Archive for August, 2011



I Got It Right: Steph’s Artichoke Dip

The following is not a sweet dessert recipe.

Are you still reading?

Oh, ok good.

And yes, that is mayonnaise.

Are you still reading?

Ok, good. I make no defense, except that I used less than the recipe called for, and that it is olive oil mayo, which has half the fat of regular mayo. I cringe a little when I think about mayonnaise. I actually had a problem with “dips” in general for a long time. Something about the texture. A little too slimy? Could have anchovies swimming in that Velveeta ocean you have there?

Anyway, I guess I eventually built myself up to eating them. I have no hopes for ranch dressing, but artichoke dip I can do.

Three reasons you should make this dip: 1)This is the easiest recipe on the earth. 2) It is total comfort food. 3) It is a quick appy to throw together if you have unexpected guests who brought tortilla chips expecting you to welcome them with open arms even though you have places to go and people to see.

That was my hypothetical life. In real life, I had a paper to write and toenails to paint and no friends banging down the door.. So I made myself some artichoke dip. My roommates blessed me and garlic.

Whatever the occasion, this dip is a winner. Gold medal artichoke dip.

Enjoy this and be a winner too.

Lauren

Steph’s Artichoke Dip

1 cup grated or shredded parmesan

1 cup mayonnaise (olive oil mayo is “healthier”)

1 can artichoke hearts (15 oz?)

a couple cloves of garlic, or in my case, many

5 jalapeno peppers, to taste

Drain the artichoke hearts and chop up into small-ish bits. Dice the garlic and peppers finely.

In a bowl, combine the parm and mayo. Add the chopped veggies and combine well.

Throw it all in a baking dish (an 8×8 pan works, but this dip isn’t fussy), and bake at 350° F for 30 minutes or until hot, bubbly, and a little golden on top.

Serve with sliced bread, tortilla chips or whatever other savory carb you have on hand.

Pipe Dream #55: To Be Brave Like Amber

I was privileged to be a part of my dear friend’s wedding in July. We’ve been friends since we were real small, perhaps even in the womb. Womb-friends we are.

I made vanilla cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream. I was tempted to fill them with raspberry curd, but between doing the rest of the cake and being a bridesmaid, I found that my time was short. It’s ok though; the cake was filled with raspberry curd, and the cake is the important part. Seriously, one of the best vanilla cakes I have ever made.

She married the boy from across the street, so I guess it was only appropriate that the girl down the street should do the cake. It was a regular neighborhood wedding.

Seen here is the bride and her fabulous cousin having the time of their lives, obviously.

I also have to say, Amber is one of the bravest people I know. She is in the Army, which is enough by itself, and now she gets to move to Germany. That’s a foreign country! Where the people don’t speak English! I would be scared a little. Maybe just for a little while. She is not scared, and it is admirable.

All in all, a very fun day filled with lots of memories. Best of luck and Auf Wiedersehen, my dearest Amber.

L

P.S. I apologize for the poor photo quality. I could make excuses, but who wants to spend their time listening to my excuses?

Pipe Dream #54: To Whip Up A Storm – Chocolate Chip Meringues

These meringues are a marvel. With just a few minutes and fewer ingredients you can find yourself with fewest calories and mostest wonderfulness. Please excuse me. There is no downside to these cookies. I’ve searched long and hard. Everyone loves them, minus the occasional picky eater. Just don’t tell him the cookies are made of egg whites. He’ll never know.

Please don’t be discouraged at the word meringue. They are really quite friendly and will be very nice to you if you follow these tips:

1) Make sure your beater and bowl are very clean and do not have any water droplets hanging around.

2) Don’t get any yolk into your egg whites. Even a little bit will prevent proper whippage.

At the first stage of whipping, your whites should look like the above, foamy-like. Please add your cream of tartar and salt now.

At the second phase, they should have soft peaks. This means that if you lift up the beater, the foam should make a soft, unformed lump. Sort of.

At this point, you should start pouring in the sugar. A word on sugar, when the recipe says ‘gradually’ please don’t act like it is your mother telling you that the outfit you chose for your 8th grade graduation is cool. It means it. I once made this and thought I could skimp and pour it in not so gradually. So ruckus. (I just made up new slang.)

At the third phase, your whites should hold stiff peaks. See how lacquered it looks? And if you lift up the beater, it will hold a peak, kind of like those you see coming off of the whisk. Don’t worry if it takes a little bit. Just whip whip whip!

Then you fold in the goodies real gentle so you don’t waste all your hard work and electricity.

You can use a cookie scoop to dole them out evenly or not. Another thing, you can put meringues pretty close to each other on the baking sheet; they won’t spread, so you can cram ’em.

When they look lightly toasted, they are ready for cooling and consumption, not necessarily in that order.

I’ve never tested how long these keep because they don’t usually last more than a day whatever my location.

What can ya do,

Lauren

Chocolate Chip Meringues

Adapted exactly from Smitten Kitchen, with note about baking times and temps included

2 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup regular or superfine sugar (I use a bit less — 1/2 cup — they’re plenty sweet)
6 ounces chocolate chips, miniature chips or finely diced semi or bittersweet chocolate
1/4 chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted first is even tastier

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add salt, cream of tartar and vanilla, and beat mixture again until it holds soft peaks. Add the sugar, gradually, beating the batter until it is stiff. Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips. Spoon batter onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake for 25 minutes. Undersides of cookies should be golden or lightly tanned.

Note: There are two approaches to baking meringues. This shorter cooking time at a higher temperature yields a cookie with a crackly, crumbly exterior and an almost hollow center. A more traditional approach is a longer baking time, 200 degrees for 1.5 to 2 hours. Take the longer-baked version out when they are slightly golden and firm to the touch. They will be more soft and fluffy, like miniature pavlovas.

Favorite Shots: Cilantro Chunkie

My dad is somewhat facebook-ly famous for his raw/foreign/unique food pictures that he posts. He especially loves “green drinks,” brightly colored chunkies filled with fruits and vegetables. I’m calling them chunkies, not smoothies, because heaven knows they are not smooth. Anyway, I want to be just as cool as my dad, so I decided to post a shot of what he forced me to drink a couple weeks ago.

I saw him blending something, but I didn’t pay much attention until he said, “Hey Lo, want some of my smoothie?”

After figuring out that the smoothie was approximately 40 percent watermelon, 10 percent peach and 50 percent cilantro, I said, “Um, no.” I could tell he was hurt by my flat refusal, so I eventually told him I’d give it a try. He poured me but a pauper’s portion from his tankard, but to me, it seemed a little much. After one sip I was done.

I have issues with cilantro because one time when I was little, I woke up from a nap to this sick boiling cilantro smell. My dad had picked it all from the garden and was making some rando cilantro soup. And I’ve been scarred since.

Aren’t you glad you know these stories from my life? Why do you even read this? :]

16 days cilantro-free,

L

Pipe Dream #53: To Take Real Pictures Of The Best Thing EVER – Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

It is really so sad that I don’t have proper pictures of this cake for you. I’m serious, it is probably the best cake I have ever made. Ever. Although similar to the Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake, I think this cake is better. And pretty easy, compared to some layer cakes.

The cream cheese peanut butter frosting alone is good enough to make and eat. All at once. Up on my roof. For the world to see.

Display my penchant for frosting so openly and honestly? So unashamed? It’s like standing in the Mall at the U and yelling about how Jesus loves me and you too. I would do it if I thought it would make you believe it.

And if swallowing my pride and eating this frosting on the roof would make you bake, assemble and frost this cake immediately, I would do that too. But for both of these issues, you only have my word and these shoddy pictures, as of now.

Please go make this cake. I’m not being bossy. Just earnest.

Earnestly desiring the fulfillment of your deepest desires,

Lauren

Best Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen‘s version from Sky-High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes, her notes follow below, and her pictures are better than mine, as per usual :]

For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

For the peanut butter frosting:
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

For the chocolate peanut butter glaze:
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Pipe Dream #52: To Not Be A Spaz In Front Of Famous People

 

Remember thou mine glorious shots of Rachel P? Well. There was so much more going on that night. I mean, it can’t be denied that Rachel was an integral part of the evening, but presumptuous carnies, mini donuts and old-school rides caught my attention as well. Plus Anthony, my dear friend. For years he worked at DQ and would bring me free sundaes. Come on people, that only happens in the movies. And my life.

Also, my beautiful friends!

Random, but do you want to hear another story that only happens in the movies and my life?

K good. So when I was a sophomore in college, Phoenix was coming to play First Avenue in Minneapolis. This was the tour for their album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which is huge and awesome and jamming. Tickets sold out within the first few weeks on the market, so I was left to pathetically imagine the impressively catchy riffs and ethereal synth pop penetrating the inky blackness of the premier venue of the Cities.

Such was the effect of my pining that when a friend told me that Phoenix had agreed to play a small acoustic show at The Electric Fetus, I snatched up tickets without delay. Better than nothing, right? We went and it was fine. I think they were jet-lagged or something because they were all wearing scarves and dark circles, but it was fun because it was such a small show. Probably only fifty people. Anyway, so afterward, we all got to walk through a line and meet the band. Super nerve-wracking because they’re, like, famous, but I managed to keep my cool all the way through their smooth lines sung in darling French accents.

Until. Laurent. The last member of the band to greet me, we joked for five seconds about our names before…”So, are you coming to the show tonight?” I replied (read: stuttered) with regret that I had been unable to snag tickets.

And then Laurent pulled a little beat-up paper out of his pocket, grabbed a Sharpie and said, “Oh, that’s ok. I’ll just put you on The List…Yeah sure…Oh and here’s a plus one for your friend…Make sure you sing loud. I want you right up front.”

After they pulled me out of my faint (kidding), I mumbled a bit of thanks and smiled a dazzling smile and then ran outside to celebrate what is clearly the favor of God in my life. We went to the show. I walked up to the 300-pound, tattooed bouncer with a smoking beard (if I remember right), and said, “I’m on The List.” He gave The List a glance, made a slight nod, and I was in.

Basically the coolest I’ve ever been in my life. And the show was awesome. And this story is totally unrelated to this post. Just thought you should know.

Anthony posed obligingly for me after several eye rolls. What a man.

He also took a few shots for me in the process. For real, he does not shave his legs.

I was captivated by the lights. Everything seemed so sparkly and surreal. Like we were in this sparkly bubbly place and everyone else just didn’t really exist. I know. Another one of my better descriptions.

Fun. Merry-go-rounds are so nostalgic.

I love the brown tones in this shot.

Hello, sir. Wanna be on my blog? Ok stand still. Thanks. Ok, we’ll throw a few balls. Nope, no thank you. Bye.

Spontaneously enjoying planned civil events,

Lauren

Pipe Dream #12: To Blog Fruits In Season, Revisited – Blueberry Scones

I have favorite scones. Maybe they are your favorites now too. But I thought I’d go out on a limb a little with scones. Dip my toes in the world beyond lemons.

And into blueberries. Which are in season RIGHT NOW. Finally, something you can make with what is fresh now.

These were ok. I won’t say they were better than the lemon scones. But they sure hit the spot for breakfast. Next time, I might skip the glaze in favor of some clotted cream or some richer, less sweet topping.

Thank you. I am accomplishing my life goals. The bucket list of blogging. :]

L

Blueberry Scones

Adapted from Martha Stewart

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling tops
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, picked over and rinsed
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing tops
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack in center. Place a baking mat on a baking sheet, and set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in butter until the largest pieces are the size of peas. Stir in blueberries and zest.
Using a fork, whisk together cream and egg in a liquid measuring cup. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients, and pour in cream mixture. Stir lightly with fork just until dough comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few times to mix well.
Pat dough into a 6-inch square about 1 1/4 inches thick. Using a floured knife, cut into four 3-inch squares. Cut squares in half on the diagonal to form eight triangles. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with cream, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer scones to wire racks to cool. If you want, mix up a glaze of powdered sugar and water or lemon juice and drizzle over the tops.


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