Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blog Roll

I just went ahead and added a blog roll on the right side. I don't read all of them so regularly, and I certainly don't cook recipes from all of them, but I like the pictures. Plus, even if I can't cook everything on every blog, I can dream, can't I?

I think I've decided that after this upcoming semester, I'm going to see if I can't convince my parents and grandmother to get together and buy me this. It's a Canon EOS Rebel XS. It's not the newest model (which means it's cheaper) but I think it would still be a very good starter dSLR and I really want to take a photography class in the Spring. (Seems like a very good time to take it, no?)

That's all for now.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Oh, Lord, So Many Cookies!

So, I'm sitting here right now, about two hours before I want to light candles for shabbos, eating the scraps left over from my Wednesday night lo mein. I spent the majority of my day today baking cookies for my dear friend's shabbos kallah. Don't worry, I didn't bake 12 dozen cookies alone. I had my lovely assistant, Diana, to help me out. (Hi, Diana!)

First we made a big batch of my staple sugar cookies from Joy of Cooking. I accidentally made the cookies a little too big, so the dough didn't go as far as I would have liked. We got closer to 45 cookies instead of the 60 I usually get.

But all's well because I made a very nice sized batch of oatmeal cookies with craisins and chocolate chips. They look delicious and I can't wait to watch people eat them!

The last cookies I made were an Idea I got last shabbos when my dad brought some cookies home from a kiddush. One of them was chocolate with what I first assumed to be white chocolate chunks. After eating them, though, it turned out to be marshmallows. Suddenly, I knew I had to make rocky road cookies. For the base cookie dough, I searched all over the interwebs for an easy chocolate fudge cookie recipe. Easiest one I found? Cake mix cookies. Take a box of cake mix, add 1/2 a cup of oil and 2 eggs, bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. I used a devil's food cake mix and added in marshmallows and walnuts. The first batch came out a little ugly because I just plopped the cookie dough onto the baking sheet and when the marshmallows melted it just made a mess. A very tasty mess. A mess that I will proudly serve at the shabbos kallah because it was absolutely amazing. The next batch, however, I rolled the dough into balls before putting them on the baking sheet and they came out slightly less ugly. They looked more like cookies and less like...well...let's just say they looked nicer.

Rocky Road Cookies

Oatmeal and sugar cookies. For the record, these are gallon sized zip-lock bags.

More oatmeal cookies

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Homemade Lo Mein

I'm trying to get in the habit of planning my weekly meals when I shop. I started it last week and I'm continuing this week. So my menu this week was/is as follows:

Sunday night: we went to a BBQ
Monday night: We ate at my parents' (before posting this entry, I previewed it and it's a good thing because I discovered that this said, "We ate my parents." Which, I assure you, we didn't do.)
Tuesday night: Grilled chicken and green beans
Wednesday night (tonight): Lo Mein
Thursday night: Hamburgers
Shabbos: No plans yet. ~shrug~

So tonight is lo mein night. I've always been a fan of lo mein but never really tried making it, which is silly since I've just discovered how easy it is. I got the idea to do it when I was emailing my sister-in-law last week. She had read the post on the pesto chicken and pasta salad I made and was excited to try it until my brother told her he doesn't like pesto. I think I knew that...
Anyway, I suggested she use sauted mushrooms, garlic and ginger along with the chicken, use long noodles (like spaghetti, angel hair, etc.) and toss it all with soy sauce instead of pesto. I'd never made it before, but it sounded tasty in my head. So I decided I'd make it this week.

It was very tasty. Much better than restaurant lo mein, imho, because it wasn't greasy like restaurant lo mein. It took me 10-15 minutes to throw together and was a filling, delicious dinner. The following recipe is made up of the things I had on hand. If you don't have sausages or chicken, you can use any other protein you want. I don't think fish would be a good idea, but you can do tofu, leftover chicken from soup, beef, or oriental veggies (like snow peas, water chestnuts, baby corn, etc).

Homemade Lo Mein

1 package long, round noodle pasta (like spaghetti, angel hair, etc.)
1/2 8 ounce package of mushrooms, sliced
2 Hot sausages, cut into chunks
1 grilled chicken breast fillet, cut into chunks
1-2 cloves of garlic (depending on your personal preference), thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh ginger root, diced
(OR - 1 tsp dry ground ginger)
Soy sauce, to taste

1. Cook your pasta according to package directions.
2. While the pasta is cooking, sauté the mushrooms and garlic for about 1-2 minutes.
3. Add in the chicken and sausage chunks and the ginger root/ground ginger. Continue sautéing until it looks yummy.
4. After draining pasta, mix the sautéed ingredients into the noodles along with the soy sauce.
5. Eat and enjoy. :)

See? Quick and easy dinner.<3

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ultimate Challah Success

Some of you may remember that last week I made a challah recipe given to me by my friend's chosson. I mentioned that I wanted to try it with more yeast and sugar and maybe some vanilla. Well, that's what I did tonight. I added 1/2 cup of sugar, used the whole packet of yeast instead of 1 tsp, added 1/4 cup of honey and a tablespoon of vanilla. I also added extra water and flour in an attempt to use enough flour to say a bracha on separating the challah, but since I wasn't sure if I used enough in the end, I just didn't say it. (Though, in retrospect, I probably did use enough. It was about 11-13 cups and I'm pretty sure it was most of a 5 pound bag, but because I hadn't paid close enough attention to be sure, I didn't want to take chances.)

Result? The most amazing challah I have ever made (ever!) with only slightly more effort than last time (because the dough was stickier) and quite possibly the best challah I have ever eaten. I consider this a work of art. Granted, I ate a roll fresh out of the oven. I still don't know if it will be that amazing when it's cold. Still, I think I've perfected my challah recipe. With practice, I suspect it'll keep getting easier. My goal: make this challah twice a month for the duration of the summer and preferably make sure to use enough flour to make a bracha!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pesto, Presto!

Earlier this week, I found a recipe that caught my eye for two reasons: 1) Delicious looking picture and 2) The instructions consisted of one line. "Mix together all ingredients and serve." How could I resist? I'll tell you. I couldn't.

The recipe was for Chicken, pesto and pasta salad. Sounds amazing, right? Click the link. Really. See that picture? Yeah, it was just as good as it looks. :)

So, the minute I saw it, I determined I was going to make it sometime this week. I planned out the week's dinners and decided that Wednesday would be a good night to experiment. So I bought pasta and chicken at 7-Mile Market, but couldn't find pesto. I tried Shoppers, too, with no luck. I was worried I might have to break out my food processor and make it from scratch (heavens, no!!) until my father gave me the idea to check out Giant, where I pretty much never shop. I'm thinking I might have to start shopping there because they have pretty much everything. And they had kosher, parve pesto. Right in the kosher food aisle. I was so excited that I bought two jars AND a small can of black olive rings.

I hurried home and got the chicken ready. The recipe calls for any ol' chicken, but I went for some grilled chicken fillets which I rubbed down with salt, pepper and some random poultry seasoning I had in the cabinet before grilling on the old George Foreman. The rest was as easy as the recipe makes it sound. Mix and serve. (Note: I omitted the pine nuts because I didn't have any.)

It was delicious, filling and easy to make. So, we can call it a success and add it to our regular menu. :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chocholate Peanut Butter Cake

I just realized that I failed to report on the chocolate peanut butter cake I made for shavuos. First, so as not to keep you in suspense, I will tell you that it was a very yummy cake. However, it was a lot more trouble then it was worth, and it didn't turn out quite how I imagined it would. In my head, it was going to be a giant Reese's Cup. In reality, it was a cake that was very peanut-buttery (and a bit dry) with a frosting that was also very peanut-buttery, and neither were very sweet. The redeeming value was the chocolate sauce, which played off the peanut butter in that way that only chocolate can. But really, there was just way too much peanut butter and not nearly enough chocolate for my taste.

My key problem with this cake was assembly. Icing, stacking and glazing the cakes was a real pain, especially because I didn't remember to let the glaze cool before pouring it over the cake, so it kind of just slopped all over the place making a huge (delicious) mess. I think if I were to make this again, I would bake it in a 9x13 pan, leave off the icing, and just pour on the glaze. I think that would be the best way to do it, both for simplicity and flavor.

Okay, now that I've rectified that and you're all well informed about more of my baking misadventures, I can sleep easy. :)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Success at last!

Over the past few years, I've had pretty bad experiences with challah making. The first recipe I ever tried was taught to me by a good friend, and makes a really delicious challah, but is utterly exhausting to make. Each time I attempted to make this recipe, I felt that nothing was worth that kind of work. I tried out several recipes in a breadmaker which I was given for my wedding, but they never really came out right, and I would get frustrated and end up, once again, exhausted and just feeling I was better off with store-bought challah.

Now, a few weeks ago, The Huz and I went to a friend's house for shabbos dinner, and her fiancé had baked some pretty good challahs. He informed me that it contained only 5 ingredients (water, sugar, yeast, oil, and flour) so I asked for the recipe. So, yesterday morning, I set out to bake challah, feeling a little hopeful. What I found was that this recipe was both simple and tasty. I proofed the yeast, and mixed in the flour using my Kitchenaid stand mixer until it started to form a dough that I could knead. I removed it to a floured surface and kneaded it, adding flour and water as necessary until it got the right texture. The only setback I experienced was when I went to check on it at the end of the first rising, and found that it hadn't risen. I put it in a warmer place (on top of the back burner [which was off, but acts as a vent for the oven, so it gets pretty warm]) where it apparently started to cook a little. Other than that, the challahs came off without a hitch. I brought them to my parents' house, and everyone seemed to like them a lot.

I declare them a success.

I intend to make them again next week, only I'm going to make the recipe a little bigger, add more sugar and yeast and maybe a little vanilla, just to see what happens. I'll let you know how they turn out. :)