Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Drunken Pears Stuffed with Cookie Crumble - by Lisa

I confess, this is the recipe I was putting off all month. Well, I guess that's obvious given it is the final day of January. I had two reasons for the delay: 1) I don't enjoy pears in most cases. Yes, it's a texture thing. 2) I was having a problem finding the Bosc pears at my regular grocer. I did finally find them at another grocery store.

Alas, I could delay no longer, so off to the kitchen I went. And promptly forgot that I needed the gingersnap cookies. It's a good thing I reviewed the recipe early in the day! So I had Caiden help me make the cookies which he thoroughly enjoyed. I've made those so much these last couple of months they're becoming old hat! :)

I used the serrated peeler that Beth has raved about, and I have to say she's absolutely right! I love that thing! As I was peeling, I determined that the pears probably weren't quite as ripe as they could have been, but oh well. Too late to worry about that now. See? Procrastination = bad!
Once I had everything together, assembly went fairly quickly. Like Summer, my wine bath didn't thicken up very much in the first 15 min, tho it did reduce by the very end of the baking. But the pears were taking on a nice color.
I thought the contrast of the hollowed out centers against the red was quite pretty
I let them bake for about 10 minutes after adding the cookie crumble mixture.  

I didn't really care for the pears themselves, but as a carrier for the cookie crumble, you can't go wrong! That part was delicious! I was pleased with how they looked in the final product, but the pears themselves were meh. I suspect that if they were riper from the start, they would have softened up quite a bit more. These certainly would make for an elegant dinner party dessert tho!

Drunken Pears Stuffed with Cookie Crumble - by Summer

I purposely saved some homemade gingersnaps for this recipe.  I've never had baked pears, but my husband had, so I was interested to see how this would turn out.  I didn't have any red wine on hand - I really need to keep a bottle of white and a bottle of red handy at all times!  I finally picked up a bottle and I had everything else for this recipe.

It was really easy, although the wine and sugar never really thickened to a syrup . . . Not sure if I did something wrong or should have let it baked longer. 

I liked the taste of the filling - gingersnaps, walnuts, butter and honey.  I had a little bit of whipped cream with the first half, but the second half I just ate plain.  I liked this dessert - very warm and comforting - perfect for a cold winter night.  Unfortunately my pictures didn't turn out very well, so I really just have one.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Classic Rice Pudding - by Summer

 I was really excited to try this since I liked the coconut version.  Unfortunately, it just didn't turn out quite how I was expecting it.  The main issue was the fact that it didn't thicken.  I see that Lisa had a similar problem, but after cooking it for over 40 minutes(!!!) I gave up.  So we called it rice soup instead of pudding!  I also added too much vanilla.  I think I must have been distracted.  I did make this recipe at my parents house, so I was using an electric stove instead of gas. 

I liked the flavor of the pudding, but I am really disappointed that it wasn't more pudding-like!

Classic Rice Pudding - by Lisa

Sigh. I just can't get into it. It must be a nostalgia thing for many people, because I have never had rice pudding until these last couple of years. And I just don't understand the appeal. I can tell you that the flavors of both this rice pudding and the coconut rice pudding are quite enjoyable. But I can't get away from the texture issue. :(

As for making the rice pudding itself, it was quite easy. I was even smart about having ingredients at the ready! I made stir fry for dinner, so I used the extra rice we had left over (Basmati this time) for this recipe. And then I still had the half 'n' half left over from one of the other recipes this month. As for everything else, it was normal pantry stock - hooray!

I even employed the help of my 3 year old. He stirred the pot while I prepped the egg mixture. I did have one little hiccup towards the end. I noticed after I pulled it off the heat and added the butter that it wasn't very thick. Thankfully we've made plenty of puddings by this point for me to recognize this was a problem. I plopped it back into the pot, heated it up to a boil and stirred for another minute or two. It thickened up quickly after that, so I was quite pleased. I did omit the raisins, so I wonder how it might have changed the flavor otherwise.

I'm sure my boys will enjoy this dish, so it certainly will get eaten up!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Honeyed Fudge - by Lisa

OMG - I never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but here they are: I chopped chocolate and didn't hate it! All 16oz of it! And I think I even know why! Normally I use one of two chef's knives that are in our regular rotation. However, both were dirty (with chicken juice - in my mind the only way to get those clean is for them to go thru the dishwasher!), so I had to go digging in the knife drawer for another knife. I pulled out the gem below and the chocolate practically chopped itself! Ok, maybe that is a little exaggerated, but seriously, chopping the chocolate was SO much easier this time around that it was almost enjoyable. I think it must be the way the knife is designed - the whole thing as tiny serrated edges along with a few groupings of deep serrated edges on it while the other two knives I use do not. This knife will heretofore be designated The Official Chocolate Chopping Knife.
Since I get routinely confused over what bittersweet is vs semi-sweet vs dark and the like, I consulted the index of the cookbook for direction. Beth mentioned that one can generally swap out bittersweet and semi-sweet, so after reading Summer's entry, I opted to make my fudge with all semi-sweet (specifically half of my remaining gigantic bar of Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate and half with Baker's semi-sweet). I also opted to use up our leftover candy canes in place of the walnuts. A little too late I realized I should have tried substituting peppermint extract for the vanilla. Oh well, maybe next time!

This was really simple to throw together - especially since it took less time to chop that chocolate. ;)

It uses a mixture of condensed milk and honey which Beth describes as a "cheat" for making fudge. That gets boiled on the stove top, then transferred off the stove to add the chocolate. After that I stirred in the crushed candy canes, poured it in the pan and let it set up.

I took it out the next morning and cut myself a sample. It honestly took me a few days and several bites here and there to really render an opinion. Generally, I liked how it came out. The texture was real nice and smooth and it had the right "fudgy-ness" about it. I definitely liked having the candy canes in it too. I think I made the right move by using all semi-sweet chocolate, but it just seemed to be missing something. No matter how many times I tried it, I just couldn't place what that something was.  I can say that I definitely enjoyed it, but I think if I were to make it again (with the candy canes), I would try it with peppermint extract and see how that changes the flavors.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Orange Dream Cupcakes - by Summer

Just as I was sitting down to write up my post, I saw Lisa's post for these cupcakes.  When I saw her picture, I immediately groaned - I should have made the chocolate frosting!  But then I realized that I don't really like the orange chocolate combination, so I am glad that I stuck with the cream cheese frosting.  But, I shouldn't get too ahead of myself - let's talk about baking them first!

I was flying solo with the kiddos this weekend, but I had all the ingredients, so I was determined to make these.  As Lisa mentioned, there were kind of a lot of steps, but fortunately the kids were sort of on a same nap schedule this afternoon (and baby girl was happy playing by herself for awhile), so I was able to make them during that time.  I don't like orange marmalade and gave mine away from the last time we made something with it.  Instead of buying more, I looked up substitutions and went with apricot preserves with some extra orange zest in it. 

It didn't even occur to me until Lisa said something in her post, but there must have been a misprint in the recipe with the vanilla.  I was confused and just added the zest to the butter and sugar to cream.  Then I looked and saw I was suppose to add the zest to the vanilla.  But instead, I just added the vanilla to the half-and-half mixture.  I think either way it turned out ok. 

I got 14 cupcakes out of the recipe.  I decided to try the cream cheese frosting, but I left the two extra cupcakes plain.  I tried one of each and yum!  I really liked it with the frosting.  Toddler boy gobbled his up and claimed it was a "yummy cupcake!"  I wasn't too excited about making these at first, but I will definitely make them again.  They were a nice change of pace.

Orange Cream Cupcakes - by Lisa

Happy Anniversary to us! We started this blog on Jan 13, 2010! Hard to believe it's been 2 years already, and now we only have a few months left to go!

I decided to start with this one since it sounded plenty yummy and gave me a good excuse to try out the chocolate frosting recipe also in this cookbook. :) (I totally would've tried for the creamsicle approach using the cream cheese frosting, but I'd already made that with the carrot cupcakes, and quite frankly, we're starting to run out of recipes!)

This recipe had a few extra steps compared to other regular cupcake recipes due to the zesting and juicing of the oranges (and of course making the frosting), so I settled in for an evening of baking. I also decided to bust out my new 8 cup monster sifter which I LOVE! I was inspired by the style of sifter Summer has and when I found this one at the store, I knew it would work brilliantly for also handling mounds of powered sugar. It has not disappointed me yet!
This recipe actually tripped me up a little bit. It calls for vanilla in two separate places - added to the zest (which combined, gets added to the butter/sugar creaming) and also added to the half 'n' half/OJ/marmalade mixture. Since I couldn't quite sort it out, I just left it all with the zest and didn't add any to the half 'n' half mixture. Everything seemed to turn out just fine. :)
The cupcakes baked up really nicely after 18 minutes and while they cooled I got started on the chocolate frosting. I was excited to try out this frosting to see how it compared to the frosting I usually make. It was pretty easy to put together and I didn't need to do any extra thinning or thickening. I took a few samples and found it to be pretty darn yummy! I got it prepped in my icing tube and let it sit while the cupcakes finished completely cooling.

I came back about 30 minutes later and was surprised to find the frosting had gotten pretty solid! Enough that I had to stick the tube in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it up. It wasn't long before I had them frosted and ready to eat. Hubby and I each thoroughly enjoyed our treats. It reminded him of a chocolate orange spice cake, and it reminded me of the orange chocolate candy - just in cake form. These were a nice alternative to regular flavored cupcakes, and since I love creamsicles, I am curious how they would taste with the cream cheese frosting!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Honeyed Fudge - by Summer

I have never actually made fudge.  My mom has a great recipe and I recall helping her make it, but I have never actually done it by myself.  I was interested in making this one and it seemed really easy.  In fact, I was going to head down to the basement to run on my treadmill, but my husband thought me making fudge would be a better idea.  I have no willpower, so I gladly obliged him!
My helper and I whisking
Lots of Chocolate!
This recipe starts with chopping up a lot of chocolate. I was a little surprised to see the amount of bittersweet (8 oz) this recipe calls for. 

The rest of the recipe involved stirring the rest of the ingredients in a pot until boiling and then let simmer for 2 minutes.  Some how I think I did this part wrong.  When I poured the mixture over the chocolate, it started getting hard really quickly.  I put it in a pan and popped it in the fridge.  It was hard long before the six hours suggested in the recipe.

I was surprised by the taste - it was more bitter than I like my fudge.  I am used to it being sweeter.  I can't really see making this recipe again, but I am eager to try making my own fudge again.  The great thing about fudge is that it makes a perfect gift, so I packaged it up for our neighbor as a thank you!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Double Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding - by Lisa

 Yes, I confess I was putting off making this one. However, I did not mean to put it off thru the end of the month! Whoops! I wish I had re-read Summer's entry before making this because I would have done half the recipe. Oh well, live and learn. :)

Anyway, I will be the first to admit that I am not a fan of bread pudding which is the main reason why I wasn't excited about making this. However, I was VERY pleasantly surprised over how tasty this was! The croissants added a delightful crisp that took away the usual weird texture issues I have with bread pudding.

Mmmm....chocolate. Need I say more?
 And the chocolate, oh my the chocolate decadence! Yes, I was cursing the chocolate during the whole chopping process, but boy oh boy was it worth it! I did use the chocolate croissants as well.

The whole house smelled divine while this was baking.

Pre-bake resting time
The dish did puff up quite a bit - enough to truly surprise me. But as Beth indicated, it fell gently as it cooled.

Oh the puff!
Seriously! Check out the puffiness of this monster!
The one downside to making this dish was the prep time. I started working on it a little after 8, and we didn't get to sample it until close to 11pm. I think I lost quite a bit of time to the chocolate chopping which really shouldn't surprise me. The milk chocolate was easy to chop, but the semi-sweet was harder and just a lot more time intensive. We enjoyed it thoroughly on its own without feeling the need to add any ice cream or whipped cream. Now I wished I'd made it sooner to share over the holidays!

Pistachio-Cranberry Bars - by Lisa

I did actually get these made in December. It just took me a ridiculously long time to put the actual post up for it! These were really easy to make. Like Summer mentioned, the hardest part was shelling and chopping the pistachios. One other tough thing was keeping myself from devouring all of the pistachios before getting them into the recipe! :D

I never have luck with a pastry cutter, so I did use the food processor for the crust. This was super easy to put together and also very tasty! I made them a couple days ahead of Christmas and brought them to my sister's house to share with the family. I liked them a lot and a few family members said the same. I could certainly see myself making these again.