Friday, August 31, 2012

Not So Delicious Baked Fajitas

My sister and I enjoy cooking and trying new recipes and then sharing them with each other. She swore by this one. Said it was so good, she was making a second batch to throw in the freezer so I thought these were a win. Easy and delicious, she claims.

Easy, yes. Delicious? We'll get to that.

The Recipe:
from Six Sisters' Stuff

(Serves 4-6)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies
1 medium onion, sliced
1 large bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 T vegetable oil
2 t. chili powder
2 t. cumin
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. salt
12 flour tortillas, warmed to serve

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 13×9 baking dish. Mix together chicken, tomatoes, chilies, peppers, and onions in the dish.

In a small bowl combine the oil and spices. Drizzle the spice mixture over the chicken and toss to coat.

Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.

Serve with warmed tortillas and enjoy!

They look delicious. They smelled delicious. They were, however, less than delicious. They weren't disgusting, just not delicious like I was expecting. Like my sister made them out to be.

I think part of the issue was that we used corn tortillas... and I was too lazy to warm them so they were tearing apart and messy. IF I were to make them again, I would definitely opt for flour tortillas. However, since the post-dinner conversation went like this:

Me: Should I just throw them away now, or should I put them away and throw them away in a few days.

K: I say just throw them away now.

I highly doubt we'll be making these again.

If you wish.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Banana Cookies

K and I have an overabundant amount of borderline rotten bananas in our freezer. I'm not sure how that happens. We have the best of intentions of eating the bananas and then next thing you know, they're all black and we just throw them in the freezer knowing we'll eventually make some banana bread or banana cake.

The other day, I was thinking about it and there are all kinds of banana recipes out there, but I couldn't recall ever seeing a banana cookie recipe. So I went on a mission to find one and came across this one. It claims to be a 70 year old recipe and that was in 2008... so it must be a 74 year old recipe by now. Well, it was an honor to get to try a recipe of such age!

The Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 cup of mashed bananas (about 2 ½ large bananas)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 2 cups of flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground mace or nutmeg I used mace because I'm not a fan of nutmeg, but they're actually quite similar.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 cup of pecans (walnuts and chocolate chips are fine alternatives) 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  2. In a bowl, mix the mashed bananas and baking soda. Let sit for 2 minutes. The baking soda will react with the acid in the bananas which in turn will give the cookies their lift and rise. 
  3. Mix the banana mixture into the butter mixture. Mix together the flour, salt, and spices and sift into the butter and banana mixture and mix until just combined.
  4. Fold into the batter the pecans or chocolate chips if using. Drop in dollops onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Let cool on wire racks.
Makes about 30 cookies.

I didn't have a full bag of chocolate chips so I added them to the last batch and what a difference they made!! The cookies are delicious without them, so don't worry if you don't have any.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Pear Crisp & a Little Blog Bashing

Who needs food staging when you discover Instagram?
Our friends have many fruit trees in their back yard and the other day K came home from their house with a bunch of pears. I knew we wouldn't eat all of them so I went on a mission to find a recipe for a Pear Crisp. The winning recipe came from The Pioneer Woman blog. It also helped that I had all the ingredients on hand!

The Recipe:

  • 4 whole (to 5) Large Pears (Bosc Work Well) (I don't even know what a Bosc pear is.)
  • 2/3 cups Sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1-1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Firmly Packed Brown Sugar (So what that a little extra fell in the bowl when I was getting it into the measuring cup. It didn't hurt anybody.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup Pecans, Very Finely Chopped (I don't love nuts so I used 1/2 cup of  Quaker Oats)
  • 1 stick Butter, Melted

Preparation Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Peel the pears (I didn't do this because my hands give me issues and they kept cramping when I was trying to peel them) 
  • Core, and dice pears. 
  • Place into a bowl and stir together with 2/3 cup sugar (I'm not 100% positive all that sugar is necessary - keep reading) and 1/4 teaspoon salt. 
  • Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans. Stir together. Drizzle melted butter gradually, stirring with a fork as you go until all combined.
  • Pour pears into a baking dish. (I used a 9x9 Pyrex)
  • Top with crumb topping.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Place pan on top rack of oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until topping is golden brown. (I didn't do this last step. I baked it for the 30 minutes on the second to top rack and after the 30 minutes, the topping looked golden brown to me so I skipped the extra 10 minutes on the top rack.)
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. (I absolutely did this!)

So, this is where the blog bashing begins. I think some of these food bloggers aren't always 100% honest. At least this is what I have started telling myself to make me feel better when a recipe doesn't turn out absolutely perfect like the food blog makes it seem. Haha.

My Crisp was crisp, but it was a little (ok, probably more like a lot) soupy underneath. Maybe soupy wasn't the right word because it didn't really ruin the dish, but there was a lot of juice on the bottom that the blog never mentioned. I suspect it might have been from the 2/3 cups of sugar I mentioned earlier that I thought it might not have been necessary to use quite that much. Maybe less sugar would have produced less juice.

Also, I thought the pears would cook more like apples. When you bake apples, they tend to soften - pears do not. Out of the five I cut up, only two were ripe enough to be soft. The others went in the oven hard, and came out of the oven hard. Not rock hard, of course, but definitely not soft like I was thinking they would come out.

Overall, it was good. Would I rush out and buy more pears so I can make it again? Probably not, but if someone were to give us a bunch of pears again, I'd make it again.

Now for a little more blog bashing:

I give myself such a hard time because my pictures don't look as good as "real" food bloggers. Granted, I just discovered Instagram and that seems to help (see demo below), but I don't think I would ever spend the time and energy trying to stage food the way real food bloggers do it. Kudos to them for putting in the effort, though. So, if you're a reader of my blog - you will get crappy pictures, but you will get honest truths about cheffing mishaps, recipe mishaps, and overall reviews. Granted, I wont blog the total disasters (unless it comes with a funny story), but I will give my honest opinion about my recipes. I mean, c'mon, do you really think that every single recipe food bloggers blog turns out amazing and tastes spectacular? I doubt it.

A real food blogger's photo.
My photo before Instagram
My photo after Instagram
 OK, maybe the Instagram doesn't help as much as I thought it did. Well, at least it makes it look like I tried.

What do you think of the new Bon Appetit?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fake Mac n Cheese

I had the night off from my other job yesterday and even though I was tired and wanted to take the evening to relax, I also wanted to cook something new. Cooking new things make me happy. I learn something new and there's always an excitement of sorts to see how the recipe will come out. I think that it's important to still push myself to do these kind of things despite my exhaustion because all work and no play makes me a dull girl - and a grumpy one.

When I polled Facebook for recipe suggestions, I got some great ideas. I wanted to make them all, but one in particular stood out for me, simply because it had only 4 ingredients. Easy! Not to mention less to pick up from the store.

The lucky winner came from Ms. Domezio and it was Baked Tortellini, which I am going to call Fake Mac n Cheese. There's nothing fake in it, but it was super easy and reminded me of homemade Mac n Cheese, so I am going with that. The directions from the link above is for some fancy TurboChef oven where it cooks stuff faster, so my cooking directions have been modified for a regular oven. 

  • 20 oz of Cheese Tortellini
  • 15 oz Alfredo Sauce (My jar was like 16.8 oz - I used the whole jar.)
  • 8 oz Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
  • Prosciutto (I don't trust this kind of meat so I used about a cup of Rotisserie Chicken because I am lazy.)
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Prepare Tortellini according to the instructions on the package.
  • Prep meat to put into dish.
  • Pour 1/4 cup of Alfredo sauce in the bottom of your dish to coat the bottom. (I used an 8 x 8 Pyrex, the original recipe says to use a 1" deep ceramic or Pyrex dish.)
  • Drain pasta and return to pot (removed from heat). 
  • Pour remainder of Alfredo sauce over the pasta. 
  • Add the meat of your choice. 
  • Stir it all together. 
  • Pour into baking dish.
  • Top with 8oz of Mozzarella making sure Tortellini is fully covered with Cheese.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes; or until cheese is golden to your liking. 
This dish was AWESOME! Pair it with a green veggie of some sort, or a salad, and garlic bread and you have a gourmet meal that was fast, easy and fairly cheap! The only thing I will change next time is I might layer the cheese. I think the cheese is what made this dish so good and there were bites of pasta without the cheese so next time, I might layer the cheese, possibly even use more.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Adventures in Cake Decorating

I learned something valuable about myself this weekend. I am not destined to be a cake decorator - or even a baker. 

Don't get me wrong, I love to bake. However, I learned Friday night that I prefer to bake only for those I know and not on a grand scale. It's a lot of pressure to bake for multiple strangers!

A friend of ours celebrated a 20 year anniversary and I committed to making the cake for the celebration. Her favorite cake is a Pepperidge Farm White Coconut Cake - a cake I have never made before and didn't really understand. Is it coconut cake with white frosting? Is it white cake with coconut frosting? I was unsure and either way, I should have definitely done a trial run before making a cake for 100 people. 

K said it was white cake with coconut frosting so I went on a mission to find a recipe for coconut frosting. Most of them were really lame... using just coconut flavoring and they sounded boring. I finally found a cream cheese coconut frosting and - HELLOOOO... I LOVE cream cheese frosting so I was sold. I know, I know... It wasn't my cake so I should have kept searching for a regular coconut frosting, but I was running out of time so I just went with it. 

On my way home from work, I went to the store and bought four boxes of white cake, a ton of powdered sugar, a ton of cream cheese, a ton of butter and some coconut. (I should have realized right then and there that the ratio of coconut to everything else was off, but I didn't.)

Let the disasters begin.

I put the first two 9 x 13 cakes in and they came out looking great. I was off to a good start! I let those two cakes cool and threw in two round cakes. When I thought the first two cakes were cool enough, I attempted to get them out of their baking dish. Uh oh. They weren't coming out as easily as I had hoped. &%$#! What did I do wrong?!

K worked in a bakery for a while so I left them to her to figure out how to get them out without crumbling them to pieces. It was a hopeless cause!

This was at about 10:30 PM. We took a moment to figure out a game plan. I certainly didn't have the time or energy to bake four more cakes, let them cool, then decorate them. I decided we'd do some cupcakes since it's pretty hard to mess those up and bake another 9 x 13 cake (K was able to piece a 9 x 13 back together.) If the cake fails again, at least we will have the cupcakes for our friend, and everyone else can eat a store bought cake!

See? It's hard to screw up cupcakes. They looked so good someone stole one before I could even take the picture. I felt really bad though because after I got back from the store, I was super frustrated and realized that these cupcakes weren't being baked with love. :o( I told that story to someone at the party and they said, "I feel that same way sometimes too. It's OK, angry cake tastes good too." That made me feel a little better.

So the cakes weren't the only disaster. While the cupcakes were baking, I thought I better start making the frosting so K can start frosting the cake she saved. I mixed all the ingredients together, stirred in the coconut and... It barely freaking tasted like coconut!!! The coconut was the whole point! GRRRRR! Well, it was too late now to change the recipe, so I just had to go with it and hope it worked. 

K had the brilliant idea that she would make a sand dollar to put on the cake because our friend as a sentimental connection to them and recently got a tattoo. That was kind of a nightmare too. The sand dollar started out much larger than it ended up, but I think K did a nice job and recovered nicely. 

Not bad, right? I mean, it's no Ace of Cakes or Cake Boss, but it worked. 

And for the final product we had a beach scene with a sand dollar:

I think it turned out pretty cute considering we were up until 3:30 am baking and getting the initial frosting done. We did the finishing touches the next morning before the party... We wont mention how we were almost an hour and a half late, but I guess better late than never. The guests seemed to really like the cake... Either that, or they were being nice. LOL 

When all else fails, cover the scraps left over in chocolate frosting and devour. At least that's what we did. :o)