Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Linguine with Asparagus and Pine Nuts

I love pasta. I could eat pasta almost every day of the week. I'm sure partly because of this, I've gotten a bit tired of tomato sauce spaghetti meals. I like finding simple alternative meals with pasta.

I used whole wheat pasta in the meal. I've been making a real effort to switch from white to brown grains lately. I now buy brown rice and try to always buy whole wheat pastas. I rarely miss the white pasta anymore. I'm a convert and love the flavor of the whole wheat. I'm still working on the healthy grains in the bread aisle. That could a whole post on it's own. I get so confused between all the whole wheats and  whole grains. Most of the whole wheats seem like just like white bread but with brown color. And, in the rice aisle. I know brown rice is better for you than white rice, but what about jasmine rice? It has a distinct flavor that is fun to use. Is it as bad for you as basic white rice?

Linguine with Asparagus and Pine Nuts
Adapted from Real Simple Magazine
Printable Recipe

12 oz linguine (3/4 box)
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c pine nuts
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 lbs asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 c shaved Parmesan

1. Cook the pasta. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and garlic, stirring frequently, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes.

3.Add the asparagus mixture to the pasta along with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the Parmesan before serving.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Easy Pizza (Cooking with Kids)

I discovered that the deli makes pizza dough at my supermarket and sells it in little balls for pizza or breadstick making. I think my completely homemade pizza dough from a few weeks ago was better, but this was pretty good and far superior to the frozen pizza which we've done more often than I like to admit.
I found a simple recipe and adapted it a bit for Charlotte. I prepared the amounts and spread the dough, but she did most of the rest. Although, I did help distribute things around the pizza some. If I hadn't everything would have just been in one big pile. I love the mind of a two-year-old. Note the cluster of whole olives. I tried to cut the olives in half, but Charlotte thought that was silly. They should just go on the pizza whole, or actually just be eaten immediately as she did also. We'll definitely do this meal again. I'm going to check and see if they have whole wheat dough because that would really make this meal fantastic.

Easy Pizza
Adapted from Parents Magazine article
Printable Recipe
1 ball of pizza dough from deli
1 pint tomatoes, cut in half
1 tsp salt
garlic, minced
Italian seasoning
oregano
olives
Parmesan cheese
Other toppings as desired

1. Heat oven to 400. Spread out dough on a greased sheet.

2. Combine tomatoes, salt, garlic, and seasonings in a bowl and heat in microwave for 3 minutes.  Cool slightly.

3. Sprinkle dough with Parmesan cheese, seasoning, tomato mixture, olives, and any other toppings.

4. Bake 20 minutes.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Orange Tian

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

This was my first official month with the Daring Bakers.  Most desserts I have done in my life are cookies or cakes. I'd take chocolate over any kind of fruit dessert any day, but this was a fun challenge. There were a number of different elements to this dessert: the pate sablee, marmalade, caramel, and orange segments.
Pate Sablee: I discovered that my rolling pin mat was ruined. For some reason I must have put it back wet and when I pulled it out there was mold all over it. Yuck! I've been rolling out dough on my counter which works, but is quite messy. Clean up is kind of a pain. Once water and flour mix, I have nothing but paste all over my counter. I used too much flour in rolling out this dough and it became flaky quickly. It's just something I need more practice at.

Marmalade: This was my first time making marmalade too. It came out pretty well, although it wasn't as thick as I thought it would be. I'm not sure if I didn't get the proportions right or if I didn't cook it down enough. This recipe only calls for a small amount of marmalade so I'll be enjoying the rest of my marmalade on scones and bread for awhile.

Orange Segments: I didn't like oranges as a kid. It wasn't the flavor. I didn't like peeling them and I didn't like the texture of the membranes with the flesh. It would take me hours to eat an orange because I'd always peel all the membranes off. Why didn't I learn how to do segments! (It would sure help with lemons and grapefruits too.)

Caramel: Tricky! I think I did it right, but I was a bit distracted during the making of it. The directions even warn you to pay close attention if you've never made caramel before. I'll give you two guesses why I was distracted. (Either guess is right.) I think for the purposes of this dessert I did okay since you pour the caramel mixture over the orange segments before the caramel is really set. There is the option to further cook the remaining caramel and pour over the top of the dessert, but I wasn't able to do that on the day we ate them. I'd love to try some more caramel recipes.
The directions call for using 6 round cookie cutters.  I didn't have 6, so I used all the large shapes I had and then a few smaller shapes too, mostly of a Christmas theme. The round cookie cutter was certainly the easiest to work with. It was fun to see the dessert turn out in star and bell shapes though.
All in all, it was fun and they turned out pretty darn good. For the recipe, check out The Daring Kitchen site. (Printable Recipe)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lemon Stir Fry Sauce

It was going to be a pretty bland meal. All I had was a some left over chicken and a frozen bag of stir fry veggies. I was out of stir fry sauce and searched for a simple recipe with ingredients I had in the kitchen. I found stir fry recipes that's ingredient list rivals the most complicated meals with upwards of 20 ingredients. I needed something simple and moreover, needed something that used very little soy sauce as I didn't realize I was down to my last droops. I found one! It's very basic, but it sure did liven up the meal.

Who knew there was so much sugar in stir fry sauces. No wonder they taste so good.

Lemon Stir-Fry Sauce
Adapted from AllRecipes.com
Printable Recipe
1/4 c lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sugar

Combine all ingredients.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rosemary Chicken with Shallots

This was my first time ever cooking a whole chicken breast in a skillet!  I realize this might sound pretty simplistic to many, but for me it's another huge accomplishment. I was paranoid that I hadn't cooked it enough. This was also my first time using shallots. They really have a great flavor and I loved how they made the house smell. I think next time I need to saute them a bit more though. The ones that were super sauteed were sweet. Those that weren't still had a bit of bite to them.  We served the chicken with mashed sweet potatoes.

Rosemary Chicken with Shallots
Adapted from RealSimple Magazine Recipe. Feb 2010
Printable Recipe 
4 T olive oil
4 6oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 shallots, sliced into thin rings
2 T roughly chopped fresh rosemary
Kosher salt and pepper

1. Heat 1 T of oil in large skillet over med heat. Season the chicken with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook until golden brown and cooked through, 7-8 minutes per side.

2. Wipe out skillet and heat remaining 3 T of oil over med-high heat. Add the shallots, rosemary, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook, stirring until the shallots are tender, about 3-4 minutes. Serve with chicken.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

White Vegetarian Lasagna

I really thought this recipe was going to fail. Not due to any issue of the recipe writer, but due to my own mistakes. First of all I bought the wrong squash. It called for summer squash and I came home with acorn squash. There is quite a bit of difference between those two. I didn't have a ton of time, so instead of properly baking the squash to soften it, I chopped it up in my food processor and then sauteed it for about 10 minutes. It turned out okay. I actually think acorn squash could be quite delicious in this recipe, especially if I cooked it "properly" first.

Since I had the food processor out and was short on time (at least short of kids playing happily while I cooked time), I also chopped the mushroom and onions. It was good, but the consistency in a lasagna of sliced vs food processed mushrooms is different. And, I also just used minced garlic and left it in.

Finally, I messed up the roux a bit. I'm new to making roux and not only did I overcook it a bit, but I poured the roux into the milk instead of the other way around. It might not make a difference, but I've read some places that the roux is the key to the dish, so doing the roux wrong make me think it would make the dish different.

The recipe was good, but was a bit too fussy for me on the directions.

White Vegetarian Lasagna
Adapted from Whipped Blog
Printable Recipe 
1 pkg lasagna noodles
2 1/2 c whole milk
1 c vegetable broth
6 cloves garlic, sliced
3 Tbs butter
5 Tbs flour
1 c Parmesan cheese, grated
Pepper and salt
4 Tbs olive oil
1 lg zucchini, cut in 1/4 slices
1 lg summer squash, but in 1/4 slices (I used acorn squash and pureed it instead)
1 bag spinach
4 oz sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, diced

1. Cook lasagna noodles. Use a small amount of olive oil so they do not stick.

2. Heat milk and broth in a saucepan until simmering. Add garlic, cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 10 minutes.

3. Saute each of the zucchinis individually until they are just tender and set aside. Then saute mushrooms and onions. Use small amount of olive oil to saute each vegetable. Finally, add spinach to pan and heat until just slightly wilted.

4. Assemble the lasagna in a 9x13 pan. Spread 1/2 c of sauce on bottom of pan. Then, layer in this order: noodles, zucchini, 1 c of sauce, noodles, mushrooms and onions, 1/3 c Parmesan cheese, noodles, spinach, 1 c white sauce, 1/3 c Parmesan cheese, noodles, the remaining sauce and Parmesan cheese.

5. Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 - 15 minutes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Blonde Brownies

These are a childhood favorite of mine and a childhood favorite of my mom's. This is another grandma recipe and my mom deemed these her favorite. These are very dangerous as I ate almost the whole pan in one day. I love these as an alternative to the classic chocolate brownies. They're like a chocolate chip cookie in brownie form.  Yummy!

Blonde Brownies
Printable Recipe

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tap alt
1/3 c butter
1 c brown sugar
1 egg slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c chopped nuts
1/2 pkg chocolate chips

1. Melt butter in saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar. Mix well. Cool.

2. Sift flour, powder, soda and salt. Sift again.

3. To the butter mixture add egg and vanilla.  Then add flour mixture a little at a time, stirring after each addition.  Add nuts and chocolate chips.

4. Turn into a 9x9 greased pan and bake 350 for 20-30 minutes.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Smothered Burritos

This recipe came to me from my friend Wendy. She's a busy mom with a toddler, so I knew it was probably easy to make and toddler approved.

I do have one question regarding ground beef. How does everyone drain the grease from the pan? I browned up my meat and then spent way too long trying to drain all the liquid into a glass while precariously holding off the ground beef from spilling everywhere.  Then I tried Austin's trick of soaking it up with a paper towel and promptly burned myself a bit. I'm still trying to get the hang of cooking meat.

I totally forgot to use my Cuisinart and chop up the onion and tomatoes and I then forgot to put the cheese in the burritos (big laugh!), so I just spread it out all over the top. Luckily, this recipe is pretty forgiving to alterations.

These were yummy and we had lots of leftovers for lunches the next couple of days.

Smothered Burritos
From: Wendy Walker
Printable Recipe
1 pkg flour tortillas
1 lb ground beef
1 can refried beans
1 pkg cream cheese cut into 1 inch cubes
1 can sliced black olives
1 bag shredded cheddar cheese
1 medium yellow onion chopped
1 large can tomato sauce
1 c picante
1 c water
1 c lettuce, shredded
1 c tomatoes, diced
Sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 dish.
2. Brown beef in skillet.
3. Fill each flour tortilla with approx. 2 Tbs each of ground beef, refried beans, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, black olives, onion tomato sauce, and picante.
4. Roll tortillas and place in dish until full.
5. Pour 1 c water over all tortillas.
6. Pour remaining sauce and picante over the top of the tortillas
7. Cover with foil and bake for 30 min.
8. Serve warm with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and top with sour cream.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rainbow Cake


Happy St. Patrick's Day!!
I have been so excited to do this cake for St. Patrick's Day ever since I saw it PlayingHouse. It was great fun to make, especially because it was a surprise! No one knew what was on the inside until we cut into it.
It's actually pretty easy to make.  I adapted the process from another food blogger at Omnomicon. I started with a white cake mix. I divided the batter into 6 bowls. It came out to about 2/3 cup per color. I then used food coloring to make each color.  I used the standard food coloring (4 color set), although I've decided I need a box of fun food coloring (12 colors).
I used 8' cake pans and put a 1/3 cup scoop into the middle of each pan. Each color built upon the next. One pan I worked from red to purple and the other I did the opposite.
Then, I got to decorate! I used my new icing and decorating skills and had some fun. The cake didn't totally cooperate with me, which was a good experience. The icing just wouldn't smooth out for me and I think I might have made my icing a bit too thin.
I also used a new icing recipe from my cake class instructor. It's a snow white buttercream. It was really yummy and I tasted more than I should have while decorating.
I worked quickly so that all of the cake was covered up before Austin or Charlotte got home. The inside was a surprise!
I'm so happy with how it turned out. Charlotte's face totally lit up when she saw the rainbow inside. What fun! This could be our fun yearly cake for St. Patty's Day!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Honey Ice Box Cookies

Another recipe from my grandma's recipe box. This was her mother's cookie recipe, so my Great Grandma Curry's cookies. A note on the recipe says my Great Grandma Curry would often make these and that she'd put the pan in at the beginning of dinner and they'd have hot cookies for dessert.

The cookies are light and the honey makes them not as sweet as other cookies- in a good way. The honey is a nice flavor.  I think substituting maple syrup would be really yummy too.

I called my mom while making these because I wanted to clarify something. The recipe had me rolling the dough into a log and putting it in the fridge to chill to baking it. I was pretty sure I was supposed to slice the log into cookies. That's one of the fun things around reading older recipes- the small, yet possibly important omissions. To my great grandma it would seem obvious.  I also love that the recipe states they should be cooked in a moderate oven. I think that's right around 350.

Honey Ice Box Cookies
From: Great Grandma Curry
Printable Recipe
1/2 c honey
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 c butter
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 c nuts
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda

1. Cream ingredients- honey, sugar, and butter.  Add eggs, dry ingredients, and nuts.

2. Shape into a long narrow roll and chill for a day or two to ripen. Wrap in wax paper.

3. Bake in moderate oven for 10-12 min.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lace Cookies

This recipe is from my grandma's recipe box and one I've wanted to try for awhile. The cookies are light and crunchy. They're very thin and delicate. The recipe states they're almost paper thin. It's very important to follow two rules in this recipe: 1. Use foil. You have to carefully pull the foil away from the cookie. If you just baked them on the cookie sheet, you'd end up with crumbs.  2. Cool them completely before removing from the foil. They're stronger and thus less likely to break when they're cooled.

Lace Cookies
From: Grandma Goodwin
Printable Recipe
1 c oatmeal
1 c sugar
2 Tbs plus 1 tsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c butter, melted
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 beaten egg
2 tsp vanilla

1. Mix dry ingredients. Pour melted butter over the dry. Add egg and vanilla.

2. Cover the baking sheet with foil. Drop by the 1/2 tsp far apart.

3. Bake 350 for 10 min. Cool completely before removing from foil.  They should be almost paper thin.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Susan's Salad Dressing

Another recipe from my box. I got this recipe from my Aunt Susan over a decade ago and I've never done it.  It's pretty simply, but this is also the first salad dressing I've made from scratch before. The "parts" threw me a bit.  I understand it allows you to alter it depending on how many people you're making the salad for, but I wasn't sure how much to begin with. It turned out nicely, but I didn't anticipate how much the feta would soak up so was a more chunky dressing than I anticipated.

Susan's Salad Dressing
Printable Recipe

2 parts balsamic vinegar
4 parts oil (2 parts olive, 2 parts regular)
1 clove garlic
1 pinch dry mustard
pepper
feta

1. Add vinegar and oil to a bowl you plan to serve salad in. Mash garlic in liquids or mince and add. Add mustard and pepper. Mash feta with fork into mixture. Add romaine. Toss.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pizza Margherita

In Italy they know how to do pizza. I regularly ordered Pizza Margherita while we traveled.  I love it. I love that they don't really use sauce on pizza like we do. They use crushed tomatoes instead. It's delicious! Pizza Margherita was my favorite, while Pizza Quarto Stagione (4 seasons) was Austin's.
This was my first time making pizza dough. I think it turned out pretty good.  I could really use some practice stretching it out for a pizza. Let's just say my pizzas were more rectangular than round. The recipe I used yields 4 dough balls.  We used two for dinner. I checked in with a friend to see if I can freeze the other balls. She said I could and told me sometimes she makes calzones with the dough and the freezes the calazone.  What a great idea! I'll have to try it.

The pizzas were delicious! The dough was great and the toppings were delicious. Fresh basil on a pizza really takes it to a new level and using the crushed tomatoes reminds me how much I prefer pizza this way than with our American sauce.

Pizza Margherita
Adapted from Food and Wine
Printable Recipe
Dough:
1 package active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil

Toppings:
One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (or whole)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds mozzarella, thinly sliced
32 large basil leaves, torn into pieces

1. Dough: In a large bowl, mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of the warm water and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of warm water, 4 cups of flour and kosher salt. Stir until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead until soft dough forms. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and brush with olive oil so dough is coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days.

2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Rub each ball with oil. Cover the balls loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place for 1 hour.

3. Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Stir in the oregano and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

4. On a lightly floured surface, stretch one ball of dough into a 13-inch round; transfer to round baking sheet. Spread 1/4th of the ingredients on dough. Drizzle with 1 Tbs olive oil. Season with sea salt and pepper. Bake until the bottom is charred and the cheese is melted, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and scatter one-fourth of the basil on top and let stand for 3 minutes before serving. Repeat with the remaining dough and toppings.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cutting A Whole Chicken

I wanted to make the Five Spice Chicken dinner again this week and I thought I'd give myself an additional challenge.  I bought a whole chicken.  This was my first time ever buying a whole chicken. Thank goodness they label them. For a moment I almost bought a turkey when Charlotte pointed at them. (Two thoughts- It'll be turkey's time later this year and don't trust the two year old to buy the groceries.) Of course I had no clue how to cut up the chicken, so I found a YouTube video that walked me through it.  I watched the whole thing first and then I stopped and started it as I did it.  I don't even want to talk about what I found inside the bird.  I know what it was, but I really wish they didn't include it. It's just gross! One thing I did not anticipate was getting yucky slimy raw chicken EVERYWHERE. I was proud I jumped in with both hands to tackle this project, but after I'd touched the chicken, the knife, the chicken again, the scissors, everything was covered in raw chicken. YUCK!  I used my elbow to work the computer. It was certainly gross, but it was a huge step for me- even if I did mangle the bird a bit this first time.

I know the last time I posted about the meal I was a bit on the fence because it was different than I remembered it the first time.  I can say now having done it again, that this is one of my favorite meals!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Daring Bakers: Tiramisu

I just joined The Daring Kitchen.  Their February challenge was tiramisu from scratch!  Yes, even the ladyfingers and mascapone were from scratch! I LOVE tiramisu and have had it on my to do list since the beginning of my cooking resolution. I was a little bummed I'd missed such a great challenge, but realized there was no reason I couldn't make it anyway!
There were so many elements to this dessert and each step needed to be done ahead of time so things had a chance to chill.  Preparing this dessert was days in the making. The recipe allowed for doing a fruity tiramisu, but I stuck to the classic espresso tiramisu. Find the recipe at The Daring Kitchen.  It is too long to include here. (Printable Recipe)

Ladyfingers: I burned the ladyfingers. It was pretty upsetting to have a huge ball of smoke come out of the oven when I opened the door. I don't know why that happened. I did a good job folding it all together and I really enjoyed using my new coupler and bag skills to pipe the fingers out, but then burned the bottoms.  Bummer.  The tops were good so I used to bread knife and sliced the burned part off a bit.

Mascapone: Recipes are not written for my stove.  I followed the directions and turned the stove down to med-low to warm the cream, but it never got close to the right temperature.  After 45 minutes I finally just cranked the heat.  It was my first time using cheesecloth too.  What fun!

Pastry Cream: I think I cooked it a bit too quickly after my experience with the mascapone.  It seemed to turn out right. I just don't think I prepared it as "delicately" as it could be prepared.

Zabaglione: I learned how to use Austin's espresso machine to make this. I think it came out right.  It didn't seem as smooth as it should have been though.

Tiramisu: The assembly was fun. I got to use the espresso machine again! I decide to assemble it freestanding on a plate instead of preparing it in a dish.  I think next time I'll do the dish.  The assembly was tricky since the mascapone, pastry cream, zabaglione, and whip cream were quite airy and creamy and thus everything moved a lot as I began to build.  In the end it looked a bit like a beehive instead of a square.  I can't believe how much whip cream is in tiramisu!  Wow!  That is NOT a low-fat dessert by any means.  All in all, it was a huge challenge and tons of fun to make, but it was very time consuming.  Its not really a mommy friendly recipe.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Dare Me?

I must have lost my mind.  I'm still getting the hang of just doing basic cooking and I've signed myself up for advanced cooking!  I joined The Daring Kitchen, which is an online community for cooks, bakers and bloggers from all over the world. Each month one Daring Cooks challenge and one Daring Bakers challenge is presented.  Everyone in the group makes the recipe and then we all blog about it on the same day. These challenges sound like tons of fun along with being totally intimidating.  I perused through some past challenges and I'm convinced I'm nuts. But, the best way to learn is to just jump in right?  Here goes....

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chocolate Crinkles

This recipe comes from my recipe box. I'm not sure where I got it, I just know I've never done it.  It was a pretty straightforward recipe, but mommy brain can still complicate things.  I followed the recipe, except I forgot the eggs.  I thought the dough looked a bit odd, but I wasn't sure how it was supposed to look.  When I opened the fridge to put the bowl in I saw the egg carton and realized my mistake.  I just added them to the batter and all was well.  

Chocolate Crinkles
Printable Recipe

2 c sugar
1/2 c vegetable oil
4 oz melted unsweetened chocolate (cooled)
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
2 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c powdered sugar

1. Mix sugar, oil, chocolate, and vanilla.  Mix in eggs 1 at a time.  Stir in flour, baking powder and salt.

2. Cover and refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

3. Heat oven to 350.  Drop dough by the teaspoonful into powdered sugar; roll around to coat and shape into balls.

4. Place 2'' apart on greased sheet. Bake about 10-12 min (until no indentation remains when touched).

Makes 6 dozen.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wilton Cake Decorating: Course 1

This February I signed up for the Course 1: Discover Cake Decorating class through Michael's.  I have had the best time and cannot wait to start Course 2: Flowers and Borders.  In Course 1 we learned basic cake frosting, simple borders and decorating techniques, and the Wilton rose.

The class buttercream frosting can really turn you off to frosting.  It's basically Crisco and powdered sugar.  It's great for class because it's cheap to make and reduces your desire to nibble.  It'll do a number on your house pipes though (much like bacon grease I imagine).  Our instructor, Carolyn, gave us some tips for clean up.

Class 1: Lecture and watching a cake being iced.  It may sound silly, but it was quite exciting to watch a cake being iced with decorating bags, couplers, and tips.  Our first homework assignment was to come to class the next week with an iced cake.

Class 2: Valentine's Day!  We had our first instruction on decorating on Valentine's Day.  I made a special Valentine's cake for us.  Check out the inside!!
Class 3: Mermaids, Cupcakes, and the beginning of the Wilton Rose. The textbook calls for learning clowns, but we all know clowns are just scary, so Carolyn has us learn the same techniques doing mermaids.  We learned cupcake filling and icing, figure piping, practiced shell borders, and began working on our roses.
Class 4: Finale. In the last class we spent most of our time on the Wilton rose.  I struggled with the rose and by the middle of class my right hand hurt!  It takes a lot of practice and hand strength to decorate. We also learned sweat peas, leaves, and bows.  Then, Carolyn just let us have fun and decorate our cakes however we'd like.
 

Charlotte's 1st and 2nd Birthday Cakes

I have had so much fun making Charlotte's past two birthday cakes.  Here were my attempts are fancy cakes before any instruction.
Charlotte's First Birthday Cake 

Baby Einstein Cupcakes for Birthday Playdate
 Charlotte's 2nd Birthday Cake
Arts and Crafts Theme

 Birthday Cupcake Balloons

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls (Cooking with Kids)

Every now and then I like to cook with Charlotte.  I thought it would be fun to add these recipes to the blog.  Some may be more kid friendly food and others may just be meals I created with her.  I got this recipe from my Family Fun magazine.  It was presented as a cooking with kids project.  I really should have paid attention to the age of the child in the photographs.  She's not two.  Charlotte is.
I, of course, did not read all of the directions before beginning. (I really need to work on that.) We began just fine, and then we got to instructions like, "put aside for 45min and let rise".  Oops.  Didn't plan for that.  Good thing two year olds are easily distracted.  The unfortunate part is that I started this project in the evening and since I unexpectedly had to build in 2 hours of "rise time", the finished rolls didn't come out of the oven until Charlotte was already in bed.
 Charlotte loves to help!  I wish I could just convince her the flour does not taste good.  She spent most of our cooking process eating flour and it was quite difficult to keep away from her with kneading and rolling the dough out on a floured board.  She did help me knead the dough and she chose to try and eat the cinnamon filling over helping me spread it out.  All in all, it was a fun adventure in the kitchen.
The rolls were quite dense.  I think that was due to the whole wheat flour used and I also chose to use whole wheat bread flour instead of regular.  They were pretty good, but they didn't have the airiness of classic cinnamon rolls.

Cinnamon Roll
Adapted from Family Fun
Printable Recipe
Dough:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups flour (equal parts whole wheat and all-purpose, all whole wheat, or a blend somewhere in between)
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 package or 2 1/4 teaspoons instant or bread machine yeast
1 large egg, beaten

Filling:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk, plus extra for thinning if needed
1. Combine milk, sugar, salt, and butter in a glass bowl. Microwave mixture for 2 minutes. Set aside to cool until it's just warm.
 
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours and yeast. 
 
3. Stir the egg into the milk mixture. Then, stir the milk mixture into the flours. Continue stirring until the mixture forms a soft dough.
 
4. Transfer the dough onto a floured surface. Fold the dough in half and knead util the dough is smooth, not sticky, it should bounce back when poked. (About 10 minutes.)
 
5. Oil a clean bowl, add the dough, and turn it to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let it rise until it has doubled in bulk. About 45 minutes to an hour.
 
6. Filling: combine the softened butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon with a fork until well blended.
 
7. Roll dough out on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Roll into a 12- by 16-inch rectangle.
 
8. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch strip uncovered at one of the short ends. Roll up the dough to make a cylinder. Pinch the ends and the seam closed. Cut the cylinder into 12 rolls. (Tip: To make even rolls, first mark the dough in three equal sections. Divide each of those sections in two, then divide those in two and slice along the marks.) Place each roll in a greased pan. Cover the pan with a damp towel, and let the rolls rise for 45 minutes.
 
9. Heat the oven to 375°. Bake the rolls until light brown, about 18 to 20 minutes.
 
10. Icing: whisk together the confectioners' sugar, milk, and vanilla in a bowl. Drizzle the topping in a zigzag pattern over rolls.
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