Category Archives: Food

Tasty Goodness Part 3: Homemade Irish Cream

Presenting the follow-up to Tasty Goodness – Part 1 and Part 2!  So, did anybody try out anything from the first installments of Tasty Goodness? How did it go?  If you made any particularly yummy changes, I let me know about that too.  I’m always looking for new stuff!

photo (16)This week I thought I’d talk about a recipe that I got from a customer at my previous job.  Homemade Irish Cream.  Now, this is an adult beverage, but it tastes like a milkshake…only for adults.  In a previous life (known as 3 years ago) I was a banker at a large financial institution, and just as holiday season was kicking off, a customer sat down at my desk.  We started chatting as I took care of the business he was in to discuss, and he started telling me about his contributions to any family gathering….yep, Irish Cream.  This is something I’m a fan of, Irish Cream. He said that I would never purchase another bottle of either after trying his, and that he made it so much that he had the recipe memorized.  Of course, I asked him to prove it, and I slid one of those pink message notes across the desk with a pen.  Fortunately, my boss, who was nearby, found my glee to be amusing.  A week or so later, I agreed with my client.  I was never buying another bottle of Irish Cream again.  This stuff is heavenly!

Irish Cream

  • 1 1/2 Cups of Bushmills Irish Whiskey
  • 1 Pint Heavy Cream
  • 1 can Eagle Brand Condensed Milk
  • 2/3 Cup chocolate sauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 eggs

In a blender, blend 1 egg with the whiskey for two minutes , repeat the process with each additional egg.  It is very important that you blend each egg with the whiskey for the full two minutes.  This is what cooks the eggs.  Add cream, condensed milk, chocolate sauce, vanilla and almond extract, blend until well mixed.  Store refrigerated in a glass container.  It is drinkable now, but after storing for a week it is much more smooth and mellow.  Makes about a half-gallon.  

Things I learned about this recipe….

  1. If you serve it in a chilled glass, it gets thick…really thick, like a milkshake.
  2. I made a gallon of this and ran out of chocolate sauce as I started the second batch.  You can use 2/3 Cup of chocolate sauce for a gallon and it doesn’t hurt the taste…at all.
  3. This makes a really nice gift for friends.  Just make sure that you use glass bottles when you give it away.  Not only are they prettier, but…you have to store it in glass bottles!  You can also discover brewing supply stores in your area…glass bottles were harder to find than I thought.
  4. Don’t drink all the results if you tell your friends you’re making this.  They will know (and mention it) if they don’t get any.
  5. Make sure you taste test a few glasses before giving it away….okay, that isn’t necessary.  It sure is a lot of fun though!

I would tell you how long you can store it, but it never lasts more than a couple of weeks.  Really, it is that good.

‘Til next time,

Jessica

 

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Tasty Goodness Part 2: Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

English: Four aluminum measuring spoons on a r...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I mentioned in Tasty Goodness – Part 1, I Geek Out over cooking, baking, and good food in general.  I know lots of people are starting their new year off with a renewed passion for eating healthy, and I am as well.  However, I also firmly believe in balancing all the healthy with a little bit of “who-cares-about-the-calories/salt/sugar/fat-it-tastes-amazing!”.  So, with that philosophy in mind, I present a recipe today for lovely baked goods that have become go-to items for bake sales and fundraisers…and birthdays…and driving exams…and…I found this from Chef-In-Training on Pinterest.  Seriously, I don’t know whether I love Pinterest for all the wonderful things on there or curse it because I spend so much time looking at the wonderful things…You can find more deliciousness on my board The Sweetest Thing.  If you’re new to Pinterest…I’m sorry.  I’m so, so sorry.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

The cupcake craze seems to have taken over.  No matter which city I go to, I find bakeries specializing in cupcakes only, television shows with cupcake cook offs…the list goes on and on.  Why not?  They’re perfect hand-held pieces of yummy!  Cupcakes allow you to indulge in a sweet treat while controlling the portion…well, most of the time.  (Some days you just need a second one…)  This recipe was made both for a United Way bake sale at work, and as either a “Congratulations! You got your learners permit” or “Let me console you, you failed your learners permit test.” (My niece and I studied hard for her test for her driving permit.  She passed with flying colors (the second time) but I was prepared for contingencies with signs for both eventualities.  She was not overly amused.)  This recipe comes from Chef-In-Training.  She has a lot of great recipes on her blog.  It is definitely worth checking out!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup unsweetened cocoa (sifted)
  • 1 Cup hot water
  • 1 Cup Buttermilk
  • 2 Cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Cup heavy cream

Salted Caramel Buttercream Ingredients

  • 1/4 Cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 Cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 Cup butter (softened)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 package Dream Whip (dry)
  • 3 Cups powdered sugar (more if needed to reach desired consistency)

Instructions

Chocolate Cupcakes

  1. Add the sifted cocoa powder to a medium-sized bowl and pour in the cup of hot water.  Whisk until completely dissolved.
  2. Add the buttermilk to cool down the mixture, then add the sugar and whisk until all is combined.
  3. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla and mix again.
  4. In a small bowl, stir flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk this into the wet mixture until you no longer see any lumps.
  5. Stir in heavy cream until evenly mixed.
  6. Pour into cupcake tins and bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes or until done.  Let cool and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

  1. In a saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and water.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Cook without stirring until the mixture turns a deep amber color, about 10 minutes. (Watch this closely!  The caramel will burn if you take your eye off of it.  This happened to me…twice!)  Remove from head and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring constantly until very smooth. (Make sure you continue stirring as you add in the cream and vanilla, otherwise you end up with a big glob of brown stuff.)  Let the caramel continue to cool for about 20 minutes, until it is just barely warm and still pourable.  Alternatively, you could use just under 1/2 cup of your favorite caramel sauce.
  2. Beat butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and add dry Dream Whip until combined. Whip until combined. (Why low speed?  Do you want to look like a ghost?  Then leave it on high.  You will have a fine dusting of Dream Whip all over you and your kitchen!  Learn from my mistakes, folks.)
  3. Beat in powdered sugar.  Mix until thoroughly combined. (Watch the consistency here.  The first batch of frosting was pretty tight and hard to manipulate, but the second I added just a hair less, and it was perfect.  Sifting the sugar into the mixing bowl helped greatly.)
  4. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the caramel.
  5. Beat on medium high until light and airy, and completely mixed (about 2 minutes).

The frosting should be ready to use without refrigeration.  If your caramel was too hot when it was added, your icing will be runny.  No worries though, just refrigerate for 15-20 minutes and mix well.  Now you can frost your cupcakes.  Try not to “test” too much of the frosting as you decorate….I dare you.  Enjoy!

What’s your favorite recipe?

‘Til next time,

Jessica

P.S. I’m taking an html writing class.  I can create headers now!  Pretty huh?  What do you think?

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Tasty Goodness Part 1: Three Recipes, One Filling

So, I kind of Geek Out over cooking too.  Maybe not kind of…I love cooking and baking.  There’s something about feeding people who is incredibly beautiful and satisfying.  I try to feed my friends and family on a regular basis, and no time more than during the holidays.  This year I’ve gotten several requests for recipes, so I thought I’d share them here in a series of posts.  (Don’t worry, if you’re not into cooking, the regular geeky stuff will be coming back very soon!)

My love of cooking started early.  I am surrounded by great cooks.  My mother is a fantastic cook, and my Dad used to enter barbecue competitions with his friends and makes the best breakfast I’ve ever had!  Don’t even get me started on Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles.  For me, cooking is kind of therapeutic.  As a sales person, some days my work is filled with a lot of activity and hard work, but nothing comes of it.  It can get a bit frustrating.  There is always something (hopefully delicious) to show for your work in the kitchen.

In my kitchen, cooking is kind of fast and loose, and I don’t really follow recipes (there is a lot of “until it looks right” in my family’s cooking).  I’m going to do my best for you though.  In fact there’s a story that gets regularly circulated about my Aunt or Mom or Grandma Joye (see how closely I listen sometimes?) following my Great-Grandma Kanelakos around with measuring cups and spoons to make her dump the handfuls, pinches, and all into the measuring cups/spoons so they could get a reasonably accurate measurement.  Future generations needed to know how to make her delicious food. (“half an eggshell” of something isn’t…exact). My family didn’t raise any bad cooks, so I’ve had plenty of opportunity to observe some experts.  I’ve definitely enjoyed the results!

To kick off the cooking series, I’m going to hand you the keys to one of the most versatile dessert recipes I’ve ever found.  This is my secret weapon for pot lucks, parties, and…well, anytime you need a fast easy dessert.  However, I like you. I’ll share my secret this time.  I use this filling to make Cherry Cheesecake Pie, Snicker Salad, and Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries.  I wish I had pictures to share because the results are gorgeous, but…well, we ate them before I remembered pictures. (Sorry…for the not photographing, not for the eating.  Who can be sorry about eating?  It was all so good!)  To give you an idea, in the last two months I’ve made four (4) Cherry Cheesecake Pies, one (1) Snicker Salad, and two (2) pints of Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries (drizzled with chocolate, of course!)…and it was all so very tasty.  Thank goodness for the holiday season, because there were a lot of people around to eat all of this.

Filling

  • 8oz cream cheese
  • 8oz of cool whip
  • ¼ to ½ Cup of granulated sugar (you have to taste test.  Aw, shucks!)
  • Mix softened cream cheese with the sugar until creamy.  Fold in the Cool Whip.

Cherry Cheesecake Pie

  • 2 graham cracker pie crusts
  • 2 cans of Duncan Hines Wilderness or Country Cherries

The filling recipe makes two regular sized pies. Spread 1/2 of the filling in the pie crust (make sure there is enough room at the top for cherries) and top with the cherries.

This is definitely a family favorite, two get made for Thanksgiving each year, and there are rarely leftovers.  When I asked my Dad what Christmas treat he would like the last two years.  He wanted this Cherry Cheesecake Pie.  However, there are only six of us…we don’t need two pies.  Now, I make one and give one away.  They look like they’ve taken a really long time.  The bright ruby cherries on top of the creamy filling looks elegant, and if you use a store-bought pie crust, it comes with its own lid.  Just flip the plastic cover of the pie crust upside down.  Voila!  Instant portability, and no need to have pie pans returned.  This pie has made an excellent surprise gift for friends, and it is so pretty that even if it gets tipped sideways in the bag that you’re carting the food around in, it can be…fixed to still be decent looking. (That happens to everyone, right?)

Snicker Salad

 

Snickers

Snickers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

  • Filling (see recipe above)
  • 8-12 Snickers bars diced (You can substitute just about any candy bar for Snickers.  We had to think of ideas for a peanut allergic co-worker.  Well, peanut butter filled might not be good, but a Milky Way or even Heath bar could be really good.)
  • 3-4 green apples diced

Fold the Snickers and apples into the filling.  

I have no idea where my mom found the idea for this lovely “salad”, but I think my cousin’s wife would disown me if I didn’t bring it to Thanksgiving dinner!  You can also make the recipe and take half the filling and turn it into a pie and the other half becomes Snicker Salad.  Just add Snickers and apples until it looks “right”.

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

  • Filling (see recipe above)
  • Fresh strawberries
  • Milk Chocolate Chips (optional)
  • Graham Crackers (optional)

 

Semi-sweet chocolate chips

Semi-sweet chocolate chips (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Core the strawberries (I use a paring knife to make sure there is plenty of room for filling). Use a frosting bag with a large tip or a frosting gun to fill the strawberries.  I received this Easy Accent Decorator from Pampered Chef last year as a gift, and it works amazing for this.  

If you like chocolate, and who doesn’t, you can melt the milk chocolate chips with a little butter in the microwave to drizzle over the berries.  After the strawberries have been filled, put the berries on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper.  In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the chocolate chips 30 seconds, remove from the microwave and stir well.  Continue microwaving in 30 second intervals, stirring between, until all the chips are melted.  Drizzle the chocolate over the strawberries, and place them in the refrigerator to set the chocolate.

If you’re not a big chocolate fan (Personally, I don’t get it, but I’ve heard there are a few out there) You can crush some graham crackers and dip the filled end of the strawberry in the crushed graham crackers for that crust-like feeling.

I’d seen the Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries on Pinterest, and thought that was an amazing idea.  However, I didn’t make them myself until a friend hosted a Pampered Chef party.  They had used ready-made cheesecake in their berries, and I kept thinking that this filling would be so great for this!  (It is.)  They made theirs dipped in graham cracker crumbs and I thought, man a chocolate covered strawberry filled with this would be awesome.  (They are.)I made the chocolate drizzled version for a co-worker’s going away party and they were a huge hit.  I only had to taste test six of them before I deemed them ready for my colleagues. (What a tough job!)

‘Til next time,

Jessica

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New Year’s Resolutions 2014

happy_new_year_266942Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?  I do.  For me it is less about the “New Year” and more about getting goals down on paper (or on your blog, as the case may be).  It is easy to remember New Year’s Day as a time to do this, but I make sure that I check in with those goals a couple of times over the course of the year as well.  Maybe I’ve got some of those that I can cross off the list.  Maybe some of them need adjusting, and, quite rarely, maybe everything is right on track.  Goals don’t do you any good if you just write them down and forget about them, right?

New Year’s Resolutions 2014

  1. Commit Random Acts of Kindness (at LEAST one per month)
    1. DVIS Volunteer
    2. Packages for homeless
    3. Food for…whoever
    4. Smile & wave at strangers (if nothing else, it will freak them out a little, but most likely it will just make their day better.)
  2. Make time to write more.  Set up a daily writing schedule and STICK TO IT (also make sure to eat and sleep, that didn’t happen with the last writing schedule).  I love it so DO it!
  3. Make time for my family.  They’re awesome and I love them, spend more time with them, for crying out loud!  Work in some one on one time with each of them every once in a while.  They are fun and entertaining, but they are more fun and entertaining one on one!
  4. Make time for my friends…see above.  Regularly schedule something together or separately once a month.
  5. Create a realistic, manageable, budget and find a way to keep it. (It doesn’t count if I write it down but never track it.)
  6. Take time for myself.  Nothing else works well, if I feel overwhelmed or too stressed.  Take at least an evening (or two) every week to de-stress and relax.
  7. Eat more meals at home.  (I am a great cook…do it!)
  8. Set up meal exchange with a friend (less cooking, more variety, and I might try a new thing or two)
  9. Eat more vegetables (I love veggies, I could practically be a vegetarian, well, three days a week, maybe.  Why don’t I eat more of them?)
  10. Utilize all the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of recipes I have
  11. Make more food myself and get rid of all the extra sodium and processed food.  I hate the way the processed food tastes…don’t eat so much of it.  I love baking bread, bake your own bread.  If I have extra, freeze it or give it away.  I’m doing a random act of kindness every month, give away food!  There are great freezer tips for freezing your own soup and etc.  USE THEM
  12. Exercise – Run with my friends, train to run a 5K in October.
  13. Drink more water…just because I can drink soda again doesn’t mean you SHOULD!
  14. Be healthier – mentally, physically, spiritually… ( This is perpetual, but still necessary.)
  15. Run the Tulsa Run 5K in October.
  16. Train my dog.  We’re not talking therapy dog training time here, just more training.  It is fun and you love it…do it!
  17. Read every day.  It relaxes me, I love it, it makes you smarter, and improves your writing…why don’t I do more of that and less Television?
  18. Treat myself to a massage every now and again…seriously, I need it.
  19. Actually go to all my doctor and dentist appointments.
  20. Say “No” once in a while.  No one is going to hate me forever if I tell them I can’t do something.  If they are going to hate me forever for saying “no” do I really want to hang around with them?
  21. Go someplace new…or that I haven’t been to in a really long time (I’m thinking London here.)  Seattle, New York, Austin, North Carolina, Paris, Morocco (Wow, that last one just kind of typed itself.  I didn’t actually know I wanted to go there, but yeah, let’s go to Morocco!)… There is a lot of this country I haven’t seen.  Not every trip has to be out of the U.S.  I know lots of people in lots of places, maybe I should visit them.
  22. Seriously look into growing my own vegetable and herb garden. (Not like last year where all I did to “look” was pin stuff on Pinterest.)  Look into structure, pricing materials, really plan this thing.
  23. Plant my own herbs. (Even if I don’t do a whole garden, set up something on the back porch with my favorite fresh herbs…it will save me a ton of money!)

What are some of your New Year’s Resolutions?  What do you think?  Any tips to accomplish any of these goals?

Have a safe and Happy New Year!

‘Til next time,

Jessica