Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Baking: A popping 4th of July Dessert

As the 4th of July approaches we all have to prepare for yet another family feast.  That's right, fun works in conjunction with food consumption.  So without further delay.......ladies and gentlemen step right up to fill your tummies and enjoy America's favorite pastime...and that would be eating.

Chocolate Cake Pops with Festive Sprinkles
And after we have enjoyed, those delicious BBQ ribs, hamburgers, hotdogs, slaw, grilled corn, tater salad (ha ha we call THAT a salad) and have washed it all down with an iced lemonade we will likely be seeking more...and this folks is where dessert blasts its way into our tummies and possibly the surrounding areas.... :/
Lets not kid ourselves, about 99.9% of the worlds population, people of all ages, size, creed and color enjoy the oh so sinful eats we call dessert.....and the other .01% claim they don't 'do' sweets....but secretly you know they are closet sugar addicts =)
So my suggestion for this 4th of July is none other than the ever so popular CAKE POPS!!!! Well we have to pop something since in most areas fireworks are no longer legal....ok back to the issue at hand.
Cake pops happen to be one of the easiest and yet very appealing mini deserts anyone can make....I promise you they are.
So here is a list of your basic ingredients:
1 15.25oz Cake Mix (now this can be anything from Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury or even your own)

1 16oz Ready made frosting container

1 lb chocolate morsels (or chunks, what ever rocks your boat
Sprinkles, colored sugar or other edible decorations

Cake pops ready for dipping- I used Yellow cake mix with Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting
...and a list of supplies:
Cake pan
Wooden spoon
Cookie scoop (not required but comes in handy)
Cookie Sheet
Paper lollipop sticks
Wax Paper
Small cup/glass
Metal Fork
1- Bake your cake per directions and let it cool at room temperature for an hour or about 30 minutes in the refrigerator.  Once cooled crumble the entire thing, so basically no matter how lopsided your cake is IT DOESN'T MATTER...because it will be little crumbs =D
2- Take the frosting and divide into 2 parts and then divide one of those parts again...so basically you will have ONE 1/2 and TWO 1/4's, makes sense???  Now take the 1/2 and mix it in the cake crumbs using the wooden spoon.  Once it's mixed in thoroughly try to make a ball, if it falls apart mix in another 1/4 and repeat process.  It is likely that you will only need 3/4's of the container...DON'T add more seriously, trust me you wont need it. 
3- Now take your cookie scoop and scoop up the mixture.  Mold it into a ball using your hand and then place the ball on the wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Continue until all the mixture is gone.  This will yield about 30 cake balls. 
4- Now take about 1/2 cup of chocolate morsels and melt in the microwave per the packs directions, it's usually about 30 seconds for that amount.  With the fork swish chocolate around and make sure its melted enough to dip the stick in.  So now dip the paper sticks about 1/4" and insert immediately into each cake ball about 1/2 way though. Use the above picture as visual of what it should look like.  In case you are wondering why this is necessary and are thinking of skipping the step to save time, really DON'T question it and just DO IT!!! It helps the stick hold onto to the cake so it doesn't fall off when you are ready to dip the darn thing.
 5- Refrigerate the balls for about 4 hours.  If you want to make this a little faster then you can also place them in the freezer for about 15 minutes..DO NOT FREEZE the cake....no bueno, yukkie, caca....just don't do it.
6- Now fill the same glass or cup you preciously used with more chocolate (about 3/4's of the way) and heat in microwave using 30 second intervals.  So 30 seconds, remove, swish with fork and repeat until the chocolate is nice and smooth. 
Here you can see the size of the cup I used in comparison to the cake pop.  The similarities in size make it easy to cover the cake pop.  Repeat this process melting more chocolate as required.

7-  Dip each cake pop into melted chocolate until covered and remove quickly.  Twirl over cup/glass so the excess chocolate can fall inside container.  Decorate with sprinkles or other candies if you want.  Repeat until every cake pop is covered, set them aside to allow chocolate to set. 
Note 1: There are several ways you can have the chocolate set.  One you can hold it until it's set, but who has the time.  Two you can stick them into Styrofoam or Three place them on a wax paper lined cookie sheet top down...the last one will give the cake pop a flat top and well that particular 80's hair style has not made its comeback but still it's up to you ;)
Note 2: Your sweet tooth hurts just a tad??? You can mix in 1 part cream cheese to your 2 parts frosting to make it a little less sweet.
Once the chocolate is set you can munch on these tiny desserts and enjoy!  You can make these the night before, but HIDE THEM because I warn you the kids (and significant others) can sniff these a mile away....One great things about these is that the sky is the limit! You can use any cake flavor and any frosting flavor....white chocolate would have probably looked nicer for the 4th of July but I LLLLOOOVVVEEEE dark chocolate so I used that...you can use milk, dark, white chocolate, butterscotch morsels, candy melts...anything goes with this versatile mini yummy =D
Bake, Create, Enjoy and have a fun filled Holiday!!!!

This is the easiest way of allowing chocolate to set

Flat top but still yummy

#baking #holidaydesserts #cakepops #fundesserts

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cooking: Turkey Leftovers? Semi Homemade Pot Pie

We are a family of 4 (and a 1/2) and although many may find a 15lb turkey too small for a feast, we find that it can actually last all week.  But lets be honest the same thing for an entire week can be daunting, boring and just ehh...one can eat a limited amount of sandwiches, paninis, tacos and other turkey whatnots before praying the next meal is liver stuffed with monkey brains.  It was rather gray yesterday prior to the sun coming up for a brief moment, however, it was still chilly which makes it perfect for baking.  So the big Boo requested one of his favorite my pot pie...I asked which way he wanted it double crust or potato crust.........uhmmmm potatoes! he quickly replies.  When I get bored I experiment (I'm pretty much bored often so experimentation is always on the menu)....I recall reading that soups make a good base...idea #1, shepards pie uses no bottom crust but it does have a top layer of mashed potatoes (why is it a pie again?)...idea #2, fat makes for a flaky crust but some fats are empty and flavorless so lets do it with a fat that is used for crusts but not as often...butter! (the calcium makes it healthier? or so I tell myself) and why not flavor the crust with some dried spices?!...idea #3

And so from a collection of ideas, fails and mistrials I came up with my very own leftover Semi-Homemade Turkey Pot Pie

Warning this is NOT for the carb fearing soul...I mean yummy bottom crust (that I promise you will LOVE) and then on top of that a layer of hearty mashed potatoes?! Holy Moly...ehh but like my daughter says YOLO!!!  And besides you can live another day to run an extra 5 minutes to burn off that excess...that's what I did...

So without further delay here is my easy Semi Home Made Leftover Turkey Pot Pie

For the Bottom Crust
Ingredients (this will yield 2 crusts)
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 cup unsalted butter, cold cut in small pieces
1/4 cup cold water (you wont need all of it)
3 tablespoons of a combo of your spices of choice
(I used basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary,
 parsley and sage)
1 teaspoon dried onion powder
1 teaspoon dreied garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of salt

1- Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl
2- Add the butter pieces and cut in with a fork (this will take like 4ever!) or with a pastry cutter (thats the ticket).  Mix it all in until you have small clusters (blueberry size)
3- Once you have the right size 'ball' begin to shape 2 balls of dough.  If the dough is too dry and falls apart add 1 tablespoon of water at a time in between shaping until you get a nice plyable dough ball.
4- Take your 2 balls of dough, place in the same bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.


5- Tic Toc, Tic Toc...hour up! Take out and flour your rolling surface and your rolling pin
6- Roll dough center to end, flipping in between. Measure the crust size with your pie dish.  Once you reach the appropriate diameter fold in half, then in half again (this is the way I do it because it is easier for me- we all have our own style), you may also roll onto to pie dish with rolling pin...I just prefer the folding method.
7- Once your dough is nice and flat and it is officially a crust neatly folded in 4, take it and place the corner in the middle of the dish and unfold, press lightly with hand, shape crust ends with a fork (or whatever your decor preference may be) and poke 'breathing' holes around the entire dish with fork. Set aside.

Making holes will help avoid air pockets


For the Pie Filling (this will yield enough for 2 pies)
5 cups turkey (shredded or cubbed- I like to cube mine)
2 packages (12oz) mixed frozen vegetables
2 cans (10.75oz) Cream of Mushroom soup (I used the one with roasted garlic, yum!)
Note:  The canned soup is why I call it semi homemade...if you want to make your own gravy mix anout 1/4 cup milk and 2 tablespoons of flour, flavor to taste...this would then make it homemade....but I like my 'cheat' it makes for a quick and easy preparation with great taste!

1- In a large pot mix all ingredients thoroughly with a wooden spoon (yes it's that simple!)
Note: add soup as is, DO NOT go by soup directions by adding milk
2- Now that you have your bottom 2 crusts and enough filling divide in 2 and fill both pie dishes. Set aside.

For the Top Crust (uhm potatoes!)
8 Medium size russet potatoes cut in 3-4 pieces (no need to peel since the outside is packed with nutirents).  Note: can also use red potatoes which I prefer, however, I only had russet on hand last night
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4-1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cream cheese

1- Cook potatoes stove top in water until tender (stick a fork in it, it goes through? They're done!)
3- Once done add butter, 1/4 cup milk and cream cheese and mash manually until it is semi smooth/chunky.  If the potatoes appear too dry add remaining milk and mix

NOTE: The top potato crust and pie filling can be made during that hour waiting for the dough to sit.

My Little Helper
Final Assembly!!!!!
Take your filled pies and divide among the two the mashed potatoes.  Spead over the top until the filling is covered leaving the pie crust edge visible.  For an extra je ne sais quoi brush some melted butter and sprinkle with parmessan cheese and additional dried spices to your hearts content!

Cover crust edge with foil paper (to avoid burning it) or if you have one of those nifty pie crust rings even better!

Bake for about an hour (which is anywhere from 50-65 minutes) at 375 degrees farenheit...your pie is ready when the crust is golden and the edge is bubbling....

If you do not like the peel in your end product, no problem! Nothing will happen if you peel them.  Another variation is with no peel and smooth potatoes as opposed to chunky.  What you can do in this case is either A- smooth them over the pie filling or B- pipe the top using a pastry bag along with a large tip...use the 'star' method...dab, dab, dab and presto it makes a pretty pie top!

Lastly let the pie sit at room temperate for 7-10 minutes, cut, serve and enjoy!!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fashion: Mix & Match- Vintage, Modern, Designer and well Cheap

One thing that you must know about me is that I love, clothes, shoes, shoes, shoes, shoes, more shoes and bags...another thing you must know about me is that I despise shopping.  Although I lack the 'girl' mall shopping gene I still, however, have the other half of the 'girl' gene and purchase (what I deem) fashionable (and many times pricey luxury) items.  So with that being said I am here to encourage the girl in you, and save a little here and there so that you can splurge in other more important areas...such as foot gear...did I mention I love shoes?!

I am one to hunt for bargains in the comfort of my own home, searching the web while holding a 7 month old and/or nursing him at the same time (as I am doing at this very moment) -technically you only need 1 hand to type....

....ok moving along.  I am not overly religious but yesterday was Easter Sunday and since (technically speaking) I am Roman Catholic I decided to be 'good' and go to church (I am happy to report that I nor the ones that accompanied me burst into flames upon entering the house of God- always a good sign).  I choose the lady attire keeping in mind how my mom recalled that as a child every Sunday the women of her small home town (no matter how rich or poor) dressed their best, especially on Sundays.  Every class proudly wore lovely pressed dresses, did their hair as if they were attending the Oscars.  Used such constraints as pointy bras (he he- those were terribly distracting I'm sure) and tight gurdles!  Adorned their noggins with fascinators or hats, used matching gloves and shoes and always wore silk stockings. 

Well sorry mom!!! Times have changed and evolved, as have trends.  But you know what doesn't go out of style (like ever!- yes I am a Valley girl) GOOD MANNERS, GOOD SHOPPING SENSE AND GREAT STYLE...

So I used a few bits and pieces of what I was told during my childhood to put together my ensemble.  No stockings or gloves, no pointy bra and definately NO gurdle, but still fashionable.  Both my daughter and I wore similar eyelet dresses that cost less than $15.00 each.  We both wore 1940's-50's vintage 'head gear' that cost less than $5.00 each (gotta love ebay auctions- but you have to KNOW what you are buying).  Her's was a taffetta and fur fascinator with mesh, while mine was a velvet hat adorned with fabric leaves.  We both wore designer shoes; she picked Manolo Blahnik polka dotted fabric flats while I troted in my Casadei ostrich embossed leather/satin combo strappy high heal sandals.  She did not carry a bag, but I chose one of my favorites!  A Judith Leiber classic leather bag (she's better known for her animal shaped Austrian crystal bags but the leather varieties are a must see, and more affordable)....notice I'm not adding the designer prices for fear that the 'man' may find out how much I really paid for these...but you know what, sorry Boo Boo I earned these so DRUM ROLL PLEASE and Boo hold on to a hand rail or something stable: My shoes cost around $600ish, Nini's cost around $500ish and my bag well, hmm, ok somewhere around $800ish.  In my defense I have owned all 3 items for over 4 years now...and they are as good as new after being lovingly used.  Which brings me to the point I am trying to make.
  Clothes change in style more, so frankly I don't recommend paying too much for them because they wont go well past a season (unless you repurpose them).  The shoes and bags I pocess although pricey I have owned for a LLOONGG time proving that quality has longevity with a price tag so they are highly justified! Another point, if you wear cheap shoes not only can you ruin your feet, man made materials such as vinyl make your feet well, uh stink...for the lack of a better word and that is well yuckity, yuk, yuk and did I say ewwww.  Not to mention your posture improves with a good quality shoe...no really, it does.  They are made better and with high quality materials, therefore, are very comfortable.  I dare you to compare a designer shoe vs. cheap swapmeet acrylic hooker shoes...yes, I said it, hooker shoes!  Look seriously, no joke..I have a pair of black Charles Jourdan Mary Janes that are over 10 years old and they are still in close to prestine condition (the sole was redone once).  So yes, absolutely, the high price tag is more than justified.
The thing is that the $15.00 dress now looks like a million bucks because I paired it well...How do I know I made the right fashion choice?  Well, as if the compliments from a couple of fellow parishioners wasn't enough we also received a compliment from my usually silent, no comment, thirteen year old son...he said mom and sister were looking good!  

So get fashionable and help me bring back that Sunday Best look to the masses and the masses...and to the guy (I cannot find it in my heart to call him gentlemen) that took communion at Saint Ferdinands Parish, word of advise; wearing a t-shirt that says I <3 TACOS is crass and inappropriate for church.....geez
Ok ladies (and gents) take the challenge, splurge on one designer piece, pair it with a pair of Levis or an inexpensive dress and you will give those Hollywood stars a run for their money!

#fashion   #sundaybest

Cooking: A Drunk Turkey is a Happy Turkey P2

As promised these are the things you will need in order to make a perfectly moist and flavorful turkey each time!
1- Fresh spices of choice (ie thyme, basil, rosemary, sage)
2- Dried spices of choice (ie black pepper, cayenne pepper, marjoram and the above in dried versions)
3- Powder onion and garlic
4- Garlic head and onion (1 each cut in half)
5- 1 stick of unsalted butter
6- 1 package of regular bacon
7- 1 bottle of white wine (I prefer savignon blanc, however, chardonnay or pinot grigio are ok)
8- Kosher salt
9- 1 15lb turkey (thawed)
10- tools (roasting pan, cookie sheet, fork, food thermometer) and a glass of wine for the cook (optional but always great!)
Step 1- Clean the turkey remove all giblets and neck (located on each cavity)
Step 2- Cut the onion and garlic head in half (no need to remove casings) and insert 1 each per cavity)
Step 3- Insert fresh spices on both cavities as pictured

 Step 4- Insert 2/3 of stick of butter in large cavity and 1/3 in the neck cavity (Don't forget BOTH cavities require all incredients)

Step 5- Poke holes using the fork all over (legs, thighs and especially breast)
Step 6- Pour bottle of wine and turn turkey on the breast side, cover in roasting pan and refrigerate over night.

Step 7- The following day remover your turkey from the refrigerator and preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Step 8- Turn turkey breast side up and flavor using the dry sprices and very little salt (bacon is salted and ypu definately DO NOT want to overdue it)

Step 9- Cover turkey with bacon (those Epic Meal time guys would be proud) and add more spices (I LOVE to add freshly craked black pepper)
Step 10- Cook for 2 1/2 hours (baste 1-2 in between - doesnt need much babysitting because the bacon helps keep the breast nice and moist but it's good practice so the bacon does not burn)
Step 11- Lower your oven temperature to 325 degrees and remove turkey from roasting pan and place on a 'deep' cookie sheet (like the one pictured) and place back in oven for another hour - 1 1/2 hours or until the thermometer reads 165 degrees
Step 12- After the turkey is done remove from over, let it sit for no more than 5 minutes and place on your platter (pinch of a strip of bacon as a pre-meal reward-optional but hey why not!)

So here is the finished product ( taken with a cell phone one with flash one without ). Nice color, crisp bacon, moist and the family was delighted! Hope you all had a Wonderful Easter Dinner!

Degrees are listed in ferenheit
Do not cover turkey while in the oven 
Decorate with citrus leaves and lemons or with amything else you have on hand.  Nothing will be wasted, you can still use the lemons and even the leaves (boil them to make tea, trust me!)
There is a reason why I use a roasting pan and then a cookie sheet as opposed to one of those wire racks or the roasting pan for the entire cooking process...and this is why.  Did you see the picture above? The skin begins to stick to the bottom of the pan and also the sides of the turkey will stick to the pan making it diffucult and messy when removing it.  The wire rack makes no differernce other than all the drippings go to the bottom.  Trust me I have tried it and your bird will stick and once you remove it and place it on your platter it wont be pretty.  By placing it on the cookie sheet it is no longer soaking in so much fat and will give it time to crisp the skin making it simple to remove and place on your platter.  This will make for a better looking golden brown bird that will look very nice on your table and is sure to impress your family and dinner guests.  I believe meals should be yummy and eye catchy at the same time.

#turkey   #easter   #bestturkeyrecipe

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cooking: A Drunk Turkey is a Happy Turkey

The Best Marinade I have come up with is none other than an alcoholic one.  Yes, alcohol! Not only is it good to clean infections ( wait that's rubbing alcohol :/ ), wine is great when you cook anything from beef stew to marinating a turkey.  Since it is Easter tomorrow the family requested turkey and I of course never say no to them.  So here I am close to midnight, decorking a simple Sauvignon Blanc that I must leave my turkey soaking overnight in.  It is a 15lb bird so just 1 bottle will do.  And don't forget to slap it around a bit!...you know to help all that good stuff seep in.

That being said here is my turkey prior to baking ( see picture above )...now stay tuned because tomorrow I will post the results and directions.  But like the post clearly states: A Drunk Turkey is indeed a Happy Turkey...

#turkey #turkeymarinade #easymarinade #easterdinner

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