Thursday, May 27, 2010

How to Make Tres Leches Cake

Not so are the ingredients:
1 white or yellow cake mix
Heavy Whipping Cream
Sweetened condensed Milk
Evaporated Milk
(Plus the ingredients that the cake mix calls for.)

Follow this video for Tres Leches goodness.

The Easiest Recipes in the Universe. Sort of

Don't you hate it when someone says "Oh,_____ is so EASY to make!" Well, I do. It makes me feel like a complete moron after I screw it up. It seems like every recipe in the universe has an "easy" version. It is really quite irritating to a budding cook. Most of those recipes really aren't "easy", the just require fewer ingredients, or rely more heavily on processed or pre-fabbed components. Boo. Don't get me wrong, I am not so hard core as to take on a professional version (I saw one recipe calling for blanched almond slices!); however, I abhor the pretentiousness of those who call all their recipes "easy". So, in the spirit of not calling a recipe easy, I found a simplified Macaroon recipe that requires only 4 ingredients, but produces large delight. Behold, the macaroon...

All the above ingredients: 1 bag o' coconut flakes, 1 can condensed milk, vanilla, almond extract.
Non-imitation almond if you are hardcore. Imitation almond extract if you are cheap and cooking for the office.

You dump the coconut (which is neither cocoa or a nut, but I digress) into a large bowl, pour in the can of sweetened milk. Then add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Then, VERY carefully measure out 1 1/2 teaspoons of almond extract. OR, if you are like me, accidentally pour in 1/2 the bottle because it is so thin that it overflowed the measuring spoon and got everywhere before I could blink twice. Mix well.

If you have the time, put the mix in the fridge for a couple of hours and it is easier to form into little balls. If not, just squish them into teaspooned balls on a cookie sheet that has been covered with foil and well greased. Bake at 350* for 8-10 minutes, or until the smoke detector goes off. Get them off the pan and onto wax paper IMMEDIATELY after coming out of the oven or they will stick like glue. I melted chocolate and dripped on for drama. Enjoy. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and store at room temperature. These came out chewy. I don't know if they are supposed to be firm or chewy, but they have been well received. Keep your fingers crossed to see if I win the cookie division of the contest.

"Not Easy" but Simplified Macaroons

Southern Living at The Manor....(From here on, referred to as the "Manor" or the "Estate".)

Cooking at the "Manor Falls Estate" is always an affair.  One day, you may be cooking for yourself, the next...for 30. The Estate is quite a place. The average number of foodies/lushes at the Estate hovers around 6 on any given night. Last Saturday, most of my fellow lushes were heading to a pool party. However, I had sustained the burn (see the previous post) and as you can see, my arm is all ace-bandaged up.  I did not think that it would be wise to swim in a bacterial-laden pool with a fresh burn. A girl must have her I decided to cook...again.

Jon got in the mood to try out a rib recipe, which was PHENOMENAL by the way. I had a little video that shows the meat falling off the bone, but I forgot to bring it. If you really want to see it, leave a comment and I will add it.

So while he was grillin', I was trying to figure out what went with ribs that wasn't slathered in mayo (i.e. no potato salad, deviled eggs, macaroni salad...or any other Southernfied "salad") Digression: Why do Southerns put mayo on everything and call it a "salad"? It makes no sense, especially since 1) there is no veggies in it really (unless you count chives) and 2) the temperature is already 100 degrees outside anywhere South of Oklahoma. Perfect thing for sweltering picnic. Nothing like a BBQ and botulism.

I settled on grilled corn on the cob, a grilled potato, and a homemade apple pie. I made the double crust from scratch using Crisco's recipe, but with the butter flavored Crisco. It turned out beautifully. But you really need to follow the directions, like slowly adding ice-cold water 1 teaspoon at a time. I dumped in all 10 of mine at once. Then I had to doff my engagement ring and stir it by hand to get it mixed thoroughly. Refrigerate in cling wrap for a few minutes (an hour really but I am impatient as you know) for easier rolling, and you get a beautiful pie crust like this.

Disregard the hellish state of the Manor Kitchen, "Winston-the-Butler" was off this week.

After you have the bottom crust in the pie pan, you are supposed to brush it with butter. Naturally, that step got missed because I was cooking. So, I only realized it after I had peeled 4 giant, Granny Smith apples, tossed them in a cinnamon-sugar mix, and filled the crust. I thought...what the hell, butter makes everything taste better anyway, so I just put the butter on top of the apples.

The tartest freakin' Granny Smith's I have ever eaten.

Bake something like 40 minutes or until the crust is about to burn into a firey disaster and whola! A beautiful, tasty, ever so decidant American Apple Pie. Oh, don't forget to vent the top. Probably should have mentioned that before the whole cooking part. Oh well.

"Woman, get me in the kitchen and make me some pie!"
-Eric Cartman, South Park

So what makes my pie so special then your avearge, 1st prize-at-the-county-fair pie you ask? My answer...

The Plating...Apple Pie, vanilla Blue Bell Ice Cream (only available in Texas) and a Shiner Bock. For all of you that are making faces, a ShinerBock Ice Cream Float is AMAZING! Just try it and you will see.


Cooking is not for Sissies

Me + 400° Stove =

Immediately after...

The Next Day at "The Manor" *Note* The beer is in the picture scale purposes only. Yea scale. That's it.

....and what meal caused this burn you ask?

This unappetizing, couple's-sized culinary delight. Lasagna made in a bread pan. I thought I was clever....til the burn.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Tonight, I scheme. There is a sweets bake off at work next week and I have to mow down the competition. I love a good competition. It brings out the worst in us Americans...and Texans, especially. First things first, what is my fall back cake recipe that will blow everyone's socks off? hmmm....don't really have one. All my cakes have either blown up or been only just tolerated by the masses. Time for something new.

After careful prodding of potential judges (coworkers) the choices came down to Tres Leches and Italian Creme Cake. Tres Leches is by FAR the easier of the two recipes. I anticipate videoing the preparation of this delight for y'all so you can really see how easy it is, and you can brag to all your friends about how you slaved over the stove to make this Mexican culinary delight. I have to wait til after the contest I can fool the judges, too. *wink*

Okay, I know this post is lame. I will do better next time. Maybe if I am REALLY lucky, one of my cakes will eventually end up this website...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Now I know where I get it from...

So, Jon is helping me clean the kitchen post-cinnabon incident, and my mom calls. She says, "I have something for your blog." Oh?...

Apparently she had an incident similar to the Banana Bomb Incident, only with an angel food cake. It rose something to the tune of 5 inches over her pan and coated the entire stove. Good job Mom.

Oh...and the Partridge in a Pear Tree

Okay, Okay so it's really a Mexican Dove in a Cypress tree, but I still think it's a pretty kick-ass photo for my skills.

Stellar Meal Part 2: Chicken Pot Pie

I can't BELIEVE I have not given y'all this recipe. So fast, everyone loves it. EASY! This recipe is for feeding two. If you are feeding 4 or more, just add more chicken and veggies.

So Easy Andrea Can't Screw it up Chicken Pot Pie:
1 Chicken Breast
Seasonings you like
1 can of cream of chicken soup
your favorite cheese, shredded (cheddar or Mozzarella work best)
1 puff pastry sheet
and a cup or 2 of frozen mixed veggies, (or canned or fresh, whatever). You can use corn, carrots, peas, little bits of broccoli, green beans, just whatever you have lying around.

Throw thawed chicken into a hot skillet with a couple of tablespoons of oil. I use olive oil. Whatever is available. I season the chicken with salt, pepper, and whatever seasonings I have on hand. Today was onion flakes, parsley, and a pinch of the mystery "Italian seasoning". Once the chicken is cooked, throw in your can of soup and veggies. Turn the heat down on the skillet if needed. Add in a fist full or 2 of whatever shredded (or cubed) cheese you have around. Stir until thoroughly incorporated and warm. Spoon the goo into a Corningware dish and put the puff pastry on top. Cook at 400* for 15-20 minutes. (Or until the pastry has puffed and is golden. Here is what you get:

I make mine in little individual size dishes, but you can make a family size in a big glass dish, too. It works just as well. I put they cookie sheet under it to catch overflow and make it easier to pull in and out of the oven. Everyone is a fan. I have never met a corn-fed white boy that doesn't like it. Try it yourself, let me know how your family likes it.

2 Stellar Meals, 1 Satisfied Fiance, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Today, I called in sick. I felt sick all day. However, I'm not the type that lays in bed all day. (Just half). I feel like the whole day is wasted, even a sick one, if I lounge about. So I decided to scratch that cooking itch, that has been lingering for a few weeks now. Today's recipes turned out much better than anyone could ever expect. Jon even thought one of them came out of can, so it must be at least up to mass-manufacturing standards. So here we go:
Cinnamon Rolls from Scratch
1 cup milk (heated approximately 1 minute in microwave)
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
eggs, room temperature and beaten  (whoops, forgot to beat mine!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated
5 cups flour

2 Tablespoons of yeast
I dumped this stuff into my tabletop mixer and let it goob up my machine. For some reason, the dough always climbs up the wands. No matter how I try to knock it down, it always goes right back up. The dough was really sticky. 

Then, you are supposed to "turn the dough out onto a lightly-oiled surface and knead until elastic, approximately 10 minutes." The dough was so sticky, I got covered. Then I realized the problem, I added 4 cups of flour instead of 5. I had been gradually adding the flour as to not coat the entire kitchen in white stuff, and in the process, forgot to add the last cup. I dumped all the dough back in a bowl and manually mixed in the last cup. That made the dough much easier to work with.

Then you basically have to flatten the dough out into a thin sheet on a floured surface. No big deal, though my initial square of dough was waaaaaaaay to fat. Had to roll it out almost 2 feet long by like 1 foot. THIN. Then you have to coat it with softened butter and the mixture below:

Good Cinnamon filler stuff:
1 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons ground cinnamon 

After you have coated the one side really well, begin rolling the long side of the dough carefully all the way across. The tighter the roll, the more "swirly" you roll will look. Beware though, in you roll it too tight, the roll will rise in the oven into a little mountain peak. No big deal if you ask me, but apparently some people only like straight across cinnamon rolls. Personally, I think the mountain ones are cool. Seal up the log's seam and cut with a VERY sharp knife into 1" slices. Or, if you are like me, use a dull knife and come out with cinnamon, torn blobs that you have to reform into a circle.

Then place them on a buttered jelly roll pan or cake pan, not touching. They need room to rise, don't cram 'em. Then cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm area to rise for 1 hour. Or you could do what I did, and bring the hottest lamp you have in the house into the kitchen and put the rolls under it for an hour so they actually do rise. Apparently, my kitchen is too energy efficient to get hot enough to rise dough. The lamp worked ridiculously well. When the rolls have doubled in size, they should now be touching in the pan. Bake at 350* 20 to 25 minutes. After they come out of the oven, coat with icing made like this:
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Or if you are me, forget the cream cheese because you didn't know you needed it, turn 1 cup of granulated sugar into a lot of powdered sugar by putting in a super blender on the fastest speed possible until it grinds into a good enough powder, and then add the vanilla. Good enough for me. Spoon it on the rolls, and this is what you get...

 These started out as torn blobs, but came to take on their shape as rolls nicely. I was shocked and pleased to no end.

Jonathan could care less that these rolls were once blobs, he snarfed two before this post could be finished. "You made these from scratch?!" was his shocked and awed question. 

This post is lengthy, so I will put the other meal in a new post. Enjoy.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Starting over...again

In Texas, we have a lot of sayings. Like, "I'm so hungry I could eat the South end of a North bound skunk." We are full of them. So in the spirit of Texanism, I am "going to pull myself up by the bootstraps" and "get back on the horse" with this kitchen mess nonsense. After the recent kitchen horror and insect genocide, I have systematically bleached out the fridge and restocked with bare essentials. See and approve below...

Behold the temporary wonder.

The bare essentials include, in no particular order:
  1. BBQ Sauce
  2. Mayo
  3. Wine
  4. Pizza leftovers and
  5. Milk (to replace the gallon of rotted milk which you can see below. One expired in March, as did the eggs...which were not pictured to protect the innocent.)

 (The lids had to be triple wrapped to prevent rotted spillage on the way to the dumpster)

Look! NO DISHES! I did them all!

Other things to report: I am currently working on the 5th load of laundry. There is a mountain of it on my bed. I told myself (specifically about the laundry and PRE-gnat incident) that I would start the laundry Friday. Well guess when I started. Yea, Sunday night post-gnat.

Other projects: I am currently cleaning out the pantry as well and organizing it for 2 purposes. One, I am totally disgusted with the current state of affairs. And two (yes, I just started a sentence with AND) there is a bake off at work and I have to get my *aspic* in gear to win it. What should I make in my newly sanitized, bug-free kitchen... Ideas?

WTF happened in my Fridge and Other Godless Horrors...

So yea. It's official, I need to turn myself in to the health inspector. I am not fit to prepare, store, house, distribute or touch food in any way shape manner, form or fashion. We all knew that I was (am) an uncoordinated, slob. I get that. I am working on it. However, nothing could have prepared me for the horror that I found upon returning home for just longer than to shower and pass out in bed.

I cracked open the fridge to try to think of something to make for dinner and found the horror below. (If you recently ate, you might want to go come back after it is a little bit better digested.)

Guess what that is? Every little black dot you see there is a dead gnat. Gnat genocide to be exact. When I opened the fridge I said WTF so loudly that Jonathan came running in like someone had broken in and graffiti-ed swastikas in the kitchen while slaying a communist baby seal. Oh and that spot in the back is blood from hamburger meat that decided to leak out of the plate it was thawing on get everywhere. They were every where. On every shelf, in all the containers. I almost lost my most recent meal.

So where the hell did these gnats come from you ask? One Guess....


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"The best pancakes I have ever had in my life" and other French(!) endorsements

A few of you will remember from a previous blog post several months back about an unfortuante incident involving a Frenchman and vomit. Well, you will be pleased to know that said Frenchie had his sister in town on a visit, and she had an opportunity to sample some of my cooking.

It all began when I came to at the "Manor Falls Estate" after a drunken soiree with my under-jaw buddies "Diana", "Preston", "George-Henry" (aka Winston the Butler), Sarah (who's underjaw name escapes me now) and the 2 Frenchies. Turns out a gigantic party dispenser of sangria plus a night of Dance Dance Revolution makes for a pretty good time. Especially if you eat the wine soaked fruit out of the pitcher.

I hear grumblings in the kitchen about starvation and hear vomitting Frenchie threaten offer to make pancakes. I enter the kitchen to see him measuring Pioneer baking mix into a giant bowl. I become concerned after he says that his last batch turned into a watery mess because he didn't measure. At this point, I demand politely ask to take over, being that he has used 90% of the mix and we had not enough of anything else to make an alternative breakfast for 7 lushes.

While Diana prepared and despensed with the Bakon Vodka Bloody Marys, I set to work to salvage the batter. Oh, and yes you read right: Bakon Vokda. Smells just like bacon. I can't drink it, the idea of drinking bacon sickens me. So I abstained on this round and procurred fermented sangria fruit instead.

Pioneer Pancakes:
A good mound of Pioneer mix
1 egg

Ok so mound up your mix in a bowl, add the egg. Stir in a little milk until the batter is more of a cheaper shampoo consistancy. It will kind of ribbon on you when you pour it from a spoon. It if is too thick, add more milk. Too thin, add a little mix. Pour a ladleful into a hot, greased skillet. When it bubbles across the top it is ready to flip. It will fluff right up after the flip. Give it another 20-30 seconds on the other side. If the skillet is too hot one side will be burned and the other will be underdone. A medium heat is usually best. When you get them out of the pan, slab-a-dab of butter on them right away. Serve with your favoriate syrup.

Diana's endorsement was fabulous with a "these look like the pancakes on the box" statement, followed by a "they should call you when they have a photo shoot so you can do the new cover. These are awesome."

However, the best endoresement came from Sister of drunkren Frenchie. I was led to believe that she had never had a pancake before. She came to me after a few bites saying, "This is the best pancake I have ever had in my life!" I was confused, "I thought you had never had a pancake before." "Oh, I have, but yours are better."

There you go folks. French endorsement. My pancakes are awesome. This is how they look, but I had to load a picture from another site after Sister Frenchie refused to be pictured. Boo.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Completely Unrelated, but I will somehow tie it in.

This Saturday, I will be participating in the AIM for a Cure Melenoma 5K.

Each of us is asked to collect $50 in donations. I know the economy is tough, but even $1 will be appreciated. If all of my bleaders and the 1 lurker could donate $10, we would be over my goal. Click on the link, and there is my personal walk website to make a credit card donation. I am doing this for Jonathan, the love of my life, and my father, who is already a survivor. Thanks. Oh...tying this back to food...We can use the walk to work off all the calories from the cake tasting we did.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cakes Actually Worth Eating...

Now that wedding planning is in full swing, things are moving a long at a haphazard pace. Recently, Jon and I went to a cake tasting. In my mind, wedding cakes were more there for looks, not for the taste. Kind of a "last resort" if the guests hated everything about the meal, party, and overall felt resentful about the fact that they had to listen to someone's drunken cousin, Shelia, boohoo through a crappy "poem" that she had written for the occasion.

Please excuse my preconceived notions, but I thought wedding cakes were either some derivative of white or chocolate. Sometimes an odd flavor that no one really eats (like pistachio) sneaks into the mix because some bonehead couple ordered it because they wanted their wedding to be "unique". Bad move. Nothing like $1500 worth of cake sitting on the table because it is green, and tastes like sweet-nutty insulation.

Wedding cakes, in my mind, are overly sweet with a nasty after-taste. To me it is almost alcoholly, if that is even a word. If it is not the alcoholly taste, it's aspartame. The "better" of the cakes I have had throughout the many weddings I have been dragged to have lacked the after taste, but had the texture of sugared insulation. I had never met a wedding cake that I just thought was worth the hefty price of anything that has the word "wedding" in front of it. Any cake that did taste great did not look like a wedding cake.

Here drags in Jon's mother, who SWEARS she had the best wedding cake ever and that we should have one like his parents had. However, his parents really didn't have a wedding cake. They had 12 different flavored, regular cakes on cake stands connected with those atrocious bridges that you see in the all the weddings in the 1970's. The thing took up an 8 foot folding table. It was an eye sore with tulle and kinds of gaudy fluff. I am sure my future child's spouse will feel the same way about my wedding cake (because it will be an actual wedding cake, not 12 different flavored cakes with white icing posing a wedding cake). However, that is yet to be know. That being said, Jon's mom gets a big FAIL on the true wedding cake rating system.

So you might have noticed, despite my attempts to edit and correct, that there are some tense shifts in my writing in some places. Try as I might there will be at least one that sneaks in. This is because what you read above refers to how I previously felt. I now feel different. Here's why:

We went to a tasting at a place call Cakes By Gina. The only reason I had given her cakes a second glance is because I found a similar image of the one below with white and monarch butterflies that I fell in love with, and Gina had something similar that I thought could be adapted. You see, thinking that flavor was out, I was going for at least beautiful.

Martha Stewart's Over the Top Version
(Is there even a cake under there?)

Similar to Gina's verison

I was torn about the butterflies though. You see, we are getting married in December. Not many butterflies in the winter, and they really wouldn't really jive with that winter wonderland theme we were trying to work. Maybe snowflakes instead. But then I thought about it, and finally settled on birds. Jonathan and I are both outdoorsy. So instead of the cascade of butterflies, a flock of birds.

Again with the digressions, sheesh. So anyway, we get there and learn that Gina does torte-style cakes. I did not realize what that meant. Apparently, it means that there is a layer of cake, a layer of flavoring of some kind, followed by more cake, then icing. Sounded cool. So we order a few flavors and a few of the filling options. I take a bite...

The cake was the best cake I have EVER tasted. Light, moist, not overly sweet. Turns out Gina uses something like 30% less sugar than a traditional recipe calls for so that the actual flavor of the cake comes out. Fancy that. The first bite was traditional white with a vanilla butter cream. Decadent, delicious. Not to be outdone...except by the chocolate cake with the chocolate butter cream filling. I'm drooling just thinking about it. I think we tried 6 different cakes and 4 different fillings.

Then I got depressed. You see, we aren't having a groom's cake because Jon is having his relatives each bake some traditional culturally-relevant dessert, including, but not limited to the elusive kolache. Therefore, I thought we were going to be stuck with one flavor and have to duke it out. You see, Jon is an over-opinionated groom who actually has ideas about what he wants. This has already caused havoc in other departments, but again, I digress. Then I was informed of the following: Gina allows you to have each tier a different flavor at no additional charge. Wha What?! So, here's how it is going down.

Shape: Round
Color: White with aqua swirling "damask-like" scroll pattern.
Number of tiers: 6
Theme: Flock of 2D birds similar to this flying in a flock up the side as if on the aqua wind.
Icing: Butter cream with gum paste birds
Flavors!: (Starting from the bottom tier up)
Tier 1: Traditional Bridal white with a vanilla butter cream filling
Tier 2: Chocolate with a chocolate butter cream filling
Tier 3 (Quintessential Jon and Andrea): Chocolate cake with a peanut butter, butter cream filling
Tier 4: Italian Cream Cake with a Cream Cheese filling
Tier 5: Traditional Bridal White with a Bavarian Cream filling.

I may have to stop back by Gina's place to have another tasting just to "make sure" I made the right choice. LOL. Here is a picture of how it eventually turned out.

If you like what you see, please Follow Me for more recipes and cooking related antics.

Cooking Withdrawl and Other Itches

    So, as you know dear bleaders, that I have been a bad bloggeress. I have been so caught up in wedding stuff that my blog has gone to the sink. *sad face* I found some time to think about things after being proded by some of my bridesmaids to drop the blog now that the mission is complete. I decided, that is just not right. I love to cook and write, preferably at the same time, and I love the comments I get from you guys. Plus, I'm not married YET so I wouldn't want to abandon my foodies prematurely, if at all.
   So here is the deal. I have the cooking itch. That itch that is totally time to destroy my kitchen or someone else's. I think it's time to leave the nest and take another stir at kolaches on my own. The whole family will be home and it would be a nice surprise for the in-laws and BIL's (Brothers-in-law). Interesting side question: Jon's brother is going to be a preist, so is he technically going to be my "father"-in-law? hahaha.
  Enough digression. I have been holding out on buying anything that has the potential to be added to a wedding registry. However, another birthday just passed and I am torn between buying professional work attire since I now work at the #1 Cancer Hospital in America, and buying something that I want for the kitchen. What to do...