Sunday, October 2, 2011
A while back, I saw this recipe called Decadent Chocolate Layer Cake in Cooking with Paula Deen. It's two layers of chocolate cake with a layer of almond cheesecake in between, with chocolate frosting. You'll notice that it looks AMAZING. However I've been trying to eat better, and although I don't deny myself dessert if I want it, I was still fairly sure I should never make that. It sounds like it could kill you after a few bites. So I had another thought. What if I saved the filling recipe and the cake recipe separately and just made them as separate cakes?
As you will undoubtedly have noticed, what happens to the cheesecake part is that it has no crust. It's not a cheesecake, it's a molded cheesecake filling. Tasty, but a bit odd and definitely too rich to eat on its own. So, what's a girl to do in this situation? Why, make a batch of brownies and smear small amounts of the cheesecake on top of them. Voila:
The verdict? They were okay. I think the biggest problem is that I don't like cheesecake, but I do like cheesecake brownies. So, I definitely believe that if you swirled this batter into brownie batter before baking it, fantastic things could happen. Maybe someday I'll try it, because this recipe is actually really easy to make.
Almond Cheesecake Filling
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons almond- flavored liqueur (or almond extract)
Preheat oven to 300°. Line a 9-inch round baking pan with aluminum foil, letting edges of foil extend over sides of pan. Lightly grease foil.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar, beating until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in sour cream and liqueur. Pour batter into prepared pan; bake 45 minutes. Turn oven off; leave cheesecake in oven with door closed for 1 hour.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
It's really easy. Basically you just grind some bacon and garlic in a food processor, mix it with ground pork, season, make into patties, grill (or broil), and serve on some toasted potato buns (brushed with a little butter, of course). Amazing. The key, of course, is the bacon. Just try it. And now, back to my regularly scheduled massive amount of schoolwork that needs to be done.
Perfect Pork Burgers (from Food Network Magazine)
5 slices bacon
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground pork
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
freshly ground pepper
4 potato buns, split
unsalted butter, softened, for spreading
1. Pulse the bacon and garlic in a food processor until coarsely ground.
2. Combine the ground pork, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the sage in a large bowl. Add the bacon mixture and gently mix with your hands. Gently form the meat into 4 balls, then lightly press into 4-inch-wide 1-inch-thick patties. Make a 2-inch wide indentation in the center of each with your thumb to prevent the burgers from bulging when grilled.
3. Preheat a grill to medium high. Season the patties with pepper. Grill, undisturbed, until marked on the bottom, 5-6 minutes. Turn and grill until the other side is marked and the patties feel firm, 4-6 more minutes. Meanwhile, spread the cut sides of the buns with butter and toast on the grill.
4. Serve the patties on the buns.
Friday, September 9, 2011
The shark was amazing. He's only a few months old, less than 5 feet long and weighing about 43 pounds. But, it was still one of the most remarkable animals I've ever seen. I took this super short video when we first got there after the aquarium opened on Saturday. It was taken on my camera, so the quality isn't amazing. At any rate, I hope you enjoy it.
Monday, June 27, 2011
It's obviously very pine-y and woodsy in a way that LA isn't. Our nearby mountains have a lot more chaparral than giant pine trees. I had also read in my state parks book about some ancient live oaks. However, there is really only one book published that I have found that includes information about all of the state parks, and it was published in 2001. Since none of the other material I found mentioned oaks, I was afraid they had met an untimely demise in a fire or something. Luckily, I spoke to a kindly park ranger at the entrance who helped me map out a trail that would show us all of the features in the park that I wanted to see, including the pond, meadow, nature trail, and oaks.
The nature trail starts through a lot of lovely wooded area and basically follows a creek, which you can always sort of hear off to the side. You actually have to cross the creek to get onto the nature trail, and although its not a big deal at all, of course I managed to fall. I was convinced there were gold flecks in the mud on my jeans, but Travis just scoffed.
There are also an amazing amount of birds, although I missed out on seeing a mountain bluebird. Apparently one flew right in front of us as I bent down to pick up my binoculars - the binoculars I was carrying as part of my current attempt to be an amateur birdwatcher. (I want to go on a birdwatching hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, but I'm afraid the real birdwatchers will sneer at me. But, I digress.)
Once we'd hiked the nature trail for a bit and gone up to the Weir Historic site (which seems to be a chimney - none of my research attempts have informed me as to why it is historic), we switched over to a different trail. This trail basically cut straight across a meadow. The trail here definitely got a bit patchy and wound around a lot. Some of the time, I was not at all sure we were going the correct way. But, eventually we ended up back in the woods and happened acros the definitely ancient live oaks.
The park ranger had told me that the oaks had to be a couple of hundred years old. And they were definitely quite large. One of the most amazing things about them is that they have grown around and on top of these huge boulders. In the picture above, you can see Travis standing on top of a boulder and next to an oak, for scale.
And then we came across possibly my favorite part - a particular oak that had fallen down across the trail several years before. They just left it there, because it's so big that you can actually walk underneath it. It looks so menacing, but also beautiful.
That's pretty much it for our adventure. After this point, we had originally intended to loop back and finish the part of the nature trail that we had missed. However, after already hiking about 5 miles, we were exhausted and opted to cut through a campsite and head back to the car. It was an excellent day and a fantastic park, and I don't even have pictures of Doane Pond or the incredibly foggy Boucher Lookout. If you've never been, definitely check this one out quickly before it closes.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Recently, the California state government announced that 70 state parks would be closed by July 1, 2012 as part of a $33 million dollar budget cut to the state park system. While closures have been threatened in the past (I think at least twice in the past five years), this time it seems to be actually happening.
Some argue that the state budget has long been bloated or simply sigh and say, "Everything has to be cut. Money has to be saved, no matter what the cost." I maintain that the cost here is simply too high. There is evidence that closing parks won't save money at all; in fact, it could cost far more than it will save.
Visitors to state parks tend to spend money in the nearby areas, which helps local economies. Closed parks will become havens for criminal activity. The risk of wildfires (already a huge issue for Californians) will only increase. Federal funding will be lost, and the state could still be liable for people injured while trespassing in the closed parks.
But, I digress. My main point here is just to say that I love state parks. To that end, Travis and I have decided that we will try to visit as many of the closing parks as possible over the next year. This is complicated by the fact that we live in Southern California, and the majority of the park closures are further north. But, we'll still give it our best shot. We've been to a couple so far, and it occurred to me in the last couple of weeks that perhaps I should blog about our progress.
During the time that I've been thinking about this, I've actually stumbled across another blog called 70 in 70, which is much more adventurous - they're attempting to visit all 70 parks in 70 days. I highly recommend it. The photography is absolutely stunning, and I cannot wait to see the parks in Northern California.
So that's it. We've been to three parks so far, which I will hopefully post about soon. This coming weekend, we'll be attempting to see 5 of the closing parks (plus 1 non-closing park) in 3 days. Whew. Wish me luck!
Sunday, June 12, 2011
I haven't blogged in ages, but I was so pleased with these cookies yesterday I thought that I should just go ahead. I was definitely craving cookies last night, and I'd been wanting to do something to use up some peanut butter and some oats that I had.
I got this recipe from a blog called Brown Eyed Baker, and I only made one rather minor change and one specification to it.
A while back, I bought this Jif "Natural" peanut butter with 1/3 less sodium and low sugar. I thought it would be an easy way to have Travis eat something semi-healthy. About two days later, he declared that it tasted "like the void" and he needed new peanut butter. It's been sitting around ever since. I used it in this recipe for two reasons. 1 - it doesn't actually taste like the void and 2 - it has a really really peanutty taste, which I thought would do well in a cookie. I mean, you're adding more sugar and salt anyway.
Secondly, the recipe called for semisweet chocolate chips. I happened to have a bag of mixed semisweet chocolate and peanut butter chips, so I used those instead. And, they are delicious. Gooey and really really peanut buttery. I highly recommend it.
Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 16 cookies
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips and/or peanut butter chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
3. On medium speed, cream together the butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat to combine. On low speed, gradually add the flour until just combined. Stir in the oats, and then the chocolate chips.
4. Use a large cookie scoop (3 tablespoons) and drop dough onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden. Cool completely on the baking sheet and then store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
This is just a quick note because I thought it was funny. Yesterday, Travis went to see a movie with a friend, and I decided to bake while he was gone.
One would think that I would learn from my prior cooking failures, but unfortunately that is not the case. This is the second time in the last few months that I have cooked something in this loaf pan that overflowed into the oven. Sigh.
At least this time I had a cookie sheet under it to keep it from making such a big mess. In retrospect, I don't know if it's better or worse that I suspected it might happen again but did it anyway...
Saturday, April 2, 2011
I made this pasta recently, and it was so simple and so delicious. It's rich but not too heavy, and the leftovers were tasty as well. Most carbonara recipes use heavy cream, but this one does not. I suppose that's probably why it feels a bit less dense.
I think this is a good dish to make on the weekend in that it looks really impressive, but it still leaves you with plenty of time to enjoy your weekend too. This is not the first time a pasta dish has surprised me - the recipes always seem so easy, but the end result is so elegant and so tasty. Sometimes I can hardly believe that I made it myself!
The recipe is from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, which Travis's parents got me for Christmas and is quickly becoming one of my favorite cooking resources.
Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
3 large eggs
1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces bacon (8 slices) chopped fine
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound spaghetti
1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a large serving bowl on the rack, and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot for the spaghetti.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, cheeses, and garlic together and set aside.
3. Cook the bacon and olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until the bacon is crisp, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover.
4. When the water is boiling, stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the spaghetti. Cook, stirring often, until the spaghetti is almost tender but still a little firm to the bite.
5. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water then drain the spaghetti, leaving it slightly wet. Remove the warm bowl from the oven and add the spaghetti. Immediately pour the egg and bacon mixtures over the spaghetti and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the reserved pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce before serving.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
I heard about this fruit on a Good Food podcast recently, and then I happened to stumble across one at Whole Foods after work the other day (I was actually only looking for pie, so it was a pleasant surprise).
There is a really fascinating article here about the fruit, but here's a quick summary: Dekopon is a tangerine variety from Japan that has been incredibly popular there since the early 90s I think. It was so popular it could cost up to $10 per fruit. However, it was illegal to import because of possible exotic diseases, etc. But, someone did managed to smuggle in some branches to graft new trees from.
After that, there's a lot of secret groves and corporate espionage sounding stuff. The article I linked to even contains the quote "I'm not happy that you found out about the Dekopon ... Some heavy hitters I work with are interested in it". And, if that doesn't sound like Chinatown but with fruit instead of water to you, you're totally nuts.
Finally, the fruit is available here in California this year (sold under the name Sumo Tangerine rather than Dekopon). So, after hearing all that craziness on the radio, I really had no choice but to buy one when I happened across it. And, it was delicious. It tastes like one of the best mandarin oranges you've ever had, but it's the size of a navel orange. It's seedless, really sweet, and really juicy. I have to say though that I also bought some Murcott tangerines that I might have even liked a little bit more. All in all, the citrus varieties available this time of year in Southern California are amazing, and you should definitely look into it.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
I made this recipe over a month ago.. needless to say, I've gotten a bit behind on blogging. I also either haven't been doing much really interesting cooking or I've just forgotten to take photos of it. But, these corn muffins are amazing. It's definitely the best cornbread recipe I've ever used, and I highly recommend it. The name of the recipe (Peerless Corn Muffins) seems a little sure of itself, but it turns out to be accurate.
Peerless Corn Muffins
from The Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk, warmed
1 cup cake flour
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
Preheat oven to 400. Grease muffin tins.
Beat or whisk egg, melted butter, and oil in a mixing bowl until well blended. Stir in warm milk. Combine cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and sugar in another bowl and stir with a fork until well mixed. Add dry ingredients and stir until blended. This is a light, medium-thick batter.
Spoon batter into muffin tins so each cup is three-quarters full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the edges of the muffins are slightly golden and a straw comes out clean when inserted into the center. Remove from tins and cool a little on racks, or simply serve in a basket, hot from the oven.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
During my quest to use a 5-pound of whole wheat flour, I made these cranberry oat delights. I have to say, this is the only recipe I made that used entirely whole wheat flour rather than a 50/50 mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour that I liked.
The recipe calls for dried cranberries, and I used craisins although I'm not sure I was supposed to. Also, I used some slivered almonds that I had in the fridge rather than walnuts or pecans. All in all, I liked these a lot. It just made a TON of cookies, and after two weeks I just couldn't eat any more and had to get rid of the last few. The cinnamon was also a little strong; I'm not sure it needed two whole teaspoons.
Cranberry Oat Delights
(recipe from King Arthur Flour)
3/4 cup ( 1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 large egg
1 1/3 cups (4 5/8 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups dried fruit: cranberries, diced apples, chopped dates, raisins, chopped apricots, or the dried fruits of your choice
1 cup (3 3/4 ounces) diced pecans or walnuts
Cream together the butter, sugar, spices, leaveners, salt, and vanilla. Beat in the egg. Add the oats, flour, fruit, and nuts, and stir to combine.
Drop the dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the cookies in a preheated 350°F oven for 7 minutes; reverse the pans on the racks, and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, until cookies are beginning to brown around the edges, but are still soft in the center. Remove from the oven, and cool on a rack. Yield: about 4 dozen cookies.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
This is a sesame vinaigrette I made recently, I've been eating a ton of salad lately just to get to use it. I couldn't find chili garlic paste and didn't have time to venture over to the Asian grocery, so I used chili garlic sauce instead.
Sweet Sesame Soy Vinaigrette
from Cook's Illustrated Magazine
1/3 Cup rice vinegar
2 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 Cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 Teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 Teaspoons Asian chili garlic paste
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 Cup vegetable oil
2 Teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
Whisk vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and chili paste in medium bowl until sugar dissolves. Gradually whisk in oils, whisk in sesame seeds. can be refrigerated up to 3 weeks.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Romanesco is a variety of cauliflower that is just gorgeous. It is actually a natural fractal, which is "a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole" (thanks wikipedia!) In this case, it is a logarithmic spiral, and each bud consists of a series of smaller buds that are also logarithmic spirals. As soon as I saw it at the farmers market, I of course thought: Awesome. But what does it taste like?
I took it home and considered what to do with it. Here's another view, of me contemplating this strange vegetable:
Ultimately, I decided on cooking it the same way I do cauliflower. So I chopped it up. At this point, it looks like a tiny felled evergreen forest!
I roasted it on 450, tossed with olive oil and salt. I used a grey sea salt that I had instead of regular kosher salt. Then, when it came out, I grated fresh parmesan over it. I understand that it looks a bit burned. That is called caramelization, and it tastes delicious.
Sidebar: ignore that fish. It tasted like the void, as Travis says. It's as if the fish had negative flavor, so that it not only was bland, but it pulled the flavor out of the bacon and sent it off into some abyss. I ate a lot of romanesco.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Every month, Food Network magazine does a feature on recreating a restaurant menu item that they cannot get the recipe for. I usually don't pay much attention, until one time, it was Red Lobster's cheddar bay biscuits. These are traditionally one of Travis's favorite things ever, so I thought I'd give it a shot.
They actually came out amazingly, which is sort of miraculous since I'm not generally good at breads and such (other than cornbread I suppose). The only thing I would change if I made them again would be to add a little bit of salt to the garlic butter mixture. I really didn't think that cooking a smashed clove of garlic in some butter for 60 seconds would do anything, but I was shocked. I should do that more often and brush it on rolls or something. Amazing.
I was also really surprised at how easy they were. This recipe taught me a nifty trick that I've used a few times now - use a food processor to cut in the butter! It's so much easier, I can't believe I ever tried to cut butter into flour in other ways. It also keeps the butter cold, because you aren't touching it, which is important in biscuits. So, here you go.
Almost Famous Cheddar Biscuits
1 3/4 cups all-Purpose flour
1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 Teaspoon Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoon vegetable shortening at room temperature
4 Tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
6 Ounce grated yellow cheddar cheese (about 1 1/4 cups)
3/4 Cup whole milk
FOR GARLIC BUTTER
3 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 Clove garlic, smashed
1 Teaspoon fresh chopped parsley
Instructions: Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425. Lightly mist a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
Make the biscuits: pulse the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the shortening and pulse until combined. Add the butter, pulse 4 or 5 times, until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Add the cheese and pulse 2 or 3 times. Pour in the milk and pulse just until the mixture is moistened and forms a shaggy dough. Turn out onto a clean surface and gently knead until the dough comes together. Do not overwork the dough or the biscuits will be tough.
Drop the dough onto the baking sheet in scant 1/4 cup portions, 2 inches apart, and bake until golden, 15 or 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the garlic butter. Melt the butter with the garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat, cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in parsley. Brush the biscuits with garlic butter and serve warm.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
It was so much fun! I've never made waffles before, unless you count in the cafeteria at UT in college (where the waffle irons imprint a UT logo on your waffles). I thought it might get sort of boring, like the time I made pancakes, but it was really fun. It took some experimentation to get the batter amount right, as you can see below.
But, overall, they turned out amazingly. I didn't bother trying to keep them warm in the oven while I went, because I was just planning to eat the last one and freeze the rest. I loved how the nuts made the waffles sort of crunchy. You can use several different types of nuts, but I love almonds and already had some on hand. I honestly couldn't tell that there was whole wheat flour in them, but it did make me feel sort of superior for eating it, and isn't that the point? I felt like this was a success all around.
Nutty Whole Wheat Waffles
makes eight 6 1/2 inch round waffles
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups reduced fat milk
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts
Place ingredients in a large mixing bowl and combine until well blended and smooth. Let batter sit 5 minutes before using. Preheat your waffle maker.
Pour 1/2 cup batter (in my case less, unless you love cleaning waffle batter off the counter) onto the center of the lower grid; spread evenly using a heat proof spatula. Close cover. (My waffle iron has an indicator light to let me know when they're through. If yours doesn't, just play with it, but don't leave it more than a few minutes at first I'd say.)
Open cover and carefully remove baked waffle. I used a spatula for this, but it did split a couple of the waffles through the middle, so emphasis on "carefully" I think. Repeat with remaining batter.
Serve immediately or keep waffles warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
How do other people with food blogs take such fantastic photos? Maybe their kitchens just aren't as poorly lit as mine. Perhaps I need some sort of secondary light source. Thoughts would be appreciated.
Now, I have to go fix some dinner. I just looked at too many other food blogs for inspiration, and now I'm starving.
I made these cookies for New Year's Eve. They were really tasty; the cookie has a nice cinnamon flavor, and anything with marshmallows is fantastic in my book. They were best the first day, but they actually still tasted really good a few days later when I took the last few to work. I would definitely recommend giving this a shot. Just be sure that you keep a close on them during the broiler step - you can see that a few of the ones in the back of the photo are a bit on the dark side! I believe that the recipe came from Everyday Food magazine.
This is also part of my experiment in using whole wheat flour, which is working pretty well so far. You really can't tell in these, other than the whole wheat offering sort of a nutty flavor, which I love. Although, that could also have been the oats.
1/2 Cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 Cup all-Purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 Cup whole wheat flour (spooned and leveled)
3/4 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 Cup light brown sugar
1 Large Egg
8 Ounce bittersweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate, cut into 30 squares
15 Large marshmallows, halved horizontally
Instructions: Preheat oven to 350. In a food processor, pulse oats until finely ground. Add flours, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; pulse to combine. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, scraping down side of bowl. With mixer on low, beat in flour mixture until just combined.
Drop dough by tablespoons, 1 inch apart, onto two baking sheets. Top each with a chocolate square. Bake just until lightly golden 11 to 13 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Remove sheets from oven, heat broiler. Top each cookie with a marshmallow. One sheet at a time, broil until marshmallows are lightly browned, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.