Thursday, February 26, 2009

Oscar (party) worthy brownies!

What could be more red carpet worthy than Triple Chocolate Raspberry Brownies? (Well, probably a few things, but we'll go with this. Much more affordable than an evening gown. And tasty too!)

I went with a box mix for the main brownie portion, mainly due to time constraint reasons. I promise one of these days I won't be wimpy/lazy and will make something from scratch. Maybe.

This mix had chocolate chips in the batter. (Chocolate count - 1).

To this mix I added a little less than 1/2 cup of raspberry jam (sans-seeds) and 1/4 cup of white chocolate chips (Chocolate count - 2). Yes, I measured. It made me feel more official.

Ready for the oven, brownies?
You may have noticed the parchment paper surrounding the brownies. We'll call this a lesson in listening to directions in their entirety. While watching the Food Network, a helpful hint was given to put parchment paper down so the brownies can be easily and gracefully lifted from the pan. The directions said to grease the pan, then the parchment paper on top of the pan.

"But why do I have to grease both?"
"I'm sure that is a skip-able step"

This could be why I am a kitchenphobe, and not a skilled chef.

Needless to say, I am sure you can predict the end of my tale. But we're not there yet, let's continue the pictures for a moment, from during a happier, less stuck time. Ohhh, she gave it away.

Check out that smooth, slightly marbled surface. Ooooh. Ahhh. 
As you have probably come to realize, I am a girl full of ideas. Some of them aren't too shabby. Remember now, we're making triple chocolate brownies. I decided that the last chocolate would be represented in dark chocolate curls gracing the surface of the brownies. 

This actually worked according to plan!!!
In order to keep the dark chocolate curls (oh yes, chocolate count - 3) from wandering about the surface of the brownies, I heated up a bit of the raspberry jam until it was smooth and liquidy, then spread a thin layer on top of the brownies. Quickly, I sprinkled the chocolate curls on top. 

Close-up on the curls
As I'm sure you have predicted, the challenge came when removing the brownies from their parchment paper nest. More brownie than I would have liked stayed on the paper, but I did get the correct number of brownies out of the pan, so that is a good thing. Lesson learned: grease your pan. And your parchment paper. And anything else your brownies may get stuck to. 

All's well that ends well, and the rescued brownies were received with open arms and open mouths. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Step one, get in the car...

Fellow kitchenphobes know that sometimes the best way to get a good meal is to not do it yourself.

Exhibit A:

Prepare yourself for an explosion of salad-y goodness

Being completely honest with myself and the world, even with a heavy handed pinch of added confidence, one would be hard-pressed to find an item with such color and pizzazz coming out of my kitchen. Yes, this salad most definitely has pizzazz.

What is it, you may ask?

This, my friends, is the Polynesian Salad, found at the Grand Lux Café. It is a feisty combination of chicken breast, greens, peppers (of the red and yellow variety), snap peas, mango, macadamia nuts, cucumber, jicama, crispy wontons, and possibly a few other ingredients, in a Polynesian-y vinagrette.

In a word, it was tasty. In several, see the above paragraph. 

See... this is why it's fun to try new things at restaurants! Going along with that, as scary/intimidating/nerve wracking as it can be to try new things in the kitchen, it is also fun. 

New things = fun

(Lets all keep this in mind during our next kitchen adventure, shall we?)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Adding a crispy layer to already cooked food...sounds like a plan to me!

What better way to officially begin stepping into that aforementioned proverbial culinary pool than with the equivalent of sticking a hand into a baby pool while wearing a life preserver, goggles, and carrying a raft?

Hey, we don't want to rush into things, now do we?

Leftovers can oftentimes be made into variations of the meal that they had been left over from (or so I have heard). Let's give it a shot...

Time for Fried Macaroni!!! 

Last night, macaroni was made with meat sauce (mozzarella cheese on the side, added in for tonight). Tonight, the plan is to add a succulent crisped outer shell to the dish, thus reinventing it for another nights supper. Alternatively, the plan is to not cause the macaroni to catch on fire.

Drizzle some oil onto the pan...
So far so good...I'm being patient and letting the pan heat up before adding my ingredient. Oh, and yes, I am using a wok. I find it works better than a frying pan when heating up pasta so the noodles have less of an opportunity to fall out of the pan. 

Perhaps we should break that up a bit and make it a tad easier to eat, shall we? 

Much better. Our meal doesn't look like it's made out of Legos now. 

Keeping my wandering around the house to a minimum, I waited patiently (kind of) for the macaroni to crisp and become beautifully brown and the cheese to melt. 

Look at that crisping/melting action. 

Upon attempting to stir the macaroni, I noticed a small calamity brewing. Remaining calm (again, kind of), I decided that this was the indicator that the cooking had come to a close for the evening, and whatever state the macaroni was in, that was how it was to be served. 

Who wants to see the outcome of my crisping/melting action?

Oops. Wrong surface for the melted crisp to be on. 

Luckily (surprisingly?), I actually did know how to help solve this problem (no, not go shopping for cookware). Here's a little hint for all you kitchenphobes (or others who have a tendency to burn things to pans): soaking the pot/pan/wok with a dryer sheet helps to break off whatever you got on there. 

Like I said, we're learning. It's okay. 

Oh, and dinner was quite good. Perhaps not crisped to the delightful state I had envisioned, but that will be easier to achieve next time, when there is no melty cheese in the pan. Yes, I am blaming the cheese for the wok incident (I'm lactose intolerant, remember? I blame cheese for a lot of things). 

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Stand proud, my allergic friends!

What is life without a few obstacles? A challenge, so to speak?

Ladies and Gentlemen, to ever so slightly complicate my entry into the cooking world, I have food allergies. Yes, I am that person in the restaurant asking “So what exactly is in that Key Lime Pie?”

In addition to being lactose intolerant (which really only affects my relationship with ice cream), I am allergic to cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Ginger and nutmeg have only recently been a problem in my eating lifestyle.

As you can see, I’m lots of fun to cook for around the holiday season.

Anyone else out there with food allergies? Tips for substitutions? Me personally, I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to live a carrot cake and rugelach free life. I’m sure there are others who may appreciate a way to enjoy a missed food item. 

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hi, welcome!

I love food. Particularly of the dessert variety. I suppose that my third blogged sentence should contain a secret of mine: I have on occasion had cheesecake for breakfast (and I really don’t see a huge problem with that occasionally).

As much as I love eating and enjoying food, there is an aspect to food I have not quite yet mastered – the preparation of food.

Admittedly, I am not a great cook. I do like to think that there is a somewhat good cook somewhere within me, yet to be discovered. But for now, flambee is a word that makes me quake with fear (along with chop, boil, and stir). One of my top goals when preparing a meal is that all participants live to tell the tale. And that the kitchen is still standing when my creation is complete.

Now some, given my cooking skill (or lack thereof), would throw in the proverbial cooking towel and resign themselves to a fate of ramen noodles, microwaved meals in partitioned plastic trays, and meals prepared for them by restaurants and loved ones. The towel is still in my hands (I should stay away from the stove while wielding this). I am trying to improve.

I am not alone on this journey (quest? adventure?). My loved ones (or as I sometimes refer to them while they are tasting one of my concoctions – my focus group) are incredibly supportive of my efforts, encouraging of my sparking cooking talent, and continually willing to taste the products of my labor.

Additionally, there is you, the reader. Come along with me on this journey of food, learn to cook and bake with me. If you already know what you are doing in the kitchen, great! Any and all tips, suggestions, etc are most welcome. If you are like me and really don’t quite understand the difference between baking soda and baking powder, share your stories, we can figure things out together.