Sigh. Tuesday, Aug 3 2010 

Not to have a pity party or anything, but I’m struggling, and that struggling has led directly to a serious lack of posting.  See, two weeks ago, my computer got a virus.  Admittedly, it was entirely my fault, but now I’m definitely in a pickle because while my computer has been restored to a mostly functioning state through the genius efforts of my Dad, my blog, sadly, has not been so lucky.

I had a minor meltdown when I first discovered this last Friday, but I eventually brushed it off, consoled myself with hours of Sex and the City episodes, had one too many cocktails, and decided I’d sort it out next week.  Well, it’s now next week, friends, and the prospects are still looking a little grim.  My problems are multifaceted and, for someone with little to no computer knowledge, quasi-insurmountable.  First and foremost, I’ve lost every picture I’ve ever uploaded to this site.  Not that they’re missing from the site, actually, so  much as they’re missing from my WordPress media library and I can’t upload new ones.  And if I can’t access the old ones, and I can’t upload new ones, I effectively have no idea how to once again get pictures onto the blog.  So there’s that.  There’s also the unique problem that the icons along the top of my WordPress taskbar (through which you make font bold, underlined, etc, and add pictures, run spell check, etc) are gone.  I have buttons, but they’re all blank – which means that for the moment, it’s sort of a Russian roulette system of posting and editing.  I have no idea what any of the buttons do until after I click them.  And that’s…risky.

My final issue was recently resolved through no effort of my own, so I guess it isn’t so much a current problem, but regardless, there was a period of time this weekend where my computer rejected all forms of Javascript.  Now, again, I have no idea what Javascript does, per se, but I do know that I need it to blog.  In that, without accessing it, I couldn’t preview or publish posts.  SIGH.

All of that to say that I haven’t forgotten you all, and I actually have a terrific cupcake recipe to share, as well as a cute little story that I may or may not cave and put up (sans pictures) in the next day or two.  Guess it depends how much Boyfriend harrasses me.  Till then, please send any extra good karma my way.  Lord knows the blog could use it this week.

Advertisements

Red Velvet Cupcakes and Pomegranate Buttercream Monday, May 3 2010 

I’m sort of a cynical person.  I’m adamantly stubborn and incredibly sarcastic, and I rarely believe things I find to good to be true.  But I have a bad habit of putting an unreasonable amount of faith in new recipes.  I don’t know why this is – I just always assume that every recipe I try will work out flawlessly, perfectly, and effortlessly the very first time.

Obviously, it doesn’t always happen that way, and I’ve had my share of kitchen trauma.  I always feel guilty blaming the recipe when something fails.  Usually, I blame a variety of things: my failure to read specific instructions, the food itself, the ingredients, myself…the list goes on.  But I never want to judge something I’ve only tried once too harshly, since it could very well be my fault that it didn’t turn out right.  In fact, considering the sources of some of the recipes I’ve bombed, I’d say that’s a fairly reasonable guess.

But the cupcakes – I don’t necessarily think the cupcakes were all my fault. Nor do I think they were a complete failure, since they set up a little more the next day and lost the weird, jelly-like substance buried at the bottom of their cupcake liners under a deceptive, moist layer of cake.  But even if you looked passed the gelatinous depths of the pretty pink cakes, they had bigger problems: they failed to rise at all, and they just looked so pathetically diminutive in their half-filled cups.  There was no beautiful sloped top, no cute muffin-top puff over the edges of the liner, no nothing.  Just under-filled and underwhelming cakes, which were so cloyingly sweet that the taste just lingered in my mouth, coating my teeth with sugar and shattered dreams.  I knew the instant I pulled them out of the oven I’d be chucking them and starting from scratch.

And I did start all over, but here’s the thing – if I really cared to know whether it was me or the recipe that failed, I’d try again.  Unfortunately, I’ve never been a scientist, and I don’t like to waste handmade baked goods.  Instead, I scrapped that recipe, and found a red velvet cake recipe with over 100 successful attempts on All Recipes and a buttercream I already knew how to make. Because sometimes new just isn’t better, and when my cooking confidence is shaken, it takes a slam-dunk recipe to set it back on its feet.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Adapted from allrecipes

Makes 20 cupcakes

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 fluid ounce red food coloring

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp white vinegar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line or grease your cupcake pans.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until pale yellow.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add vanilla, buttermilk, baking soda, and vinegar, and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, and cocoa powder together, then slowly add the wet ingredients.  Mix until combined. Add red food coloring and mix until the color is uniform.

Spoon batter into cupcake liners, filling each about 3/4 of the way.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cool completely.

Pomegranate Buttercream

1 ½ sticks butter

2 cups confectioners sugar

4 tbsp whole milk or half and half

2 tbsp pomegranate schnapps

In a large bowl, cream together butter and confectioners sugar until pale yellow.  Stir in milk and schnapps until creamy and pale pink.

Keep refrigerated until use.

Cinnamon Cookies Wednesday, Dec 9 2009 

These cookies. Oh my, these cookies.  These cookies were many, many things:

1) They were delicious – nutty, light, cinnamon-spiced meringue-y goodness in fun shapes!

2) They were easy enough to make once I discovered that we had a coffee grinder, and that it grinds almonds far better than my teeny, weeny $20 food processor.

3) AN ENORMOUS PAIN IN THE YOU-KNOW-WHAT.

Oh. My. God.  They stuck to everything!!  My hands.  The board.  The rolling pin.  The cookie cutters. The bowl.  The parchment paper for heavenssakes.  And yes, this is after I threw such a tantrum that Mom coerced me into refrigerating them overnight to make the dough easier to work with.  I literally broke a sweat prying these bad boys off of their parchment paper-covered cookie sheet when they emerged from the oven, taunting me in all their stickiness.

“HOW DO I PRY YOU OFF OF HERE!?” I shouted in vain at the browned, puffed gingerbread men on the first cookie sheet.

We’ll never tellllllll…” they whispered back.

Fortunately, once I bit a few of their heads off in a vengeful rage, they were a lot less chatty.

Did I eff up the recipe?  Did I skip a step somewhere?  Who the hell knows – I certainly don’t blame Cakespy for my incompetence.  What I do know is that if (IF) you can get them off of the cookie sheet, they are delicious.  I mean, I can see why they’re famous.  I can also see why the more intelligent sector of the population buys them from a freaking bakery.  It’s ok friends.  One day I’ll learn.  One day.

Shameless Plug Friday, Nov 20 2009 

A little magazine called Bon Appetit is running their blog-envy contest on holiday baking this month, and while I realize I didn’t bake this for the holiday they’re talking about, it was for a holiday.

 

So head on over here and vote – even if it’s not for mine!  But really, it should be for mine.  And really, they should’ve used the picture I submitted instead of the one with the Fed-Ex box full of beer in the background.  But let’s not split hairs, mkay?

Pomegranate Martinis Tuesday, Nov 10 2009 

P1040364

Do you want to hear something pathetic?  Of course you do – everyone loves a chance to laugh at someone else’s stupidity.  Or maybe that’s just me…that would be embarrassing.  Anyway

 

So the other night, Cousin and I went to Dave and Buster’s with some friends.  Never been?  It’s Chuck E. Cheese for grown-ups: arcade games, tickets, prizes, and beer.  Trust me – I’m an expert at these things.  I worked at Chuck E. Cheese for three years during high school.  No, I’m not kidding.  I did the birthday dance every two hours from noon till 8PM twice a week.  Go ahead.  I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing.

 

Alright, now that we’ve collected ourselves, allow me to continue.  I spent a lot of time there as a teenager, mostly fending off sticky-fingered children on a sugar high and handing out slices of mediocre pizza.  Oh, and dressing up as the mouse once.  Once! Do we need to take another giggling break?

 

I didn’t have a whole lot to do with any of the arcade games, since I didn’t wear a referee shirt or carry the keys to open any of the machines.  But good lord did those machines cause some drama – and not just with the children.  My favorite day of work at The Cheese (And by favorite, I mean that the best stories came out of it.  It was certainly the worst day I ever spent there) involved two women literally knocking every arcade game around them to the floor.  They wound up wrestling on the ground, pulling one another’s hair, in a flurry of wires and overturned video game machines.  When the dust cleared and the games were righted, the cause of the argument came out: one had called the other’s baby ugly.  Heavens.  Now, I haven’t popped a kid out yet (Phew.  Thank god I have a few more years on that front), but I really don’t think my response would be to start throwing ‘bows.  And I have a temper.

 

Needless to say, I can only imagine what it’s like to work at D&B, where they not only serve (expensive!) beer, but also shots.  I mean really?  Can you think of a worse combination?  The poor waitresses.  I feel for them, I really do.  I especially felt for the one who, at 2AM on Saturday night in Philly, was breaking up a booze-and-video-game-induced brawl between two men in the entryway.

 

But none of that is the funny part (Shocking, right?).  The funny part is that Cousin and Cousin’s Boyfriend had a little basketball competition going on.  Just to set the scene a little here, Cousin’s Boyfriend is tall.  Significantly taller than me, Cousin, and Boyfriend.  And Cousin played basketball for years.  Yours truly, on the other hand, did not.  I can barely get passed the “H” in HORSE in a pick-up driveway game.  It’s sad.  So naturally the inevitable suggestion came out of Cousin’s Boyfriend’s mouth two hours into the night.  “Why don’t you and Katie do a round?” he asked Cousin.

 

UGH.  Whatever, they were properly warned.  In the entire minute the game allows you to shoot free throws – without a moving backboard- I made approximately 8 shots.  Just for reference, others made upwards of 40 and 50.  But here’s the worst part of the whole pathetic adventure: my arms are sore.  Seriously.  I took my sweater off after work and it was effort to lift my arms that far.  And that, my friends, is why I need to spend more time in the weight room.  Or any part of the gym.  Even the parking lot of the gym would be a step in the right direction.

 

Instead, I made a cocktail.  I’m nothing if not consistent.

P1040367

Pomegranate Martinis

Makes one cocktail

 

1 shot Pomegranate Schnapps

1 shot vodka

Splash of lime juice

Pomegranate seeds (What?  You aren’t earnest enough to get them out of their stupid, obnoxious shell?  Fine – it’ll taste the same, it just won’t look as cool.  And, also, I’ll judge you.  Me and my gimpy arms.)

 

In a cocktail shaker, combine vodka, lime juice, and schnapps with ice.  Shake well, then pour into a martini glass (which I don’t have).  Sprinkle in a few pomegrante seeds (they’ll sink, but they taste great by the end of your drink) and serve.

 

 

*On a side note: I am completely floored by the amount of traffic that’s come to this site as a result of WordPress.com‘s (phenomenal!) decision to put my empanadas on their homepage!  Welcome, and thanks so much for all of the wonderful comments!  Keep them coming everyone!

Cranberry Sauce Woes Friday, Nov 6 2009 

P1040307

I want to like cranberry sauce.  I really do. I mean, it’s right up there with turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing (not that I like stuffing either…) as a Thanksgiving staple.  And now that we’ve flipped another page in the calendar and put away the jack-o-lanterns, Thanksgiving is the next holiday on the horizon (unless you’re a retail store, in which case you’ve been playing Christmas carols since June).

 

But every year I try, and fail, to enjoy the stuff.  I’ve even tried making my own, thinking maybe I could add in the magical ingredient that would make it palatable and enjoy it once and for all.  And still, tasty cranberry sauce eludes me.  I gave it another shot last night, trying it over warm, creamy polenta studded with goat cheese.  The polenta?  Awesome.  Everything I wanted.  The cranberry sauce?  Bleck. Assault to the tastebuds.

P1040308

I find it either caustically acidic or cloyingly sweet, or so overly-processed (As in, the kind from a can.  As in, the only kind Boyfriend will eat.  More on his bizarre Thanksgiving rituals as the month progresses – it’s a little too much to wrap your head around in one post.) that it’s unrecognizable as cranberry sauce.  Which is strange, considering I do like cranberries, especially the dried ones that taste like raisins, only better (yes, I know they’re all sugar).

 

Is it me?  Is this just a food I’m never going to like (perish the thought!)?  I think, really, that I’ve given it more than enough attempts for that whole “acquiring a taste” thing to work itself out (I’ve always had a few qualms with that idea anyway – why would I continue to eat something I don’t like?), so maybe cranberry sauce is just never going to be a part of my Thanksgiving repertoire.  But as long as I’m with Boyfriend, the jiggly mound of scarlet red, can-shaped “sauce” will have to be…Is that love, or what?

Or…Not. Thursday, Oct 29 2009 

Dear Googler Who Searched “Pepper Jew Chili” and Wound Up Here,

 

I cannot imagine that my blog was terribly helpful to you (though the subject of Judism has come up rather recently), as I have not yet (yet!) featured a chili recipe.  I would like, however, to express my deepest appreciation for your continued efforts to find what you’re looking for on my humble little blog by varying your search queries each day to include both the words “Jew” and “Chili.”

I would like to point out, though, that I’m not sure that there is such a thing as Pepper Jew Chili (it sounds remarkably like something Sweeney Todd would’ve created with the help of his kind neighbor), so your search may very well be in vain.  I offer my deepest sympathies that your time and energy may have been wasted. 

I do hope that, in spite of the absence of your chosen content, you will continue to visit this blog, much as I hope to have found a reader in the Googler who searched “He Makes Me Feel Like a Popsicle on the Fourth of July” this summer.  As you can see, dear reader, I care not about the reasons you first came to my blog, but ask only that, once you’re here, you hang around. 

 

Your Pepper Jew Chili Search Partner and Blogger,

Katie

Revenge of the Chili Peppers Tuesday, Sep 15 2009 

P1040036

Alrite, alrite.  Lesson learned, jalapeno gods.  Thou shalt not touch peppers with bare hands.  Got it.  LOUD AND EFFING CLEAR.

What happened to make me blog-shout at you, you ask?  Well.  Let me just tell you about my arrogant ignorance and the consequential smackdown the chili pepper gods laid out to teach me just how much power they have.  And it was a good one, as I now bow to their infinite wisdom.

Here’s how it all went down: last week, I got a book in the mail.  I didn’t buy this book, or chose it, even.  I won it during the July blogging contest over at Culinate.com.  But anyway, this book, called Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, is awesome.  It has recipes for marshmallows, graham crackers, cheese, and assorted (yum) infused vodka and brandy drinks.  And also, it has a recipe for hot sauce.  Mmmmmmm, hot sauce.  Boyfriend and I are both the kind of people who will eat food so hot that it actually causes pain.  We use excessive amounts of crushed red pepper flakes on pretty much everything, and favor cuisines like Indian and Spanish, where there’s a lot of heat to be had.  So obviously the first recipe I went after was the hot sauce.

P1040037

Now, I want to give Karen Solomon credit, because she’s a smart woman, and I’m a dumbass, and I did not heed the large-print warning at the top of the recipe about wearing gloves.  I cook with jalapenos all the time, my cocky internal voice scoffed smugly, it’s not like I can’t handle the heat for a minute or two. Not an hour later, that internal voice (which I am vowing to never again listen to about anything) was weeping and eating every last one of those words as my fingers, my poor, innocent-bystander fingers, were ablaze with that devil oil that lives inside the peppers.

And here I sit, twenty-four hours later, and my hands are (I kid you not) still tingling.  I did not sleep.  I soaked my hands in ice-cold milk for so long that they were shriveled beyond recognition.  I took Benadryl.  I used rubbing alcohol.  I used lemons.  I pounded a glass of wine that I literally did not even taste because I was in so much pain.  Never again, self.  Never forget.

A rational human might have read over the recipe in this beautiful book, heeded the warnings therein, and created the same (lime-green, sear-your-face-off) hot sauce that I did.  That same person may have even taken the cautionary steps of, oh, I don’t know, seeding the peppers.  Or using all jalapenos instead of replacing half with the smallest, most lethal little buggers the farmers market had.  Or even, gasp, using bell or poblano peppers just to be safe the first time.  But I think I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that I am not particularly rational, and that foresight is, well, not always a strong suit.  And if you come back to this blog for no other reason, I can promise you that this will not be my last error in judgment, and that, if nothing else, I promise you at least a few more good laughs.

Till then, I leave you with the hot pepper graveyard, and remind you to beware of its vengeance.

P1040039

Irish Carbomb Cake Sunday, Aug 23 2009 

P1030819

In case anyone’s been wondering where I’ve been (not that I flatter myself that you miss me that much when I’m MIA), Boyfriend’s birthday was this weekend – which means that for the majority of the last few days I have been party-planning, supervising the party, cleaning up after the party, and feeding Boyfriend whatever he requested (today, we’re going to the gym…as if it’s going to counteract the pizzas, beer, and cake).

Of course, the first thing I made him was the Birthday Cake.  Last year, only a few months into our relationship, I made him Funfetti cupcakes with vanilla icing and gummy bears (yes, gummy bears, because he gets them on his ice cream every. single. time.).  This year, I thought about what kind of cake I was baking him months in advance, and bookmarked this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen.  Guinness is a favorite of ours, and who could argue with a cake made of chocolate and stout covered in chocolate ganache?

Unfortuantely, the days leading up to his birthday party (for which the cake had to be done, because we were not eating a whole cake by ourselves) were a blur of baseball games, happy hour events, and work.  Which meant that in the hour or so prior to the party commencing, as our friends were arriving, I was hurriedly measuring, mixing, and baking in the kitchen.  Miraculously, I screwed nothing up and the cake was moist and chocolate-y and delicious looking…inside of its bundt pan.  And I should’ve let it cool fully, but I didn’t, because there was so much going on and I wanted to eat a piece of pizza and have a beer, and the ganache was ready and the cake must be too, right?

Wrong.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  The cake, it turns out, was not prepared to come out of its pan and into the bright, shiny world of Boyfriend’s Birthday Party.  So the cake hunkered down, grabbed on tight, and allowed only the bottom half of itself to land on the plate when I flipped it over.  @#$*^!&*^$%.  There would be no perfect cake this evening.  Fortunately, ganache covers all manner of sins, and once I pried the vast majority of the cake from its pan and sort of…compiled a shape that resembled a bundt, I poured chocolate-Kahlua goodness over the whole mess and TA-DA!  A Birthday Cake was born…even if was born against its stupid, sticking-to-the-pan will.

P1030822

Irish Carbomb Cake*

Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen

1 cup of Guinness (or other stout)

2 sticks (1 cup) of unsalted butter

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

2 eggs

2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache:

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

6 tbsp heavy cream

2 tbs Kahlua or Bailey’s

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bundt pan really, really well.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter with stout until simmering.  Whisk in cocoa powder until smooth, then remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, mix together sugar, flour, salt, and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, mix sour cream and eggs until combined.  Slowly add cooled stout/butter/cocoa mixture to the egg/sour cream mixture, whisking continuously as you pour (make sure it cools at least slightly, or you’ll wind up with chocolate scrambled eggs).  Add wet ingredients to dry, and mix until completely combined.

Pour into really well-greased bundt pan, and bake for 25 – 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool completely before turning it out of the pan.

For ganache, melt chocolate with cream and liquor in a double-boiler over medium-high heat until smooth.  Pour over turned-out cake.

*This cake is named after a mixed shot involving Bailey’s Irish Cream and Guinness (as well as Jameson whiskey) and is in no way meant to be offensive.

Pizza…Sort of. Monday, Aug 10 2009 

P1030628

Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.  Still basking in the glow of last week’s delicious gnocchi success, yesterday’s foray into the art of making pizza dough fell a little short of expectations.  And when you live in the tri-state area and are practically raised on New York-style pizza, a sub-par crust is cause for dinnertime mutiny.  Fortunately, Boyfriend spared my life because the topping was kick-ass.  It was a stuff underneath it all that was a little…questionable.  Allow me to elaborate.

 

It’s my own damn fault, really.  I was a little more cocky than I should’ve been, and chose to simply ignore the phrase “substitute up to one half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat.”  Hear that, yesterday’s self?  “Up to one half.” Did I substitute up to one half, you ask?  Nope.  Play it safe on the first attempt at a new recipe?  No way.  I substituted the entire amount of flour.  This wasn’t my first go-around with bread-making, but did I check to see if the yeast was dead before I used it?  Nope.  Did I put the dough somewhere especially warm to rise, and not just on my countertop while the A/C whirred quietly in the background?  NOPE.  So you see, friends, there was a really, really limited chance for success here.  Really limited.

P1030629

This is how my cute little ball of brown-flecked dough looked when I snuggly tucked it into its oiled bowl to rise.  How did it look 2 1/2 hours later when the yeast had worked its magic, you ask?

 

I’ll give you a moment to scroll back up.  Because it looked exactly the same.  Devastating.

 

Nevertheless, refusing to admit defeat, I rolled that sucker out, laid it on a pizza stone, and demanded it become the vehicle through which Boyfriend and I could ingest a half a pound of Habenero Jack cheese and chorizo.  Despite its refusal to rise and create any semblance of a crust, it was tasty.  I mean, basically it was a glorified, whole-wheat flatbread that I stridently attempted to make as unhealthy as possible by cramming it with meat and cheese, but still – I ate half the “pizza” and thought it was pretty delicious, though pizza it was not.

P1030636

I guess the true test came when I asked Boyfriend if he would like me to make it again.  Knowing how easy it is to anger his already frustrated and perpetually short-tempered girlfriend, he said yes…but he preferred the ready-made Boboli crust we usually use.  Damn it.  Guess I can’t fool him into believing this was pizza.