Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Linguine in Clam Sauce

I realized the other day, that I have never blogged anything with seafood.  This has a couple of explanations.  I mostly hate seafood.  I only like lobster and crab legs.  I don't have enough money in the bank for the amount of crab legs I generally WANT to eat, and lobster is so expensive I usually just eat it out, same price and half the work right?  Anyway, my husband is an avid seafood lover, growing up all over the world but much of his adult life spent on the eastern shore.  Of course he loves clams.  I mean, LOVES clams.  After moving to Nebraska, I did find a great place for seafood, some seafood.

Truth be told, I suck at cleaning clams.  I know all the right things to do, however, I seem to always end up still with a little bit of grit in my sauce.  Some say, deal with it, that is normal.  No way, I can't stand it!    My husband told me with great deal of trepidation that he prefers it made with canned clams anyway.  What?  I never have to clean clams again?  Seriously?  Awesome honey, I LOVE YOU!  I love the look of the real clams, I really do.  But as far as easier and faster, canned clams it is friends!  

This dish is so easy.  I know, some purists say absolutely NO cheese, but I do use some Parmesan cheese.  Not the stuff they sweep off the floor, GOOD Parmesan!  I urge you to give it a try.  Some of the ingredients might seem, "off" to you but, it is sooooo good!  Just trust me on this one, would ya?  You can make the sauce in a different pan and have it done by the time or before your pasta is cooked.

 Linguine With Clam Sauce
1 lb pkg linguine
2 6.5 ounce cans of clams.  DO NOT DRAIN!
5 tbsp butter
1 tsp garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup white wine (your fav)
1/2-3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Cook your pasta according to package directions in WELL salted water.  Make sure to use a big enough pot.  So many times people cook so much pasta in such a small pot!  Pasta needs room to groove!  

In a medium sauce pan or high sided skillet type pan, add in butter, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and garlic.  

Stir constantly for 30-45 seconds.  Add in wine, stock and clams (do NOT drain their liquid).  Cook for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly to avoid burning.  

Let the sauce reduce uncovered and then add linguine back into sauce.  Add in Parmesan cheese, parsley and toss!  Serve with some crusty bread to soak up the sauce!!

Feel free to use more clams if you like.  I just used the 2 cans I had purchased but I might have used more had I had them on hand.  I would NOT use whole grain pasta with this.  Of course you all should now by know I loathe whole grain pasta and I think the taste would completely overpower the delicate flavors of wine, butter and clams.  If you choose to do it, I can't stop you, OR guarantee the final taste of the dish!  So there!

I hope you enjoy my first seafood recipe.  Can we have a moment to commemorate this event?  

Your "seafood savvy" chefwannabe

Sunday, May 27, 2012

George says, "My meatballs are better than hers". Really?

This is George, but my wife is typing this for me.  (I think it is just to monitor what I am saying)

My wife and I have always had this little meatball competition.  She'll never admit to it, but, everyone says mine are better.  She just told me that was a complete lie.  I said it isn't.  The truth is, I was making meatballs while she was still in grade school and I learned from my best friends mom, who was a child of Italian immigrants.  She taught me all of her secrets, and my wife can't accept that my meatballs are far superior to her own.  Consistency, flavor, texture, and over all "mmmmm-mmmmm" value is off the charts.

Think he can juggle them?  Mr, Flour and Water make them stay together like glue...ppfftt
For our wedding, I cooked 300 meatballs.  We had about 30 guests, and all 300 were gone in less than 30 minutes.  A feat which my wife has never accomplished.  (ok, this is Chris, this is getting completely ridonkulous, just had to get that in).  Ok, George says, back to him.  Normally I make them slightly smaller than golf ball size, so if we have leftovers they make the perfect meatball sub.  But for a little change I made almost tennis ball size meatballs.

So here are a few of my secrets to amazing meatballs.  The most important secret in the mix is to add a cup of flour.  You will never see anyone add that.  But what it does when you are shaping the meatballs, you wet your hands with water, and roll them in your hand.  The water and the flour works as a glue to seal the meatballs.  The secondary reason for the flour, when you brown them in the pan, it browns them evenly in color.  Another secret is to brown the meatballs in the pan.  DO NOT cook them in the pan, and do not feel tempted to cook them all the way through in the pan or bake them.  The biggest secret of all is the flavor that they will release once you simmer them, in the sauce.  All of the natural flavors from the meat are released into the sauce, even jars of sauce. I also use the Kitchen Aid mixer I so graciously got my wife, to mix the meat mixture.  (see what a great husband I am) I throw everything right in the mixing bowl.  I used to use my hands, so if that is what you have, go for it.  But you need to mix it for 10 minutes until the mixture is completely mixed.

What is THIS? A towel around his neck?  Is he cooking or doing kitchen Olympics?
 So I challenge you to make hers, and make mine.  You be the judge.  Make sure to come back and comment about how good mine are and how there is no comparison in flavor and texture.  (now he is laughing)

Geo's Famous (formerly secret) Meatball Recipe
3 lbs ground beef
1.5 lbs ground pork  (NOT sausage of any kind)
4 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
4 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup dried Italian seasoning (or more, you can't put to much in, and it can be the dollar store variety it doesn't matter!)
1/8 cup garlic POWDER
1/8 cup dried basil
2 tbsp salt

Mix entire list of ingredients in your mixer or by hand.  Mix for 5 minutes in a mixer or at least 10 by hand.  (this is Chris again, he isn't joking I have witnessed him mixing for 10 minutes by hand)

Shape meatballs into the size you desire.  This time we made slightly smaller than a tennis ball.  Use a bowl of water to wet your hands before forming each meatball.  (I think the best size is golf ball size for the record, like I said above)

While I mix the meatballs up, I have already prepared the sauce.  Here is what I use for my sauce, and yes, it involves jars of sauce:
2 jars of your favorite sauce
1 can diced petite tomatoes
1 container Pomi Strained Tomatoes
1/4 cup Italian seasoning
1/4 cup sugar (This mortifies my wife.  I personally like 1/2 cup)
1/8 cup dried basil
Oregano and red pepper flakes are optional
Salt to taste (optional as well)
Optional - fresh basil to tear and stir in at the END otherwise it will turn black

Simmer  your sauce in a large pot.  Remember you are going to need enough room for all of your meatballs to cook.  We didn't allow for this today. HaHa!

Sorry, back to the meatballs.  When you have formed them all.  In a skillet (nonstick) on medium heat, add 4 tbsps olive oil.

Add meatballs, to the pan, do not overcrowd, leave enough room to turn them a few times, and so they fry and not steam.  You will see when they have nice color, and you can flip them.  When they are done browning take them out and drain them on a cooking sheet lined with paper towels, newspaper or baking racks.  After you have let them drain, place them into your sauce.  The sauce should be at a slow boil by this time.  Make sure to stir often, from the bottom, up.  Do this every 15 minutes for the first hour.  After that let simmer for at least another hour.  For the full great taste of these AMAZING meatballs (was that to much?) let them cook at least 2 hours, more is better.  If they cook 4 they will be even better!  The longer they cook the better the sauce AND meatballs taste.  The meatballs flavor the sauce, and the sauce flavors the meatballs.

We just ate these.  She refuses to admit they are better than hers.  Its ok, you will all try both and let us know, right?  Honestly, I already know the answer.  

Your "awesome Italian ChefWannabe"chefwannabe's husband

Roasted Chili Lime Sunflower Seeds

These are SO good you guys!

My intention originally was to roast and flavor raw sunflower seeds IN the shell, however when I went to pick them up they didn't have them so I nabbed some of these instead!  The story is actually that my husband quit chewing tobacco almost 2 years ago.  He still has a terrible craving for it when he is in the car.  A few months ago we started with sunflower seeds in the car, which is his worst time.  I am currently addicted to dill pickle sunflower seeds, but even with a good handful of options, I decided I wanted to try and make my own.  

Sunflower seeds have great nutritional properties including amino acids, vitamin b1, and cholesterol lowering phytosterols.  They are rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium and zinc!  What a great snack or great addition to your diet!  Like I said I would have preferred the shells on, but the shells off are great too!

These will make a great snack, or a great salad topper!  I would even consider crusting some fish or chicken with them!  

I know this is a little short blog, but, I want to get down to it!  I was able to get these at Whole Foods by the way.  I am sure you can get them at health food stores as well!

3 cups RAW sunflower seeds (no shell) 
1 tbsp cumin (I used my Penzey's cumin, or chili powder)
2 tsp salt (reduce if you like)
2 limes

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  Cut your lime in half, and squeeze them over the bowl of sunflower seeds.  Add in cumin, and salt and mix completely.  

Lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Get them spread out into as thin of a layer as possible.

Put them in the oven for 7 minutes, remove and mix, toss them around and get them spread back out.  Bake for 7 more minutes.  Take them out and let them cool completely.  Let the munching begin!!

Use these in a trail mix or just to snack on, top salads, or crust chicken or fish.  I love when tasty is still healthy!

I am going to use my ranch dressing dry mix to do some too!  How about some other ideas?

Your  "doesn't miss spittin' shells" chefwannabe

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pudding Cake - Visits from Philly

As many of you may or may not know, an uncle who is very dear to me and my brothers and sisters had a massive stroke 2 days ago.  With brilliant medical intervention and PRAYER, he is doing much better and will be headed to a rehab facility soon.  Thank you all for your prayers.

Look at those heavenly layers of cake, pudding and whipped cream!
That being said, the last few days have been spent walking down memory lane about my Uncle Will and his wife Aunt Millie.  They still live in the same neighborhood my dad was raised in, and though it has been rare that they leave the city, they did venture out to visit us in Nebraska when I was a kid.  My dad left the old neighborhood and the family.  In reality he did it (at 17) so his dad would have one less mouth to feed.  Anywho, so the story goes that my dad met my mom and they made their life in my hometown, which is also my mom's hometown.  For big city people, this WAS a different world.  

My Uncle Will took me and my sister Patty to "Mel's Dime Store".  If you are from my hometown, you remember the ol' place!  We didn't have alot of money growing up and rarely got toys aside from Christmas and birthdays.  Well, he took us in and let us each pick out 2 toys, anything we wanted.  I remember knowing I wanted to pick TWO baby dolls.  I couldn't believe in my 5 year old mind that someone had THAT MUCH MONEY they could buy us each 2 toys! Oh the GLORY!  

While we were busy picking out toys, my Aunt Millie was busy at!  She is Italian to the core and cooked us a feast every single night of their visit!  She also made us "pudding cake".  We were sure this was a "city dessert" when in reality it was cheap and cheerful!  She was after all feeding a family of 12 plus themselves!  It was the first time I was introduced to "jimmies".  When we learned what they were we felt so "la-dee-dah".  She made 2 pans of this one night and it has stuck in my head like glue ever since.  (I grew up and moved to South Jersey and jimmies are a food group of their own!)  I want to share it with you.  It is so delicious and not to heavy for these hot summer months.  

I used a sugar free angel food cake from the store.  You can easily use sugar free pudding and fat free whipped cream.  NONE of those choices will affect the dessert at all, only make you be able to eat more!  

Aunt Millie's Pudding Cake
1 angel food cake
2 sm. boxes chocolate pudding
2 sm or 1 lg container of whipped cream
chocolate jimmies

Cut your angel food cake into slices.  Lay them in the bottom of a 9x13 pan.  Prepare pudding as directed and pour over the sliced cake.   Spread on whipped cream (you could make your own too!)  Sprinkle the top with jimmies.  HEAVY on the jimmies please!  Refrigerate until ready to serve!

I hope you make this easy, delightful dessert.  What a great recipe for your kids to make or to help with!  Enjoy this as much as we did as kids and do as adults.  Thanks Aunt Millie for teaching us "country kids" about jimmies.  It changed our lives! 

Your "missing Uncle Willy and Aunt Millie" chefwannabe

Monday, May 21, 2012

All American Appetizer! Pinwheels!

I hope this finds you all having a relaxing evening, recovering from this ugly Monday syndrome!  What a fantastic day here in Nebraska, gorgeous weather, and summer is on the horizon!

Now, I know that most of you have eaten, heard of, or in fact made these appetizers, which we call "picky food".  Truth is, they are old news right?  Well, I would have to agree to some extent, but I am hoping to revive these always popular finger lickin' "picky's" and give you some new idea's on how to fill them.  They are so easy and as my sister and I were making them, I was thinking of a million different things you could really do with these babies and I was amazed at my on genius.  Well, I am sure someone else has thought of most of my ideas as well but, in reality you can do about anything you would do in a wrap!!  Just cut the pieces smaller!

My secret is that I put as much as I can in the food processor.  I process it until it is 2 notches from mush.  Seriously, I do.  There are tiny pieces but it is very spreadable and not to big to be rolled effectively into the pretty little pinwheel shape!  Tomatoes, onions, olives, bacon (unless you use bits) all can be done in the food processor and prepared to complete perfection for this appetizer.

To begin you will need cream cheese, sour cream, and flour tortilla's.  From there I will go into specific varieties and list you my versions!

Here is what you need for the basic bacon, tomato, ranch version:

1 8oz. pkg cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
8 flour tortilla's
1 tbsp ranch dressing dry mix
1/2-3/4 cup bacon (bits or crumbled)
1/2 cup onion (optional)
3 tomato's minced in food processor
(pictures is all my ingredients for other versions as well)

In a bowl with a hand mixer combine cream cheese (room temp), sour cream and ranch dressing mix.  Mix until smooth.  Set aside while you process your other ingredients.  After you process your tomatoes, let them drain in a small strainer to get as much liquid out of them as possible like this.

Lay out your tortilla.  Spread with a layer of your cream cheese mixture.  Layer on tomatoes, and bacon.  Roll up and put on a plate, seam side down.  Continue until your cream cheese mixture is gone.  Refrigerate 1 hour before slicing into pinwheels!

Dill Pickle and Ham Version (my personal fav of course)
1 8oz pkg cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1lb thin sliced deli ham
1 jar of your favorite WHOLE dill pickles

Mix cream cheese and sour cream completely.  Lay out tortilla and spread on mixture.  Cover in slices of thin sliced ham.  I would do 2 layers of ham.  Line your pickles up on one end and roll like this!

Taco Pinwheels
1 8oz pkg cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup taco sauce OR 1 pkg taco seasoning mix
black olives
tomatoes (processed) and drained
1 pkg grated cheese (cheddar or mexican blend)

Do I need to type this again?  HAHA   Drain olives and tomatoes like this...

Spread on cream cheese layer, tomatoes, olives, onions and cheese.  Make sure not to use so much it pushes out the end and won't roll nicely.  As with all the others refrigerate for 1 hour before slicing.

Now there are a TON of could do ground beef in these if you make sure it is in tiny pieces.  You could shred chicken to add as well.  You could use guacamole as a second layer of spread.   I wouldn't use lettuce as it will wilt and get slimy.

There are NUMEROUS sweet version ideas as well.  Mashed bananas, cream cheese with powdered sugar, nutella, thinly sliced strawberries, fruit preserves, ganache, the possibilities are endless!

It is a almost Memorial Day weekend, what a great EASY fingerfood to take to your bbq!!

Your "picky lovin" chefwannabe

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Thank you Puerto Rico for pastelillos!  Here is the story behind why I wanted to recreate these little pockets of love!

Where we used to live in NJ, we had a Flea Market every week.  A food truck guy named "Fat Daddy" used to come and serve these along with many other items.  These were our favorite.  I don't even know if Fat Daddy was Puerto Rican, but does it really matter?  He made these so good!  It has been a long time since we have had the originals but I decided to recreate our favorite filling.

I had to call 10 Spanish food markets in the city to find the correct dough "discos".  I knew I had seen Goya ones and ended up having to call Goya direct to find who they supplied in this city.  When I got her on the phone it was a disaster and when Geo and I got there, well, finally found them and I was ready to go!  I suppose there are other brands.  I suppose you could make this dough homemade.  I suppose I would rather hang myself by my eyelids.  Sometimes it isn't about having to have everything homemade, it is about putting it all together to create something amazing!

I hope you are sitting down.  Oh wait, you probably are.  My husband said only ONE thing could have made these better.   Drum roll please........ONIONS!  WHAT?  I almost went bat crap crazy on him!  I left the onions out FOR him and now he wants onions?  Where was my REAL husband?  The one who hates onions so much words can't express.  Wow.  So.  I will write this up with onions though ours didn't have any.  Pfftt.  (scratching my head) I still don't get that he WANTED onions.  Anyway, the fillings for these are endless.  They are a Puerto Rican version of an empanada.  Plain and simple.  I can't imagine there is anything you can't put in them!  I would get the plain discos if you are planning something sweet though.  The ones I used and Fat Daddy used were a reddish, orange color.  I assume turmeric is the culprit but honestly I didn't remember look at the package that close!

This recipe will make 20.  It seems like alot but I would say 2 or 3 would be a serving.

2 lbs ground beef
1/2 lb white American cheese (use any cheese you like)
3 envelopes Adobo Consazon
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 cup finely minced onion  (could use dehydrated onion too)
2 pkgs Goya Discos (dough discs)

In a skillet, brown your hamburger and onions.  As it is browning add in adobo and garlic powder.  Drain in a colander if needed and get an assembly line going.  I used only half a piece of cheese because it is all that really fit and honestly it was perfect.  Use an entire piece if you feel so inclined.

Lay out your discos and on one half lay down your cheese, some ground beef and using a bowl of water, wet the edges with your finger, fold in half and pinch together.

Use a fork to fully seal the edges.  It is slightly time consuming but so well worth your effort.  My husband decided to come help halfway through and sealed half of it up turn it so it was going up and down and would put in more meat.  His were way fatter than mine, and they were better.

Here they are!  All done and ready to fry!  Using 2 inches of peanut oil in a pan, heat to 360 degrees.  When it is hot enough put in 1 or 2, you don't want to overcrowd you pan, it will be the temperature of the oil down and you will soak up all that greasy oil instead of frying properly in it.  They cook literally 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side!  They are so fast!  Drain on racks or paper towels.  Here is what you get on the inside when they are done!

They were so good, we just sat and reminisced.  I love recreating foods we have eaten that we love.  Culinary memories.......ahhhh.

We decided we needed a dipping sauce.  Let me know what YOU think these should be dipped in the comments below!  

Your "pastelillos lovin' what can I put in it next"chefwannabe

Monday, May 14, 2012

(recreated) Peanut Butter Honey Balls - School Lunch Series

Yes, more peanut butter.  Listen guys, I got a TON on sale, whaddya want from me?   

This recipe is a recipe a chefwannabe reader has mentioned before.  We are always trying to recreate our favorite old school lunch dishes around here.  Pat Finley Morman has described this to me at least twice, and well, I think I got it, and I think it worked.  The only difference between mine and what she described was that I ended up rolling my peanut butter honey balls in chopped peanuts.  I don't know if hers were rolled in anything, I am not sure we ever got that far.  So Pat, even though these might not be EXACTLY the same, I found a mix that seemed "right" and it is sure tasty.  I know why you loved them!!  I would say you could roll these in coconut, peanuts, or give them a dunk in some chocolate!

These are so easy, and although they seem like they would be very sweet, they aren't.  They are sweet enough, without being overwhelming.  They don't crumble when you bite into them either!  Yeah for that!  Let's get this started, the sooner we do, the sooner you eat!

Peanut Butter Honey Balls
1/2 cup honey
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup peanut butter (I used creamy but I don't feel like it really matters which you use)
1 cup powdered milk (powder form do not mix with water!)
1 cup chopped or crushed peanuts to roll the finished balls in.

Using a food processor or something large and weapon-like, crush your graham crackers.  When they are properly pulverized, place them in a large mixing bowl  

Add in honey, peanut butter, powdered milk.  Combine this mixture completely.  

I used a small scoop so all of the balls would be the same size.  Scoop, and roll them in your crushed peanuts.  Place in a cake pan or something with sides so they don't roll off.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before eating.  

They are tasty and would be good rolled in a variety of things, or dipped!!  Try one or try a few different ways!

Here is to hoping these bring some memories for Pat!!

Your "doesn't remember having dessert at school" chefwannabe

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Breakfast (Pizza) For Dinner

Do you like breakfast for dinner?  I am learning people either love it or hate it.  My family LOVES it!  We are always up for a good breakfast for dinner but I wanted to change things up a bit.  

This was so easy and as you know (if you read my blogs and fb page) I am on a quest to USE UP what is in the cupboards and freezer!  The amount of food we accumulate is ridiculous! I refuse to throw things out, so this is what I came up with.  Where I used shoestring french fries you could use any sort of hashbrowns as well, just make sure they are thawed out!  (And eggs are on sale for .79 a dozen this week!)  
First thing is to make the crust.  My recipe for pizza crust is amazing, I promise.  The dough will be so light and fluffy you will want to use it for a pillow!  Click this link and scroll down to the recipe, Pizza Crust Recipe.  Next, fry up your bacon, I used a skillet because I made a terribly fattening, and unhealthy choice to use bacon grease to make my bechamel.  *plugs ears*.  You will find my bechamel recipe in the event you actually need one in my Croque Madam/Monsieur blog.  You will use the bacon grease in place of the butter.  Or clean your pan and start fresh with butter.  Make sure your bacon is nice and crispy, drain it on a paper towel and crumble.  Set aside for later use.  

Here is what you will need:
Pizza Crust
2 cups THAWED hashbrowns or french fries you have chopped into smaller pieces
1 lb deli shaved/thin sliced ham
5 strips of bacon fried and crumbled
5 eggs beaten with 1/4 cup milk/cream/half and half (add salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste if you like)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
prepared bechamel sauce
Green onions for the top (optional)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Using a large cookie sheet sprayed with nonstick spray, stretch and pull your dough so that it goes up the sides of the cookie sheet a little bit.  

Pour your bechamel on top of the crust and spread evenly.  You may have a bit extra, depending on your taste or how big your pizza is.  Mine made a LARGE cookie sheet size.  
Add ham, bacon, potatoes, and half of your cheese.  Pour over your egg mixture.  Pour it as evenly as possible.  I started with 3 eggs and had to add more, 5 seemed perfect for my size pizza.  Top with the rest of your cheese like this...

Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Make sure to let cool 5 minutes before cutting.  This crust is fairly thick.  I would normally get 2 large size pizza's from this crust because I like a thin crust.  I wanted it to be thicker to be more like bread than pizza dough.  It is delicious and it will feed a crowd for sure!!  My husband even got a piece for breakfast this morning in a baggie with a love note on it.  Come on you know I am the perfect wife......pffttt.  HAHA   Oh did I mention he is so NOT used to breakfast he forgot to take it!!
So here is your final product...........does yours look like this?  You can add more meat, take away meat, whatever you want just like any other pizza.  This is what we like, you add or subtract what you like or don't like for your family!!  I topped mine with green onions after baking as well!


Your "to old to be this mixed up"Chefwannabe

Friday, May 11, 2012

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies!

Happy Friday everyone!  I am planning on enjoying a night out with my darling husband tonight.  Maybe dinner and some live music, who knows.  Maybe just dinner, doesn't really matter as long as we hang out together!  Oh we DO have to make that trip to Ulta...mwaahahaha.

Anyway, I have been on a peanut butter kick.  Mostly because I found these 2 Betty Crocker peanut butter cookie mixes in the cupboard and wanted to use them up.  The cookies were divine, I am convinced I could never make anything homemade that resulted in anything near that amazing.  You all know how I am with baking.  I am not above or in any way opposed to package cookie mixes and God knows my love for a good boxed cake mix!  

So, the reality is, you have to just use your favorite cookie recipe.  Maybe some of my fellow bloggers can link you in the comments below to their peanut butter cookie recipes.  Follow the directions and just make your regular peanut butter cookies.  I would make them a wee thinner since this is a sandwich cookie and you want to be able to get your lips fully around the goodness.  If you are lucky they will look something like this when you are done!

Then here is what you will need to sandwich these babies:

1/2 cup peanut butter
4 ounces cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Make sure ingredients are room temperature and mix them until completely combined.  Take 2 of your cookies, oh wait let me really tell you how this went down.  My OCD got the best of me and I literally took the time to pair up the cookies with their best possible match.  I used a scooper, they were all the exact same size, but I did it anyway.  Ridiculous eh?  I know, but you gotta love it anyway.   This made 18 sandwich cookies.  So my mix made 32 cookies, and 18 is the final..ya get it, yea I know you do but just in case.  And you will come out with something beautiful like THIS!

Now, you would stop here, because frankly this is what I wish I had ended up with.  It is so difficult to cut them all in half and eat only the sides without chocolate after they are dipped.  (hehe)  In hindsight I wish I would have just drizzled them heavily with chocolate, because dipping half made a whole lotta chocolate in one place!  Anyway, using chocolate chips, chocolate bark, Hershey's bars, whatever chocolate you like, melt it in the micro and just dip half of the cookie or drizzle them.  

These really are a quick treat that look like they took you all day.  I hope you enjoy them and I hope you drizzle instead of dip! :))

Your "did you see the dog pic on FB where I gave her the empty PB jar" chefwannabe

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fondant wishes and buttercream dreams!

O. M. G you guys!  I did it!  Although the top was a wee lumpy and not perfectly round, I think it isn't bad for a first time.  Heaven knows I have enough fondant left to do 2 more of these babies!  Though this project was completely out of my comfort zone, and stressful, it was SO fun and my sister loved it, that is what mattered most!  This took me 1 and a half days to do.  I am a complete mess when I bake to, so that might have been another time issue.  I had to clean up huge messes between steps!

Though this is NOT the cake I had designed in my head it is what the final product was, and I think it wasn't to bad for my first time in the ring!!
I will be giving you the story of my adventure and give you the recipe for the marshmallow fondant and some tips and tricks and things I would do differently next time.  It was so easy and a fun project for someone who wants to try something new and not spend a fortune.

So, my sister turned 50.  We were throwing a surprise party and since she loves and collects Coke stuff, we decided a coke theme it would be.  I knew I would just make a red and white cake so this would be easy!  Right?

Let me start at the beginning.  I made a double batch of fondant, good idea or bad, I am not sure.  I would never want to run out, easier to make extra.  This double batch nearly filled to capacity my huge kitchen aid.  So be warned.  I will post the recipe for a double batch so halve it for a single.  We good?

3 10.5ounce bags of mini marshmallows
2 2lb bags of confectioners sugar (icing, powdered)+2 cups
6 Tbsp water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
GEL coloring (optional)

In a large microwave safe bowl, and I mean LARGE guys...pour in marshmallows and water. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, then stir, and repeat until mixture is COMPLETELY smooth.  Stir it alot each time, it will smooth more the more you stir it.  Here is the empty bowl after I had emptied it into my mixer.  Sorry it was 1am and I forgot to take the photo!

Now, I emptied it into my mixer, pouring in about half of each bag of confectioners sugar at a time.  I also added a splash of vanilla as well.  Make sure you have your dough hook attachment fitted!  Start slow, I have a cover but if you don't add just a bit at a time or you will be inhaling something, that you won't want to admit to later on.

Let the mixer do the work for you!  Add your food coloring (GEL ONLY) at this time as well.  Knead a good 5 minutes in the mixer.  When  it is done it should be a little tiny bit tacky still.  Dust your counter with more powdered sugar and scrap out the fondant.  Knead by hand for maybe 2 minutes, it should be warm and completely pliable and easy.  Wrap in saran wrap so it is air tight and let sit at room temp at least 3 hours or overnight.  FYI I have no pic of my finished fondant either!

I made my cakes.  I made 4 the same size since I didn't have smaller pans and I cut 2 the same size.  I just laid a plate the diameter I thought I wanted on top and cut around them.  I should have made them smaller and I should have gone and sprung for smaller pans! I cut them SO uneven and not round, as you can tell!  I made some butter cream which I never follow a recipe for.  It always turns out amazing.  I filled the layers and crumb coated each layer, letting it dry overnight in the fridge.  Time for bed!  THANK GOD!

See what I mean by mess???
Next morning............
Took a paper towel and put it over the top of the cake and rubbed it gently until smooth.  Did this for the sides as well.  I learned from my ONE fondant try before, it will show every imperfection! Did this with both layers.

Used the fondant I reserved to stay white and made these balls.  I have seen this as a border on a few cakes.  Balls should have been smaller too.  And I would take more time in making sure they were all the same size next time.  All easy fixes just things I guess you have to learn.  It just makes the finished product much nicer to look at.  Let those dry for hours.

OH WAIT!!!!  I need something to support my top layer my friend Julie tells me.  Oh crap.  I am not going out and spending 40.00 on supports and plates, etc.  I am CHRIS, and I CAN find something that will work at home.  A cardboard box lid becomes a circle the size of my top layer, for them to sit on.  I still need at least 4 supports for it to sit on that I can push down through the bottom layer.  DRINKING STRAWS!  *laughing*.  Yes I did!

So, I rolled out the fondant, and when I was done, rolled it unto my rolling pin and unrolled it over the top of the it looked like this.

I smoothed and used a pizza roller from Pampered Chef to smooth over the top and pat down the sides.  It took a few times for the fondant to stick unto the buttercream.  Once I had it down and smooth I trimmed the excess fondant to get this.

I did this with both layers.  The top one being rather funky in the end of course!  I cut my straws the correct size by sticking them in, then pulling them out a tiny bit, snipping them and using my finger to push them back down.  So it ended up looking like this.

I would not recommend this desperation method on a regular basis, but my top cakes were fairly light and it worked perfectly fine for me.
I used buttercream to pipe on dots.  I had planned on using fondant dots and failed to hold aside enough white fondant for that purpose.  I should have put dots on top as well, not sure why I didn't.  Next time......

I used white chocolate melted in a baggie and made this 50.  Again, I would have worked faster and then jiggled the board so they smoothed out, but I decided, to just let them harden, sprinkled some water on and red sugared them.  *shrugs* I really should have remade them.

I then made chocolate cupcakes (color of Coca Cola) and added some vanilla malted milk powder to my butter cream.  I used a tip and piped on the icing to resemble "fizz" and cut straws in small pieces and stuck them in to look like a little, short cup of Coke!

So that is my cake adventure.  Boy did it stress me out and boy was it fun all at once!!  I learned so much and my next one should rock the house for sure!!  The birthday girl was surprised and happy and that is all that mattered!  The flavor was awesome and a great time was had by all!!

Happy 50th Birthday to my sister Annie!
This is such a fun project.  I know sometimes we don't venture out to do new things because of cost and we don't want to waste.  This is less than 5.00 and worth the fun and work!  Make a fondant covered cake and send me photos!!!

Your "hubby hates fondant but loves THIS fondant"chefwannabe