Thursday, October 26, 2006

cuppycake gumdrop snoogums

The past week has been the week of cupcakes in Ironstef world. Last week there was a baby shower for a girl at work, and I volunteered to bring cupcakes because I had this vision of making sweet little babyface treats. Now, I'm no I used box cake mix and pre-made strawberry frosting. I did zap the frosting in the microwave for a few seconds (that stuff gets hot FAST!!) to get a smoother glaze-like topping on which to decorate. Here are the results:

All in the box, ready to be delivered!

A happy baby with a candy pacifier. Awww!

I made a few crying ones. They were my favorite, and a hit with shower-goers. I didn't make too many, though. Didn't want to scare the mom-to-be. :)

Today I had a coworker's birthday (we draw names and bring treats for everyone's day), so I took the opportunity to do some more cupcakes. This time, I got a little more experimental. I still stayed away from recipes that required a lot of baking skill. The first couple batches were Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, which I iced with store-bought cream-cheese frosting:

They turned out yummy. I think I added more pumpkin than I was supposed to, but that didn't hurt. They were not too sweet, and the ground clove added a spicy accent to the chocolate chips.

The sweetness of the frosting added another compliment to the spice and the rich dark chocolate.

I also made S'more cupcakes. I couldn't resist! I love s'mores, and cupcakes are pretty great, too. They were a little messy, but fun to make (just like real s'mores!):

I piped the Fluff on from ziploc bag with a hole cut in the corner. Then I stuck the finished cupcakes under the broiler for a minute or so to toast the marshmallow.

Is there anything better than toasted marshmallow?

So those are my recent cupcake adventures. I'm sure there will be more, because they are so fun to make, and who doesn't like a cupcake? They're yummy and portable and totally cute!

On that note, here's a super-sweet sugary catchy little song involving cupcakes. Bye, cuppycakes!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

goodies gumshoe

Last week a girl at work put out her daughter's Girls Scout Cookie order form. What? I know, so soon. Well, she's from Illinois, and this is Illinois Girl Scout Cookie Season! Who knew?

So I take a gander at the order form. I see the picture of my favorite right away. Good Ol' Samoas! Except they are NOT CALLED SAMOAS!?!? They are "Caramel De-Lites!" What the!? The Thin Mints are still Thin Mints, but the other classics have different names. There's no Tagalongs, no Trefoils, no Do-Si-Dos! Most of the cookies LOOK like the familiar favorites, though. They can't do that, can they? Change the names of these American classics? I got a little panicky. So Of course I turned to my beloved Internets to clear some things up.

Turns out the Girls Scouts have two different bakers they get cookies from. There's the ones I grew up with (and tried to sell, but man, I hate selling things), and there's these other ones.

Phew! Mystery solved. The names that are so familiar still exist. I just won't see them until next March. Goodie Gumshoe has done her job. My Next case? Where do those huge Turkey Legs that you get at fairs/amusement parks COME from anyway? My thanksgiving turkey's legs are at least half the size of those suckers! I'm a little scared to find out, but I'm on the case!

Monday, October 09, 2006

honey cardamom trial and success

Last night I made this Honey Cardamom Chicken. It was pretty easy, and quite tasty, too!

Here's the finished dinner, all ready for today's lunch in a ziploc container:

I think Cardamom (mon?) is my new favorite spice. I bought a bag of the seeds from the Indian aisle of the store. It was a whole $5 cheaper than the ground stuff in the spice aisle, and I think it will last me quite awhile. Plus, like most spices, grinding it fresh will make it more flavorful:

Looks like cardamom can help digestion, freshen breath, and it's believed to be an aphrodisiac (which may have something to do with the good digestion and fresh breath...)! A couple recipes that I may have to try are this pea soup and some lamb chops. It's also used in breads and pastries a lot in Scandinavian cooking, so maybe I'll try it in some beer bread.

Back to my dinner. To accompany the chicken, I kind of winged a sweet potato concoction. I diced 3 sweet potatoes into bite size pieces and blanched it in salted simmering water for about 4 or 5 minutes. I diced a yellow onion into approximately the same size and put those in my baking dish, poured the hot, drained potatoes over them, and added a large, rinsed can of chick peas. I sprinkled a little bit of nutmeg and ground clove over everything, along with a good amount of salt and pepper. Then I melted 1/3 stick of butter and stirred in about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and poured that mixture over the veggies. I used my hands to mix everything together and put it in the oven. I cooked the chicken and the veggies at the same time, but the chicken took a little longer to cook. Here's a closeup of the vegetable mixture, and you can see the roasting dish below it with it's yummy caramelized bits still stuck to it:

And a closeup of the combination:

mmm, it was tasty. Oh, and everything baking in the oven gave the apartment a very thanksgiving kind of smell, what with the sweet potatoes, onions and nutmeg. I thought this would be more of an Indian flavor-type meal, but it was quite traditional-American tasting, with a twist of exotic. The chicken skin was quite sweet, from the honey, and the underside, because of the lemon it was sitting on, had an initial fruity-pebbles quality to it. But all together, the flavors were very nice.

I think I'll make it again, with all chicken legs. This time I used 4 thighs, which were good, very moist and flavorful, but I think legs would get more of the flavor of the marinade, because they are smaller and have a higher skin-to-meat ratio.

Friday, October 06, 2006

beer + bread = baking even I can handle

Lookie what I made! I'm not much into baking. It's too scientific and precise for my skillz. I love fresh baked bread though. It smells so good, and you can't buy anything like it. So when I was reminded of beer bread, I checked my cupboard and found that I had all the ingredients. So a whipped a loaf up! It's so stinkin' easy! And makes your home smell fantastic. Here's a few pics of the finished product:

Here's the recipe I used:

I did substitute one of the tablespoons of white sugar with brown sugar, just 'cause it sounded like the right thing to do. And I used this beer:

There's a review of the Jumping Cow Beer Here. I like the beer, but it was pretty bitter. That bitterness definitely translated into the bread. Overall the bread was yummy...crusty, not too dense, hearty and yeasty. And a little honey helped with the bitterness:

Here's a similar recipe to the one I used(on a really fun home decorating/hip domesticy-website, Digs, that you should take a peek through). I will definitely be trying beer bread again, with different beers and ingredients. It's quite versatile. And I'll have to remember it next time I go camping.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sausage Links (Installment one)

A random group of food-related links that I've collected/discovered/explored/enjoyed this past week....Expect "Sausage Links" to become a fairly regular feature, because I like me some randomness.

-If you were scared of Spinach, wait until you encounter the Evil Strawberry. Muahahahahaaaa!

-Extra Tasty is a fun website all about cocktails! All kinds of concoctions, including lots of reader submitted ones. A new one everyday! And it's very cute and fun to explore, to boot!

-This article in the New Yorker is all about the Food Network and how food TV has changed things. It's a neat look at how times have changed it terms of how Americans cook and eat, and also how the Food Network has evolved from Chef-centric to *gag me* Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee instructional shows for the way-to-busy-to-really-cook moms. Quite fascinating.

In other news, here are two recipes I want to try soon. Like in the next two weeks:

-Cardamom Honey Chicken, which looks easy enough...and quite fall-esque.

-Pumpkin Chili, which also looks easy and, well, it's got pumpkin innit, so Fall-O-Rama! And it's pretty darn healthy, too!