Friday, February 24, 2012

Churros: Semi-success

Once upon a time we lived in the wonderful land of Stillwater.  I love Stillwater.  It's where I met Chris, where we had our first apartment (and unfortunately, our second apartment), where Rachel was born, where we went to countless football games, one awesome season of basketball, and I think I went to class somewhere in there, too.  Anyway!  We also went to El Tapatio with one of the best friends of all time, Jerome.  This little tiny Mexican place had good food for cheap (hello poor college students!!) and they also had amazing churros for dessert.  So once again, Chris just says "Why don't we make them?"

I was not very excited about this because I thought it would be pretty difficult.  Turns out, it's really not hard at all! Except for stuffing them with the creme filling.  I had a very hard time with that.  Next time we are going to try a different filling method, and I'll let you all know how that turns out.  For now, here's how it went:

My recipe came from here:
I also used the creme filling recipe listed on that page.  There are LOTS of recipes out there, but this one is great for beginners because it breaks everything down into manageable little steps!

Dough piped onto parchment paper

Frying the churros a few at a time

Roll in cinnamon and sugar

Add caption
One churro that I actually got filled without splitting it open

These are very yummy warm and pretty terrible as left-overs, so don't feel bad for eating them in one sitting! And it definitely helps to have an extra pair of hands for the process!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Eating "Out"

This weekend I didn't spend much time in the kitchen at all.  Chris and I joined a dinner group at our church last year, and a new group rotation just started back up after the holiday break.  The idea for the dinner group is that 4 couples will be put in a group together for 4 months-each couple takes a turn hosting.  After 4 months, the couple are all reshuffled and new groups are assigned.  Chris and I joined because we didn't know anyone at our church when we moved last year and thought it would be a good way to meet a lot of people.  We really enjoyed our group the first time around last year, and then I was out of town when groups were reassigned and missed out.  We've been slow to get back in the loop, but we are now and I was so excited!  We had a really nice time on Friday meeting other church members and enjoying a nice dinner.  Rachel had her first real, non-family member babysitter, but it was someone I knew really well so I wasn't too nervous to leave her.  Thankfully they both had fun and I was able to enjoy the dinner.  It was so nice to have adult conversation!  I LOVE Rachel, but it is nice to talk to someone who can talk back once in a while!  I think that may be one of the hardest things for me as a stay-at-home mom in a town without my immediate family- you just don't get much adult time.  Anyway, we had a lovely time and are looking forward to our turn to host.

Saturday night we went to Chris' cousin's house for dinner.  They have two little ones, and their youngest girl is just a few months older than Rachel so they enjoyed playing together.  They also have an inside puppy; Rachel wasn't too sure what to think about that!  April made excellent Chicken Parmesan, which is one of my favorite things!  And again, we got to visit and have an evening out of the house.

Chris' sister and niece stayed with us Saturday night and we ordered pizza after church this afternoon.  We've been so busy it seems sort of quiet in our house tonight (even though Rachel is still running all around)!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chocolate Cake- Part II

I am not quite sure what happened to the rest of the chocolate cake recipe- is there a limit to how long a post can be???  I hadn't even noticed until this morning, but the end of it seems to be missing! So, I'll just pick up where I (apparently) left off:

Meanwhile, prepare ganache filling.  Place one cake layer on serving plate.  Spread with 1/3 of filling.  Repeat layers two more times.  Top with remaining cake layer.  Prepare frosting and spread over cake.  Enjoy!

Ganache Filling:  Heat 3/4 cup heavy cream, 1 Tbs butter and 1 Tbs sugar to a boil; stir until sugar is dissolved.  Place 1 1/2  cups semisweet chocolate chips in medium bowl; pour cream mixture over chocolate and let stand 5 minutes.  Stir until smooth; let stand 15 minutes or until filling reaches desired consistency.

Easy Chocolate Frosting:  Beat 1/2 cup softened butter in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until creamy.  Add 4 cups powdered sugar and 3/4 cup cocoa alternately with 1/2 cup milk; beat until smooth.  Stir in 1 1 /2 teaspoons vanilla.

Sorry about the previous post being cut short!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Happy Birthday!

This past week I got to enjoy some family time with my two sisters and their kiddos.  It was a chaotic, wonderful time!  We got to do lots of fun things together, and even managed to fit in a birthday "party" for Nana and Papa!  Here's some photos of our week:

Rachel and Makenzie-15 months

Rachel and Colton (4 yrs)

Zoo day!

It is SO difficult to take a good picture of Rachel, not to mention 4 kids under 4.

Most of them turned out like this...

Or this...
This little monkey can climb up to the computer and click away with the mouse all by herself!

Happy Birthday Mom and Dad! (yes, I know the frosting appears to be leaning off the cake; the 2 1/2 hr drive didn't do it any favors)

My apologies to're gonna have to speak up bud so you can be in some more photos!!

Also, since I usually blog about food, I thought I would conclude with the chocolate cake recipe.  Cakes are actually one of the things I usually prefer to just get a box and whip it up.  Who doesn't love a good French Vanilla cake that can go from pantry shelf to cake plate in a mere 35 minutes?  That being said, I do not love chocolate cake mixes.  No matter what I do they tend to be dry.  My cousin Lydia bought me a Bake Sale cookbook a few years ago and it has a wonderful chocolate cake recipe.  Mom has actually requested this cake a couple of times; if you know my mother, you know that's quite a shout out for this little cake because Mom eats like a bird.  So if you're in the mood for a good chocolate cake, this one definitely fits the bill!

Triple Chocolate Cake:
3/4 c butter, softened
1 1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c buttermilk
3/4 c sour cream
Chocolate Ganache Filling
Easy Chocolate Frosting

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour two 9 in. round cake pans.  Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla until blended.  Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk and sour cream.  Beat well after each addition.  Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.

Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pans 10 minutes.  Remove from pans to wire racks; cool completely.  Cut each cake layer in half horizontally. ***Note:  There is definitely more than way to split a cake in half, and there is definitely a best way-buy a wire cake leveler and save yourself some grief.**

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Little Break

I am going home tomorrow to spend some wonderful time with my 2 sisters, 2 nephews, and my little niece. Mom and Dad will have all 4 grandchildren with them at the same time, which is something that doesn't happen very often!  Right now, this sounds lovely...I can actually see the kiddos frolicking through open meadows and singing silly songs.  Actually, one of them is going to be crying, one is going to be needing a clean diaper, one is going to be hungry, and one is going to be just plain cranky (more than likely...) But I still can't wait!  I love my family!  I'm also looking forward to letting Charlie's Chicken cook for me for a while!

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Mmmmm....lasagna!  Italian has always been my favorite; I love pasta!  And lasagna just always seems to hit the spot!  I've made a few different recipes in the past, but my most recent cooking adventures came from the pasta cookbook Chris got for me last Valentine's Day.  I have tweaked this recipe just slightly because the first time I made it (and followed the recipe exactly), it turned out a little "watery."  There seemed to be water pooling up around the sides and on the top.  Everything tasted good, but the excess water messed with the texture lasagna is supposed to have.  So here is the recipe with my slight modifications:

lasagna noodles (you will not need an entire 1 lb box)
28 oz whole tomatoes in puree
6 ox tomato paste
extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 Tbs chopped fresh basil (or 1 Tbs if dried)
1 tsp minced fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp if dried)
1 1/2 lb Italian sausages, casings removed ***Note: It is much easier to remove those little slimy, clingy casings if the meat has been frozen and thawed***
2 c whole milk ricotta cheese
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 lb freshly shredded mozzarella cheese ***Note: I strongly encourage grating the cheese yourself, preferably the same day you plan to make the lasagna.  Of course you can use bags of grated cheese, but the flavor is definitely not the same.  You don't have to buy fancy, expensive cheese; if you grate it yourself you'll get plenty of yummy flavor with the plain old store brand.***
1/2 c freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese ***Note: Again, this is so much better if you don't use canned Parmesan.  In fact, it really doesn't taste the same at all.  So if you can swing it, buy a wedge of Parmigiano and grate it yourself; you'll be glad you did!  My grocery store carries imported cheeses, and you can buy a wedge of Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for a whopping $27.  Um, that is not in the budget.  So I buy a Wisconsin Parmigiano cheese, which costs $5 for a wedge and beats the pants of the canned stuff any day. This stuff really doesn't go bad as long as you put the unused portion in a Ziploc bag; you'll get lots of use out of it! ***

Parboil you lasagna noodles by bringing a large pot of water to a boil.  Add a bit of salt and cook 7 strips of lasagna at a time for about 6 minutes.  When time is up, remove from the boiling water promptly and put the noodles in a large bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.  Shake off excess water and place on waxed paper.  Repeat once.  (You'll need about 14 strips for a 9x13)

In a blender, combine the tomatoes in the juice and the tomato paste and pulse for about 5 seconds.  In a saucepan over medium heat, warm 4 Tbs olive oil.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until softened.  Add the tomato mixture, basil, oregano, and 3/4 tsp salt.  Simmer gently, uncovered, until thickened, about 30 minutes.

Brown sausage over medium heat.  (I use the same pot I cooked my pasta in to save on clean-up.)  Drain fat and remove to a plate covered in a paper towel to soak up any excess fat.

Preheat oven to 400.  Combine ricotta, nutmeg, and egg, stirring to mix well.  To assemble lasagna, put a little sauce in the bottom of the 9x13.  Arrange a layer of noodles so they touch but don't overlap.  Spread 1/3 of each of the ricotta, sauce, meat, mozzarella, and Parmesan.  (The ricotta is easiest to spread if you put it directly on the noodles.)  Repeat twice.  Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes; remove foil and bake an additional 5-10 minutes.

Last night we served with garlic bread and salad. Yum!

Tomato sauce
Everything ready for assembly
It turned out really well!

 After dinner last night we took Rachel to the mall so she could run around at the "playground" and Chris and I had a chocolate shake for dessert.  It was fun for Rachel and relaxing for Chris and me.  And craziest thing...we were walking through JCPenney and ran into Alex, Chris' youngest brother.  It took me a second to figure out what was going on because that was just the last person I expected to see!  But he was in Norman for a Speech and Debate tournament and the kids wanted to come up to the mall for the evening.  What a happy coincidence for us!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mexican Fiesta!

The only thing to say tonight is....yum! A big THANK YOU to Leslie for providing the Brisket Tacos recipe (I don't know how to link to other blogs, but you guys should definitely check it out!).  They were fantastic!  Also, I made some salsa that was A-MAZING.  I found the link on Pinterest and this stuff is seriously excellent.  The only change I made is I omitted the onion (because I forgot to save a bit from the tacos...oops!) and the jalapeno because I didn't want it quite that spicy.  And believe me, it still had plenty of kick!  It was also super quick to put together!  Dinner tonight was delish!!!