Saturday, May 26, 2012

Baking the Blues Away!

Blueberry Crumb Bars: Elegant, yet oh-so-tasty!
Blueberry Crumb Bars: they're delightful, delectable, and quite the perfect balance of sweet and savory. They're also good for baking therapy after a rough day in L.A. traffic. What is baking therapy you ask? Well, the answer is quite simple: baking therapy is whenever you use baking as a creative outlet to let go of unnecessary bad-news-bears-juju! To those who are interested in baking therapy, there are several ways to go about it. You can:

(1) Bake in a fabulous dress, (just make sure you got that heavy-duty apron handy)!
(2) Bake in fabulous heels, (this is what I did last night and it just made me feel fancy).
(3) Bake listening to great music, (so many options here, but I find Bruce, The Rolling Stones, or Stevie Wonder to be dependable options...them or super-bad guilty pleasure pop music). NOTE: this only truly works if you dance with abandon while listening. Be careful not to spill anything!
(4) Bake while watching a Michael Fassbender/Ryan Gosling/[insert name actor of your choice here] film. Why not? ;0)

Okay, so back to the Blueberry Crumb Bars. They're once again from a recipe by the phenomenal Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. Here's a link to her website. This is all her! The only change I made was sprinkling a little cinnamon on top, because we all know what a cinnamon monster I am! Oh, and this recipe's show is Blue Bloods: it's a show about a family, well not just any family: they're all cops.

Blue Bloods. Get it? Cause, you know blueberry? Why am I the only one laughing? Oh well, in case you haven't watched, Blue Bloods is a show starring Donnie Wahlberg, Tom Selleck, Will Estes, and Bridget Moynahan. I haven't seen many episodes, but the ones I saw while I was living in Louisville were pretty solid. My mom also loves the show, and she has pretty good taste! Also, who knows? Maybe next season Donnie's equally cool and talented brother might guest star.

Without further ado, here's the recipe. Again, all credit goes to Deb Perelman and Smitten Kitchen:

http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/07/blueberry-crumb-bars/

Happy baking and enjoy your day!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jerry's Black and White Cookie

The only one of the batch that came out looking (mostly) round

Please tell me you love Seinfeld as much as I do! Whenever I visit my parents back home in Louisville, we end up staying up late to watch re-runs. The "show about nothing" always leaves us laughing until our stomachs hurt, so in honor of it, I give you Martha Stewart's recipe for Black & White cookies! These fantastic cake-like cookies are a New York staple and also a favorite of Jerry himself.

No copyright infringement intended, this is all Diva Martha! Isn't her site amazing?

http://www.marthastewart.com/312604/black-and-white-cookies

I will warn ya that these were "tough cookies" to make. The dough is very smooth, which makes scooping the dough on the pan a little tricky. All in good fun, though! I should also mention that I added just a hint of vanilla extract to the icing, just because I'm kind of obsessed with the wonders of vanilla extract. Look to the cookie everyone, look to the cookie, (and 5 cool points to you if you get that reference)!



Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Dude (and Don Draper) Abide : White Russian Cupcakes!

Hey dude, this one's for you and that guy in the suit!

I have a terrible confession to make: I have never seen The Big Lebowski! *Dodges tomatoes* Hey, hey c'mon now, I'm working on fixing that very soon! Give me a little credit here: at least I know Jeff Bridges' character loves those White Russians. You know who else enjoys a nice drink? Don Draper: that handsome, impeccably-dressed, yet tortured character off Mad Men played by the equally impressive Jon Hamm. I'm still behind on all the drama at SCDP, so to atone for that, (and that Lebowski stuff) I give you White Russian Cupcakes with Kahlua Buttercream Frosting! I feel like it's the perfect way to honor the grooviness of Mr. Bridges and Mr. Hamm.

Oh, I should tell you that I found the recipe for them on this diva's website, so she better get it! 

http://www.rachelleb.com/2012/01/13/white-russian-cupcakes/

I took her fabulous recipe and multiplied it by two, as I'm making these cupcakes for my apartment-warming tomorrow. I also made some alterations with the buttercream frosting: I used 1.5 sticks of butter, added a tablespoon of vanilla extract, and used an extra 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. I kept the salt in and used 3 tablespoons of my knock-off Kahlua, (listen, L.A. is expensive, okay)? I got experimental with the garnishing: some cupcakes have dark chocolate bits/Hershey's syrup and some have milk chocolate chips. Now go make yourself a batch while I finally watch this classic. Cheers!




Friday, May 11, 2012

Six Feet Under Dirt Cups

Okay, gummy worms, this is sweet...

 
              
   Now give me passionate!


Give me excited!


I first found the gem of a show that is Six Feet Under during some off-time at an internship, deciding to finally check out what all the fuss was about. The show had already been off the air for over five years, but after watching an obscene amount of episodes in a ridiculously short amount of time, I understood why fans love it so much! To this day, I have to say Six Feet Under stands out as one of the greatest shows of all time. Now, I know what you're thinking: this l'il lady raves about a lot of supposedly good TV shows, but this series was the stuff of legends. It didn't hurt that their ensemble worked so well together: [here is where I was going to mention all of them but there were way too many talented people involved in this show to name. Don't believe me? Then visit the show's IMDb page and see for yourself: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0248654/]

On another note, I have to say that the series finale for this show was simply excellent, elegant and incredibly heart-wrenching all at the same time, whew *wipes brow.* Even though it's been one year since I finished the series, I still can't watch those last five minutes without tearing up. So to avoid the temptation to watch those last few phenomenal minutes again and to honor of this spectacular show, I give you: Six Feet Under dirt cups, cause you know, they own a funeral home and...yes, this is a bit morbid, but if you take the Six Feet Under reference out, these are incredibly easy-to-make treats that are perfect for a summer get together, okay?! Ready? Let's do this!

What you need:

  • 15 Oreos, (or less depending on how much you're making)
  • 1 package instant chocolate putting
  • 2 cups cold milk
  • 1 package gummy worms
  • A few pieces of dark chocolate (optional)
Directions:

(1) Prepare instant pudding according to instructions on package. I got the sugar-free, fat-free kind and it turned out to be surprisingly tasty. It was super easy to make, too! You just pour out the mix into a bowl, add 2 cups of cold milk and whisk for 2 minutes. It takes just a few more for the pudding to set!

(2) Take 3 Oreos and crush them up! Put this "dirt" layer at the bottom of a clear cup. Then, layer on a few generous teaspoons of your pudding. Crumble up 2-3 more Oreos for the top layer. Then, put those gummy worms on top, (or inside the cup if that's your style)! If you love dark chocolate like me, break those pieces up and scatter them over the top. 

(3) Grab a spoon and dig in! 

HBO's official website for the show. No copyright infringement shenanigans intended. I want you to get the good stuff from the people who green-lit it! http://www.hbo.com/six-feet-under/index.html





Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Anna's Chocolate Oat Bars: The Downton Abbey kind!



Oat Bars Pre-Oven



 The finished product!

Do you watch Downton Abbey? I found out about this fun, period soap opera quite recently and I am positively smitten! Is it because of the intricate relationships among the Lords, Ladies, and the servants that live and work in this beautiful estate?  Is it because of the pretty costumes? Or the fact that I took a fan quiz that told me that I'm just like Anna? The answer is all of the above, (especially that last reason because I heart Joanne Frogatt and her sweet as pie, yet tough as nails when in comes to doing the right thing character)!

Now, based on a little research I did, the servants at Downton would most likely have had some sort of porridge in the morning for breakfast, and what can be found in porridge? Why, oats of course. This brings me to this yummy dessert, inspired by the Wicked Noodle recipe for Chocolate Caramel Oat Bars:

http://www.thewickednoodle.com/wicked-chocolate-caramel-bars/

Now, I opted out of the caramel because I tried to vegan-ize this recipe and all the caramel recipes I found involved cream of some sort. I made these bars for my lovely friend, Sara, who's cutting out dairy as well as gluten from her diet. I did my best to follow the vegan/gluten-free guidelines, so here's to hoping the outcome is still as good. Instead of the caramel sauce, I substituted 1/2 a bar of high-quality dark chocolate. If you want the non-vegan version, click the link above. For this adjusted one, (one that I'm sure sweet Anna would have gone out of her way to make for Mr. Bates if he chose to go vegan/gluten-free), look no further!

Here's what you'll need:
  • 1 and 1/4 cup vegan margarine, (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1 and 1/4 cup brown sugar, sadly I couldn't find a substitute for this
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups oats
  • Oat flour/Gluten-Free Flour substitute: we'll get to this later
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1.5 oz 70% dark chocolate
Directions:

(1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

(2) Cream the margarine and sugar together in a large bowl. The good news is that if you get a small container of Earth Balance, it already comes whipped, so stirring with a fork isn't as tough, (yes I'm still electric-mixer-less).

(2) Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt. This is what I did: I took a couple cups of oats, put it into my roommate's food processor, and pushed the pulse button. This gave me enough oat flour to substitute into the recipe. The only catch is that this will definitely kick up the oat flavor of the entire recipe. If you're not into all those oats, I've heard of people using quinoa flour, too but please definitely look it up other options before hand! I'm no expert!

(3) Add the 2 cups of oats and stir well. Coat a 9-inch square pan with your margarine and press half of the oat mixture onto it. Bake for 10 minutes.

(4) Remove from oven add chocolate chips. Break the dark chocolate into smaller pieces and scatter evenly on top of the first oat layer. Scatter the rest of the oat mixture on top of the chocolate. Bake for 15 minutes.

(5) Remove from oven and let cool. Cut into small squares and enjoy! 

  • NOTE: If you opt for this version of the recipe, I noticed the squares will be a lot softer, so be careful when serving to avoid a sticky, chocolate mess!

Oh, and please give this show a chance. It's worth it, (Dame Maggie Smith's in it...how bad could it be)?

The official PBS Masterpiece websitehttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/downtonabbey/

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What's this? It's yet another Derby Treat, the Mentalist style!

I'll Have Another is the official winner of the 138th annual Kentucky Derby, so in honor of him, I give you another Derby recipe!



A little baking inspiration from The Mentalist

Things I know:

(1) Simon Baker is the star of The Mentalist.
(2) Simon Baker is an incredibly talented actor.
(3) Simon Baker is also so incredibly dreamy, it's kind of ridiculous. Don't believe me? Take a look at these photos from the official website of the show, courtesy of CBS, (no copyright infringement shenanigans intended):


If you don't watch it, here's a basic run-down about the other show about a fake psychic: Mr. Baker plays Patrick Jane, a consultant for the California Bureau of Investigations. You see, Patrick used to make that money pretending to be a psychic, but changed his ways and started using his acute skills of observation/intelligence/intuition to aid the CBI in solving cases. Why did he do this? Well, a crazed serial killer that goes by the alias of "Red John" killed his family. I should mention he's on the look-out for said bad guy at all hours. Yup, it's heavy, but lest that scare you away, let me assure you this show has plenty of clever, comedic moments and this phenomenal thing I refer to as "Simon-Baker-charm!"

Give it a chance. If you're not sold on it just yet, here are some more reasons to watch: the supporting cast is tons of fun, (Ms. Robin Tunney from The Craft, anyone else remember that cult classic)? They have great chemistry as an ensemble, and they all have great hair (especially one Ms. Amanda Righetti, teach me your ways, diva)! Now all this banter brings me to yet another Derby/tv-show inspired treat: this one we shall refer to as: The Puzzler

Why the funny name? Well, because putting together this particular recipe was a puzzle. It's a challenge trying to figure out what ingredients, temperature, and baking time would work best, so hats off to all those culinary experts/enthusiasts who do it all the time. Another more obvious reason for the name: This is an ode to Mr. Patrick Jane, who could have probably told me exactly what to do in about 3 minutes or less. Without further ado, I give you, a (semi)-original recipe. If you read my last Derby-inspired post, you'll get where the Derby ingredients come in, (hey I had extra pie filling left over that I didn't want to waste)!

Here's what you'll need

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Oreo cookies, (yes, you read that just right, you only need 2)

1/2 batch of Diva Martha Stewart's Pecan Pie Filling. Add 4 oz of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon of Mexican Chili Powder to this. Forgot the recipe? Don't sweat it. Here you go, courtesy of Martha's amazing website:


Remember, unless you want extra pie-filling, divide each ingredient in 2. Also, nix the dough! 

Directions

(1) Melt the butter in your microwave or in a heat-proof bowl over a skillet of simmering water on your stovetop. Say the second half of the sentence five times fast! 

(2) Get that fork ready. Add the sugars and stir for at least 1 minute, or until mixture is fluffy. If you have an electric mixer, I'm a little envious: blend on medium speed.

(3) Add the salt, baking powder, and soda and stir until well-blended.

(4) Beat in the egg for at least 1 minute. The mixture should be a lot smoother at this point.

(5) Stir in the cocoa powder and then the flour. Be sure to scrape down the sides of your bowl for any excess flour.

(6) Crumble up your 2 Oreo cookies and stir into your sweet concoction.

(7) Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Make that pie-filling.

(8) Coat a 9-inch square pan with cooking spray, (this dessert is very sticky, think almost toffee-like, so don't forget this step unless you want to deal with a more complicated post-baking clean-up).

(9) Spoon your doughy concoction onto the pan and spread evenly. Top it off with the pie-filling. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until edges are golden-brown. Don't let it bake for too long, or the edges will dry out.

(10) Cut into 4x4 squares and share with some friends!

P to the S: I have a sneaking suspicion that these sweet things pair well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but that's just me ;0)





Thursday, May 3, 2012

Once Upon a Time...

Hot cocoa and a great book: never a bad combination...

Yes, I adore Breaking Bad, a show about a chemistry teacher who turns to the ugly world of drug-dealing to support his family. Yes, I also adore Once Upon a Time, a show about fairy-tale characters trapped in the real-world after an evil curse makes them forget their true identities. Hey, a good show is a good show, no matter what the plot! If you watch Once Upon a Time, I hope you're as riveted as I am by the fairy tale make-overs given to our favorite childhood stories, as well as the all-around fierceness that is the cast, especially one Ms. Ginnifer Goodwin (who plays a fiery version of Ms. Snow White). I've been a fan of Ginnifer's since I caught her in Big Love. She brings so much truth to each of her characters and has such a genuine vulnerability... it's really difficult to take your eyes off this l'il diva when she's onscreen.

This brings me to this post's recipe: very simple one for hot cocoa. I know what you're thinking: hot cocoa in Los Angeles? Bear with me. I believe that a good cup of this stuff is the perfect ending to a long day, specifically one involving sitting in your car for 2 hours stuck in L.A. traffic, but that's another story. If you watch this show, you know Snow make a mean cup of hot cocoa, and that her extra fun ingredient is a dash of cinnamon on top. If you've been reading any of my previous recipes, you know how much I love cinnamon, especially when it's paired with chocolate. Just try it friend! You might be pleasantly surprised!

 Hot Cocoa, inspired by Snow:

1 cup Silk Light Vanilla soy milk, (or whatever milk you prefer, this is just my fave)!
1 generous teaspoon of natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 equally generous teaspoons of granulated sugar
A pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
A few squeezes of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup (optional)

I told you this is a super easy one:

(1) Microwave your cup of milk for 1.5 minutes. If you are currently microwave-less like me, you can heat the milk in a saucepan on low heat. Just be sure not tell let it sit for too long, because it could burn, and that definitely makes for a not-so-tasty mess. If it starts to boil, take it off the stove immediately.
(2) Stir in the cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract.
(3) This is optional fun, but if so inclined, take that Hershey's syrup and squeeze a little chocolate syrupy love into that cup of yours.
(4) Dust the top of your cocoa with the cinnamon!

Speaking of Snow, do you know who else loves her? My pretty and oh-so-witty friend, Meredith Alloway. Meredith is an actress/writer/all-around cool cat who writes really honest and funny reviews for The Script Lab. Check out her latest one for Mirror Mirror, featuring yet another ladybug playing our fave gal who bit the apple:

http://thescriptlab.com/movie-reviews/movie-reviews/1762-mirror-mirror-comedy-over-character

There's also links to other film reviews of recent releases by her and her colleagues. Please take a moment to check it out. Seriously you won't regret it...Mere keeps it real! Now go enjoy that hot cocoa with an episode of Once Upon a Time by clicking on the link below, (or pair it with a few chapters of Jane Eyre if you're supercool like me tonight).

http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/once-upon-a-time



Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Derby Pie Tartlets : The Breaking Bad kind, yo!


Derby Pie Tartlets with a little extra something. Read on to find out what it is!

The show in the spotlight for this recipe: Breaking Bad. Have you seen it? If not, I highly suggest you start, (seasons 1 through 3 is on Netflix instant stream). Be warned though, it's kind of impossible to only watch one episode at a time. It's just. That. Good. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul have brought to life two of the most complicated, terrifying, and compelling characters I have ever seen, so they and the writers of this fantastic show better get it! Anyways, as I was thinking about what recipe could possibly do this phenomenal show justice, I remembered that it's Derby Week!!!!!

Okay, for all of you non-Louisvillian readers, let me tell you a little bit about the awesomeness that is the Kentucky Derby and its festivities. The whole festival kicks off way before the first weekend of May. There's Thunder over Louisville, the Pegasus Parade, and many more supercool events, all of which I can't recall at the moment, that ultimately precede The Run for the Roses. Oh and there's also these cool things called mint juleps, but that's another story. I'm really bummed to be missing out on all the Derby festivities for the sixth straight year, but I am determined to celebrate the Derby even from way out here in LaLa land.

This brings me to this week's recipe: Breaking Bad-inspired Derby Pie Tartlets! As promised, I will answer all potential questions about said recipe.
  • What is Derby Pie? Derby Pie is very simple. It's basically Pecan Pie with chocolate chips thrown in, but this tiny adjustment elevates this pie from being simply sweet to positively decadent. So now that you know what Derby Pie is...
  • What's a tartlet? Think of it as a "mini-tart." I love mini-tarts, not just because they're super cute, but also because of their itsy-bitsy serving size. This way you can either have just enough dessert to satisfy that sweet tooth (or have a second helping without feeling too guilty). 
  • What does this have to do with the awesomeness that's Breaking Bad? The answer lies in one extra ingredient for the tartlet filling: **drumroll please** chili powder! Now now, I know you're skeptical, but I've used chili powder in a recipe before, and it complements chocolate and cinnamon quite nicely. The chili powder is totally optional, but for the love of Jesse Pinkman, just try it, yo! If you're a fan of the show, you get this. If not, now you have further incentive to check it out!
Without further ado, (and with plenty inspiration from my fantastic edition of The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and Diva Martha Stewart), I give you Breaking Bad-inspired Derby Pie Tartlets:

For the tartlet shells, here's what you'll need:

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 medium egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
5/8 cup all-purpose flour (basically 1/2 cup and then 1/8 cup if that's simpler to measure out)


(1) Cream the butter and sugars together until mixture is fluffy. Add the peanut butter and mix until well-blended. If you're like me, and do not have an electric mixer, I suggest melting the butter a little in the microwave or over the stove, and then using a fork to combine all the ingredients. It takes longer, but it's a heck of an arm work-out!

(2) Stir in the baking soda and baking powder.

(3) Beat in the egg. Add the vanilla.

(4) Gradually mix in the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl for any excess. You might have to use a fork after a little while, as the dough might get too thick for an electric mixer.  Take that dough, put it into a ziploc bag, and toss it in the freezer for 30 minutes. You can then go on to make the pie filling, or just chill out for a bit. 

(6) After the 30 minutes is up,  line a muffin pan with a dozen cupcake liners, coat them with some baking spray or grease them with butter, and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F. In the meantime, take that cookie dough out of the freezer, roll it into a log, and cut evenly into 3 chunks. Take those chunks and cut them into 4 even slices of cookie dough. All together, you should have 12 slices. Place one slice in each of the 12 liners, and once the oven is ready to go, bake for 9 minutes. Take them out of the oven and use the back of a teaspoon to gently push down on the center of each cookie. 

These small cookies are going to be your tartlet shells. Again, be sure to make light indentations as you still want these tartlets to stay in one piece so they can hold yummy pie filling. Then, pop them back into the oven for 2 more minutes. Once they're done, they should be a golden-brown color. Set these aside to cool. Now, onto the filling:

Derby Pie plus more filling:

I'm going to be safe and link to the Martha Stewart recipe for Pecan Pie for this one. You only need to make 1/2 of the recipe and don't need to make the dough, so unless you want extra pecan pie filling and an extra pie shell, just take all the measurements, divide them by two, and nix the dough part! I cannot take credit for her brilliance in baking divadry, but one day, I hope to cook with her: 


NOTE: I pretty much stuck with Diva Stewart's recipe and made the following adjustments:

(1) I used 1 teaspoon of salt instead of 1/2, just for kicks. 
(2) I only used 1/2 cup of pecans because of how tiny the tartlet shells are. I needed to save room for the stuff in #3!
(3) I stirred in 6 oz of mini semisweet chocolate chips, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and a 1/4 teaspoon of Mexican Chili Powder. I nixed the whipping cream, but if you want it, go for it!
(4) Last but certainly not least, the most important adjustment was how I baked the filling. It got a little complicated, but if you have the patience, it's most certainly worth it. Ready? Here we go:

After the tartlet shells have been safely removed, increase your oven temperature to 375 degrees F. You're going to have to line up that muffin pan and spray/grease those liners one more time. Fill each liner with the pie-filling, (about 2 teaspoons for each one). Once the oven is ready, heat those sweet things for 25-30 minutes. Basically, they'll still be bubbly and extremely hot once you remove them from the oven.  Once you take those l'il pecan, chocolate cuties out, let them cool for a few minutes and then carefully, and I repeat carefully spoon each filling into a tart shell. 

Use caution as these things will be extremely hot, (they're so hot I used the same phrase twice)! Then, let the tarts cool for at least an hour. Don't forget the last step: pat yourself on the back for making it through this recipe! Now dig in and go watch some Breaking Bad. You deserve it, yo.

A little extra picture stuff:
Tartlet Shells Pre-Filling

Derby Pie Filling Pre-Oven