Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gingerbread Cake

I made this cake for Christmas morning and I loved it! It was pretty easy and super delicious! The cake was perfectly moist and the topping made it nice and fresh for the morning.

Gingerbread Cake
recipe from Bon Appetit

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses
1 large egg, beaten to blend
2 teaspoons grated peeled ginger
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1/4 cup store-bought lemon curd
Finely grated lemon zest

 To start, spray metal pan with cooking spray. Cut out a piece of parchment paper, place in the pan, and spray again.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder and soda and salt.
Cut up the butter into small chunks and place in a large bowl. Pour the boiling water over the butter and whisk until melted. I personally thought this step was weird because it's so unusual for a recipe, but it worked!
Add the molasses, egg and ginger and whisk until blended.
 Slowly add the flour mixture and whisk until everything is incorporated. Bake at 350 for about 250 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
 Once cool, cut around the cake and place on a tray or plate.
 When you are ready to serve the cake, put the cream and the powdered sugar in a mixer or a large bowl. Beat until stiff peaks form. Add the lemon curd and stir just a few times.
 Spread the topping over the cake...
and serve! It stores very nicely in the fridge and is great for several days after!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Homemade Peppermint Patties

These suckers were a bit of a pain. It wasn't really their fault though. I had a bad recipe that was very light on details. Thank goodness for bf- he really kept me calm and helped me figure out a way to make these babies work. I'm not going to link up the original recipe because I don't want to bash anyone, so I'm just going to give you the ingredients and the instructions I should have had (and the ones that exist in other recipes).

Peppermint Patties
5 cups powdered sugar
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 cups chocolate chips, I used semi-sweet
2 tablespoons shortening

 Step one: using a large fork, mix together the powdered sugar, condensed milk, and peppermint extract. It's going to turn into a thick blob. Try and knead with the fork. It will be difficult. Persevere until everything is mixed together.
Step two: using a spoon, scoop balls of the mix. Roll the ball around in your hand until nice and soft and round.

Place on a tray with wax paper and flatten slightly. Freeze the patties for about 30 minutes. Flip over and freeze again for another 30 minutes.

 Once the peppermint patties have frozen nicely, melt your chocolate and shortening together very slowly over a double boiler. NOTE: this picture shows what not to do (I didn't have directions to tell me). In the end, we were able to safe the chocolate by re-melting slowly in a double boiler with extra shortening, but it would be nice to avoid that step.
Once the chocolate is nice and runny, place a patty on a fork and dip into the chocolate. If the chocolate doesn't cover the patty, use a spoon to pour chocolate over the peppermint mix. Quickly remove the patty and run a knife under the fork to remove any excess chocolate. Place the patty on the wax paper. Repeat until all patties are done. Place in cool dry area to harden for several hours or freezer for another 30 minutes, then store at room temperature.

This actually isn't my picture. I was so tired and annoyed with these things by the time I was done, I forgot to take a final shot. but mine looked just like this and were so unbelievably delicious. So much better than the store version! A great holiday treat!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

North Pole Cupcakes

Please forgive my absence. I intended to publish this post yesterday but the internet was down at my parents' house and I had no way to get it online. My posts will be a little less regular this week and next. I will be traveling and cramming in as much bf and family time as possible before the new school quarter begins. I will resume my regular Monday-Friday posting on January 9th and will do my best to post frequently until then, but I make no promises.

As with most holidays, I enthusiastically volunteered to take care of desserts. I love to bake and having an excuse makes me giddy. Since I wasn't distracted with work and other obligations, I really went all out on the detail for these babies.

Here is my inspiration photo from Pinterest. I thought these would be so fun for Christmas Eve. I found a vanilla cupcake recipe online and then used my usual cream cheese frosting. I would highly recommend the recipe for the vanilla cupcakes. They were moist and delicious.

Vanilla Cupcakes
recipe from here

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

First, I made the North Pole signs on my computer. I just used Microsoft Word and made little red rectangles with lettering on the inside. I printing out a  bunch and cut them out.
 Next, I created the "poles". The candy canes were quite the challenge. Evidently my Safeway ran out of candy canes weeks before Christmas. My mom happened to have a few leftovers, so I was able to cut them up and make do. Unfortunately, many were already cracked, so I was only able to make about 8 of the North Pole cupcakes. The rest looked like snow.
 To make the cupcakes, I started by creaming together the sugar and the butter. In a separate bowl I whisked together the flours.
Then I added all of the eggs and beat again. Once the eggs were incorporated, I added about 1/3 of the flours and mixed. Then I added 1/3 of the milk and mixed. Repeat until all of the flour and milk is added. I just added the vanilla during the first milk addition.
Here is how the batter looked when it was all done.
 I filled all of the cupcake tins and baked for about 20 minutes at 350. Be sure to test early and switch around you pans. As you can see, some of my cupcake edges got a bit burnt because I didn't rotate the pans enough, but the frosting covered it and they tasted great!
 Once the cupcakes were cooled I frosted them. I cut a larger-than-normal hole in the plastic bag I was using to frost the cupcakes and the frosting came out in nice thick swirls. I will definitely use this method again. Once the cupcakes were frosted, I stuck the candy canes into some of them and sprinkled clear sprinkles over the top to look like snow.
Then, using small dabs of frosting, I added red hots to the top of the candy canes to really get that pole look and adhered the signs to the candy canes with frosting.
I love how they turned out!
The sign in the picture above looks a bit wonky, so here is another shot. These weren't that hard to make and the outcome was just awesome.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quick and Delicious Potato Side Dish

With the holidays approaching, vast amounts of food are churned out of my family's kitchen. I'm sure many of you have the same experience. Because a little bit of chaos is inevitable, a dish like this one is always helpful when you are in a pinch. I had this the other night with steak and salad and it was great.

Roasted Red Potatoes with Parmesan
little red potatoes, as many as you need, halved or quartered depending on size
Parmesan cheese
olive oil

 First, I cut up the potatoes. Then I boiled the potatoes for five minutes. Forgot to take a picture, Oops. Then I placed the potatoes on a rimmed potato dish and I brushed the potato with olive oil. Make sure you use the olive oil sparingly, because you want the potatoes to get crunchy. I also sprinkled them liberally with salt and pepper.
After they had roasted at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, I took out the tray and sprinkled the potatoes with Parmesan cheese.
Then I roasted for a few more minutes until the cheese was melted and started to brown. Serve in a large dish. Yum!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce

I tried this recipe the other night and I loved it. It's super quick, easy and so healthy. I also have been really into mustard lately, although I'm really not sure why because I hated it when I was younger. So this recipe fits the bill.

Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce
from Cooking Light

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider
2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

 I started by putting salt and pepper on one side of the chicken breasts. I heated up some olive oil in a pan, then placed the chicken salt side down in the pan. I let the chicken brown for about four minutes, flipped the breasts, added salt and pepper to the other side, then placed the pan in the oven. I forgot to take a picture of this step. Whoops. While the chicken was browning, I trimmed and halved the brussels sprouts.
 Then I melted one tablespoon of butter and olive oil together inn a pan.
I added the sprouts and cooked for a few minutes until they were lightly browned. Then I added some salt and 1/4 cup of chicken broth and covered the pan. I cooked the sprouts for about five minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, the chicken was done. Most breasts would take about 9 minutes. Mine were super thick so it took almost 14. I removed them from the oven, placed them on a plate and covered with tin foil. Then I added 1/2 cup of chicken broth and 1/4 cup of cider to the pan. I scraped the bottom to get all the yummy flavor bits off the pan. I let the sauce simmer for about 4 minutes until thickened.
This picture shows the sprouts when fully cooked. I loved this method of cooking the sprouts and I will definitely use it again. They have great flavor and are tender without being gross and mushy.
 Once the sauce was thickened, I added the mustard (and the parsley, had I not forgotten it). I stirred together and let simmer a minute or two until hot.
Finally, I served the chicken and the sprouts with the sauce. The combination was amazing and I loved this recipe. It will sell even the most ardent anti-sprout person. Definitely a keeper!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Party Table Settings

Every year my parents have a large Christmas party. It's an unique party because of the set up. Each couple is assigned to work with another couple on a dish. Then, there are three tables in different rooms. Everyone is assigned seats for each course. Then, everyone moves in between courses and are assigned a new table. Everyone must sit at each table once and can't sit with their spouse. It's kind of awesome because you get to sit next to new people each time and get to see a new table. I always help my parents the day of the party, but this year I went down to the house the day before and put together the tables.

Let's start with the living room. This table was the "silver room". My mom rented the table, the linens and the silver chairs. My mom created the flower arrangement in the tall vase.
There were silver chargers, white plates, lots of silverware, silver reindeer place card holders and glassware with moss green napkins.
 In the center around the vase, I placed several small votives with tea lights. There were two different size votives. I also wrapped a jingle bell garland around the candles.
 Next, the dining room. This room was the gold room.
 In here we used gold chargers, gold and silver napkins rings, glassware and white flowers. I also put out glass candles with oil in the center.
 Up close, you can see the pretty gold stars that I sprinkled on the table cloth.
 Here is the family room. This room was the red/green room.
 Red chargers, green napkins, gold napkin rings, small red votives, red flowers.
 Oh, and mini nutcrackers to hold the place cards.
 Now, for the night shots when the candles were all lit up.
 I love candles.
Here is the dining room.
These candles are my favorite because the glow and flames are huge.
Here is the living room at night.

I think the candle light reflects so nicely off the mini jingle bells. So here is the important question: Which room was your favorite? I think mine was the dining room, but I'd be curious to know what you think!