Monthly Archives: November 2011

Advent Calendar of Beer!

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So I know this isn’t a recipe, but I’m pretty proud of myself on this one, so I’m blogging it to share with all of you. I’m always asking people what I should get other people for Christmas. I was discussing with my friend what she was going to give her husband, and decided to steal it as a gift for my boyfriend. The trick with this one is making it before December 1st, so if you’re planning on giving this this year, get on it! I’m sure there are more efficient and better ways to go about making this, but here’s what I did…

Step 1: Acquire beer.

I decided to make a calendar of 24 days, so that meant I needed 24 different beers. First stop: Liquor Store. The liquor store definitely had 24 individual bottles of beer. Problem is, they ranged from $2.59 all the way up to $12.99 a bottle. So I had to choose wisely, otherwise this seemingly simple gift was going to cost me a small fortune. (I mean I love my boyfriend, but I’m not spending over 100 bucks on beer for him). Next I went to a few grocery stores to pick up the rest. Most grocery stores now let you pick your own six for a set price. It’s great. The trick was finding some that I knew he hadn’t already tried.

Step 2: Acquire a box

This sounds easier than it is. I thought I would just go buy a case of bottled beer and use it. Problem is, cases of bottle beer come in 18, not 24. Who wants an advent calendar that only goes up to December 18th? Pretty anticlimactic if you ask me. Luckily the Liquor store had given me a box to carry out my bottles. It wasn’t big enough. So I basically made my own box. I used the box from the liquor store and cut off one end. Then I used cardboard and foam board from other places to fill in the gaps on the bottom and sides. I also used a lot of heavy-duty packing tape. After that my box was complete!

Step 3: Create dividers

This was the easiest part of the box. I had some extra foam board so I cut it to make the dividers. I knew I wanted to have four rows of six beers. I cut three rectangles the length of the box, and then four rectangles the width of the box. Using a ruler, I divided the length rectangles into fourths and the width dividers into sixths. Then I used an exacto knife to create a slit half way up each rectangle. Then I was able to slide the rectangles together to make the dividers. These are essential so when moving the box the beers don’t clink together and break.

Step 4: Fill with beer

This was easy. Probably the easiest part of the whole ordeal. I just tried to mix them around to make in more interesting for the receiver.

If you look closely, you can see where I had to tape the box together. Also you can see the dividers I made.

Step 5: Make the lid

I used thick posterboard for this. I cut it to fit over the top of the box, then I used the packing tape to tape it onto the box. Then I measured to divide it into fourths and sixths. I used a pencil to draw the lines. Then I used an exacto-knife to cut out the doors. Make sure when you do this that you don’t actually cut along the lines you drew. You want to leave some space (about a centimeter) between the lines and the door.

Step 6: Decorate!

I would recommend covering the box with wrapping paper and then using markers or paint to decorate the top. Make sure you mix around the numbers for the doors, this makes it more interesting in my opinion. My decorating job didn’t turn out as well as I’d planned. I wanted the box to be red with gold numbers and lettering. But, painting cardboard and packing tape wasn’t as easy as I’d thought. So instead I ended up covering the box with silver ribbon and black paper. Then I painted the top silver and used puff paint to do the numbers. At least they were red and green? Sigh. I tried. Although I don’t think it mattered much to the receiver. As with people, it’s what’s inside that counts. 😉

Ta-Da!

Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars

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My sister sent me this recipe from another blog, so I thought I’d try it out for an additional Thanksgiving treat. It was fairly easy to make, and I was hoping it would just be amazing. I thought it was okay, but several of my family members thought they were great. I really did like the crunch of the pretzels on the bottom.

Ingredients

FOR THE COOKIE DOUGH:

  • ¾ cups Unsalted Butter, At Room Temperature
  • ¾ cups Granulated Sugar
  • ¾ cups Dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 whole Large Eggs
  • 1-½ teaspoon Real Vanilla Extract
  • 2-¼ cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ¾ teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • 1 bag (11 Oz. Size) Milk Chocolate Chips (I Like Ghirardelli)

FOR THE CRUST:

  • 3-½ cups Pretzel Sticks, Crushed Into Tiny Pieces
  • ¾ cups Unsalted Butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line a 9x13x2 baking pan with parchment paper (for easy removal).
  2. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed until creamy. Add eggs and the vanilla, beating until just blended.
  3. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk until airy and gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar/egg mixture, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides and add in the chocolate chips. Mix one last time for a second then set aside.
  4. For the crust, combine the crushed pretzel pieces with the melted butter, stir to combine. Spread pretzel mixture over the bottom of your prepared pan and bake for 8 minutes.
  5. Drop large spoonfuls of the cookie dough and scatter it over the pretzel crust. Carefully and evenly spread the batter over the warm pretzels. With your (clean) fingers, press the dough into the pretzels.
  6. Place the pan in your preheated oven and bake for 20-24 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time. Remove when the bars are golden and a tester comes out clean.
  7. When bars have cooled, remove (using the parchment paper) and cut into 15 bars. Enjoy!

My Notes:

I made the crust first and had it baking while I mixed the cookie dough. Also make sure you really press the pretzels down or they will be crumbly. Didn’t get a great picture of these, but trust me, they looked and tasted great.

Oatmeal Turtle Bars

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We had a pitch-in at work and I signed up to make desserts. I was craving something chocolatey and caramely. So I got this recipe from a cookbook my mother gave me. It sounded like it was fool-proof. However, I am quite the fool. These were impossible to get out of the pan! Even with the greased foil. They were however delicious when I finally did get them out in one piece. They are super rich and I had to cut them into really small pieces. Definitely good with a glass of milk.

Ingredients

  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • 1 (14 oz) package caramels
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats
  • 1 (12 oz) package semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 (6 oz) package semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Line a greased 13″ x 9″ pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, allowing several inches of foil to extend over sides. Lighly grease foil.
  2. Combine caramels and milk in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring often, 22 minutes or until caramels melt and mixture is smooth. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350º. Beat butter at meduim speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugars, beating until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until blended.
  4. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda; gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in oats.
  5. Press 4 cups dough into prepared pan. Top with choclate morsels and pecans. Pour caramel mixture over pecans. Crumble the remaining dough over caramel.
  6. Bake at 350º for 38 to 40 minutes or until golden. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cover and chill 8 hours. Cut into small bars. Store in refrigerator up to 5 days.

My Notes:

I would recommend only using the one 12oz bag of chocolate morsels. I don’t think it needs the other half. Also half way through making these my hand mixer died on me. Therefore I had to use my hands to mix the oats in. While this was fun, I’m not sure it made the best mixture. (This is what I get for buying the cheapest hand mixer I could find). It is really a lot of batter, the bigger bowl you use, the better. Since they were so tricky to cut, I recommend cutting them as soon as you take them out of the oven, then chill, then cut again. Also there’s no way that caramel is going to melt on low heat. I had to turn it up to medium-high. Also I heated it again right before I poured it on the batter to make it spreadable. There was a lot of caramel too. You could probably get by with using half of everything in this recipe and still put it in a 9″ x 13″ pan. This is probably what I will do next time. But like I said, really delicious. Also, don’t feel like you have to splurge to put the pecans in. I did, and I could barely taste them. If you have some, and like them, then put them in. If not, I wouldn’t stress it.

Spinach Potato Quiches

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Found this recipe on another blog and decided to make it for dinner tonight. It was pretty good. Not the easiest to make, and not super flavorful. I would definitely make these again with some adjustments.

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup spinach, packed
  • 1 – 2 small potatoes
  • 7 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1 1/2 ounce pepper jack cheese, shredded or cut into small pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

 

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Pour the olive oil into a sauce pan over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the chopped onion and cook for about 15 – 20 minutes until the onions caramelize. Add a bit more olive oil as the onions cook if necessary.
  3. While the onions are caramelizing, cook the potato(es) in the microwave until they are tender. Chop the potatoes into small, bite sized pieces.
  4. When the onions are nearly done, add the spinach. Cook and stir for about a minute more until the spinach wilts.
  5. Mix the eggs and milk in a separate bowl. Whisk until combined. Stir in the spinach, onion, and add the cheese. Add salt and pepper.
  6. Pour the egg mixture equally into the muffin tins and then drop in potato pieces.
  7. Cook for approximately 15 minutes. The quiches will be done when they look set and don’t jiggle when the pan is moved. Let the quiches cool for a few minutes before serving.

My Notes

I couldn’t taste the cheese. Next time I might use Feta. I also might add some tomatoes for extra flavor. I used a white onion, and it wasn’t too strong. I would recommend a different onion if you really like onion flavor. Also I used new potatoes. Taste was fine, but they were difficult to chop up. Probably will use good ol’ russet next time.

Checkerboard Cake

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I wasn’t sure if my nieces and nephews would like the carrot cake so I also attempted to make them a checkerboard cake. This cake is a triple-layer cake that uses a bulls-eye ring of sorts to keep the batter separate. The  effect is supposed to look like a checkerboard. Mine didn’t work out so well. The white cake spread out a lot more than the chocolate cake, but it still tasted great. I just used box cakes and a recipe for butter-cream icing from my mom. I hate to say it but I actually liked this cake better than the carrot cake, and it was far less work. Just thought I would share the icing recipe and the picture of the cake. I probably will try to do the checkerboard again. Regardless of it not looking great the combo of white cake and devils’ food was really delicious.

Buttercream Icing Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup margarine (or shortening)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 -4 cups confectioners’ sugar sifted
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

Carrot Ginger Layer Cake

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My mother’s retirement party was this past weekend, and I had the task of baking a cake for the ordeal. I’ve been wanting to make a carrot cake for a while and so I found this recipe on Martha Stewart’s website and decided to try it. I wasn’t overly impressed with the icing after a few days. It tasted great right after I made it, but then after the cake had been in the fridge a while it was not exactly the consistency I’d hoped for. I really liked the cake though. Next time I would probably use a standard recipe for cream cheese icing and add in the orange zest and ginger. But I will say the cake looked very impressive. The four layers looked beautiful, even if they were a bit uneven due to my poor cutting skills. The batter was easy to make and doesn’t require any kind of mixing machine.

Cake Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pecan halves (Optional)
  • 1 pound large carrots, peeled
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375º. Butter two 8″ x 2″ round cake pans. Dust pans with flour, and tap out any excess. Set pans aside. Spread pecans in a single layer on an ungreased baking pan, and toast in the oven until lightly golden, about 7 minutes. Remove pan from oven, and let stand until completely cool. Reduce temperature to 300°. Finely chop pecans and set aside.
  2. Using the smallest holes of a box grater, grate carrots, yielding 2 1/2 cups. Place carrots, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, sugar, vegetable oil, and ginger in a large bowl. Whisk until well combined.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture until combined. Fold in the toasted pecans.
  4. Divide batter between the two cake pans, and bake until a cake tester inserted into the middles comes out clean, about 1 hour. Remove pans from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool, 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack, let stand until completely cool.
  5. Using a serrated knife, trim tops of the cakes so surfaces are level. Slice each layer in half horizontally. Place a layer on acake stand or cardboard round, and spread 3/4 cup of frosting over top. Place a second cake layer on top and spread anouther 3/4 cup of frosting. Repeat with third layer. Place the last layer on top, and spread the remaining frosting over the top and the sides of the assembled cake. Transfer to refrigerator and chill 3 to 4 hours.

Frosting Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Place butter in bowl of an electric mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, and beat until well combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes more. Add sugar, orange zest, ginger and salt, and beat for 5 minutes.

My Notes:

I learned a lot in making this cake. First of all, grating a pound of carrots is tiring, but they look so amazing when grated. You can really tell a difference in the cake.

Also I’ve never zested an orange before. I was warned that orange zest can often be bitter. Plus I had really no clue where to start. So I youtubed a video. Whoever I watched explained it brilliantly, so if you want to do it, you should probably youtube it as well. But essentially you use a peeler to peel the orange making sure not to get any white part of the peel. Then you have to use a sharp paring knife to chop the peelings into fine “dust.” This was also satisfying but tiring.

Also I did not have 8″ x 2″ pans. Actually I didn’t even see them at any store I looked at. So I used 9″ x 1.5″ pans. Worked just fine. I also do not have a wire rack for cooling. I kinda wish I did. When I just let them cool on plates, the middle part of the cake stuck to the bottom of the plate. A rack probably would have prevented this from happening. Overall a good carrot cake though.

Halloween

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First let me say that Halloween has to be one of my favorite holidays. I mean I love Thanksgiving and Christmas, but you can’t really wear a ridiculous costume to either of those (unless your family partakes in “Ugly Sweater Christmas” and you are extremely lucky). I love to wear costumes and even more love seeing other peoples’ costumes. This year I had a few friends over. I might have taken on a little too much this year, making my own costume and throwing a party, but it was worth it. Here’s what I prepared for the festivities.

Bat Wings (Hot Chicken Wings)

Carbomb Cupcakes

Spiderweb Cheesecake

Vodka Brains

Blood Bath Punch

The recipe for the cupcakes is listed in a separate post. Only difference was I put orange food coloring in the icing to make Black and Orange cupcakes.  The Vodka Brains was a jello mold. To make the mold, I used vodka instead of the cold water following the recipe on the box. I got the brain mold on sale last year after Halloween. Here are the recipes for the other treats.

Bat Wings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 20 chicken wings
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup hot pepper sauce (I used Sriracha Sauce)

Directions

  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and lightly grease with cooking spray. Place the flour, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and salt into a resealable bag, and shake to mix. Add the wings, seal, and toss until well coated. Place the wings onto the prepared baking sheet, and place into the refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F
  3. Whisk together the melted butter and hot sauce in a small bowl. Dip the wings into the mixture and place on the baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and wings are crispy on the outside, about 40 minutes. Turn the wings over halfway during cooking so they cook evenly.

Notes: I tried to bake way too many wings at once and burnt the wings that I cooked on the bottom rack. If you bake them all on the center rack, turn after 15 or 20 minutes and then broil to crisp them up. I did like the flavor of the wings, but they were really spicy. If you don’t like spicy stuff don’t use Sriracha Sauce

Spiderweb Cheesecake

You’ll need a springform pan and a lot of room in your freezer for this, but I think it’s fairly easy and great. And it keeps for days! My waist is not happy about that, but my mouth certainly is. I got this recipe from Marth Stewart living, so I take no credit for it.

Ingredients

·         For the Crust
    • 18 ounces chocolate wafers (about 90), finely ground (4 1/2 cups)
    • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
·         For the Ganache
    • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 61 percent), finely chopped
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
·         For the Filling
    • 32 ounces cream cheese, softened
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
    • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, cold

Directions

  1. Make the crust: Coat a 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Mix wafers, sugar, butter, and salt in a medium bowl. Pat mixture into pan, pressing firmly into bottom and all the way up sides. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to fill.
  2. Make the ganache: Place chocolate in a food processor. Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan, then pour over chocolate. When chocolate begins to melt, process until smooth. Reserve 2 tablespoons ganache for decorating, and spread the remainder evenly on bottom and all the way up sides of crust. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to fill.
  3. Make the filling: Beat cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and slowly add sugar and salt. Raise speed to medium-high, and beat until very fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in lemon juice.
  4. Whisk cream until medium-stiff peaks form. Whisk 1/4 of the whipped cream into cream cheese mixture, then fold in remaining whipped cream. Pour filling into crust, and spread evenly. Gently tap bottom of pan on counter to release air bubbles.
  5. Transfer reserved ganache to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip. Starting in the center of the cheesecake, pipe a spiral, spacing lines about 1/2 inch apart. Pull the tip of a paring knife in a gently curved line from the center of the spiral to outer edge. Wipe knife clean, and repeat every inch or so to form a web.
  6. Cover, and freeze for at least 1 hour or overnight. Unmold cheesecake, garnish with candy spiders if desired, and serve immediately.

Notes: I used oreos instead of chocolate wafers. I think it worked out perfectly. The crust is definitely the best part about this cheesecake. The ganache is definitely extra work, but worth it. It’s such a nice addition to the cake. Also when I pipe the spiderweb on I just wing it. Drawing the knife through hardly ever works for me for some reason. If you don’t have a piping bag you can cut a small snip off the corner of a sandwich bag. This is what I always do, and it does the trick. I would put the cheesecake in the refidgerator about an hour before serving. Then I keep it in the freezer after the party. It’s harder to cut, but the colder the cheesecake the better it tastes. Make sure you cover it well or it will develop frost on the top. And no one wants that. 🙂

Blood-Bath Punch

Ingredients

  • 1 jug cranberry juice cocktail (64 oz)
  • 1 quart chilled orange juice
  • 1 cup chilled vodka
  • 1/2 cup triple sec
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Mix in a large pitcher. Garnish with orange wedges. Soooo good.