Wednesday, October 14, 2009

So much cooking! Fresh pumpkin bread

Ok, so, I apologize for the string of food posts. Actually, I don't. Maybe you will try and love one of these recipes! I haven't been posting about work, because, it is too dramatic and career limiting to write about on the web. I haven't been writing about super personal stuff, because, I'd prefer to keep it that way! (Seriously - ask me and I'll tell, I just don't want the random googler to find out.) I could post about my neck, but I'll try to get a photo of me in head traction first for your amusement.

So to tide you over: Pumpkins. I learned something about pumpkins - Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins are not ideal for baking. Sugar Pie pumpkins are. I found some at P.W. Market, an upscale market, for 3x the price of regular Jack-O pumpkins, but I was determined to give this a try. Sugar Pie pumpkins are smaller and darker than their counterpart(s). You can substitute fresh pumpkin for canned (same amount) in any recipe.

Here, the inside of a sugar pie pumpkin. Much easier to deal with than the stringy mess.
All done, after about an hour in the oven at 375. (Until tender)

My "harvested" fresh pumpkin - puree (I didn't have to) and refrigerate (if using within 3 days) or freeze.

Don't forget to roast the seeds!!!

Next post...the pumpkin bread!!!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Something with pictures!

So, unlike my first pictureless post of today, I actually have some photos to share.

Have you ever caught the show Cake Boss or one of those other fancy cake decorating show? I think they are awesome - more a feat of engineering, sometimes, than baking. So I have been waiting for the right birthday to come around where I could try my hand at fondant. I had also just discovered these miniature cake pans in my cupboard which also inspired a cake obsession.

I wasn't ready to dive into the fondant decorating aisle at Michaels quite yet ($$$!!!!) so this was a DIY project. I scoured the web for fondant recipes, first being horrified by their complexity, then discovering an equally difficult marshmallow one, then finally finding something simple. Its not like I'm making a wedding cake so perfection wasn't really my goal.

Early stages of the frosting, which had to be kneaded by hand. I was wondering what I got myself into:

But, I had no choice, because the cakes were already made! The idea of these little shortcake style cakes is to put filling in the little cup area of two of them and then merge them together for a tall little cake! So cute!

After WAYYYYY more sugar than the recipe called for, the fondant started to take shape!

here it is all rolled out, ready to top the cake! I used a juice bottle for a roller. I got my ideas for decorating the cake by going to Michaels, reading the book they sell there about fondant, and then putting it back and walking out of the store. After all, this is a really tiny cake!

And here is the final product! I tore the frosting a little when we put it on top, who cares! It was a delicious cake and Bill was more touched by getting a cake than it being perfect. And yeah, I know the decorations aren't pristine, but hey - I was using a plastic knife and a chopstick.

Bill requested a strawberry-ish filling (the homemade whipped cream didn't happen - no time - but cool whip was a substitute, in a pinch) and underneath the fondant is another layer of yummy fudgy frosting, which helps the fondant stick to the cake and lay down more smoothly. (Some people complain fondant has a bad taste - like the wedding cake type - so I pilied on the fudgy frosting for good measure).

Happy Birthday Bill! This was so fun to make! Maybe I'll find some cheaper supplies on ebay!

Rigatoni Carbonara!

Again I make a yummy dinner and AGAIN I forget to take a picture. How am I ever supposed to make my own cookbook if I can't photograph the results?! Oh well, seeing that I did not measure the ingredients, either, I suppose I will be making it again. This is a combination of a few recipes plus the addition of leftover veggies.
Here's a first draft:
1 lb rigatoni pasta
3 eggs
1 cup parmesean cheese
4oz pancetta (Italian style bacon, avail at Trader joes, although I've subbed for bacon and even chicken)
2 cups sliced mushrooms (this amoung is a total guess. I think I chopped 8 mushrooms. You can ALWAYS use more mushrooms.) Maybe 3 cups.
1/4-1/2 cup whipping cream

Prepare the rigatoni pasta according to directions. While the pasta is cooking, brown the pancetta and mushrooms in a medium-high saucepan with a little EVOO. (I threw in some sliced zucchinni at this stage also). I like my mushrooms to be REALLY cooked. Once you've got all that sufficiently cooked (may require modification/reduction of fats depending on what meat you use), add 1/4 to 1/2 cup (or more) of the cream and reduce the heat to a simmer. Oh and add salt/pepper/garlic to taste. [This is going into a pound of pasta, so be generous]. The cream will thicken a little.
Beat the eggs and parmesean cheese in a large serving bowl. When pasta is fully cooked, drain (reserve 1 cup of water) and then dump the pasta on top of the uncooked egg mix. Stir well to cook the eggs with the hot pasta. Add the meat/cream sauce. Add a little of the reserved water if you want to make it a little more liquid-y (I don't usually do this)
The end! Yum yum.
I rate this meal as "medium cleanup" because it takes 2 stovetop pans and 1 serving dish to prepare. (Plus cutting board and drainer.) Try it and let me know what you think!!

On another note, Trader Joes has a fantastic frozen pasta in a red pepper sauce. It is amazing. If you know how to make a red pepper sauce puh-leeze tell me!