Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Two Minute Brownie Mug

I was browsing through the food and drink section of the beloved Pinterest page when I came across something called the Two Minute Brownie Mug. I was quite intrigued, as I love brownies, but when I make a full pan, we either eat the entire thing in about two days, which is in no way good for my waistline or, I'm sure, my newborn's sugar intake. So, I copied down the recipe onto my handy dandy whiteboard that hangs in my kitchen for just this purpose, and I had at it. Now, I don't own any ramekins (yet.. i will eventually buy a set of these wonderful dishes, as they are very useful in cooking for just two people), so I did just what the title suggested, and use two coffee mugs. The thing that I found most impressive was that this particular recipe eliminated the use of egg by incorporating milk instead. Using one egg in a cup for one brownie would cause some issue, I do believe, so I was tempted to try this milk idea.

Here is the recipe, which I followed (almost) to a T...

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
2 T canola oil
2 T Milk, coffee or water

Combine all ingredients into the mug or ramekin that you will be cooking in, stirring until you have a thick paste. Microwave on high for 90 seconds, checking every 30 seconds as microwaves vary. You want a nice, spongy but gooey brownie.

I used the milk option, as I am not a big coffee fan, nor did I have any on hand, and I refuse to use water in baking unless absolutely necessary, as it adds no flavor, only liquid (yes, I'm that picky). The only change I made to the recipe was to add two caramels to the center of the brownie before cooking. I did make that stupid mistake of cooking both at the same time, which causes the time to vary. So I cooked them for about 2 and a half minutes, which caused them to be slightly overdone, but they tasted amazing. Just like a brownie, satisfying that chocolate craving perfectly.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with this recipe and will be adding it to my recipe box for that "I need chocolate now!" craving time, or for a quick and simple dessert when you're in a dessert mood. I did not photograph the result, as it looked a bit messy and I was dying to eat it, but for a picture of the final brownie, and a photographic step by step recipe, please visit the original site here. Next time, I think I'll cook them one at at time and add chocolate chips or peanut butter for something different.


Enjoy <3

Homemade Mozzarella Balls

I know what you're thinking.

"This recipe is a no brainer. Everyone can make fried cheese." 

And I was one of you, I'm not going to lie. I found, however, that there really is a difference between frying cheese and frying cheese into an ooey gooey, melt in your mouth goodness. So I found a recipe called Fried Mozzarella Balls and Spicy Tomato Sauce. The sauce recipe sounded good, but we had already made marinara for our pasta, so we used it to dip instead of making an entirely different sauce. 

So, here is the recipe as described on the originalsite...

3-4 cups peanut oil, depending on type of pan you will be frying the cheese in
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 lb. mozzarella bocconcini (about 50 pieces)
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups panko
Special equipment:  Deep-frying thermometer
Instructions
Drain the cheese from its liquid. Place the cheese on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and pat dry.
If your cheese balls seem pretty big, halve or quarter them into bite-size pieces.  Once they get the panko breading on them, they will be a lot bigger.
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.
Put the egg mixture and bread crumbs in separate wide, shallow bowls.  Combine the panko with the teaspoon of salt and Parmesan in another wide, shallow bowl.  (*If you only have one shallow bowl, use it for the panko.  It will help you immensely with the breading process.)
Roll the cheese in the flour, dip into the egg mixture and coat with the bread crumbs, shaking off the excess after each step.
Repeat the breading process one more time for each cheese piece.
In a large, deep sauté pan over medium-high heat, pour the oil to a depth of 3 inches and heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer.
Working in batches, fry the cheese until golden, about 45 seconds (or until golden brown-watch them carefully as oven temperatures may vary). If you notice that your thermometer’s reading decreases, wait for a little while until the oil gets back up to the proper temperature.
Transfer the fried cheese to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt and black pepper. Place the cheese on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while frying the remaining cheese.
Serve with the warm tomato sauce.
First, I did not make 2 pounds of Mozzarella balls. There are only two of us, so I bought one little container and eyeballed the flour, breadcrumb, and Parmesan amounts (If you calculated it out, I basically made 1/4 of the recipe). With breading, you have to keep your proportions accurate to each other, but not necessarily precise. As long you're close, the final product won't usually be affected. 

I also nixed the deep pan and broke out my handy dandy deep fryer. So much faster and easier than pan frying. I suggest using one if you have it. This also negates the need for the thermometer. Then, I fried them until they began to float and/or you began to see a little leaking cheese. 

So I followed the recipe as stated, and I have to admit, they came out pretty good. I think I would use seasoned breadcrumbs, or season them to taste. Add some basil, oregano, salt and pepper, marjoram, etc. or some Italian seasoning for a bit more "Italian" taste as the breading was slightly bland and the flavor was very dependent on the cheese alone. 

Here's my thing though... We recently tried ordering from a new pizza joint Downtown known as R&B's Pizza. There was nothing wrong with our "voted #1 in the 'Burgh so many times in a row" favorite, Giovannai's, but we felt like trying something new and their prices were slightly better on their non-pizza items. Cal eats hot wings like its his job, and I am absolutely in love with Mozzarella Sticks. Giovanni's were ok, but since we were ordering from somewhere new, I tried them out. Can you say Mozzarella Heaven?? These were no frozen cheese sticks dropped in the fryer to order. These HAD to be homemade. They have this super salty, cheesy goodness about them that is almost indescribable. The recipe above is almost as good. Here's the catch; it looks like R&B's uses a tempura batter instead of breadcrumbs. So, next time I try this, I'm definitely tempura battering the cheese balls!

Homemade Cheez-Its

My oven has been working super overtime lately! I was in a cooking mood, as I have been since about a week after giving birth because I had my desire to eat and my taste buds back. I made roasted chickpeas, granola and these delicious homemade Cheez-its! The only recipe appropriate for this blog, however, is the Cheez-its.  (I may post the chickpea recipe, but once it's perfected. I haven't gotten it just right yet.) Cooking this much with a one month old is a little taxing, I'm not gonna lie, but I popped her in her carrier and brought her into the kitchen. They say you should talk to babies because they recognize your voice and it relaxes them. Plus, it's supposed to be good for their cognitive development, and for Emily (who is beginning to track objects), it lets her follow me around the kitchen with her eyes. So, to entertain her and myself, I threw on some tunes and sang to her as I cooked. It's a good thing she's not objective to my being tone deaf!

So I taught my darling daughter how to make Cheez-its. I was very impressed by the low number of ingredients and the overall taste and texture of the final product.

As per the usual, here is the recipe as given by the original site:

1 1/2 c (6oz) grated extra-sharp Cheddar Cheese
4 T unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
3/4 c flour (plus more for dusting)
1/2 tsp salt
1 T milk

Preheat your oven to 350.
Put everything except the milk into a food processor. Pulse your processor a few times until everything becomes coarse crumbs.
Add the milk
Process until dough gathers into a ball
Roll out the dough onto a floured board until it is about 1/8" thick
Cut into 1" squares with a floured knife or pizza cutter
Use a toothpick or skewer to poke a hole in the center
Place crackers 1/4" apart on a baking sheet
Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges are brown.
Cool completely and eat, or store in an airtight bag (or container) to enjoy later.

Luckily, Cal bought me a food processor for Christmas. (I know, most people would be like, 'gee, thanks dear', but I was excited!). So this was a super easy process. If you don't have a food processor, this is still a workable recipe. You'll just have to chop your cheese and butter into fine, fine pieces (think, chopping parsley), and work it into a dough. It comes together pretty quickly, and you're rolling out your dough in no time, so be sure to actually preheat your oven when you start. (If you're anything like me, you know most things take longer than it takes to preheat so you wait a while to save money on that gas bill!) I found that rolling out the dough that thin was the hardest part for me. The edges were thin and the middle was a little thicker, so they baked a little unevenly. I used a plastic pizza cutter to make the squares. They still came out a little crooked, but it gives them that nice, homemade look ;). If you want to get really fancy, you can use a fork and mark the edges like a real Cheez-it, but I declined to do so. If I make these as a gift or for a special occasion, I may go ahead and get fancy, but today was just not the day. These were last on my list of items being made and Emily was getting fussy, so I needed to get them in the oven.

Fifteen minutes later, I had these delicious looking crackers. They weren't as orange as the store bought variety, though I didn't expect them to be. I'm sure they add some kind of food coloring to them. After they cooled, I tried one. It was pretty good! They didn't taste exactly like the store bought, but they weren't a bad knockoff. They definitely need to be sprinkled with salt before baking. I had only used sharp cheese, and the super cheap, below store brand kind at that, so they weren't quite as good as I expected. Now that I know the recipe is good, however, I'll buy some of the really good stuff next time I decide to make them. The recipe doesn't make many, however. I got two medium sized pans out of it (as you can see in the picture below). I'm not sure how long these will keep, but I would assume about a week (if they make it that long in the pantry). Since this dough rolls out nicely, perhaps I'll try different shapes or small cookie cutters for Emily once she's old enough to eat them :)

So there you have it, folks; Homemade cheese crackers for your delight. Now, perhaps one of these days I'll get some time to try a Pinterest project that is non food related. I guess that's all up to Emily ;)

Happy Snacking!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Granola

I've found that making your own foods is not only cheaper, but better in general because you can fit it to your tastes. Today, I made this granola, and I have to say, its so good! It fills you up with just a small amount and is good for energy in the morning (or any time of day, for that matter). I use it to snack on as well, because it's easy to just grab a handful and shove it in your mouth with a baby on one arm while you're busy during the day.

The recipe fills about half a gallon ziploc bag (as long as you don't burn it like I did the first time I made it ;) )

Granola


8 c Oats
1 c Sunflower Seeds (preferably unsalted, but whatever you can get)
1 c Sliced Almonds
1/2 c chopped Walnuts
1 tsp Salt
1/2 c Light Brown Sugar
1/4 c Maple Syrup
1 c Oil
1 T Cinnamon
1 T Vanilla
2 c Raisins

In a large bowl, combine the Oats and Nuts. In a medium pot, combine Salt, Brown Sugar, Syrup, Oil, Cinnamon and Vanilla. Bring to a boil and pour over Oat mixture. Mix, coating everything well. Spread evenly onto cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, stirring once about halfway through. Once cool, add Raisins.

**NOTE** Do NOT add Raisins before baking! I was in a bit of a rush when making it today and threw everything in together. Miss Emily was being a bit fussy and I was just trying to get it done. When I went to stir, I realized I had these black, plump balls on my tray and cursed myself for adding them. Once cool, I tasted one, hoping they were ok. Needless to say, they tasted sweet, but very burned, so I had to pick them all out (that's a lot of raisins!), and then toss more in when bagging it up.

This is a pretty simple recipe that can be altered for your taste. Once, I made it without the raisins but added 2 mashed bananas to the pot of sugar, oil, etc and it came out delish! I made it today, and added some Honey to the mix instead of the Maple Syrup. You could add peanut butter (I'd say about 2T) It all depends on what  you're in the mood for. You can add some dried fruit, other nuts, nutmeg, allspice, flax seed, wheat germ, etc.; whatever you want. It's awesome with a little bit of milk, on top of some yogurt with some fruit, or as stated above, as a snack here and there. Don't be tricked into thinking this is unhealthy because of the sugary ingredients. When comparing the amount of liquid to the amount of dry ingredients, its simply enough to coat. Otherwise, you end up with a very dry breakfast.

Enjoy!



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Honeybee Cookies

Well, it's been a while, but I'm hoping to be able to post more now that Emily and I have settled into a routine and I'm doing more cooking since I'm home all day. Today's recipe is for a sweet treat that isn't too bad on the hips or the wallet. It's a pretty simple recipe as far as cookies go, and while the initial dough was very strong in honey flavor, the cookies came out with a mild, yet definitely present taste of honey and cinnamon. It came from my Allrecipes.come app and I made just a few changes. Here goes...

Honeybee Cookies -- Yields about 36 cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (light)
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Oven temp 375 degrees, bake for 7-9 minutes (edges will be browned, tops will be shiny)

** I used 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup white flour for a slightly healthier cookie.
** If  you want a nice sweet/salty flavor balance (which I love), add a little more salt to the batter, or sprinkle a small amount of kosher or sea salt over the cookies before baking. Yum!
** I added a pinch more cinnamon (like 3/4 of a tsp ish) for a more prominent cinnamon flavor

Combine the butter, brown sugar and honey in a medium bowl. Beat until smooth. Add the egg, beating again until smooth. In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Slowly beat into the wet mixture until dough forms, scraping sides a few times to incorporate everything. Let the dough chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes to prevent cookies from being flat. I waited to preheat my oven and let them chill until the oven was ready.

Drop by teaspoonful onto greased baking sheets. Bake. Allow the cookies to sit on the sheet a good 3-5 minutes before removing to wax paper or a cooling rack (this allows them to firm up first).

I think these would also be great with raisins added, but Cal isn't a raisin fan, so next time maybe I'll do half and half.

Enjoy!