1,000 views and 1 stupid thing to do in a kitchen

20 Apr

I just logged on to WordPress and I saw I had 999 site-views. I had hardly told someone about it before I came back and it had passed the 1,000 mark! While this may not seem like much compared to sites that get thousands of views a day, I can appreciate it. I mean, I thought this blog was going to die before it ever hit 500 views due to the fact that most of my traffic comes from Facebook and I had little faith that my friends would actually read a baking blog! I see this accomplishment as a reason to keep going and persevering and motivating myself to keep working in the kitchen.

As a little reward, I’ll put together that “Epic Fail” post that I mentioned a while back. I definitely have plenty of stories to tell about things that go disastrously wrong (at least in my opinion) like exploding piping bags, dough that won’t rise, and burned chocolate. The little things have nothing compared to the entire recipes that fail epically though…There was the broccoli beef that tasted like a salt lick, the fresh noodles that I forgot to stir that formed into an inedible brick, the naan bread pizza with store-bought naan that was like eating 12 cloves of garlic, the frosting that looked like vomit, the gritty homemade Nutella and that time last week when I almost set myself on fire. The fire thing? It involved me attempting to pour water into a pot with a tablespoon of hot olive oil in it. My excuse was that I was stressed and seriously sleep deprived and should not have been near a kitchen.

Here’s what happens when hot oil and water mix by the way (there is a woman with burn scars on her face, so be forewarned):

Please don’t mix hot oil and water. EVER. Don’t be an idiot like me, as I was lucky and stopped pouring before anything too bad happened. This has been a public service announcement from Meet Me In The Kitchen. 😉

So you see, I may seem like I know what I’m doing, but I’m just a novice, and I definitely have my disastrous moments. Anyway, thanks for the continued support and I’ll get to work on that post so that you can all laugh at my pain. 😉

Girl Scouts

18 Apr

So the summer in between high school and college I knew I wanted to get a job. I also knew that I either wanted to get a job to work with kids or in a bakery. I started looking for jobs at summer camps and came across one for a Girl Scout camp in Washington that would last the entire summer and pay me a healthy sum of money which I could use to pay for my food for the first year at least. I am almost done with the application, and will be sending it off soon, and am seriously hoping that I get the job because it will keep me busy all summer rather than forcing me to sit and do nothing for 3 months anxiously awaiting college. Right now I’m crossing my fingers that my application isn’t too late and that they’ll take me on. Thinking about this made me remember that I made samoas a while back with that butter cookie dough that I posted and I thought you might all like to know how to make them!

The recipe I used had a recipe for the cookies which I will use next time because I didn’t really think the recipe I used went with the samoas. It was too much of a soft butter cookie instead of the usual harder sugary cookie. I’ll post the entire recipe at the end so you can do everything properly. 😉

I started out with making little rings out of the cookie dough. I used a small biscuit cutter for the outside and the large end of a piping tip for the middle.  Just a hint: It’d be a lot easier to make these circles rather than rings!

For the topping I used sweetened coconut flakes, caramels, chocolate. I also used milk and salt, but they wouldn’t allow me to photograph them…I think they were being camera shy.

Start by spreading the coconut on a lined baking sheet. You need to bake it at 5 minute intervals, taking out the pan and stirring everything so it cooks evenly.

When it’s all light-medium brown you know it’s done. It’s fine if there is still some parts that are really light still, it’ll add to the chewy texture. I think I consumed at least a handful of this straight out of the oven…I love toasted coconut!

You then need to grab a glass bowl and throw in the caramels with some milk and salt. You then microwave this in intervals stirring in between. This is NOT done:

This is done:

There will still be small lumps, but when you stir it, they will melt, like this:

Next, pour in the coconut, and toss until coated. It should form a sort of sticky, soft dough.

To assemble, you take a cookie and spoon on some of the coconut mixture until everything is covered. It was slightly difficult because I was trying to keep the hole in the middle like the original cookies. Next time I’ll just do slid shapes, no cut-outs! Also, you need to work relatively quickly in order to prevent the caramel from hardening. When it started to get hard I just stuck it back in the microwave for a bit until softened.

Once all the cookies are covered you can set them aside and melt your chocolate chips. I actually had mine melting in a double-boiler while I was assembling he cookies so I was all set. Carefully place a cookie in the chocolate to cover the bottom. It may help to stick the cookies in the freezer for a bit before doing this so that the caramel is really hard and easier to hold on to when dipping.  Once all the bottoms have been dipped, place the extra chocolate in a ziploc bag and pipe stripes on the tops of the cookies.

Stick these in the fridge for a few minutes while you start cleaning up…you’ll need to scrub hard, I promise!

After you have licked *ahem* washed the bowl clean of all the chocolate and the other of all the caramel/coconut mixture, you can take your cookies out fo the fridge and put them in containers.

I think I want to explore making ThinMints next. The blog I used also has a recipe for them so I’m dying to try them. At least this way, I can have fresh girl scout cookies during the off season!

Here’s the recipe and the link:

http://bakingbites.com/2008/01/homemade-girl-scout-cookies-samoas/

Homemade Samoas

by Baking Bites
Cookies
1 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
up to 2 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla and milk, adding in the milk as needed to make the dough come together without being sticky (it’s possible you might not need to add milk at all). The dough should come together into a soft, not-too-sticky ball. Add in a bit of extra flour if your dough is very sticky.
Roll the dough (working in two or three batches) out between pieces of wax paper to about 1/4-inch thickness (or slightly less) and use a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter to make rounds. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and use a knife, or the end of a wide straw, to cut a smaller center hole. Repeat with remaining dough. Alternatively, use scant tablespoons of dough and press into an even layer in a mini donut pan to form the rounds.
Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set. If using a mini donut pan, bake for only about 10 minutes, until edges are light gold.
Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Topping
3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12-oz good-quality chewy caramels
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
8 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok)

Preheat oven to 300. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.
Using the spatula or a small offset spatula, spread topping on cooled cookies, using about 2-3 tsp per cookie. Reheat caramel for a few seconds in the microwave if it gets too firm to work with.

While topping sets up, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. Dip the base of each cookie into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment paper. Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary) into a piping bag or a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle finished cookies with chocolate.
Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 1/2-4 dozen cookies.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

17 Apr

So this whole college process has basically been one disappointment after another. While I was lucky enough to get into all the colleges I applied to, I found out that sometimes dreams are near impossible. I have spent most of this year falling head-over-heels in love with Trinity University and all it had to offer. At one point the Dean contacted me on Twitter and we emailed back and forth for a bit. Then I had an interview which went extremely well, and a month or two later I got my acceptance letter and I was over the moon. It’s when we got the financial aid letter that I realized how unattainable this dream of mine was. Basically, the payments we’d be paying on the loans would be more than the mortgage on the house. This made me realize that I had to let Trinity go and pursue the other colleges.

I wasn’t as upset as I would’ve expected when I made this realization. I did not shed a tear, and it took me less than a day to figure out my new dream school: University of Portland. The irony behind this choice is that I applied on a total and complete whim. I got a shorter application sent to me in the mail with the application fee waived, so I decided to apply as a backup. Boy, am I glad I did! If I hadn’t, I would probably be going to Washington State University this Fall, which is definitely not the right school for me. I knew I wanted a small school in an urban setting so I knew private was the way to go. The only problem once again, was cost. With only tuition and academic scholarships factored in, there was a $6,000 per year difference between Uof P and WSU. I set about making a list of extraneous expenses and a pro-con list of each school to help convince my dad. Little did I know I would need none of that!

April 9th, 2011 was the day I first visited the University of Portland. We had a president’s reception, lunch on the quad and presentations from the Social Sciences and Education departments. After all that, my dad and I decided to go off on our own and paid a visit to the financial aid department. Long story short, my dad decided that U of P was going to be a much better school for me and worth the extra $6,000 compared to WSU. I accepted my admission right then and there. We promptly went to the campus store so that I could get a sweatshirt, and my dad could get a sticker for his car. After that we went on our campus and housing tour while I was completely over the moon about the whole thing. I’m a proud member of the University of Portland’s class of 2015!

Knowing that a campus visit might provide my dad with enough evidence to let me go there, I made the decision to save this post until after I found out. I wanted to save it because I realized that life had been chucking lemons at me and I was trying to make lemonade but what I really needed to do was make lemon meringue pie instead. In other words, I didn’t get my first choice and I was being miserable about it (like everyone else who this happened to) when I should’ve seen the brilliant opportunity in front of me.

I got the recipe from my Williams Sonoma (who if you haven’t noticed by now, is one of my favourites)  Essentials of Baking book.

I used some leftover pastry that was in my freezer from the apple tart. (Instructions in the corresponding post) To make the lemon curd I started out by zesting and juicing 2 lemons.

Then I separated 6 eggs, throwing away 1 egg yolk. (6 whites and 5 yolks)

Then I dissolved the cornstarch in water. You know that gross goo that you made in middle school that acted like both liquid and a solid? Yeah, that was made from water and cornstarch.

In a medium saucepan I added the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and remaining water and whisked until combined. I then added the cornstarch mixture whisking constantly until the curd came to a boil (about 8 mins).

I let the mixture boil for about a minute or until it started to thicken and looked clear and shiny. I could definitely tell when it had changed because it suddenly became harder to stir, and began to look different.

I then stirred in the lemon zest until homogenized, poured the mixture into a glass bowl and placed a sheet of plastic wrap over the top touching the top.

I then made the meringue for the top using the bowl of egg whites I had collected, 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, and 6 Tbsp superfine sugar. I beat the eggs and cream of tartar until soft peaks began to form and then added in the sugar and continued beating until stiff, shiny peaks formed. Once the meringue was made, I poured the lemon curd into the pie shell until it reached the top. Note: Mine was lumpy because I refrigerated the curd overnight. If you make yours the same day, it’ll still be hot so you can actually pour it rather than scoop it like I had to.

 I then took heaping spoonfuls of the meringue and scooped it onto the base. I used the back of the spoon to create the peaks. After about 15 minutes in the oven it came out looking like this:

Since lemon meringue is eaten cold, it needs to be refrigerated for at least 5 hours until it’s completely cooled.  Here’s the recipe:

Williams Sonoma Essentials of Baking Lemon Meringue Pie

The filling:

6 Tbs cornstarch

1 1/2 cups water

5 large egg yolks

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, strained

2 tsp grated lemon zest

for the meringue:

6 large egg whites at room temp

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

6 Tbs superfine sugar

Prepare the flaky crust and refrigerate to chill. Roll out the dough, line a 9-inch pie dish and prebake fully.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F.

To make the lemon filling, in a small bowl combine the cornstarch and 1/2 cup of the water until the starch dissolves. In a saucepan whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, lemon juice, and the remaining 1 cup of water until well blended. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil over medium heat while whisking constantly (this is very important — so you do not scramble your eggs), about 8 minutes. Boil for 1 minute until the mixture thickens and looks clear. Remove from the heat and stir in the zest. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the filling to keep it hot and to prevent a skin from forming.

To make the meringue, in a large bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment or a hand mixer, beat on medium speed until the whites begin to thicken. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat just until soft peaks form. Slowly add the superfine sugar (you should be beating at the about medium speed at this point, and adding the sugar should take you at least 5 minutes — go slow) and continue to beat until stiff, shiny peaks form.

Remove the plastic wrap from the hot lemon filling and pour it into the prebaked crust (see below). Using the rubber spatula, distribute the meringue evenly over the filling, mounding it towards the center and spreading it to the edge to seal the crust. Use the back of a spoon to form peaks an swirls on the meringue. Bake until the meringue is lightly browned, 12-17 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate until cold, at least 5 hours. Serve cold.

One Ingredient

28 Mar

This is the easiest recipe known to man. Seriously. It has 1 ingredient. ONE. Are you interested yet? How about if I told you it was for ice cream? Yeah, you want to make it now don’t you?

Well, mosey on down to your kitchen and look at your fruit selection. I think everyone has a gross, bruised-beyond-recognition banana in their kitchen. I know I did. Peel the banana, slice it into chunks and lay them in a single layer in a ziploc bag. Now, go do some homework for a few hours.

After 3-4 hours you shall be ready. Grab a food processor (I just used a mini one, they cost around $20 if you don’t have one) and process away.

When you take off the lid you’ll have banana soft serve! (Note: One banana yields about 1 scoop of ice cream)

It was delicious, and that’s coming from a person that rarely eats bananas! You can dump this into a bowl and eat it at this consistency, or refreeze in a plastic container for a while longer to get scoop-able ice cream. Next time I might chop up some dark chocolate and walnuts and make my own chunky monkey ice cream. The possibilities are endless! Add a spoonful of peanut butter, caramel sauce, frozen berries, nuts, chocolate chips, or sprinkles. Maybe even graham cracker bits or a swirl of your favourite jam or jelly? This simple recipe just begs to be experimented with!

I think you should go make this right now. Don’t you?

Spring Break

26 Mar

It’s been 10 days since I last posted which is really inexcusable sine I’ve been on spring break with nothing to do for the past week. I’ve been stuck at home for the whole week with all my friends in places like Hawaii and California, and a couple of roadtrips. Basically I was feeling the cabin fever. Luckily I ended up making a bunch of different goodies to share with you all. 🙂

So I started off the week making this recipe for a basic cookie dough. It’s really versatile and can be used for tart dough in addition to cookies. I got the recipe out of my handy-dandy Williams and Sonoma Weeknight Cook book. We have at least a dozen Williams and Sonoma recipe books because they are so reliably good! 🙂

Here’s a picture of the recipe (click on it to open a larger version in a new window):

It was actually really easy to put together. You start by sifting the fours and salt together in a bowl.

In my awesome KitchenAid mixer I combined the butter, sugar, and vanilla until creamy.

Then I just mixed in the dry ingredients until it the dough had come together.

Turn this out onto a piece of plastic wrap, mush it together with your hands to form a disk and store it in the fridge. I only made half the recipe so I made 1 disk instead of 3.

I ended up using this as a base for homemade samoas and some miniature tarts. My mum used them to make Bakewell tarts. A Bakewell tart is  a shortbread crust filled with a layer of jam and a frangipane which is an almond sponge. This is then baked, cooled, and covered with icing and half a cherry for a garnish. They are very cute!

I ended up having a craving for lemon meringue pie and I found a jar of lemon curd from England in our fridge. This craving ended up making me bake a full-sized, completely from scratch version yesterday. It was delicious, but the simplicity of using jarred curd and the individual portion was great.

I buttered the tin and layered in the pastry. I then spooned in the lemon curd, right into the uncooked pastry dough. I baked this in the oven until the pastry was light brown.

I then whipped up 2 egg whites with some white sugar until stiff peaks formed.

I then spooned this into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. I piped little dollops of meringue on top of the tart.

I then put this in the oven until the top was brown and slightly crispy to the touch.

I then stuck the completed tart into the fridge for a few hours to get cold. When it was ready I cut it in half so you can see the layers.

It was definitely delicious, and had me craving the real thing. But that’s another story for another blog post. 🙂

Craving Chipotle…

15 Mar

A few weekends ago I spent most of the day downtown with one of my best friends which was really fun. We ended up going through vintage stores, a store selling tools to make beautiful terrariums, and stopped for lunch at The Grilled Cheese Grill’s new location. I had been dying to go to it ever since I had found out that instead of a school bus, they had converted a double-decker bus into seating. Ever since I first went there I have been craving their amazing tomato soup. I don’t know how to describe it, but I’m dying for the recipe. I had a regular “Kindergartener” (cheddar on white bread) with a cup of soup.

Camille had a vegan “Liam” ( marinated tofu, vegan cheese, artichoke hearts, and red onion on Sourdough).

Next time I go I really want to try one of their sweet grilled cheeses like “the Jennie Lou” (bacon and havarti on grilled maple bread). Anyone want to go on a grilled cheese date? 🙂

The tables are decorated with people’s’ school photos. This was one of my favourites! 🙂

We ended up passing The Waffle Window which I had always wanted to try, so I took the opportunity to indulge my sweet tooth by having a giant Belgian waffle topped with fresh bananas, hot fudge, nutella, and whipped cream. Needless to say I was on a sugar high afterwards!

It was divine. In fact, I tried to recreate it with Eggo waffles the next day but It wasn’t the same. I did however make a batch of Belgian waffles and made them into sandwiches with whipped cream, Nutella, and fresh strawberries this past Sunday. They were great, but definitely not as perfect as The Waffle Window’s!

Other than grilled cheese, tomato soup, and crazy waffles I tend to go through cravings. The one thing that I crave whenever somebody mentions it though, is Chipotle. It seems like I can’t go through a day without someone mentioning it at school which is extremely annoying especially when all you have for lunch is a brown bagged lunch. So, yesterday I decided that I wasn’t going to get the real thing any time soon so I decided to recreate it myself.

I bought groceries on Sunday and all I needed was some cilantro, tortilla chips, black beans, and fresh chicken breast. All the ingredients I already had in my pantry and fridge. Now, I’m not a big fan of condiments so I never get guacamole, salsa, or sour cream. This may be why it was so simple for me to put my usual order together.

I had pieces of chicken in the fridge leftover from my homemade chicken noodle soup on Saturday. I wrapped my portion in a piece of foil and chucked it in the oven. Next I got the Cilantro ready.

I love cilantro especially in rice and as a topping on barbecue chicken pizza. Delish! I also chopped up some lettuce and got out a handful of grated mozzarella ready to add to the meal.

I cooked some rice and added in the cilantro just before I was ready to put it in my bowl.

To top it off I added black beans that I reheated on the stove top, lettuce, my hot chicken, and mozzarella.

I even had it with tortilla chips that had specks of lime on them. See? They were nothing compared to homemade, but I wasn’t about to make my own! Overall it was a delicious meal and a great substitute for Chipotle, but it will never compare to the real thing.

In the next few days I’ll do a post about a couple of cooking disasters I’ve produced over the past few days. Hopefully I can get out of my rut, and back to some delicious creations again! 🙂

This aint no Pop-Tart pt. 2 (the filling)

6 Mar

I hate pie. There, I said it. Americans seem to love pie, which means I’m surrounded by pumpkin pie, pecan pie (a.k.a. pe-KAWN pie), cherry pie, apple pie, blueberry pie, banana cream pie and millions of other pies year-round. The only pie I’ll go near is lemon meringue and perhaps a high-quality chocolate cream pie. But that’s it.  I feel like I can’t live in America saying I hate apple pie though, so in order to prevent people from picketing around my house I’ll tell you that while I’ll never eat apple pie, I’ll gladly eat an apple tart. Okay, so it isn’t very American, it’s French. Oh well, it’s pastry and apples, that’s enough of a similarity for me! Maybe I should just get to the recipe…

Start with 2-3 Granny Smith Apples. I used 3 and still have a bowl of apple slices in my fridge…

Peel the skin off the apples making sure to only do one at a time to prevent them from browning too fast. You then need to use an apple corer to remove the seed in a nice, clean manner. Too bad I don’t have one. I used a paring knife to make 6 incisions around the core (making a hexagon) making sure the blade went all the way in. I then flipped over the apple and did the same on the other side to be safe. Then, push the core from one side…

until it’s completely out!

I then cut this in half so that I had two half-moons. I then laid one half moon flat on the cutting board with the core running perpendicular to me. I cut off a chunk of the right side and the left side so that all my slices would be the same size. Put the leftover apple to one side and any slices that come out too thin, too thick, of break in half. This will me used later. I also used a fresh lemon to squeeze lemon juice over the cut apples and slices to prevent browning.

You want the slices to be as thin as you can get them. You won’t be cooking them beforehand, so you’ll want them to be thin enough to get soft in the oven. 

Take an oven-proof bowl and dump in the apple chunks and reject slices with 1 Tablespoon of butter, a spoonful of sugar, and a dash of cinnamon if you would like.

You’ll then bake these in the oven until browned, about 10-15 minutes. Then, you’ll mash them up with a fork until there’s only small-medium chunks left.

Spread this on the bottom of your tart crust.

Then comes the fun part: arranging the apple slices! Starting on the outside, layer the apples in rings until the whole thing is covered.

Then, sprinkle on a spoonful of sugar, and brush on some melted butter. Start the design again to create a second layer.

Then, sprinkle with a couple more spoonfuls of sugar and a little more butter to help the apples caramelize without them burning. I also made sure to butter the edge of the pastry to prevent burning. Place this in the 400 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the apples are browned. You’ll want to make sure to check on it otherwise your hard work will be all for nothing! 😦

Yeah, no big deal…

You need to let it cool for 15-20 minutes before cutting a slice. I think I lasted 10. Then a piece magically disappeared from the tart…

I topped my still-warm piece with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. It was divine!
After my dessert I went off for dinner with friends and then we went to go see Hairspray which was amazing. When I came home there was only half of the tart left. hmmmmm….