Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I don't know what I did but now there's no place to leave comments!! AHH!!  That's my favorite part :(

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Whole Enchilada

May I begin by saying there's not much Mexican culture or cuisine in Pennsylvania?  I'm trying to name a Mexican restaurant other than Mad Mex and Taco Bell and I think of one off the top of my head. On the other hand Bryce grew up in Southern California, need I say more? A few weeks ago Bryce had suggested that I make enchiladas. Good idea. So, I made enchiladas from the Better Homes and Gardens cook book, of course! Corn tortillas, chicken, sour cream, cream cheese, almonds, etc...

They were so good! I should have softened or heated up the tortillas before I rolled them because some of them cracked and made it look ugly :( But other than that, very good, Bryce and I agreed! The only problem was that I'd never eaten an enchilada before. I knew what I made had tasted good, but didn't know if that's how enchiladas were supposed to taste! The other night we finally made it to a mexican restaurant called Mexico Restaurant - clever huh? I got a chicken enchilada with green sauce and it was pretty similar to what I had made, and equally as good! The overload of free chips and salsa, beans and rice, half of a serving of flan, and a Corona later I was STUFFED! Maybe next time I make them at home I'll have all those fancy fixins, too!

My enchiladas:

Restaurant enchilada:

Friday, August 13, 2010

So much food, so little time!

I have so many things to blog about, but no time to do so! I helped cater a party last weekend, made enchiladas then tried restaurant enchiladas since I'd never had them before (!!!) to have something to compare mine to, made guacamole from the avocado tree in the yard, had a basil filled week with basil burgers and shrimp pizzas with basil, AHHH!

Since this post contains no actual food eating/footage/pictures, followers please let me know what you want to see me make, try, or blog about!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lunchtime Gluttony

Most days I pack my lunch. I make a lousy turkey sandwich with mustard and no cheese, to save calories, EW. Trying to pretend it's roast beef with melted cheese and lots of mayo does NOT work, by the way. Packing saves calories and money, of course. About once a week I'll buy my lunch - living on the edge, I know! Most of the women in my office go crazy over the nachos from a Mexican place a few blocks away, but I'd never had them. Finally, I went in search of the nachos.

Side note: Amy, my wonderful cousin, is my food advisor. She's the person who inspired me to learn to cook, and the one who I call with food questions regularly. (What's the difference between heavy cream and whipping cream? Can I use the blender if it says to use a food processor? Can I freeze this?! So on and so forth...) I trust Amy in ALL things food and would probably eat tree bark if she told me to. Anyways... Amy introduced me to carnitas. It's seasoned pork that's so yummy and salty and used in a lot of Mexican dishes.

I got the nachos with carnitas and all the bells and whistles, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and whatever else they put on there.

Pros: Yummy, delicious, fantastic nachos! They're so messy you need a fork to eat them. There's honestly enough for 2 people.

Cons: The battle with your eyelids to remain open for the afternoon at work! You're so full and happy once you're done, it's time for a food coma. Inconvenient for a work day, I'd say!


After: It's the best I could do!

Orange and Chocolate Cheesecakes... Take 2.

As I've mentioned before, baking is not my thing. The whole point of starting this blog was to challenge myself with cooking/baking/and all things food, so I'm trying to bake. I went out for Happy Hour with my coworker Lisette a few months back to this great cuban restaurant downtown. This place has fantastic mojitos, which you can actually buy a pitcher of, for a whopping $70! They're totally worth the money, they're that good. The dessert menu includes a mojito cheesecake, which inspired me to try to make an equally creative cheesecake.

I found a Giada recipe for Individual Orange and Chocolate Cheesecakes and boy did they look good. I gave it a try. The recipe calls for chocolate wafers - 2 stores later, on a trip where we discovered a flat tire, I settled for Oreos and actually scraped the creme out of each cookie to make the crust. That wasn't too bad...

It gets worse. Part of the problem I have with baking is how precise you have to be... the recipe clearly outlines "Special equipment: mini muffin tin". Yes, Giada (or her cookbook writing lemmings) took the time to say SPECIAL EQUIPMENT for the impatient idiots who won't read the whole recipe through. Well, I missed it. I used regular old cupcake sized muffin tins. The mixture barely covered the bottom of each compartment! I hurried up and made another batch of the filling and poured it onto the first batch. I bent a cake pan all-sorts-of ways to make a water bath for the mini cakes... Totally frustrated I put them into the oven, then realized I had no clue how long to bake them for since I'd modified the recipe. (Insert temper tantrum, whining, and pouting here.)

I took them out of the oven after a while and put them in the fridge, thinking they would solidify a bit more in there. Ehhh... they did, a little, but not nearly enough to actually get them out of the tins! FAIL. The upside was that they still tasted delicious! The consistency was way off, but the taste was great. Bryce and I spent a week sneaking into the fridge with a spoon for yummy bites :) Then, they were gone.

I had to try them again. I blame "The Little Engine That Could" for that stubborn attitude. I purchased the MINI muffin tins, because seriously, who has those laying around? I found chocolate cookies WITHOUT creme, this attempt was proving better before the oven was even turned on. Mix, mix, mix, pour, pour, pour, bake, bake, bake... I felt a lot better about this batch and I was right. They were a lot sturdier, like cheesecake should be. I had read the many reviews on the recipe where people gripe about how hard it is to get the cheesecakes out and I tried to take the advice of those who has already made these: I put them in the freezer for a bit, then slid a butter knife around each lil' cake. They came out all in one piece, but it was nothing to look at.

This attempt was still MUCH better than the first, so I took them to a BBQ and everybody loved them, YAY! As you can imagine 11 mini cheesecakes (I'll let you guess what happened to #12) go pretty quickly. They were good, I succeeded in making them... well close enough, but all that work for 11 mini cheesecakes and 10 minutes spent trying to get them out of the pan = I won't be making these again. My Mom has made mini (regular cupcake size) cheesecakes for years, so the next day I called her up and got her recipe. It uses foil papers and no water bath - now that's better! I may try to add the orange/chocolate combo, or another yummy twist on cheesecake, to that recipe in the future.

In this case, I should have asked Carol first and left Giada alone!

The first batch in regular sized muffin tins, before baking:

The second batch in the mini muffin tins, after baking:

I told you they weren't pretty! However, they were very yummy :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Doodle, Snickerdoodle.

I decided that I was going to (begin to) learn how to cook during my sophomore year in college when I moved into my very first apartment. Mom and Dad came to help me move in I got a quick lesson on cooking a "real dinner". Baked potatoes and chicken with cream of mushroom soup and breadcrumbs. I made enough for my roomies, Erica & Lynelle, and we sat proudly in our first apartment and ate dinner at the awkward counter facing the fridge. That year I lived on that same recipe 859023 times over, turkey and BBQ chip sandwiches, and spaghetti with jarred sauce and frozen meatballs (BLASPHEMY! I know... I didn't know pre-made meatballs existed until Erica and Lynelle introduced me to them, but hey - at least we were eating between vodka & OJs!) I "tried" to learn how to cook that year, and the next, but not very hard at ALL.

Fast forward to my senior year: Lighter class schedules, easy babysitting job that ends at 5 p.m. each day, and WOW more time to cook! (Especially since Penn State parties don't start until after 11!). That's when I bought my first cookbook. $8 for a 30 minute meals Rachael Ray cookbook. I read the thing about 5 times before I made a single recipe. I started to really get into it trying new recipes and cooking them for roomies, family, etc, and drowning the book in post-it notes for things to make in the future. Side note: 30 minute meals DOES NOT apply to amateur cooks, try 90 minute meals... 3 years and a move to Hawaii later and I still have, and love, that book. The binding has fallen off of the pages and has recently been hot glued back on!

Stop hogging the spotlight, Rach. Now I have a broad collection of cookbooks: Giada, Hungry Girl, Sandra Lee, Vietnamese Food, Slow Cooker Recipes, Food Network mags, Everyday Food mags, even our very own Filardi family cookbook! I tried to put myself on a don't-buy-any-more-cookbooks plan. One of my new years resolutions for 2009 was to use every cookbook that I own, I don't think I used them all, but I gave it a valid effort.

So, 2 months ago at Borders I was shopping for my niece's birthday and the kids books are right next to the cookbooks. I specifically told Bryce on the way in, "Don't let me buy any cookbooks!" Like last year's news years resolution, I gave it a valid effort but I failed. I finally, FINALLY got the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. You know, the red plaid one!

It used to look like this:

But now it looks like this:

I was so giddy about FINALLY having this kitchen staple. For anyone who wants to learn how to cook, they should start with this book.

I like to cook much more than I like to bake, based solely on success rate. As they say "cooking is an art, baking is a science." Not that I'm good at art, I am really quite bad at science. All of the precise measuring and the temptation to keep the oven door closed are just too much for me! Friday night I sucked it up and decided to make cookies for a BBQ over the weekend. Never in my life have I made cookies from scratch, I was a big fan of slice and bake cookies in high school. So I dug out the hand-me-down mixer from Brooke and John and got to work. I measured carefully, quadruple checked the recipe, waited impatiently for the dough to chill in the fridge for an hour, etc. Finally I got to use the silpat I bought in September (yes, 11 months ago) for baking. I rolled the dough into little circles and bathed them in cinnamon and sugar - are you smiling now? I am :)

I made them a tad too big so the cookies were touching each other, except for one perfectly round snickerdoodle with my name on it! It was begging me to taste it immediately. I poured the measly 3 oz of remaining milk into a glass and sat down with the snickerdoodle and the Father of the Bride. Bryce had been sleeping for hours by the time this baking experiment was done so I enjoyed the cookie/milk/chick flick moment alone, it was great. Taste and texture wise, the cookies were perfect.

The next day the snickerdoodles went to their first and only housewarming party. They were a hit, YAY! The hostess demanded that I leave the few remaining cookies for her, so I gladly obliged :) Baking just went up a few notches in my book. Thank you, Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, I love you.



Perfect :)