Friday, February 27, 2009

"Bout Sploded In My Pants"

Last night I an extreme soda pop explosion event! I was sitting in my recliner downstairs, minding my own business, when I heard this loud boom from behind me. When I say "loud boom" I really mean "loud fucking boom", I nearly soiled myself! Naturally all of the pets evacuated the room in about 2 seconds flat. I turned around expecting to see some kind of maximum carnage- but all I could see was the door hanging open on my wet bar fridge. In some ways I was dissappointed, a water heater hanging through a wall or something would have been much more memorable. Anyways, apparently two pop cans had simultaneously exploded and it had enough force to blow the mini-fridge door open. Here are the two suspects:

If any of my readers were camping with us the time some idiot threw a beer can in the fire (and didn't tell anyone) ... yeah, it was like that- minus the hot embers. There was also a third can that was just waiting to blow:

Yeah yeah, not the most exciting thing you'll read about today, but it scared the crap out of me when it happened. It's amazing the force that can build up in those pop cans.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chicken Piccata Pasta Toss

Thanks to my friend Lynn I have a new meal to add to the rotation!  Okay, I don't really have a rotation because I always want to try new dishes, but I will definitely keep this recipe in my file to make again.  Rachael Ray, of course, dishes out another fantastically flavorful, yet still somewhat easy, meal that I love.  I will admit, anything with capers has to be good!

Chicken Piccata Pasta Toss

1 1/3 pounds chicken breast tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used 2 chicken breasts)
salt and pepper
1 1/2 T butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup chicken broth or stock
3 T capers, drained
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 pound penne rigate pasta, cooked to al dente (I use half this amount and plain macaroni noodles because I had them in my pantry)
chopped or snipped chives, for garnish

Heat a deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add a tablespoon of EVOO and the chicken to the pan.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Brown chicken until lightly golden all over, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove chicken from pan and return the skillet to the heat.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add another tablespoon EVOO and 1 tablespoon butter, the garlic and shallots to the skillet.  Saute garlic and shallots 3 minutes.  Add flour and cook 2 minutes.  Whisk in wine and reduce liquid 1 minute.  Whisk lemon juice and broth into sauce.  Stir in capers and parsley.  When the liquid comes to a bubble, add remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter to the sauce to give it a little shine.  Add chicken back to the pan and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes.  Toss hot pasta with chicken and sauce and serve.  Adjust salt and pepper, to your taste.  Top with fresh snipped chives.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Kid B

Bullets Are The Future

  • I love my new truck, it's like a truck had sex with a car, only the truck had the more dominant genes. It is mad sexy and I keep finding new features I didn't know about. Latest newly-discovered feature: the heater won't actually blow air until the air is worth blowing.

  • I took Monkey (my dog) for one of my world famous walk-abouts. "WTF are you talking about?" you may ask? Well, a "walk-about" is where I let my dog lead the way- I literally follow my dog around for hours. I started this tradition the day I found out my previous dog (Jaik of course) had cancer, and I strive to continue the tradition with Taigan. Anyways, we have a lot of undeveloped land around our house (prime real estate for a doggy-led excursions). AnywaysX2, Monkey led me for quite an excursion (+1.5 hours) this week ... during this walk-about I found: an old burnt-down farmhouse, rusty farm implements, an old un-covered fascinatingly-built well, multiple really old trash heaps, a perfectly good 5 gallon igloo water cooler, multiple deer-parts for Taigan to carry around in his mouth, and a partridge in a pear tree. It was good times!

  • I built a new subwoofer box for Courtney's car this week. Last year I got a free Polk subwoofer for being part of a bunch of Polk research committees, and I had secretly hoped to install it in my next vehicle. Well, now that I have a new truck, not only does that seem incredibly selfish, but Courtney has been having problems with her subwoofer. Let me tell you, this new subwoofer box looks like shit! Courtney, rightly so, decided she didn't care what the box looked like (translation: don't buy any paint). I ended up using some nearly-dried-out polyurethane I had lying around in my basement, and now the subwoofer box that I meticulously built and sanded (to stringent specifications) looks like a elementary school desk with an extra chromosome. I must post pictures soon so that you can understand my plight.

  • I've been really busy at work lately, I hope it doesn't slow down any time soon. It makes the weekdays fly by.

  • My wife is a fabulous cook- how did I get so lucky?!

  • The economy sucks, and it scares me.

Other Good Eats from Last Weekend

Rather than bore you with a bunch of posts about different cooking adventures over the weekend I am going to put them all in one post.  I will also be putting a few links in rather than retyping whole recipes and claiming them as my own, like I do most of the time.

I made three different, excellent meals from Friday through Monday.

The first meal I made was Tyler Florence's Shrimp Scampi, garlic bread, and Caesar Salad with a home-made dressing recipe from the Joy of Cooking cookbook.  The scampi wasn't the best I've ever had.  It felt like I was just eating shrimp with noodles, so I will have to find another recipe for that.  The Caesar salad, however, was amazing.  The dressing was perfect- you must add the anchovies, they really add the zip you want!

Caesar Salad Dressing
Mash together in a small bowl until a paste is formed:
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 t salt

Whisk in:
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 large egg
1 t Worcestershire sauce
4 anchovy fillets, mashed to a paste
salt and black pepper to taste

Add in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

I then ended up putting this all in a food processor to make it really smooth.  My "pastes" weren't quite pasty enough.  I really need to get a mortar and pestle.

The second meal I made was Cider-Vinegar Chicken from Rachael Ray, smashed red potatoes, and green beans with cherry tomatoes.  This meal was good, but it was all very brown to me.  I think I should have done a different veggie side; I know green beans and tomatoes are green and red, but on the plate they just didn't seem that way.  I should have done a cucumber salad or something.  Other than that, the meal was great.  It also made for some really flavorful leftovers.

Cider Vinegar Chicken

4 6oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
black pepper
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 T fresh thyme leaves, from 4 sprigs, leaves stripped and chopped
3 T honey
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups chicken stock or broth

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 2 T of the EVOO.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the hot skillet.  Brown the chicken on both sides, 3 minutes per side.  Remove and reserve the meat, covered with foil.  Ass another T of EVOO, the onions, thyme, honey and the garlic.  Season the onions with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently for 7 to 8 minutes.  You want the onions to get really brown and caramelized.  Add 1/2 cup of the cider vinegar and the stock.  Turn up the heat to high and bring the liquids up to a simmer.  Once at a simmer, return the chicken to the skillet.  Cook the chicken in the sauce for about 10 minutes, flipping the chicken over halfway through the cooking time.

Arrange the chicken breasts on dinner or serving plates.  Pour a generous amount of sauce with the onions over the chicken breasts.  Enjoy!

The last meal I made was Alton Brown's baked stuffed flounder along with a  salad using the leftover Caesar salad dressing.  This was an Alton Brown recipe that I actually enjoyed!  I love his show and his methods, but for some reason his recipes are really hit or miss in my book.  The was definitely a keeper!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dark and White Chocolate Layer Cake

This cake is absolutely fabulous.  I used Valentine's Day as an excuse to bake this delectable treat because we really don't like to keep a lot of  sweets in our house.  Don't get me wrong, I would love to bake every day, but my thighs would no longer fit into my jeans.

The dark chocolate cake layers were so moist and rich, and the white chocolate creme in between layered with strawberries gave it just the right amount of sweet.  Also, for those that don't like traditional buttercream frosting, you will love the light, whipped cream frosting on this cake.

And by the way, this was my first attempt at making homemade whip cream.  And let me tell you, it was sooooo easy, and soooooo good.  If the homemade whip cream wasn't so fat filled I would never by the store bought again.  But you know what, I don't eat it that often, so next time I have strawberry shortcake, I'm making it myself!

Dark and White Chocolate Layer Cake
For the dark chocolate cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

For the white chocolate whipped cream:
6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream

For the whipped cream frosting:
1 cup cold heavy cream
4 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Fresh strawberries, for filling and garnishing

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour the sides of two 9-inch round cake pans, and line the bottom of each with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the sugar, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; mix at medium-low speed until smooth.  Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just incorporated.  Stir in the boiling water (batter will be thin).

Pour batter into the prepared pans.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of each cake, remove the cakes from the pans, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  When the cake has cooled, cut each in half horizontally to create four cake layers.

To make the white chocolate whipped cream, place the chopped white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Melt, stirring occasionally.  When the chocolate is almost melted, bring 1/2 cup of the cream to a boil.  Once the chocolate is fully melted, transfer the bowl to a counter, pour in the hot cream and let it sit for one minute.  Then stir gently with a spatula until the chocolate is smooth.  Let the chocolate sit until it reaches room temperature - the chocolate can’t be the least bit warm when it is added to the whipped cream.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the remaining 1 cup cream only until it holds the softest peaks.  With the mixer on high speed, add the white chocolate all at once and continue to beat just until the mixture holds firm peaks.  Transfer the cream to a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap gently against the surface and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

To make the whipped cream frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat the cream, sugar and vanilla together just until the cream starts to thicken.  Start on a slower speed and increase the speed as the cream gains texture.  Continue to beat until the cream holds stiff peaks.  Be very careful not to overbeat.

To assemble the cake, transfer one of the cake layers to a 10-inch cardboard circle, cut surface up.  Spread a thick layer of white chocolate whipped cream on top of the cake.  Layer with fresh strawberry slices.  Lay another cake layer on top of the cream and berries, and press down gently.  Top as before with white chocolate whipped cream and berries.  Repeat once more with another cake layer and topping.  Place the final cake layer on top, cut side down, and press down gently.  Frost the cake with whipped cream frosting and garnish with fresh berries as desired.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My favorite Sugar Cookie Recipe (so far).

A good sugar cookie recipe is something I am always looking for.  I have tried probably ten different recipes, and I think I finally found one that I will use from now on.  This recipe actually has a really great flavor without the addition of frosting.  The cookies pictured are from the Super Bowl party- pretty much the only time I have the patience to make these uber time-consuming cookies.

The Best Sugar Cookies

1 8oz pkg Light Philadelphia brand Neufchatel Cheese, softened
1 cup Parkay Margarine (2 sticks)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour

1.  Preheat oven to 375.
2.  Combine neufchatel cheese, margarine, sugar and extract, mixing until well blended.
3.  Add flour; mix well.
4.  Chill dough several hours or overnight.
5.  On slightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness, cut with 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 inch cutters.
6.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet.
7.  Bake at 375 8-9 minutes or until edges are browned.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole

This recipe is actually a combination of two different recipes plus an addition of bacon.  One recipe was for Bisquick's Cheeseburger Casserole and the other is a Cheeseburger Pie from The Recipe Hall of Fame Cookbook.  I had lots of bacon that needed to be used up and I figured who eats a cheeseburger without bacon?

Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole

2 cups bisquick
3/4 water
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 t oregano
salt and pepper to taste
3 T Worcestershire sauce
small can of diced green chiles
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
1 can tomato sauce
1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup
10 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 t ground mustard
1 t salt
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1.  Combine ground beef, onions, and green peppers in a skillet on medium high heat and cook until meat is brown.  Mix in tomato sauce, cheddar cheese soup, oregano, diced green chiles, bacon, 1 T Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste.
2.  Stir Bisquik and water in a small bowl until moistened; spread evenly in the bottom of a greased 13x9 baking dish. 
3.  Pour hamburger mixture on top of dough.

4.  In a medium bowl combine 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, 2 eggs, 2 T Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 cup milk, 1 t salt, and 1 t dry mustard.
5.  Spread on top of hamburger.
6.  Bake uncovered in a pre-heated, 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.