one on my desk in studio. I'll save it for a rainy day. I told Terry how delicious they were and he said I get another one next time he's off fishing in Grand Rapids. How exciting!

I took a lot of pictures of food during Thanksgiving, but most of them are on my dad's camera. I won't have access to it until Christmas so hang in there and there will be more pictures coming.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Schools. Out. For...Thanksgiving (Sugar Cookies)

Finally, finally, finally, a break. Classes finished up for me yesterday and what did I do when I got home? I started baking.

My friend Amanda. was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma about a month and a half ago. I've known her since my freshmen year here and she's dating my old roommate, Eric. She even lived with us last summer. When we all found out about her diagnoses, we jumped into action and came up with a schedule for sending her goodies around her chemo days. So, every three weeks one of us sends her something. Adrienne went all out the first time and sent magazines, a fleece blanket, some candy and a nerf gun. Christine was last time, and now it's my turn. Last night I spent pretty much the entire night making sugar cookies. They're pretty bland so I frosted them and hopefully none of these will make her sick.

I used to mix cookies with a hand mixer. Unfortunately, it's a pain in the bum. When Molly moved out last summer (and took all of her nifty cooking things with her) I had to figure out what to do. I did buy a hand mixer, but before I did that, I used my food processor for mixing up cookies. I don't know how I lived before that. It's as easy as throwing everything into the bowl and hitting go until it looks like dough. SUPER SIMPLE! In 5 minutes I had cookie dough and about an hour and a half later I was rolling them out. I got to do some cleaning in between.

Once the dough was chilled, I rolled the cookie out on the tiny table in my kitchen. My favorite cookie size is shot glass sized. I made sugar cookies last summer and was without a cookie cutter. Inspiration struck as I was going through the cupboards and I stumbled upon our collection of shotglasses. The little tiny cookies bake super quickly and are the perfect snacking size. The first time I made them I spooned some lemon glazing on them. My friend Chris who was over that night demolished about a quarter of the cookies. Last night I frosted them with regular vanilla frosting from a jar. I put a big dollop in a small pan and put it on the burner on really low heat. I added a few drops of food coloring and waited until it got liquidy. Then, you can take your cookies and dip them in the frosting. You'll get a super flat frosting that is easy to decorate. Once the baking was done (and Alex had gotten some of the mountain of dishes done) I got to decorate. I happened to look at the clock and it was already about 10. Eek! Where did all the time go? I had saved some of the white frosting and put it in a snack back, then clipped off the tip so I could pipe things on it. There are a lot of smiley faces, a few block M's, Amanda's name spelled out, flowers, shapes, etc. Good times. I promised Alex a cookie when he got home from dinner with his girlfriend so I made a Japanese emoticon on his cookie and it was devoured pretty quickly. Unfortunately, Jess can't have anything with milk or milk products in it so no cookies for her. Now all that is left to do is box them up and send them off to Grand Rapids.

Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder

Combine 1 cup butter, sugar and egg in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Reduce speed to low; add all remaining cookie ingredients. Beat until well mixed. Divide dough into thirds; wrap in plastic food wrap. Refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours).

Heat oven to 400°F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface, one-third at a time (keeping remaining dough refrigerated), to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with 2-inch cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.Bake for 6 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute before removing from cookie sheets. Cool completely.

If you don't want to frost the cookies, here is the recipe for the lemon glazing I used. It's nice for the summer. I tried it with key lime once (when I was on my key lime pie kick), but wasn't as excited.

2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon rind

Whisk everything together and spoon onto cookies. It'll harden up after a few minutes.

I don't always put the rind in and it tastes good anyways.

I actually took pictures last night! But I'm at work and I haven't uploaded the pictures to my computer. Tomorrow I'm making another upside down apple pie so there will be pictures of that and I'm also trying pumpkin scones for breakfast.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hail to the Victors (Apple Fritters)

Another sad day for Michigan football. This marks the 6th straight year that Michigan has lost to OSU. Abbey never lets me forget.

When I got home from watching the game (in the warmth and comfort of a house) I decided I was hungry. Noon games really throw me off since you get up, have breakfast and then have to go do game day things. I met my friend Manuel. at the Union at 11:15ish and then we walked to our friend Jessica.'s to watch the game. 11:15 is too early for lunch. Anyways, I walked into my now boiling house and decided I would use up some of the food in my fridge. I'm only going to be in Ann Arbor for a couple days this week so I figured I'd use the chopped onions, bean sprouts, etc that are hanging around. What did I make? Hashbrowns with onion and bacon, stir fried bean sprouts, and apple fritters. They don't really match, but I take what I can get.

The main point of this post is the apple fritters. I was introduced to a site called StumbleUpon by my roommate and when I wasn't busy a few months ago, I was on it a lot. You pick your interests and then it'll randomly send you to websites. I stumbled on a site called Cooking By Numbers. It's nice when you have no idea what to cook since all you do is check what you have in your fridge and cupboards and voila! recipes! I found apple fritters today and since there were still two apples sitting in my crisper from when I sliced apples with my grandparents, I decided to use them up. No more apples now!

Apple Fritters
2 large apples, sliced into chunks
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup of flour
brown sugar, to taste
cinnamon, to taste

Mix together the milk and flour. The batter I ended up getting was like thick waffle batter. You want it to stick to the apples. Anyways, once the batter is together, add some cinnamon and brown sugar. My mom informed me today that brown sugar fries better since it doesn't burn like white sugar. Good to know. When your batter is all mixed together, dump in your apple slices. Make sure they're all coated pretty evenly. Heat up some oil in a skillet or pan and when it's all hot, put in the apple slices. They're ready to be flipped when the bottoms are brownish. When they're done, put them on a napkin to get some of the oil off them. I finished it off with some powdered sugar too. Yum.

A word of wisdom about hot oil. When oil is warmed up, it likes to pop. It pops hot bits of oil at you. If you're not careful, it will be large bits of oil. I had a boyfriend once who was cooking and flipped a piece of meat (in hot oil) and managed to burn a large part of his hand. It blistered and, as much as I enjoy injuries, that one was pretty gross.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Can the House Smell Like This All the Time? (Fried Apples)

I've been really lazy this week when it comes to cooking. I was either too busy doing studio work to cook or too busy catching up on other stuff to do any cooking. Tonight I had a couple of tiny leftover twice baked potatoes and some fried apples. My roommate thinks I should make them constantly so the house smells yummy all the time.

Fried apples entered my life a few weeks ago when I was visiting home. It was just my parents and I for dinner and Mom made pork chops, mac and cheese and fried apples. Today was my first try and I have to say they were quite tasty. They're comparable to the insides of an apple pie I think.

What I did was peel and slice an apple. For one apple, use less than a half a tablespoon of butter. Let that melt in a pan/skillet and then put your apples in. Make sure the heat is about medium, you don't want the apples to burn. Once they're kinda brownish and soft, throw in some sugar and cinnamon. Mix everything around for a minute or two and then they're done! If you put in the sugar too early, it'll begin to caramelize or burn. A tasty snack, dessert, topping for ice cream...whatever you'd like. Again, I'll post pictures when I make them again. I keep eating my food then blogging about them.

Also, I promise that I'm going to stop with the apples now. No more apple recipes. Tomorrow I'm making a casserole, so that'll be an adventure. Time to break in my 9x13 pan!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mid-Review (Breakfast Apple Crisp)

It's mid-review day and the studio is humming. Half of us are going crazy, trying to get everything printed and hung by 12:30 and the other half is strolling around and we're already pinned up. Nice!

I slept for a little longer then I should have this morning and I took my sweet time getting ready. Nothing like being relaxed before your presentation. I finished off the breakfast apple crisp I made a few weeks ago. It's so delicious, and topped with a couple heaping spoonfuls of vanilla yogurt, it's a really tasty breakfast.

I got the recipe from again. I seriously love that blog. The crisp was supposed to be made in a 9x13 pan, but I didn't have one yet, so I made it in a pie plate. It doesn't matter what you cook it in, as long as you can eat it later.

3 pounds of whatever apples you like to bake with...peeled, cored and cut into medium chunks (I just cut up a bunch of apples that I got from my grandparents tree. I filled the pie plate until it wouldn't hold anymore.)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup flour
2 cups oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix apple chunks with lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in a 9x13 baking dish until apples are evenly coated.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter with the honey. Stir in the flour, oats, almonds, coconut and another pinch of salt until clumps form. Sprinkle evenly over the apple mixture and bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes, or until the apples are softened and bubbly. You'll want to leave it uncovered for about 15 minutes, then cover it or else the stuff on top will burn. About 5 minutes before it's done, take the foil off and let the granolay stuff get brown.

NOTE: I didn't have any lemon juice to put on the apples and everything was fine. Lemon juice is put on apples to stop enzymes from chemically reacting with air (?) and making the apples brown. Apparently no one likes to eat brown apples. I think it's useful in salads, but it doesn't really matter for covered things like pies and crisps.

When it was all done, I cut it into a bunch of pieces. Each serving was a little bigger then my fist. I put a couple of giant spoonfuls of vanilla yogurt on it and ate it. Seriously wonderful and quite filling. I even ate it for dessert a couple times.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Food Snobbery (Upside Down Apple Pie)

I made a pair of upside down apple pies yesterday afternoon for work today. It's a birthday tradition of bringing in a treat when it's your birthday. Anyways, the recipe I got from (great website by the way) called for a pre-made pie crust. I normally make my pie crusts from scratch the way my grandma taught me, but against my better judgment, I used store-bought crust. I don't think it was the way to go. I'm all for ease of baking, but in this case, the crust just tasted like blah. A homemade crust is all buttery and delicious. I was volunteered to make another one for Thanksgiving since Arvilla. (who hit 99 this year) is having trouble making things like pie.

The recipe itself was super easy. Grandma, Grandpa, Mom and I sliced up bushels and bushels of apples this fall from the trees in their backyard and then Grandma and Grandpa canned them with some sugar and cinnamon. Making a pie is usually as easy as making a crust, dumping a jar of apples in and covering it. Obviously there are a few steps I'm missing, but that's the general idea.

For this recipe, you'll need a pre-heated oven at 375. You start out with 4 tbsp of butter, a 1/2 cup of brown sugar and a 1/2 cup of chopped pecans. You mix all that together in a pan on a low burner until it gets all caramelly. I don't think I waited long enough. Mine was still pretty gritty with sugar. You pour that into a pie plate that you've sprayed and then put a piece of wax paper or parchment paper on. Make sure you get the caramelly stuff all over the bottom of the pan. Cover that with your first pie crust and then start the apple part.

I used a quart of apples from Grandma, but the recipe says to use 5 big granny smith apples. You throw in a cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of flour, 3/4 tsp of cinnamon and 2 tbsp of melted butter. I threw it all in there together, but I guess you should mix everything together and then put in the apples. To each his own. Mine turned out just fine. When all the apples have been covered in sugary goodness, dump them into the pie plate. Put your top crust on over that, making sure that the edges overlap just enough so you can roll the top and bottom crust together. Use a sharp knife to poke some holes in the top to vent and you're ready for the oven!

Slide that pie in the oven, middle rack, for about an hour or an hour and 15 minutes. Make sure to put a pan under it to catch drips, because it definitely will drip. When it's all golden brown on top, take it out and let it cool for a few minutes. Then take a plate or the pan you're going to serve it on and invert the pie. The plate will come right off and so will the paper. Don't wait too long to flip it (like I did) or the caramel will stay on top and won't drip off the sides like the pictures. I didn't get any pictures of these pies (I'll post one from my Thanksgiving pies), but here the link to the page I was referencing earlier. The Cutting Edge of Ordinary: Upside-Down Apple Pie

Here is the recipe in regular format:

6 tablespoons butter, melted & divided
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup chopped pecans
2 refrigerated pie crusts (though I prefer homemade pie crusts)

1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
5 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices

Preheat the oven to 375. Coat a pie plate with nonstick cooking spray and line it with parchment or waxed paper. Coat the paper with cooking spray also.

In a small bowl combine 4 tablespoons of melted butter, the brown sugar and the pecans. Mix well and spread evenly over the bottom of the pie plate. Place one of the crusts in the pie plate, pressing it firmly against the nut mixture and up the sides of the plate. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon and the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Mix well. Add the apples in and toss gently to coat. Spoon into the pie crust.

Place the second crust over the apple mixture. Trim and fold the edges together to seal. Cut some slits in the top of the crust for venting.

Bake 1 to 1 ¼ hours or until crust is golden brown.

To invert the pie. Place a plate that was larger than the pie on top of it and just flip it over. Remove the pie plate then gently lift the paper. Enjoy!