Friday, September 3, 2010

mac and cheese - hangover style

P9020776I woke up today, just as I did yesterday, feeling uneasy and slightly delirious. Once again, I crawled downstairs rummaging through the kitchen for food to soak up my burning stomach. I guess this weekend could be considered my roommate's "birthday weekend" seeing as how her birthday was yesterday. Going along with that, I figured I'd cook food for the whole house to enjoy. In order for that, I'd have to create something not only meatless (she's a vegetarian because of the texture of meat, yes you heard me right) but should consist of something with pasta (which is 99.9% of her diet). Easy enough- mac and cheese it is.

For every few chunks of cheese I chopped, I rewarded myself with a little nibble (or two, or three...).

Le roux et le beschamel. (My attempt to speak French. Hey, I did take two years in high school!)

The delicious smell of cheesy goodness wafted throughout the house, and soon I found my two hungry roommates by my side, birthday girl
M and newbie A.

"Hey, whatcha making?" ... Obviously they knew it was mac and cheese, but I guess they just wanted to let me know they acknowledged that I was making it.

We set out some plates and piled the cheesy tubed pasta atop. How does this compare to your boxed plastic rubbery crap, huh Kraft?

Nice and warm, the yellow-tinted sauce smoothly coated each and every macaroni. The cheese wasn't overpowering, but retained that cheesiness I deem a necessity for awesome mac and cheese. Seeping through the center of the macaroni, the creamy sauce was dominant in every bite. Also, every so often you'd get a piece of crusty breadcrumb topping, which also lent the sauce those adorable little specks of flavor.

After feeding myself, my two roommates, and all three of our boyfriends, you can guess how much mac and cheese was left... Yeah, basically nothing. I guess everyone enjoyed it.

Taken from Cook's Illustrated.

1 pound elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon table salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1+1/2 teaspoons powdered mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional) (omitted)
5 cups milk
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese , shredded (2 cups)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese , shredded (2 cups)
1 teaspoon table salt

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is tender. Drain pasta and set aside in colander.

2. In now-empty Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour, mustard, and cayenne (if using) and whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 teaspoon salt until cheeses are fully melted. Add pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.

3. Transfer mixture to broiler-safe 9-by 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs. Broil until crumbs are deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, rotating pan if necessary for even browning. Cool about 5 minutes, then serve.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

peanut butter cheesecake - i love everyone's birthday!

P9060864This is my fourth year living with my roommate M, which means we have celebrated four of her birthdays together (all of which I have no recollection of). You see, last night we (me, her, our other roommate A, and a few other select close friends) spent the night wandering incoherently all throughout Manhattan. Luckily this morning we were able to piece together the night (seeing as how all of us had different memories and different blackouts) to conclude that we indeed did have an excellent time for her 21st birthday.

The following morning was a different story though. All of us woke up groggy, tired, and extremely thirsty. Somehow I managed to crawl downstairs and rummage through the kitchen for birthday-baking-ideas (while at the same time chugging copious amounts of water).

M is a pretty picky eater (and by picky, I mean she really only eats a few things- pasta, pasta, and pasta). One thing that I know for sure that she likes is cheesecake. But I've already made a ton of basic cheesecakes - Brown Sugar, Blackberry, Strawberry, Lime. And to be quite honest- I don't even know if she likes crazy flavored cheesecakes.

Ah but alas- my memory has saved the day. Every time she goes to TGIF, she comes home with a doggy bag of her unfinished Peanut Butter Cheesecake. I know this because she always ends up asking me to her her finish (which of course I gladly do).

Coincidentally, I happen to be the ultimate peanut butter lover. Perhaps this idea was just as much for me as for her; but nonetheless, I knew that she would enjoy a peanut butter flavored cheesecake.

Hungover and all, I made my other roommate A help me in the creation of this delicious cheesecake.

Of course the cheesecake cracked in the center (in the shape of a T nonetheless) just like every cheesecake I have ever made. I attempted to distract the attention from the deep gorges by decorating the top with big white blobs of royal icing (like she'd care anyways).

So after the birthday girl blew out the candles and opened up her presents (a pasta cook book and a 30-pack of Bud Light- yeah, we're really classy here), it was time to eat! Being the nazi that I am, I was given the knife to cut everyone their slice.

The cheesecake was smooth and creamy, how I personally prefer it. Unfortunately the peanut butter flavor was lacking and could have been much stronger. I wouldn't call this recipe a fail by any means, but I'd definitely like to try fiddling with it in the future.

Typical to my roommate, she ate
one whole slice of cheesecake before the entire thing was gone. You see, she's not much of a sweets person, which contrasts greatly with the other two people in the house. What I'm basically getting at is that me and my other roommate happily helped the birthday girl finish her cheesecake. Happy birthday M!

Taken from Taste of Home.

1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup crushed cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup hot fudge ice cream topping, divided
6 peanut butter cups, cut into small wedges

1. In a large bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, sugar, cookie crumbs and butter. Press onto the bottom and 1 in. up the sides of a greased 9-in. springform pan. Place on a baking sheet.
2. Bake at 350° for 7-9 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat peanut butter on high for 30 seconds or until softened. Spread over crust to within 1 in. of edges.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Pour 1 cup into a bowl; set aside. Pour remaining filling over peanut butter layer.
3. In a microwave, heat 1/4 cup fudge topping on high for 30 seconds or until thin; fold into reserved cream cheese mixture. Carefully pour over filling; cut through with a knife to swirl.
4. Return pan to baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 55-65 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer.
5. Microwave remaining fudge topping for 30 seconds or until warmed; spread over cheesecake. Garnish with peanut butter cups. Refrigerate overnight. Refrigerate leftovers.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

pancakes - beginning of a great (fat) relationship

P9020694Don't get me wrong- I absolutely love my roommate M, but there's a few things I wish I could change about her. Most importantly: I wish she ate more of my frickin food. I mean, I can eat only so many brownies and cookies by myself before I turn into a fat pig. (And honestly, a lot of these delicious baked goods that I make are either thrown away or indulged by me on my "fat kid days"). This leads me to my next statement: (once again- no diss to M, but..) I love my new roommate A!

Okay- I love both my roomies to fucking death, that's a given. But the reason I'm excited to have A move in is because she loves to eat! She enjoys food just as much as me, she watched the Food Network just as much as me, and she more willing than myself to indulge on the types of food I make. Yayyy!

Bright and early one morning, we wake up and I see her wandering through the kitchen looking for something to eat. I typically don't eat when I first wake up (ironic, seeing as how breakfast is my ultimate favorite meal of the day), but I figured I'd whip up our first breakfast as official roommates. (Notice I said roommates, because obvi this bitch has been baking and cooking with me for ages: White Chocolate and Lime Cookies, Banana Cream Pie, Key Lime Pie, Caramel Nut Chocolate Tart, and so much more).

If anyone is keeping track here, this would be my second time making pancakes, ever, even from a box. (First time was the Whole Wheat Pancakes at my parents' house). Seeing as how I'm partially a pancake virgin, I asked A to take over the flipping at first. (Note her talented hand pouring the batter.)

After a bit of practice, I decided to take my attempt at batter-pouring. Apparently I'm not quite much of a pancake pro yet, but I'm definitely on my way. (And yes- it wouldn't be my type of breakfast without a little bit of chocolate).

For once, I looked upon a huge batch of food I just created, and wasn't worried as to what I would do with it. Luckily, my tiny little roommate A (whom I have no fricken clue as to how she can stay that small while eating so much) will help me greatly in the consumption of this pile of flapjacks.

As A went through pancake after pancake, I finally brought myself to eating just one pancake for breakfast (chocolate chip, of course). I typically try to stay away from too much sweets (which is practically impossible actually), but whatever- I mean, one pancake can't be that bad for you, right?

Okay... One turned into two... Two turned into three... And then my memory just blacked out. These were pretty damn decent pancakes for being made from scratch in literally three minutes.

A and myself made a pretty huge dent in those eight servings (pshh, no way that was eight servings) of flapjacks.

And so this concludes the beginning of happy relationship in our new household.

Taken from All Recipes: "Good Old Fashioned Pancakes".

1+1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3+1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1+1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted

1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.

2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Makes 8 servings.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

russian tea cakes - kak dela cookies?

russian tea cakes - 19Americans are quite ignorant. We think French Fries come from France, Cheddar cheese is a part of the "Mexican Blend" cheese package, and that Russian Tea Cakes have an origin of Russia. Me, being an American of course, fall somewhat into this category (hey, I know fries come from Belgium!). To commemorate my (new) Russian boyfriend, I decided I'd make some Russian Tea Cakes. I called him, across country, as I was still visiting my grandma on vacation, to tell him of the news.

russian tea cakes - 03russian tea cakes - 10"Uh...I've never heard of Russian Tea Cakes," he says. I tell him it's a Melting Moments Cookie plus some type of chopped nut. "Nope... it's not Russian. Neither is Russian Dressing." Point proven.

russian tea cakes - 38
Regardless, I was on a mission. I've conquered the disintegrating Melting Moments, now it's my time to conquer these Russian Tea Cakes.

russian tea cakes - 57russian tea cakes - 47
After a little divulgence, I learned that Russian Tea Cakes were, in fact, of Russian origin.

russian tea cakes - 13
They also became known as "Mexican Wedding Cakes," although that translation is a little blurry...

russian tea cakes - 12russian tea cakes - 54
Whatever may have been lost in translation, what is indeed known is that this cookie became popular around 18th century in Russia and was used in a tea-sharing ceremony.

russian tea cakes - 49
So basically, suck on that! You may know the history of your culture regarding politics and wars and language, but I still dominate in worldly culinary facts, my dear!

Taken from Smitten Kitchen.

1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup pecans, hazelnuts or other nuts, toasted and finely ground (if using hazelnuts, wrap in a dishtowel while still warm and roll about until most of the brown skins come off)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

1. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then nuts. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and cinnamon, if using, in pie dish to blend. Set cinnamon sugar aside.
3. Working with half of chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls. Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 18 minutes. Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon sugar to coat completely. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. (Cookies can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature; reserve remaining cinnamon sugar.)
4. Sift remaining cinnamon sugar over cookies and serve.

Makes about 4 dozen.