Sunday, March 26, 2006

Homemade pierogies (just not made in my home)

I wanted to post at least something this weekend so I thought that I would show another batch of homemade pierogies. This batch comes from a lady who regularly visits my Dad's work and makes the pierogies as a side business (I think...). He had ordered both potato and cheese and potato and onion and had forgotten which color twist tie corresponded to which type; but luckily for me, he gave me a dozen potato and cheese.

Like the previous ones (see back in November), these ones do not need boiled and are just pan fried with some butter.

I feel bad posting this since all I did was fry them in the butter, but I knew that I wanted to have some sort of an update this week. These are right up there with the ones that I helped make previously, but I preferred the fillings in the earlier ones.

Be sure to check back next week when I should have a lot to talk about. I'm throwing a birthday party for me and my uncle (both born on April 1st) and I plan on making most of the food (and the cake) from scratch. Wish me luck!


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Why there hasn't been an update in over a week...

Sorry for the lack of any postings this past week. I've was in Germany from 3/9-3/15 then came down with a head cold. This past weekend I spent part of the time in Pittsburgh at Ikea and the rest of the weekend assembling the stuff I purchased at said Ikea.

I'm hoping to get around to making some tasty meals this week and will be sure to post as soon as I can.

Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Super Dark Chocolate Chocolate Vanilla 3-Layer Cake

Be sure to click on the picture to view it better.

So today I set out on an ambitious task. I was to make a 3 layer cake, chocolate ganache in between the layers, and homemade vanilla frosting. Other than a lack of good decorating skills for a 3 layer cake, I'm very pleased with the results.

The cake came together really well. I cheated and used a dark chocolate boxed cake mix (actually 2 boxes worth). When I was mixing the batter I sifted the cake mix. I don't know for sure if it make a difference but the batter came out very smooth (no lumps) and all 3 cake layers baked really evenly.

I had never made my own icing other than cream cheese icing before so I was a little worried about how it would turn out. To my surprise it was pretty easy. I do have to admit, if I didn't have the kitchenaid mixer it would be a very difficult task (and I would never do it). The icing consists of butter, powdered sugar, heavy cream, vanilla, and a little salt.

To go in between the cake layers I made a really simple ganache by mixing melted dark chocolate, vanilla, and cream together. When it had cooled it thickened and I spread that between the cakes.

And now came the hard part. I shouldn't have made bottom 2 layers so close in size to each other (the bottom layer is 10" and the middle is 9") or I should have made just one size and did a double layer. Icing those two layers and making them actually look like different layers was pretty much impossible. Once I had everything coated in the vanilla icing, I wasn't really happy with how the cake looked so I opened a tub of store bought icing and used that to decorate the cake. Although the decorating didn't go the best I'm still really proud of the cake.

I will be taking it to work tomorrow and I will post a comment to let you know if it was liked or not.

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Is this Chili better??

I had a comment from Rob about the last chili that I presented here. He said that it looked too much like spaghetti sauce and not enough like chili. So, here is another batch that really looks like chili. I didn't do anything special to it and there are only 4 ingredients (minus spices). I browned some ground turkey with a lot of spices and then added it to light kidney beans, dark kidney beans, and diced tomatoes in the crock pot. Its been cooking for most of the day and smells great.

On another note, I wanted to make a comment on how easy it is to make your own chip dip. I had some company over this past weekend and I had planned on making grilled sandwiches and then just snacking on some chips. When I was asked for dip I knew that I didn't have any in the fridge so I whipped some up with sour cream and spices. I took about a cup of sour cream and added onion powder, salt, pepper, and Greek spice mix. I just mixed that all together and let it sit for a little bit and that's it. Instant chip dip.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Banana Muffins (from a cake mix)

So what do you do when you have new silicone bakeware and 3 "soon-to-be-overripe" bananas? You make banana muffins.

I had the option of looking up a recipe for banana bread and measuring ingredients and such or I could just find a cake mix in the cupboard that was pretty neutral towards banana and use that. I chose the latter. Cake mixes just make things so much easier to not mess up and for the most part, measurements aren't all that necessary.

I started by pre-heating my oven to 350 degrees and lined up the new bakeware on some cookie sheets. The big 9x9" probably wouldn't need to be put on a baking sheet but it makes it easier to move into and out of the oven. I peeled the 3 bananas and put them in the mixing bowl. While those were being mixed into a mush, I chopped about a cup worth of walnuts. To the mashed bananas I added 3 eggs and maybe a 1/4 cup of oil (I just poured a little bit into the bowl). I then added the whole bag of cake mix and about a cup of water to bowl a little at a time letting them mix in before adding more. The consistency looked right once everything was combined so I let the mixer run for a couple minutes then added the chopped walnuts and just stirred those in.

The batter was spooned into the mini-muffin pans and the bigger muffin cups and the left over went into the square pan. They all went into the oven and baked for about 20 minutes (the mini-muffins came out earlier than the rest).

The muffins came out very moist and had a lot of banana flavor. The mini-muffins turned out to be a lot like those Hostess Mini-Muffins, but much more natural tasting.

For something that I whipped up really quickly and on a whim these turned out really well. And unlike the lasagna, most of these came to work with me today so I won't be eating them for the next week.


Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

It was a pretty hectic weekend so I didn't get a chance to go to the grocery store until Monday night. While shopping I was also thinking about what would be good for dinner and I got a craving for lasagna. So along with my other groceries, I picked up some noodles and cheese (ricotta and shredded cheeses) and I assumed that I had all the other necessary ingredients at home. When I got home I realized that I the only meat I had was frozen chicken tenders (I thought that I had some ground beef or turkey or something) and I also saw that there was a bag of spinach in the bottom of the refrigerator so I decided to go with it and make Chicken/Spinach Lasagna.

I began by wilting the spinach in a frying pan. Once that was taken care of, I cut up the chicken tenders and cooked those in the same pan with a little oil until the chicken was starting to brown. In the meantime I started hard cooking a couple eggs. When the chicken was done I added a jar of vodka sauce (its basically a marinara with cream), some canned crushed tomatoes, and the spinach back into the pan and let everything warm the whole way though. I also added a raw egg to the ricotta cheese.

Since the lasagna noodles were the "no-boil" type, I was now ready to go to assemble the dish. I layered the sauce, noodles, ricotta, chopped egg, and cheeses about 3 times until I reached the top of the baking dish. I then topped it all with some more cheese and covered the dish with foil and put it in the over. It baked for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees and it was smelling really tastey. I then removed the foil and turned on the broiler to get the cheese to brown quickly. It only took a couple minutes under the broiler to get nice and brown.

And that was it. Its been really good. I made this lasagna Monday night and it has been lunch and dinner since then. Since I'm the only one eating it, I think it will last until tomorrow night. One of the best things about the leftovers is that it seems to taste even better each day since all the flavors have time to meld together. Yum!

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