Failing at Kitchen: Earthquake Cake

I like messy stuff.  I like messy food.  I’m basically a pig with opposable thumbs.

So when I saw the recipe for Earthquake Cake over at The First Year, I knew I had to make the attempt.  The attempt at duplicating this delicious looking cake.  And gotta admit it wasn’t too difficult.  Even for my bakery-challenged self.

For folks like me who understand how hyperlinks work but are too lazy to use them (go us!), here’s the recipe, along with my modifications [they’ll be in red, because festive]:

1 box German Chocolate Cake Mix (PREPARE WITH OIL, EGG AND WATER AMOUNTS LISTED HERE) [I used regular-ol’ chocolate cake mix.]
1/3 cup oil
3 eggs [I used 2 whole eggs, and one egg white.]
1 and 1/3 cup water
2/3 cup shredded coconut
2/3 cup chocolate chips [I used a full cup.  Because chocolate.]
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup butter [I used margarine.  A “butter-like” type.]
8 oz cream cheese [I used light cream cheese.  I don’t think fat free would cut it, but I may try next go-round.]
[Dash of vanilla]
1 pound powdered sugar (3 and 3/4 cups)

Here’s the play-by-play: Continue reading “Failing at Kitchen: Earthquake Cake”

Failing at Kitchen: Polenta!

I see you, tubes of polenta.  Winking at me at the Trader Joe’s.  Beckoning me at World Market.  Looking so fly in the “gourmet” section of the ol’ supermarket.  I see you, yet I’ve never attempted to work with you.  Me?  I figured if I opened you, you’d ‘splode, and then I’d have to spend several hours cleaning up after your Dead Alive cosplay.

But then I researched.  Apparently there are two types/styles of polenta: the creamy kind that looks like grits, and the sturdy planks…that look like firm grits.  A friend said “polenta is a fancy Italian word for grits”, and she’s not wrong.  Same stuff, different day.  Okay, polenta typically uses fancy-schmancy corn meal especially ground for the purpose.  Grits uses corn meal.  Then I saw this article at Serious Eats, which said that regular ol’ corn meal is just fine for polenta, and it’s all about the liquid/meal ratio.  So I jumped in.  And polenta happened!

Here’s my step-by-step (cribbed from Daniel Gritzer over at Serious Eats): Continue reading “Failing at Kitchen: Polenta!”

Adventures In Cooking: no-bake mini-cheesecakes

I love food.  Probably because I didn’t get enough love in my childhood.  But either way, there’s something about eating something really yummy that’s well, yummy.

I’ve always loved cheesecake, but I’ve had to watch the ol’ saturated fat thing lately.  (Wanna freak the expletive out?  Read the saturated fat counts for your favorite fast food goodies.  It’s enough to infarct you right there.)  So I figured, why not try to whip up some lite cheesecake?  Because I have a cast iron stomach, and absolutely no level to which I will not stoop when it comes to satisfying my desires.  Just ask my friends about my dating history.  Well, maybe you shouldn’t.

When I decided to do the lite cheesecake thing, I decided on the mini-cheesecakes.  There are tons of recipes out there, and I love the idea of using ‘nilla wafers in a recipe.  Seriously, those things are damn delicious.  The recipe I tweaked is as follows:

8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces CoolWhip
1/3 cup sugar
Dash lemon juice
1 box vanilla wafers
1 can pie filling of your choice
Mini cupcake papers''

(from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

I bought fat-free cream cheese, fat free cool whip and reduced fat wafers.  Go big or go home, I say.  (I also got light/low sugar cherry pie filling, in keeping with the “let’s see how much I can fubar this recipe by using all lite stuff.)

Mixing the ingredients, I got a slightly gummy mix — that wasn’t a big shock, as most fat-free cream cheese boxes say DO NOT USE FOR BAKING — that was absolutely delicious.

So, it was time to put the wafers into the mini-cupcake cups.  One problem.

Uh. Nillas, have you been working out (putting on weight)?

Yep.  They didn’t fit.  So, I took matters into my own hands….

BAM!
Yeah. You fit NOW, don’cha. DON’CHA?

Ahem.  Anyway, with the wafers in the bottom of the cups (DAMMIT), it was time to load in the goo.  Easier said than done — ’tis a sticky business — but eventually I got it did.

Victory!!!’

Now, to just top ’em with the cherry pie filling….

And it’s time to (lick the bowl like I’ve never seen food before) chill these puppies.

Now, it took a lot longer than the few hours most no-bake cheesecake recipes call for.  Probably because with all this (fine petroleum product from Texaco) no-fat stuff, it takes longer to congeal/set/whatever.  It also took longer for the wafers to get all soft-like from absorbing the liquids from the cheesecake.  And I’m guessing that’s for the same reason as the chilling/setting.  But the next morning?

TADA!

Wonderful little thimblefuls of delicious.  Not too shabby.

Next time?  I may use light cream cheese and cool whip, for better setting.  Or, more likely, I’ll use the exact same ingredients, but pour it all into a bowl and use it as a dip for apples.  Mmm, apples covered with cheesecake-like-substance.

I’ll call this a win.  Because sugar?  Always wins.

More tomatoes, and further Adventures in the Kitchen (cookies edition)

Darn. For little plants they do pop out some fruit. Last “harvest”:

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Nice! And just like the last, delicious.
Speaking of delicious,  I was really in the mood for peanut butter cookies…so I decided to try “cake mix cookies”. The recipe is so simple I can write it without looking at the original:

* box yellow cake mix
* 2 eggs (I used 1 whole & 2 whites)
* 1 cup peanut butter
* 1/2 cup oil (I used canola)
* 2 tbsp water

Pour the mix into a bowl, add the other ingredients & mix well. Drop batter by teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Wait 3 minutes before removing baked cookies from sheet. Narf down.

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Tomatoes & cookies. Dinner is served!

Beer + flour + cranberries = bread!

Yep. Three ingredients. From Big Oven, I got the recipe for “Two Ingredient Beer Bread”. Okay, so by using self-rising flour it’s kinda cheating (and adding cranberries bumps it to three ingredients) , but who cares?

image

It’s a bit chewy, like bread-machine bread, but very yummy nonetheless.

Hooray for St. Patrick’s Day! And for me attempting to cook!

2012: The Year I Cook More. Dammit.

Since I plan on doing a few house-centric resolutions this year that will require a bit of saving, why not get back into the cooking groove?  I used to cook every day.  Homemade tortillas.  Cream puffs.  Cinnamon buns.  Roast chicken.  Stuffed porkchops.  Now?  Nothin’.  Maybe some pasta, or something in a crockpot.  That’s just sad.

What has put me in this mood?  That’d be a who: Oprah.  Got an e-mail from her Web site this morning with a list of New Year’s cooking resolutions.  And I thought it would be a very good idea if I adopted a few of ’em.  With a twist or two, of course.

So, here are my cooking resolutions for this year.  Because really, it’s time I got to rattlin’ those pots & pans.

1) Master 3 new dishes so you can make them (& make ’em delicious) without a recipe
I really need to do this.  I can’t seem to come up with anything when someone says “hey, let’s make something….”  Maybe perfect the Greek Chicken/Lamb (which is kinda like cheating but I Don’t Care), and then figure out a cool veggie/vegan dish.  Then a balls-out bellybuster?  Yeah, probably pasta.

2) USE the cookbooks I have
I have great cookbooks.  I’ve even tabbed certain recipes in ’em.  I never use them.  This year?  Picking a tab once a month and going for it.

3) Make Your Own Mayonnaise.  Again.
Dude.  It’s been over 20 years since you made mayo from scratch.  Remember how damn easy it was?  Then you up and started grad school and got all lazy and stuff.  So it’s got egg yolks.  It’s dead easy, and it’s absolutely delicious.  Why not show someone — my curiously cooking-shy sister, perhaps — how to do it?  Then *really* homemade tuna salad for everyone!

4) Cook something with shells
Ulp.  As much as I love me some seafood, I fear cooking ’em.  How hard could it be?  Y’know, not ending the evening in the hospital with a disease named after me?  Only time will tell.  I’m doing this, dammit.  Probably with beer.  Because beer is awesome.

5) FINALLY learn how to make risotto!
Because I’ve been yammering on and on about this for years.  Time to put up or stuff my piehole with substandard frozen packets.

6) Make biscuits once a week for a month.  Or more.
I used to make biscuits just about every day.  I even received compliments on them from real Southerners (as opposed to my “Just Below the Mason Dixon Line” self).  Make ’em whole wheat to healthy ’em up, but make ’em.

Okay, this list is on the interwebs.  And as we all know, if it’s here, it’s true.

My lord, what have I done….