Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Weight watchers turkey chimichangas

I am one week into my new weight watchers regime, and someone posted this recipe earlier and it sounded quite yummy. Well, they are just as yummy as they sounded. In fact, Brian said that this is one of his new favorites. And bonus for me that they're workable on my weight watchers regime!

The final cake product

I have been meaning to post these since Monday night, but I was tired that night. And then Tuesday just got away from me.

I totally forgot to take my final picture before I started cutting it.

A few weeks ago I posted that Fran at Brian's office was my new favorite person. In perhaps is one of the biggest compliments I've had in a long time, she asked Brian if I wanted to make a cake for an upcoming retirement party - for 75 people! I am still thinking that it's beyond my capabilities at this time, but regardless - it's exceptionally flattering. And it satisfies one of the main reasons I do this - to make other people happy and give them a little slice of sweet enjoyment.

I made this last night...sort of

Pork chops have been my cooking albatross. They are the one thing I feel like has been hanging around my neck because I have never been successful with them. Either they turn out too bland or they are so salty that we end up not liking them.

I decided to give them another try, and I found this recipe. But since I'm one week into weight watchers, I really didn't want to add a bunch of pesto. So I improvised. I used a basil puree I'd made using our aerogarden herbs, then I also put fresh basil in there and a little bit of parmesan. I also had thin chops so I just kind of folded them in half.

They were pretty darn tasty! I served them with some parmesan cous cous and green beans. Sorry no pics - I didn't have the camera at home last night.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A whole lotta baking

Whew. It's been a long day. I had to make my cake for class tomorrow. And originally that's all I planned on doing. But when I took the cakes out of the oven, I must not have let them cool long enough and when I flipped one out, it fell apart.

I had to figure out what to do. I wanted to do a layer cake for class since it's the last one. So I could a) make one from scratch, b) go get another mix and make another layer, or c) run with the fact that I had a chocolate cake mix in the pantry. I went with c. I made the chocolate cake and decided it'd be neat to do a cake with chocolate and vanilla layers.

So now I have two layers of chocolate with a "mock twinkie" filling and then two layers of french vanilla with chocolate buttercream filling. It actually turned out to be my best-looking cake so far.

This time I also utilized a few techniques we've been shown in class. I made an icing buffer to keep the filling from eeking out the sides.

And I used my giant icing tip to ice it - wow, what a difference! I had the cake iced in about five minutes. And this is before I even smoothed it out!

I also knew that I was going to have extra batter, so I made a dozen cupcakes. I'd been planning on making some halloween cupcakes, and this ended up working out perfectly. They are filled with the twinkie filling, and I found the decoration idea on web site.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Slow-Cooker Chili Chicken Tacos

I have two things to say about this recipe - yum and easy! This was probably one of the easiest dinners I've made in a while, and it had amazing flavor. I actually made mine as a salad, and it didn't need any dressing because the chicken had so much flavor. I probably should have cooked it a little more to make it more tender and easier to shred, but it was good regardless.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mmmm....chicken pot pie

I love chicken pot pie. But although I'm not quite following weight watchers religiously, I can't bring myself to make it the old-fashioned way. This was another hit from the Hungry Girl cookbook.

You start by browning the chicken and cooking 3 cups of mixed vegetables. Combine them together in a bowl with reduced-fat cream of celery soup. Put them in a pie dish and bake for 30 minutes.

Add the crust and bake for another 15 minutes. Ymmmmm and only 4 points per serving (and only 4 servings per recipe).

The cupcake reviews are in

Brian's coworkers are the beneficiaries of all this baking. I sent the cake with him last week, and today he took the cupcakes. Since I have the self-restraint of a goldfish, I just can not keep them in the house.

Fran from Radiation is now my new favorite person - "that was the best cupcake I have ever had. Your wife should seriously consider becoming a professional caterer" is what she told Brian.

And Rachel said, "I am eating one of your cupcakes. You have mad skills!"

Hee hee.

That makes me smile because I love to bake but always worry that the results will be less than stellar, like that stupid strawberry cake.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cake decorating - class #3 (and cupcakes part 2)

Tonight I just couldn't seem to get myself into the swing of things. Twice someone had to tell me I had icing on my face and three times I filled my icing bags before putting the tip on (which means the bag isn't usable anymore).

We started with shell borders. I liked these.

Then we did clowns. These aren't quite as cool when you do them with white icing. They are also not as cool when one arm is not quite right.

We ended with flowers, but I forgot to take pictures. They are, however, all over my finished cupcakes. This is where I was at when I left class.

I came home and added yellow circles to the centers.

I think this one ended up being my favorite.

And here's what they looked like filled with chocolate cream - yummmmmm.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sloppy Janes

I made these for dinner tonight. They're one of our faves. I got them from the "Hungry Girl" cookbook. They are so yummy and much better than Sloppy Joe's.


This week's class - cupcakes

This week we have to bring cupcakes and a variety of icings. I use my Sundays to prep and also experiment with whatever I make that we don't need for class (in this case, about 10 cupcakes).

Mmmmm....icing. Of course, after licking the bowls, I can see how peoplke who work in bakeries said they don't even like the taste of it anymore.

All of the cupcakes have chocolate cream filling. At first I used my instructor's advice to use one of my tips to fill them, but I realized they weren't putting much filling in there. So instead I cut a small circle in the top, holding the knife at about 45 degrees.

It left a cone-shaped hole, which I filled with the chocolate cream.

Then I pulled the tip off the piece I cut out making it more flat, and put it back on the cupcake. Kind of like they used to do at Subway before they just sliced the bread in half.

Then I iced over them. As you'll see below, there was no trace of the fudge on top so it'll be a nice surprise when people bite into them. After getting them separated into the cupcakes I need for class and the ones I didn't, I made up a batch of orange icing and experimented with my star tip.

Then I got to work making the icing I need for class. As I was making one batch, I could hear Sally Field in Steel Magnolias saying "It had gray icing. I don't even know how you make gray icing." Well - I know that answer. You add black coloring.

I need some black icing for class tomorrow, and I added a lot of that coloring stuff and still only have a dark gray. But I called it quits because I can darken it in class but I couldn't lighten it.

Check back on Tuesday for the results of my class decorating.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Time for a little reorganization

I have a bad habit. I apparently stock pile canned goods because I make my shopping list for my recipes, and many times fail to check the pantry before shopping. That's how I ended up with about 10 different cans of diced tomatoes.

So today I decided to not only clean my pantry but to actually inventory it. I reorganized everything and made a log of what was in there. In theory, we'll mark everything off as we use it and I can just refer to the list versus digging through or buying too many things. I did the same with my spice cabinet and am really happy with the results.

Tonight's dinner is going to be basil chicken using the yummy, fragrant fresh basil from our AeroGarden, one of my favorite wedding gifts. If you gave us a Bed, Bath and Beyond gift card, chances are it was used on this.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Famous Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

I have had a few people ask for this recipe recently so I wanted to go ahead and post it. My beloved Momma Dot used to make this for us, and every time I make it brings back memories (dang it - even just typing this is making me cry). Her home and her kitchen were always filled with such love and warmth, and she definitely baked from the heart. Well, everything she did was straight from the heart.

This is one of the recipes that I can make successfully. There are some, like her chicken and dumplings, that will never compare so I don't even try.

So without fail, here it is. Enjoy.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Wilton Cake Decorating Class #2

Tonight was my second cake decorating class. Last week was more of an introduction to how to make frosting and a discussion of what the class would cover. Tonight was all hands-on, and we covered stars, leaves, writing and a few simple borders.

We had to bring an iced cake with us, and already I see big improvements from my previous attempts. There's still a weird lump on the side, but I'm much happier so far. This is a French Vanilla two layer cake that I sliced in half and filled with chocolate buttercream icing.

A few tips I learned from class 1:
-I always struggled with making cakes that cooked evenly and had a flat top. I got these baking strips that were recommended in class, and they made a HUGE difference.
-When splitting a cake in two in order to make it multiple layers, skip the knife and use one of these levelers.
-As you assemble the layers, make sure to press each layer down to keep it from settling and causing the filling to spread out the sides of the cake.
-One benefit of using a shortening-based buttercream is that it crusts over a little. Once the cake is iced, use a piece of parchment paper to smooth it out. Simply place the paper over the cake, and then lightly smooth the cake through the paper.

And now on to tonight's class. We started with stars:

Then we moved on to writing:

Then we moved on to leaves. These were the hardest to me, and I am going to try and envision many more cakes that don't require leaves.

And here's the finished product. I don't think it's too bad for a first attempt. It's going to work with Brian tomorrow for his team.

Postscript - The cake was a success! Brian even told me it was just as good as the costco sheet cakes we get (which is a huge compliment since those are quite yummy).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Weekend Meal

This weekend I went to an old standby recipe that always makes us happy - eye of round (or eye of the round - that's for you mom) roast. It's super easy but exceptionally tasty.

I am not going to make a recipe download for this because it's literally under five steps. Take an eye of round roast, and put it in a baking rack fat side up. I use a little rack that is adjustable similar to the way lawn chairs are - here's one that's similar:

I put a thick layer of Montreal Steak Seasoning across the fat and drizzle a little olive oil over it.

Bake at 325 for about 60 to 75 minutes. Take it out and let it rest before serving. I use a meat thermometer to ensure it's cooked to the right temp because I'd much rather it be rare than tough.

To go with it, I poured some balsamic vinegar and olive oil into a baking dish. I set two thick slices of beefsteak tomato in the dish and let them soak up the flavor for about 15 minutes. Then I took two portabello mushroom caps. I drizzled olive oil across the bottoms and let them sit for a minute to absorb the oil. I cut up some fresh basil and put it on the tomatoes, then I placed the caps on top. I added some garlic powder, a little sea salt and some fresh ground pepper. I added a little parmesan and baked at 325 for about 15 minutes.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Honing my cake decorating skills

As evidenced by my two cakes, I have little experience decorating cakes. In an effort to learn how to make prettier cakes, I signed up for this Wilton Cake Decorating Class (it's class I). I am taking it at my local Hobby Lobby, and next week is my second class. I'm really excited to make things like this a thing of the past.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mediterranean Chicken


I got this email from, and it was so good! It was totally different than most of what I make and was a really welcome change. I will definitely be adding this to the rotation.

The recipe did call for eggplant, which I didn't use since we aren't big eggplant people. In hindsight I should have done more zucchini, but it was still quite tasty.