February Bake-off

I’m writing this from the floor in my kitchen with music blasting and a glass of wine next to me. I took a break from dancing around my apartment to tell you about my half-assed baking attempts this month. Buckle up, kids. I know you’re on the edge of your seats.

I’ve gotta say, baking just doesn’t excite me the way that cooking does. I’m not a precise person. Nor am I one to follow directions closely. That being said, I do enjoy getting my hands in some dough. I don’t know what it is, but getting messy is therapeutic for me whether it’s playing in the dirt or in the kitchen.

Anywho, let’s get into it! I didn’t bake as much as I would have liked for a month I intended to be devoted to such things, but I learned some shit which is kind of the whole point of this year of the unicorn ordeal. Here’s what I have.

Best thing I made: Lime Sugar Cookies
I followed the recipe linked above, mostly. A quick Google search gave me permission to replace the baking soda and cream of tartar with a teaspoon of baking powder. For as often as cream of tartar is called for in something I want to make (read: basically never) I didn’t want to run to the store for it if I didn’t have to. Fortunately in baking, according to the Google gods, when a recipe calls for baking soda and cream of tartar to be used together baking powder is a viable substitute, and is conveniently a more common substance in my cupboard. I also skipped the coconut and cream cheese in the frosting and added fresh lime juice instead. In hindsight I would have also added some zest to the frosting to really add that POW in-your-face lime factor. These turned out really well. I probably ate 5 or 6 or 8, ya know…to make sure they were good and test out the cookie to frosting ratio, then brought the rest in for coworkers. They seemed to go over well. They’re best chilled in my opinion.

Worst thing I made: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Honestly, I had high hopes for these cookies and was wildly disappointed. I made these the day of the Superbowl to bring to a party and the guys seemed to like them, but I was expecting and hoping for a soft chewy awesome cookie and ended up with an overly thick, somewhat crunchy cookie. Not ideal, especially since the whole reason to bother with an oatmeal cookie is for the chew factor. I will say the flavor was good, but the texture didn’t work for me. I’m assuming I made an error somewhere and the recipe may be worth trying again…but my personal quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie will continue…and the giant container of oatmeal I’ve had on my counter since the fall will have to prove itself useful in some other way.

Cheated with this: Sweet Potato Crusted Quiche
I don’t have a link for this and I feel like including this is kind of cheating because it’s a hybrid cooking/baking meal, but it went in the oven TWICE so I’m including it. Plus, it was delicious. I got a mandolin for Christmas so any excuse to break it out is cause for excitement and this is a bit healthier than always making potato chips :) It starts with a sweet potato crust that par-bakes at 350 for 15 minutes and while that’s going down you saute some onion and garlic and spinach until thoroughly wilted. In hindsight I would have tried to squeeze out some moisture here, but it still turned out fine. This mixture gets dumped into the crust and then you beat 4 eggs together, pour that over the top, then top the whole thing with a mess of any kind of shredded cheese that makes your heart happy and throw it back in the oven for 30 minutes until it gets a bit crusty on top and the egg mixture is set. I liked this a lot. The sweet potato crust holds up surprisingly well and it even reheated nicely a few days later.

Second shoutout to these bomb blueberry muffins. Planning on making these again this week because blueberries were on sale and they’re amazing. I’m a sucker for anything with a crumble topping and the blueberry swirl is just killer.

Lastly, here’s a cake I’d like to make eventually. Maybe for my cinco de mayo birthday momma.

Also, these nutella swirl banana muffins are on my list to try.

With a day to spare, that brings us to March. I think this may be the month I do some research about the history of the US mail system. We’ll find out how riveting of a topic that is together.

 

 

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January: Playing with food (and eating it too)

I decided since I conveniently have 12 topics of interest for the year that it makes sense to devote a month to each one, at least on here. I expect many of the topics will continue beyond a month, particularly the food ones, but it’s tough to resist a convenient breakdown. So I’m calling January the month of recipes!

I’m forever playing with food and browsing online for interesting meals, snacks, and baked goods to try. This month was a good one for kitchen experiments. You’ll notice a lack of photos. I don’t have the patience for food photography. I appreciate the chefs and bloggers out there that take the time and have the skill to focus on presentation, but I honestly just want to fucking eat. I’m the one snacking as I go while I make something and then impatiently waiting for it to come out of the oven only to burn my fingers and my mouth in my rush to taste the finished goods. No, you’re impatient.

Here is a sample of what I made this month linked to any recipes I followed along with my thoughts:

Cauliflower Mac n Cheese
This was surprisingly tasty. I never would have thought to combine cauliflower and mac n cheese, but it works. I riced my cauliflower using a food processor and then boiled it with the pasta. I liked not having large chunks of cauliflower, but knowing I was getting an extra serving of vegetables.

Pro tip: If you rice your cauliflower and then put it in a covered bowl in the fridge, it WILL smell like a battalion of babies shit in there. I made this mistake for you. You can thank me later. To avoid that, rice your cauliflower right before you cook it with the pasta or boil it separately right after you rice it THEN store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Boiling it eliminates the pungent cruciferous gas.

Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken
This was insanely delicious and so so simple. Highly recommend and will be making it again. I substituted rice vinegar for regular white vinegar because I had it on hand, served it over quinoa and added some steamed broccoli at the very end to round out the meal.

Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Chicken
Does this even need to be discussed? Chicken, bacon, and cheese. If that’s not comfort food I don’t know what is.

Blueberry Swirl Muffins
If I could only recommend one recipe on this list, it would be this one. It’s the only item in this post I actually snapped a picture of. Easily the best blueberry muffins I’ve ever had and the recipe is actually really fun to make. It also gave me an excuse to try out my new silicone muffin “tins” which worked flawlessly. Do yourself a favor and make these muffins.

Crockpot Carnitas
This. Is. Bomb. Ugh. I don’t often make the same thing repeatedly, but this has been an exception. I LOVE crockpot recipes and this one is just so delicious and easy. For the rub, I just use some olive oil, salt, pepper, and mixed italian seasoning mix. I like to take the finished shredded pork and make nachos. It’s also awesome to add to trashed up ramen noodles with some fresh veggies and an egg. Swoon.

Crockpot Pesto Mozzarella Chicken Pasta
I’ve already made this a few times, including once for friends, and it’s a hit. I’ll eat cheesy pesto pasta any day of the week and the chicken just adds some extra substance. Don’t threaten me with a good time. The huge bonus here is that the crockpot does all the heavy lifting and store bought pesto (I used Wegmans) is the magic touch.

Gnocchi with Feta and Mushrooms
Not sure if you’ve caught on yet, but I have a bit of a love affair with pasta. This dish is super simple, delicious, and comforting. I only used basic white mushrooms and dried rosemary because I had it already, but I don’t think it loses any flavor.

Roasted Chickpeas
This is probably my least favorite thing on the list, but they grew on me the more I ate. I really love chickpeas/garbanzo beans rinsed right out of the can or with a little olive oil and some herbs. When they’re roasted the texture completely changes. Some get crunchy, some a little chewy and I feel like they don’t retain a ton of flavor from the seasonings, but maybe I just needed to use more? Who knows. It’s possible I’ll try to make them again, but I think my preference is still unroasted.

Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast
I didn’t follow a recipe for this. Today I happened to bring a crunchy peanut butter sandwich for lunch, but didn’t end up eating it because one of my favorite people gifted me a donut and then I lost interest in said sandwich. I know. Life is tough.
Well my lowly sandwich made the trip back home with me and I didn’t particularly want it, but I didn’t want to throw it out either. That’s when I was inspired to turn it into french toast! An egg, a splash of milk and vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon later and that peanut butter sandwich was feeling pretty sexy grilling in some butter. Dusted with a bit of powdered sugar at the end, I don’t know if I’ll ever want to eat a sandwich the normal way again. I think using crunchy peanut butter was key, too, for adding texture and keeping the peanut butter from turning into a total melted mess. I would not eat my pb sandwich again just to have the excuse to make this.

I think I might continue on the food focused trend and make next month the science of baking…which is really just an excuse to make cake and cookies. Save me from myself while I have my cake and eat it too. Perhaps it will also be the month that I recommit to consistently exercising. Cheers.