Monday, December 29, 2008

Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev

I know, I know...more chicken?
I'm sorry. It happens to be my Old Faithful. One can always rely on chicken.

I was slack with the picture taking on this one, though. Which is why there is no picture above.

I won't even really bother with posting the recipe, because it just wasn't that good. In fact, it was rather bland. You know, I'm getting tired of this bland business. Bland cake, bland chicken. Bland, bland, bland!
I'm overusing the word. Bad habit of mine.

Ok, let's get to cooking.
First, you take the butter, and pop it in the food processor for a bit, until it's all creamy. Then you add the lemon juice from half of one California-grown lemon.

Then, if you're Ivan, you sniff the lemon.
We like sniffing lemons around here.

You add the garlic and the parsley. Now, you spread it on a piece of foil in this general shape. Or really, any shape you feel like, as long as you get it on there.

Put the slab of lemon-garlic-parsley butter in the freezer while you prepare....The Chicken. (As always, I was waiting for it to thaw in a sink full of hot water.)
This is probably my least favorite part of cooking; waiting. Because waiting usually means I have the chance to clean up. And who wants to do that?
Not me.

So, once the chicken is thawed, pound it out with the trusty meat mallet.
Remove that green-flecked solid pale substance from the freezer and cut it into pieces. I should have taken a picture of these, because they looked very cool. At least, to me they did.

Roll the chicken around some pieces of frozen butter, and then poke a toothpick through the whole shebang to keep it together.
Dip the rolled-up bundle into the egg mixture, then roll it in the breadcrumbs.
Put them all in a pan.
And bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.

When they emerge, they will hopefully look better than this:

This is extremely dull without step-by-step pictures.
What fun is cooking without step-by-step pictures?! I've decided it's a necessary thing in the learning process.

If you have a killer good recipe for Chicken Kiev, hit me with it. I'm more than open.

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cookie Dough Truffles

We're making Cookie Dough Truffles today.

Cookie Dough Truffles
1/2 C. butter, softened
3/4 C. packed brown sugar
2 C. all-purpose flour
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 C. miniature semisweet chocolate chips, or reg. chocolate chips, chopped
1/2 C. walnuts, optional
1-1/2 lbs. semisweet candy coating (or chocolate almond bark), chopped

1. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the flour, milk and vanilla; mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
2. Shape into 1-inch balls; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Loosely cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, or until firm.
3. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt candy coating, stirring often until smooth. Dip balls in coating, place on waxed paper. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. If desired, melt remaining candy coating and drizzle over candies.

Since I had already made a batch of these a month or so ago, and froze half, I just pulled some out of the freezer.
They were a little large, though...

...So I decided to downsize them to these smaller little guys. I just let them thaw a little, and then broke them in half and rolled them again.

Put most of them in the freezer to keep them firm, and keep a few out.
Now, commence the dipping procedure.

Lift. Tap off excess chocolate. Scrape gently on side of dish.

Using two forks, scoot the truffle onto a piece of waxed paper. Admire it's pretty shiny-ness.

Let them harden for a bit. Depending on the kind of chocolate you use, it could take a while. Since I use Chocolate Almond Bark, it hardens in seconds. Good stuff.

If you are insanely addicted to chocolate, you could even double dip.

Next comes my favorite part - decorating them. And when it comes to this, the possibilities are endless. The world (of decorating truffles, anyway) is your oyster.
You could use chocolate shavings, nuts, coconut, sprinkles, melted chocolate drizzled over them, or anything else you can come up with. For these, I kept it low-maintenance and just used some chopped coconut and melted white Almond Bark in a zip-lock bag.
Just a note, though. If you're going to do the coconut or sprinkles, or roll them in nuts, do it before the chocolate hardens.

Happy Truffle-Making!

A Fruitful Post

It's Christmas Eve's Eve, and I'm sniffin' lemons.
How un-festive! Shouldn't I be sniffing...cranberries or fruitcake or something? (Come to think of it, should I be sniffing anything at all? Shouldn't I be baking?!!)
But I just can't help it. These avocados and lemons are fresh off the trees in my Grandma's back yard in California. And they smell soooo good. Well, the lemons do, anyway.

If only there was a scratch 'n sniff option.

Compare that to the rather meager local offering:

Downright puny, aren't they?
That thing on the right...the yellow one? It's actually supposed to be a lime. Not a sickly-looking lemon. In all honesty, those two limes have been sitting in the fridge for an unknown length of time. But still, I think I shall stick to the Californee-grown produce :)

I'm gonna go sniff more beautiful, sunny lemons.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Yellow Cake

Also known as "Definitely Not Birthday Cake"

So, my birthday was a few days ago. And as most everyone probably knows, I decided to postpone my birthday celebration until July. The 10th, probably.
Just for fun, and because I feel like it, etc.
So I refused all presents (except for 3:), didn't have a party of any sort, and definitely did not make a birthday cake for myself.

I just had a random urge to make a random cake on a random day. Ok?!

I've been trying for years to make a yellow or white cake from scratch that wasn't dry, or that doesn't taste funny. And while it's not the perfect yellow cake, this one is maybe 1/2 step closer than I've ever gotten to a moist, from-scratch cake.
The main problem was that it was bland. And still dry.

First, you cream 1 cup (2 sticks) of room-temperature butter until it's fluffy
Then you add 2 cups of sugar and cream it until it looks something like this:

After which, you add 4 eggs. Beat well after each egg. It will look sorta like this:

Next, you add flour and milk alternately. The recipe calls for whole milk, but since whole milk has never crossed the threshold of this house, I improvised with half sweetened condensed milk, and half skim. Don't know that I'd recommend that, but it worked in a pinch, with no obvious horrible effect on the cake.
Anyway, you gradually do the flour/milk thing, and then mix it just until blended.

Pour it into 3 greased and floured 9-inch pans...

And smooth the batter out.

And then comes the fun part.
You get to bang and crash and make all kinds of noise.
You could even scream if you wanted to - just for kicks.
Lift each cake pan and drop it on the counter 2 or 3 times. Not too hard. You don't want cake batter sloshing all over the place. But doing this gets rid of any big air bubbles and makes the cake finer textured.

Pop 'em in the oven...(I'll pop 'em on the head, and you do the skinnin'!)
(If you don't know what that's from, get thee to a movie store, where you must buy the cartoon version of 101 Dalmations.)

Anyway, pop 'em in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes and then....

Voila! Cakes! Lovely golden brown cakes.

Now comes the purely ingenious step. After you let them cool for 5-10 minutes, you wrap them in plastic wrap to seal in the moisture.

Such a thing had never occurred to me until I found this recipe on the wondrous Bakerella's site.

You leave them wrapped in plastic until they cool - which, in my case, was overnight, because they came out of the oven around midnight.

And now, for the frosting: (my Old Faithful fluffy chocolate frosting recipe)

You need 2 1-oz. squares of unsweetened chocolate. Chop it up - it makes it melt faster.

Once you have a nice pile of chocolate...

Zap it in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time until it's melted and creamy.

Now you cream 2 sticks of butter, and add some light corn syrup and some Confectioner's sugar. Then beat it until it's all fluffy and delicious looking:

Now comes the fun part. Drizzle the melted chocolate slowly into the creamed mixture, with the mixer on a low speed.

And now, for the assembly!
Unwrap the first layer and with great care and precision, place it on a plate.

Spread on some frosting...

And repeat with each layer.

Until you have one tower of a cake.

Now, the most important step of all: sample it.

The verdict:
Sigh. I really wanted this cake to be The It. It was rather involved - which, to me, makes it fun - and it was different from any recipe I've ever tried, but it still wasn't moist or particularly flavorful.
It's probably my fault for not using the whole milk.

Either way, the cake is ok, but not IT.

The search goes on...

Happy Cooking!

P.S. Even though the cake isn't really worth trying, the frosting is.

Fluffy Chocolate Frosting
1 C. butter, softened
2 TBS. light corn syrup
4 C. Confectioner's sugar
2 1-oz. squares unsweetened chocolate, melted

1. In mixing bowl, beat butter on medium-high speed until creamy - about a minute and a half.
2. Add corn syrup. Mix well.
3. With mixer on low speed, gradually add powdered sugar, mixing until blended. Beat for about 1 minute.
4. Slowly add melted chocolate and beat well.

Spicy Garlic Lime Chicken

This stuff is tasty.
Real tasty.
It's juicy and flavorful, with a definite kick (but not too much).
I usually don't repeat recipes; if I find a good one, I stash it in my book, and then set out to search for more. But this one I've made time and again, because, well, it's tasty!
And it's easy.

So, start with some chicken. Either pounded-out chicken breasts, or strips will do. And then some spices:

Mix the spices together in a small bowl...

And sprinkle over the chicken. Make sure you coat 'em good.
Then you put the chicken in a hot pan full of melted butter and olive oil. Yum =P

Now let them cook for a while on both sides. After one side is brown, flip them over.
Don't they look tasty?
Tasty is the word of the hour.
Say it three times.

After they are browned on both sides (this should take about 5 minutes or so), turn the heat down, dump in some more olive oil and butter, and 3 tablespoons of lime juice.
Now, cover it with foil and let it simmer for a little while. 5-10 minutes. However long you need to cook rice and some veggies to go with it.

Spicy Garlic Lime Chicken
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
8 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

4 TBS. butter
2 TBS. olive oil
4 tsp. garlic powder
5-6 TBS. lime juice

1. In a small bowl, mix together salt, black pepper, cayenne, paprika, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, onion powder, thyme and parsley.
2. Sprinkle spice mixture generously on both sides of chicken breasts.
3. Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute chicken until golden brown, about 6 minutes on each side.
4. Sprinkle with 4 teaspoons garlic powder and lime juice. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently to coat evenly with sauce.

Happy Cooking!