Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hodge Podge of Things

Two weeks into the new year and I am already behind on my blogging. I'm really hoping to post an entry at least once a week and with as much as I've been cooking and baking, I should be able to do it more often. The new year has been a little hectic lately-my running program has upped the mileage in preparation for the marathon----02-14-10---- so I feel like all of my time is being consumed with working, sleeping, running, cooking, eating, working, sleeping, running, cooking....continued cycle. But now that I have the time, I can post a little bit about what I've been cooking up.

One of my favorite things to make for holiday parties is my mom's recipe for artichoke dip. Pretty much the simplest recipe ever and is absolutely amazing...canned artichokes, reduced fat mayo, parmesan cheese, and sprinkle cayenne pepper on top then bake. Comes out bubbly, cheesy, delicious, and without fail, is always a crowd pleaser. The other day (and by the other day, I mean New Years Eve), I was watching 30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray and she was making all sorts of fun appetizers for a New Years Eve party. One of her appetizers was a spinach-artichoke dip with gorgonzola. It looked amazing and since I was going to a New Years Eve party that night, I decided that's what I would make to take. Braving the busy grocery stores, I plunged out into the cold to HEB and picked up the ingredients I would need---frozen spinach, canned artichokes (her recipe uses frozen but I bought cans), gorgonzola cheese, parmesan cheese, and chicken stock. I doubled the amount of spinach and artichokes in the recipe that way it would counteract all the cheese it called for---cancels eachother out, right? The dip was super easy to make and was delicious. Only problem was this didn't make it to the party. After I made it, I was too eager to try it (and I had a fresh baguette that smelled so good and was tempting me) so I dove in. I really liked the amount of veggies that was in it and the gorgonzola added a nice tang to the dish. This recipe made a big dish of the dip that fed me for multiple meals for a week after that...I ended up just taking champagne to the party...can't go wrong with that. The recipe can be found on the Food Network website.

(I ate it with fresh baguette, crackers, carrots, celery...)
Moving on to the next recipe. One of my absolute favorite things is cinnamon, love the smell, love the flavor, love all things cinnamon, and probably my favorite cookie is a Snickerdoodle. Continuing with favorites, one of my favorite blogs to read is Monica from Lick the Bowl Good. Months ago she posted a recipe for "Snickerdoodle Blondies" and since I read about them in her blog probably 2 months ago, I think I've made them about 15 times. Really. 15. Each time has been somewhat of an experiment. I'm not very patient when I bake. When I think of something I want to make, I want to make it right then, get it into the oven, and eat it as soon as possible. So whenever a recipe says it calls for "room temperature butter" and "room temperature eggs," I say "Ugh." So the first time I made the blondies (and this was before my fabulous new mixer), I decided to skip the "let sit at room temperature" and just popped the butter in the microwave on defrost for a little while until it softened. Not melted. Softened. I remembered a trick I read somewhere, off some blog I'm sure, about putting eggs in tap water to help get to room temperature more quickly, so I did that.

I used the recipe for Snickerdoodle Blondies found here and followed exactly (Other than the room temperature butter part). I love cinnamon chips so I added them which is optional. 30 minutes later I pulled them out of the oven and they looked fabulous. Let them cool, cut into them, and they were still kind of chewy...chewy like they weren't quite cooked enough. Now I love batter and cookie dough and that sort so I didn't mind the "undoneness" at all, but for transferring and sharing, it wasn't so easy. So the next time I cooked them longer and got them too done. This sort of thing went on for probably around 6-7 attempts, then I mastered it and they were great. But since I received my Kitchenaid, I decided to follow the recipe down to the T. I let my butter sit out at room temperature and the eggs, followed the recipe precisely, cooked them the exact time I found worked the best (29 minutes), let them cool, cut them and ate them and was amazed. 10 times better than the other 14 batches. Now was this due to the stellar mixing job of my pink Kitchenaid or was it more likely to be the fact that I actually followed the recipe correctly and let the butter get to room temp? I say pink Kitchenaid---but that's just me :) I really recommend this recipe and I end up adding half a bag of cinnamon chips because I like them that much. As I've said and be amazed.

(Disclaimer: this is a picture of a batch that I cooked too long, but I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the batch that turned out perfectly. Either way, they still taste great!)

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