Saturday, February 28, 2009

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

It took me awhile on Valentine's Day to come up with something to make Jeff. I make him a lot of things, and last year I recall making him a nice surf n' turf dinner, with a big huge heart shaped steak and some shrimp. Last year he was working at South Park for Valentine's Day, but this year (Saturday!!) I got him all to myself.

It took me awhile. But we'd been going out to brunch with my friend's Tim and Katie for awhile, and a lot of times Katie gets Monte Cristo's from Good Stuff. They're always tasty, and the more I thought about it, the more they seemed right up Jeff's alley. I recall once he was commenting on the Monte Cristos from Bennigan's, which are deep fried and crazy, and how he couldn't do another one for another 10 years or something... but I wouldn't let that stop me.

Now a Monte Cristo is just a rip off of the croque monsieur and is basically a ham(or turkey) sandwich that's been deep fried. Which I didn't want to do. I don't want to deep fry a ham sandwich, that seems... wrong.
So I decided to make French Toast and make it with both ham and turkey, as well as a soft creamy mexican cheese. That I still had from my carne asada quiche. Yes, it was still good, it was amazing!!

I cut the sandiches into heart shapes with a cookie cutter because, let's face it, it was Valentine's Day and it was adorable. :) I added sweet by having syrup on the side, as well as spreading each sandwich with a slight amount of strawberry fruit spread.

And it was really, really tasty.

I'd been watching a lot of Alton Brown with my night's off, and I definitely got my plan for challah french toast from him. But I forgot to let the challah sit out. And I also forgot to make the custard the night before. But it was still very, very good. The challah was, after all, already a little bit stale when I bought it (sigh).

Monte Cristo Sandwich

4 thick cut slices Challah bread
1 egg
1/8 cup half-n-half
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

1/8 lb of thick sliced deli ham
1/8 lb of thick sliced smoked turkey breast
a few thin layers of asadero cheese
strawberry fruit preserves or jam

a stick of butter for frying the french toast in
powdered sugar for sprinkling
syrup on the side for dunking (or mustard or more jam, depending on your tastes)

Oven at 450 Degrees

Beat together the half-n-half, vanilla extract, salt, and egg and pour into a shallow dish. Let sit for a few moments, and then prepare your skillet for french toast. Set two pieces of challah bread in the custard at a time, let sit for at least a minute, possibly two, then flip and allow to sit for the same amount of time. Meanwhile, butter up your skillet and once the challah bread has soaked up about half the mixture, begin to fry. Cook until golden brown on both sides, and transport to some aluminum foil to keep warm. Repeat with the last two pieces of bread.

Spread a thin layer of strawberry preserves on one piece of bread for each sandwich, then layer with the ham, turkey, and cheese, dividing evenly between both sandwiches. Top with the other slice of french toast and transfer to the oven to allow the cheese to melt, the ham to warm, and the french toast to crisp.

When the cheese has melted, remove from the oven, dust with powder sugar, and serve with syrup or jam or mustard.

Serves 2.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Vanilla Creme Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Frosting

Long time no see!

I've returned from a hiatus of sorts with a newwww layout (thank you Jeff for LOTS of help with the coding!) and a ton of back up recipes. Oh, yes, and a foodbuzz featured publisher badge.

I believe the last thing I made was chocolate chip cookies. I admit I haven't been making as many savory dishes (uhh, I've made a few 'egg-and-bacon/ham-and-cheese-on-an-english-muffin sandwiches and lots of boxed macaroni and cheese or pasta). Tsk, tsk, me!

That said, for Valentine's Day I decided to make a bunch of cupcakes for my friends, and also for the studios that allow me to visit them or kidnap my boyfriend.

I think they turned out super cute. Not only that, they were super tasty! The strawberry frosting was a pain in the ass, having decided to use fresh strawberries and the liquid + the butter fat = not so good with the combining. I had to use a ton of sugar, but in the end it worked out. :) The chocolates on top are dove hearts dusted with pink lustre dust, ahhh!!!

The actual chocolate cupcake was super good!! Unfortunately we had them the day after I made them so it dried them out a bit. But that didn't stop South Park people from eating ALL BUT ONE of the mini cupcakes I sent with Jeff to work. Nor did it stop the kids at Shadow Machine from eating a bunch of the ones I brought over. :) It was a grand old time.

The little ones are following the momma cupcakes....

I obviously took a lot of photos of these.... all in all I made something like 72 mini cupcakes and 7 regular sized ones. I actually made the recipe (below) and then half to make sure I had enough....
There ended up being a bit too many. I've used the cupcake, leftover icing, and some of the leftover cheese filling stuff to make little chocolate truffles that are delicious but I accidentally coated them with too soft of a ganache so they melt like magic. But they're the most delicious thing ever and I will take pictures of them soon as well with directions.
I also have a banana cake that I made, and maybe something else... I'll have to check my camera. :) I'm very excited to start posting again.

I believe I might do more recipes that reflect my current economic standing. I'm tempted to do pigs in a blanket, Jeff makes those a lot (they're amazing, even if they are... ahem, cheap eats), but I'm not sure what yet. When I don't have income I tend to eat a lot of PBJs and cereal, haha.

Expect more updates from me soon!

Vanilla creme filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Frosting


2 and 1/8 cups cake flour
2 cups fine sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dark rum
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, espresso powder, and cinnamon. Mix the vanilla extract, half and half, rum, and milk all together in a small bowl
Cream together the sugar and the butter until light in color and fluffy and smooth. Add the cocoa powder and allow to mix thoroughly. Once combined, add each egg, one at a time.
Add approximately half of the flour, making sure it mixes in thoroughly and adding it slowly. Once combined, mix in half the liquids mixture. Repeat with the rest of the flour and the rest of the liquid.
Measure out into cupcake pans. Using a spoon for mini cupcakes, or a small ice cream scoop for large ones works well. Bake regular sized cupcakes for 15-20 minutes, and small cupcakes 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool slightly in the pan, then transfer to a rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Vanilla Cream Frosting

4 oz mascapone cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla paste
about 1 1/2 cups powder sugar
about 1/8 cup half and half
pinch of kosher salt

Combine all in a medium bowl and beat thoroughly. Adjust liquids and sugar as needed, the finished result should resemble a soft, fluffy cream that isn't runny and can be piped out of a piping bag. Refrigerate until use.

To fill cupcakes:

Use a melon baller (for large cupcakes) or a very tiny spoon (I have measuring spoons that say "dash, pinch, and smidgeon I believe, I used the 'dash' size" for the small cupcakes) to remove a chunk from the center of the cupcake. Reserve the ball, cutting off the bottom portion of it to just leave the crust. Using a piping bag or a ziplock bag with the tip cut off, squeeze the cream into each cupcake as desired. Top with reserved crust.

Fresh Strawberry Frosting

3/4 cup chopped strawberries
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
Pinch of kosher salt
1 tablespoon half-and-half
about 1 to 2 pounds of confectioners sugar, maybe more.

Cream the butter until soft and fluffy. Mix in the kosher salt, and add the strawberries. This will leave a runny gooey mess on your hands. Add the vanilla extract and mix thoroughyl. Mix in the confectioners sugar, slowly, 1/2-3/4 of a cup at a time, until the mixture is thick and pulls together. Add the half and half to smooth it out, and whip until fluffy. Refridgerate for 15 minutes.

Scoop frosting into a piping back or ziplock and cover strawberries. Top with a chocolate or a strawberry cut in half.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Stephanie's Chocolate Chip Cookies, V 2.0

The other weekend a bunch of us threw a huge out-at-the-beach-bonfire party where we made hot dogs and s'mores. We bought a ton of everything, and there was a sale on the chocolate, so we bought four bars of Hershey's chocolate bars (3 milk, 1 special dark) and I bought myself a Lindt spicy chocolate which had ground chili pepper in it. I was thinking, it's freaking February, it's going to be frigid when night hits, I want some heat to my warm and toasty s'more.

So afterwards when we had all that leftover chocolate (the group finished maybe a bar and a half) Jeff said he was craving chocolate chunk cookies with all the leftover chocolate. So I decided to make my old cookie recipe I came up with while I was in college, which I was obsessed with because they're super soft cookies that stay super soft for days. Which I still like, they taste really good, and this time I made them a bit different from usual and I didn't like the result as much-- but anyway, I think what I want in a chocolate chip cookie has changed. Again. So luckily I still have a ton of the chocolate chunks left for another batch once this one is completely finished.

But anyway, the thing about my chocolate chip cookies is that they're super sweet and super soft and the dough has a lot of flavour. That's important to me, I don't want a bland dough with just chocolate chips, I want a complete experience. I want to taste everything, not just have filler for something else to sit in. Which is why I add spices to my cookie dough (for most of my cookies, and also because of my love affair with cinnamon). I also was in a health kick when I first made these, and I like the wheat, I think they keep this from being too breadlike... which, I didn't use this time, and these remind me (this time) of muffin tops. They're sort of quickbready. It's really good, but... hm. The First Ever version (v1.0) of my cookies was made with melted butter and a bit of honey butter and was SUPER rich and kind of... well, heck, I barely remember, it's been awhile since I've made them. But they were tasty, I remember that, but I think after awhile they weren't what I wanted either.

But despite the texture the flavour is all there. Jeff and I really like them, though it makes quite a few. I added M&Ms to a few of them, but mostly these are just straight up chocolate chunk. I'm gonna have to add more butter next time, I believe, and while I may still do the thing with the eggs I used to do, I might up the white sugar ratio too. I think I want them slightly crunchier, but still soft in the middle. Yeah, yeah, that sounds good....

Stephanie's Chocolate Chip Cookies, Version 2.0

1 ½ cups flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter
3 tablespoons margarine
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3/8 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 egg yolks
1 egg white
1 ½ cups chocolate chips
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ginger

Oven at 350 Degrees.

Cream together the sugar and butter. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks and vanilla. Mix into the butter mixture until creamy. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Mix into batter. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until fluffy, then fold into the cookie mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips. Drop balls onto a prepared cookie sheet and bake 15-17 minutes.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

(Almond Chocolate) Cardamom Crescents

Though it may not seem like it, this week I decided to bake a lot of things. You'll see. I had the girls over on Tuesday, after I was laid off, and made these cardamom crescent cookies to enjoy with flowering tea that my friend Vicky brought. They complemented really well, and I really enjoyed munching on two... then three... then four of these yummy numbers. I really like cardamom, I've used it in my apple pie, I use it regularly in my sweet potatoes, and generally in a lot of sweet dishes I decide to make. I also have a recipe for cardamom crusted chicken breast which is quite delicious and I'll have to make for Jeff sometime.

This made quite a few cookies. Not only did I send Vicky and Karina packing with sweet potato cupcakes and cookies, I had a whole kaboodle bunch left for myself. Which I plan to give some away, but right now I also don't have any other cookies left at my house, so it's nice to have these. I know I'll need to munch on them on my free days.

I think the only complaint I have over these cookies is that they're really... really flaky. When I made my wedding cookies, I don't feel like they flaked as much, and it's a really similar recipe. I'm not sure why my dough was so dry, but I think next time I might moisten it up a bit (as of this one I added just a bit of milk to be able to form anything together at all). I think I'd also flatten them out a bit more, these cookies are quite thick, and while that's delicious, I could go for a thinner cookie next time.

There are a lot of bad things about my current situation, but one thing I'm irritated over at the moment is that I saved a lot of the recipes I wanted to try on my work computer, so I have a full list in my favourites folder for Firefox that... that I may never get to try. Also, my Foodival layout is on the work computer, as well as a majority of the photos you see here on Foodival. I know I'll be able to get them back, my boss is a very nice man, who hated to have to let me go (oh, the economy), but he's very busy, so it's just a matter of when...
Here's hoping that I can find something new in the animation field soon so that I can bring more and more recipes to Foodival. :)

Cardamom Crescents
Very slightly adapted from Kumquat Connection who got it from Scraping the Skillet.

1 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 cup almond flour or meal
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1/8 cup sliced almonds
powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Mix together the cardamom and flours. Set aside.
Cream together the butter, sugar and extracts until light and fluffy. Add in the flour mixture and chocolate chips and mix until thoroughly combined. The dough will pull cleanly away from the sides of your bowl.
Measure dough in rounded tablespoon quantities and roll each dough ball into a log with your hands and shape into a crescent.
Place shaped cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet and gently press into the final shape you wish them to have. They will puff a little, but don't spread very much, so you can place them as close as 1/2 inch.
Bake at 350° for 15 -20 minutes, until they begin to brown on the tips.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Artichoke Spinach Dip/Pasta

This last weekend for the Superbowl I made the standby classic, Artichoke Spinach Dip. Jeff really enjoys my recipe for it, but everyone was so full from Skyline Chili Dip and Queso Dip that much of mine was left over. I gladly took it home, and mixed about half of the leftovers with a big glop of pasta last night, making spinach artichoke pasta, yum!

I've included the recipe for the spinach artichoke dip, which if you add some milk in with the saucepan and half you can probably make a pretty sweet cream sauce. I didn't do that, I was too lazy. I got struck by the economy yesterday (sigh) and wasn't up to making much. Though I did make some cookies. Which were quite yummy, I'll post those tomorrow.

Anywho. I'll also prolly do another post sometime with this dip, it's one I plan for my cookbook.

As I was hit by the economy I probably won't have the ability to make as many of things....... we'll see. :( So if my blog posts slow I apologize, but I'll try to make SOMETHING, at least once a week, probably twice. I do still have some plans, and hey, it might all be cheap things, we'll see.

Artichoke Spinach Dip

1 8oz package cream cheese
¼ c sour cream
approximately ¼ c parmesan cheese
approx. ¼ c romano cheese
approx ¼ c any other type of cheese, gruyere, fontina, or something creamier

3 cloves garlic
½ tsp dried basil
a pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 14 oz can artichoke hearts
½ c frozen spinach, thawed
¼ c mozzarella cheese (or more, if you desire)
a pinch of hot sauce
a dash of cajun seasoning

Oven 350 F

Mix cream cheese, sour cream, cheeses, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, hot sauce, etc. Gently stir in artichoke hearts and spinach. Spread in baking dish, sprinkle with cajun and top with mozzarella. Bake 25 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned.

To make pasta, boil enough pasta for a group, mix in spinach and artichoke dip (about 1/4 for two people), top with pine nuts and parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Giraffe Gingerbread Cookies

I just want to very quickly post these super cute giraffe gingerbread cookies we made. It actually is one of many animals, but I plan to do the whole animal collection when I make animal crackers.

In the meantime, I can't help but share them. They're adorable (and tasty).

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

So awhile ago I had favouritized this recipe from Coconut & Lime. I really, really was excited about them, and for good reason, they're quite tasty. But I was impatient, and they didn't turn out as pretty as one would hope.
They were the second thing I'd made yesterday, and it was after the superbowl and late and I really should have waited for the marshmallow to set up some more. There's 9 cupcakes left, though, so maybe I can get a better peak and prettier toasting on those. I don't have a mini torch, just a broiler, and that melted the marshmallow everywhere.

But, these are quite delicious. The actual 'cupcake' seems a bit more like a quick bread, but is still quite tasty. The marshmallow frosting is suuuper yummy, super marshamallowy. It's a good thing to try! Especially if you like sweet potatoes!

I think I might try making these again but with more time and with some alteration. :) But first, I have a list of other things I want to make, including basil cupcakes and some different types of cookies. We still haven't finished our banana cream pie (I'm afraid we'll probably have to throw it away).

But man, I am so glad I made these. :D It doesn't matter that they didn't peak or turn out beautiful, they were delicious.

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting
Recipe slightly adapted from Coconut & Lime

1 1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 large tablespoon white sugar
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup cooked sweet potatoes, at room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon mace
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 egg, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour 12 wells in a cupcake pan. In a small bowl combine the flour, spices, salt, and baking powder. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Add the sweet potatoes. Mix in half of the flour mixture, then half the milk, then repeat with the rest and flour and milk, beating well after each addition. Fill each cupcake cup 2/3 of the way full. Bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with just one or two dry crumbs. Cool briefly in the pan, then remove cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely before icing with toasted marshmallow frosting.

1/4 oz. unflavored powdered gelatin (1 packet)
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/8 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla paste

In a large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water. Allow to seep for 10 minutes. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/8 cup water. Bring to a vigorous boil and boil for 1 minute. Pour boiling syrup into gelatin and mix at high speed for 1 minute. Add the salt and vanilla and beat for 12 minutes, or until thick and fluffy and doesn't look like it's going to melt all over the place. Quickly spread on one dozen cooled cupcakes. Allow to set completely, fifteen minutes or more, then brown with a small torch (probably a better way to do this), or in the broiler (carefully).