09/7/09

Brown Sugar and Me

My new comfort food? Brown sugar. Light brown or dark brown – I’m not too picky. I don’t eat it straight, of course. Well, almost never. I usually prefer to eat it in the form of my favorite cookie ever: America’s Test Kitchen’s Brown Sugar Cookie recipe. However, at a recent Ice Cream Enthusiasts Meeting, I had a sundae with a rich, delicious butterscotch-caramel syrup. This sparked my interest in finding some new recipes within this flavor profile. Thus, the caramel cake from last week and this week’s new recipe Butterscotch Bars (Cooking Light).

These bars were a wonderful addition to my brown sugar recipe collection. The recipe was simple to put together and used ingredients I almost always have on hand. Very dangerous. I baked them for only 25 minutes, which resulted in a crispy outside and slightly doughy inside. I added toasted walnuts to the batter right before pouring it into the pan which added a little texture to the bar as well as the subtle walnut flavor.
The recipe made 16 bars cut from a 9 x 9 square pan, none of which lasted very long once dearest husband declared the serving size should be increased to two bars. I would definitely make these again for taking to my book club or the office, or just to snarf down after a long day. I was happy to have found a great Cooking Light butterscotch bar recipe. But, I have to admit, I have my eye on another, more fattening, butterscotch brownie recipe that includes chocolate chips. Maybe for the holidays…
03/14/09

Party Favors

Party anticipation is never complete without the careful consideration of what dish to bring to the occasion! Should I go with a tried and true favorite or try something new? Stick with a theme or go out on a limb?I had just such a debate when determining what to take to this evening’s St. Patrick’s Day party hosted by our good friends. As a previous post indicates, my first attempt at a theme related dish was a bit misguided. My dilemma seemed perfect work lunchroom conversation fodder (safer than politics or religion, I say) and soon recipes were raining down on me: Irish Soda Bread and Guinness Stout Ginger Cake! I thought, why not? Add to that my husband’s family recipe for Almond Poppy Seed Bread (which is as much a dessert as it is a bread) and I knew I had the perfect dessert platter to add to the party mix.Well, perfect might be stretching it a bit, it turns out. The Irish Soda Bread would have turned out perfectly – if only I would have let it bake for 10 more minutes. The toothpick test failed me and I ended up with a soda bread loaf with a soupy middle. Think Jelly Doughnut but much less appetizing. Consequently, it was benched for the last minute replacement of Jewel seasonal cupcakes. I watch Top Chef enough to know when to keep a dish in the kitchen, if you know what I mean.Next, I discovered that the never-fail Almond Poppy Seed Bread does, in fact, fail if you leave out the almond extract. OK, I admit that it did not completely fail since it still tasted good, especially with the sweet almond glaze (I remembered the almond by then) that creates a wonderful and tasty crust.The big winner today was the Guinness Stout Ginger Cake! With ginger, Guinness and molasses as main ingredients the finished product was dark, flavorful and ultramoist.All-in-all, we had a fun night with great friends and great food. Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

03/3/09

Lime Time

I have a St. Patrick’s Day party to attend this month and I have been searching for the perfect dessert to take to the party. My first option – Fresh Lime Chiffon Cake. So, I make it for my monthly staff meeting to test it out. Making this frosted, three-layer cake was not as time intensive as the recipe and reviews on Cooking Light.com made it sound; although grating the lime rind got old after awhile. I think I need to investigate purchasing a better grating tool. I did thoroughly enjoy using our antique juicer for the lime juice and remembered fondly receiving it as a gift at a wedding shower about 1000 years ago.

The cake did not turn out as I imagined it would, even with the picture on the recipe. First of all – it was yellow! I had, for some reason, expected it to be green! Silly me. That’s one strike against it winning the St. Patrick’s Day Dessert Challenge. The taste was good, light and “refreshing” my staff members said (of course, I am paying them so what else would they say?). I, being impartial, did like the taste as it was uniquely tart and limey.
The recipe also suggested garnishing the cake with blueberries and mint – which I might try sometime. Reviewers on Cooking Light.com suggested using a different type of filling between the layers, which is an interesting idea. However, what would be a good jam/jelly/curd flavor to combine with lime?
02/22/09

Quesadillas, Rum, and Restaurants

Don’t try to fool me – you’re still reading because the rum caught your attention! This weekend we tried two new recipes and one new restaurant. Since our Saturday afternoon was cold and snowy – I decided to make cookies! However, looking through recently collected recipes revealed only doughs that needed time to chill. No time for that, I thought, and I decided to make the much anticipated Butter-Rum Pound Cake from Betty Crocker! But, alas, we were both disappointed. It had a nice texture and decent taste, but we both were looking for a moister cake with more rum flavor – something similar to the tasty goodness of Stacy’s mom’s recipe for almond-poppy seed cake that turns out rich and moist due to drizzle added during the last step of the recipe. We might try something similar with a Tastefully Simple pound cake to experiment.While the cake was cooling, I tried another new recipe for our dinner – Roasted Corn and Goat-Cheese Quesadillas. Stacy loves quesadillas, but I cringe everytime he eats them in a restaurant since they are always served dripping in cheese and grease (no offense, quesadilla chefs of America). I also thought this would be a good dish to try to make using our new panini press. In the end, we were both satisfied with the meal that also included Rice-a-Roni Mexican rice (yum!) and black beans. The quesadillas were tasty, although a bit heavy on the goat-cheese side…probably because my container of goat-cheese contained slightly more than the recipe called for (but not enough for me to go to the effort of removing – .3 oz). Using the panini maker resulted in melted quesadillas, but they weren’t as crispy as they probably would have been using the skillet as the recipe indicated. I do think I would make a variation of this again, however. The recipe was fast and easy to make, as well.On Sunday, I needed to go to work unexpectedly so, for a special treat, we visited a new local restaurant and had a very nice time. Toscana Restaurant and Lounge in Rolling Meadows is a nice, intimate sit-down Italian restaurant. We had delicous bread, more bread in the form of bruschetta (my ultimate favorite) and I had Pollo Limone and Stacy had the Tortellini Paesano for our main entrees. It’s special occasion spot, with entrees running from $13 and up, although maybe we will try their lunch and/or take-out menu sometime as well. The service was outstanding; the staff were friendly and attentive. I look forward to trying their version of garlic pizza. It is very nice to find a nicer place in our area – we’re still looking for our “Cheers.”

02/17/09

Re-inventing the Ramble

One of my New Year’s Resolutions a few years ago was to give up doing New Year’s Resolutions. Now I just make and break resolutions all year through! Right now, one of my mini-resolutions is to become a culinary and organizational genius.What’s that mean? I need to cook and clean more. Therefore, the last few weeks I’ve been making an effort to cook new dishes and “weed” various collections throughout our house. Therefore, I’ve decided to bring my blog back and document my progress – if nothing else than for my own amusement.The most recent culinary experiment was Korean-Spiced Beef and Cabbage Rolls – a recipe that I saw last year in Cooking Light magazine. It was winning recipe from one of their readers that was inspired by my husband’s favorite food from Nebraska – the Runza! I spent a good part of Saturday afternoon putting this recipe together and, thankfully, Stacy helped by making dessert – a rum pound cake also from CL. The dish was relatively easy to make – just a little more time consuming that I would usually like.Honey was one of the dough’s main ingredient, resulting in a light, sweet dough that I would consider using for other dishes as well. Overall, the Korean flavors were tasty, yet subtle. I would like to experiment with making the rolls smaller to create more of an appetizer snack bite, although I hope they won’t be too hard to fold together. Additionally, I want to try adding different things to the filling – more vegetables and a little cheese.The rum pound cake was carefully created by Stacy as he channeled his inner chemical engineer. It turned out ok – our favorite part was the mild taste of Captain Morgan’s. Thankfully, a colleague at work shared a similar recipe with me today that might be a good one to try this weekend.