Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chocolate Mug Cake

You ever have one of those days where you have less than no time, but really just want a piece of chocolate? Better, a piece of chocolate cake? This is that chocolate cake. It will never win an award for beauty and its not the best tasting cake you'll ever eat, but it is fast. How fast, you ask? 5 minutes.

3 minute Chocolate Mug Cake
from an email chain

1 coffee mug
4 tbsp flour (plain, not self rising)
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp baking cocoa
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp oil
3 tbsp chocolate chips (optional) mini chips would be the best
small splash of vanilla

Add the dry ingredients to the mug and mix well.
Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla and mix again.

Put the mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug but don't be alarmed! Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired. Eat! This can serve 2 if you want to share.

Tips: Don't add extra time if it looks moist or shiny. It will overcook and be super chewy.
This is great for using the last dribble of frosting out of the can in the fridge, or you can make a simple powdered sugar mix to smear on. Chocolate or carmel sundae sauce works nicely too. :)

This is NOT a pretty cake!! You could probably cut it in half and frost a quick two layer thing out of it, but you were looking for quick, right?? So just don't look at it real hard and enjoy.

Spinning in the microwave... Look at it rise...

It really does cook up over the edge of the mug.

Leaning on the plate.
Yes, its propped up with a toothpick.

The frosting is pink from a birthday cake's leftovers. XD
It looked better on the birthday cake, I promise.

This was definitely the type of weekend where I only had 5 minutes! We moved Brian in to my apartment, and cleaned everything. It looks fantastic, I'm very proud. :) I did resist the siren call of the chocolate mug cake this week though, these are pictures from last time. I'm looking forward to apple pies this week. ;)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I boast some pretty awesome recipes. Some I've made up. Some I've HEAVILY modified. And some I follow to the letter. Some I can easily credit to the original owner, and some it is a complete mystery as to where they came from. I suspect your recipe box/bin/book is similar.

My Farmor (Father's Mother, in Danish) has left many mysteries, since she rarely wrote down recipes and did everything "to taste" or "until it looks right". A lot of pinches and smidges on her cards. (My style is starting to make sense, I suspect.) You'll hear a lot about her on here, she's quite an inspiration.

My snickerdoodle recipe is one such mystery. My recipe card was carefully transcribed from one in my mom's files. However, she swears its my recipe... she doesn't make them.

One thing we do agree on though; these are the best damn snickerdoodles in the world. I don't bother buying them anywhere... they are never as good. I've had friends make snickerdoodles for me that are just ok. I had a friend in high school that claimed hers were better... we actually planned a bake off and blind taste test. I don't remember executing it... I'm betting it never happened. Surely I would remember proving her wrong. (Or right, that might have required therapy.)


from ???

1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teasp cream of tarter
1 teasp baking soda
1/4 teasp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 teasp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400*F. Mix butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and the eggs. Blend in flour, cream of tarter, soda and salt. Shape the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into balls. (Try to make them the size of small walnuts.) Mix the 2 tbsp sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Roll the balls in the sugar-cinnamon mixture and place them about 2 inches apart on un-greased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until set. (Cookies puff up first, then flatten out.) Immediately remove the cookies from the baking sheet.

Yields: 6 dozen cookies

TIPS: Watch the cookies closely. I often remove them before they flatten again... I like mine on the softer side. If you like them crisp, let them set. Remove to a cooling rack or they will dry out and overcook on the bottom.
Enjoy warm or store once cooled in airtight containers. I can't tell you how long they last, because I've never had them around for more than a day or two!!
These are a great gift around the holidays. The cinnamon screams holiday baking, and if you manage to make them as small as the recipe says (I never do) they are the perfect size for parties or large families.

Events and Distractions

Life has been quite busy around here! I had that long gap between posts because of a series of unfortunate immune system events (low grade cold + week of insomnia = real cold and real case of the crabbies). I spent the time torturing myself with thoughts of what I wanted to cook and bake and looking up recipes and photos online and in my bedside stack of cooking magazines. Anyone else do that? Just me?

Now that the cold has passed I have a series of exciting events. Most immediately has been the project of completely cleaning out my room. This is dual purpose; Brian, my boyfriend of almost three years, is moving into my apartment AND my dad is visiting from Germany. We're renting a moving van this weekend, my dad arrives early next week. Am I crazy? Maybe a little. Luckily Brian doesn't have a ton of stuff (do guys usually?) and most of it has been coming by car load over the last two weeks. We drove his dresser over on the top of his compact car this week... I wish I'd taken a picture of that!! So the clothes are getting unpacked into the dresser and closet as they arrive, and stuff for storage is going to the basement on an ongoing basis. Just have to get the rest of my clutter out of the way! I'm really excited to see the final transformation... and to finally be able to say my boyfriend lives with me! About time! :D

Also exciting; my roommate has adopted two kittens from a friend. They are adorable and completely distracting. I have the smaller one curled up next to me while I write this. The kittens adore my room because it doesn't smell like my roommates first cat. The result so far is that they seem to think I'm also "mom". Not that I'm complaining... I love the little things. Total sweethearts!

Meet Empress:
She's not the most photogenic cat I've ever met, but she was very nervous. It was her first day. I'm sure there will be better ones in the future.
Her undercoat is positively ORANGE in direct sunlight. Beautiful. She's about 2 years old, I believe.

Meet Auryn:
She's only about 6 months old, and still very kitten. Big ears, very playful. I've got ten minutes of video of her attacking my freshly washed duvet cover from once it was back on the bed last night.
Of course like all kittens, she's asleep on it five minutes later. XD This was actually day 2, Sunday morning. She came in, spent 15 minutes exploring the room, and the did the sleepy Sunday morning kitten thing for me. <3

Yes, they are both named for the Neverending Story. XD

So! I've got back posts to catch up on. And a bunch of cooking coming up with my dad in town! I suspect he will want to eat in more than out. This is where you come in!! What are your favorite meals to cook for visiting family?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Vegetable Drawer Soup and Chicken Pot Pie

Since I roasted that chicken, I had a ton of leftovers to use up! Its actually one of my favorite things about that recipe. I even buy chickens a little bit big on purpose. :)

Some of my favorite meals use up chicken leftovers... or turkey. These are both great recipes for holiday leftovers too. ;)

The first one was one my mom made when I was little. It always seemed like a perfect meal in one dish to me. Plus, you can use your favorite vegetables or whatever you have on hand.

Chicken Pot Pie
idea from mom, execution modified by me

2 cups (approx) cooked chicken pieces
1 cup carrots, cut into pieces
1 cup brocolli
half a medium onion, chopped into small pieces
1 cup corn (if frozen: thaw in a bowl of warm water. fresh: cut off cob. canned: please don't!)
1/2 cup celery
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 tbsp olive oil (or pam)
2 Pie crust pieces (I like Pillsbury) near room temp

Spray frying pan with pam, or heat tbsp olive oil in frying pan. Cook up the onions until beginning to become clear. Add soup and 1 can of water to the pan, bring to a simmer. Add remaining veggies and chicken. Let it simmer for a few minutes to heat everything while you prep the crust.
If you forgot to leave the pie crust on the counter for a little to bring the temperature up, stick it in the microwave for about 5 seconds. You just want it closer to room temp so its easy to roll out. You can also stick it on top of the oven while it preheats.
Roll the first crust out onto the bottom of your glass pie pan. Press it down into the bottom edges.
Pour the chicken mixture into the crust lined pan.
Roll the second crust out over the mixture. Press the two crusts together so nothing oozes out. Put four or five slits in the crust for steam to get out.
Bake for 25 minutes in a 350*F oven.
Put a pie shield or strips of tin foil over the crust edges and bake for 10 more minutes. Pie is done when crust is golden brown.

Let it stand for 10 minutes, or as long as you can stand! I cut in right away and it was a little messy. Pieces will serve prettier if you can wait. :)
Messy enough I needed a spoon to serve it!

The second one was named by my mom. We've done this one pretty regularly since weight watchers while I was in high school. Difference was they called it "Zero Point soup" and it didn't have chicken (or noodles, I think). Its extremely versatile and adds great variety! Just use whatever you have on hand! No noodles? Use rice! All measurements in this are APPROXIMATE. I don't measure!! I just dump things in until I like the color balance. Add more liquid than you think you need! It cooks down a lot!

Vegetable Drawer Soup
from my mom, originally

2 cups cooked chicken, torn or cut into bite size pieces (OR 2 chicken sausages, cut into slices and then halves)
3-5 cups sliced veggies: carrots, celery, green beans, peas, corn, brussel sprouts, peppers, asparagus, mushrooms... ANYTHING you want!
3 cups chicken broth (bouillon cubes work nicely, just read the label for appropriate water amounts)
2 cups egg noodles (or rice or cous cous)
2-3 bay leaves
a few dashes each of oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, whatever your favorite spice is, that you are feeling at the moment (I don't often do red pepper flakes, for instance.)
extra water, as necessary

Put a LARGE pot on the stove. Add broth (or water with bouillon) and start to warm. Add the thickest crunchiest veggies first; carrots and brussel sprouts especially. Add chicken, spices, and remaining veggies (except any that might get mushy... like I tend to add mushrooms or spinach with the egg noodles or rice for the last 20 minutes). Stir, add water or more broth if it looks off balance. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat and let simmer. Cover or you'll lose even more moisture! Let it simmer for at least 20-30 minutes. Feel free to taste it as it goes, there is nothing raw in it (chicken sausage is pre-cooked). After first 30 minutes, when flavors are mingling to your satisfaction, add egg noodles or rice and any remaining soft veggies. Cover, cook for an additional 15-20 minutes or until noodles or rice are soft.

One of my favorite versions of this ever had italian chicken sausage, leftover cous cous/rice blend, spinach, and brussel sprouts. YUM.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Roast Chicken

Last night week I roasted a chicken. This is one of my favorite fall and winter meals, and the leftovers are spectacular. Like many meals, I tend to do this one when the meat is on sale, but sometimes I'm just craving it. This last week it was on sale and I realized it was finally heat-up-the-whole-house-using-the-oven season.

I first learned to roast chicken from a cookbook Brian's aunt gave me called "How to Cook Everything".
This recipe alone has made the gift a great purchase. I really enjoy the number of variations offered on the staple items like this.

The basics of this chicken, boiled down; Start heat high, baste a ton, turn the heat down once browning to cook the insides.


Roast Chicken
from How to Cook Everything

1 whole (3-4 pound) chicken, trimmed of excess fat, then rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, or sage leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
chopped fresh herbs for garnish

1) Preheat oven to 500*F

2) Place the chicken breast, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan. Begin roasting. Mis together the olive oil, herbs, salt, and pepper.

3) After the chicken has roasted for about 20 minutes, spoon some of the olive oil mixture over it, then turn the bird breast side up. Baste again, then again after 7-8 minutes; at this point the breasts should be beginning to brown (if it hasn't, roast a few more minutes).
Turn down the heat to 325*F, baste again, and roast until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160-165*F. Total roasting time will be under an hour.

4) Before removing the chicken from the pan, tip the pan to let the juices from the bird's cavity flow into the pan (if they are red, cook another 5 minutes). Remove the bird to a platter and let it rest for about 5 minutes. While it is resting, pour the pan juices into a clear measuring cup, and pour or spoon off as much of the fat as you can. Reheat the juice, carve the bird, garnish, and serve with the pan juices.


I made a simple gravy out of the juices this time, but my gravies need some work. :-/ I had way to much flour and it got really thick. I'll work on that one before I post tips. :p We had mashed potatoes though... if you don't, the juices are plenty with the chicken.

* If your bird is bigger, roast longer. (Simple, right?) I find my 5 pound birds go about an hour and 15-20, but I don't watch the clock super closely.
* Don't depend on the pop out timers. I've cooked this many times, and its far better if you trust the instant read thermometer. Sometimes the other is a little long and it dries out some.
*If you don't have a roasting pan, invest in a good one if at all possible. The teflon flaked off my first one right away, so I'm back in the market. :(
* When in doubt, baste baste baste!! It comes out super juicy and just a hint crunchy in the skin, and its really not much extra work. If you're like me you're already hiding in the kitchen near the warm oven or working on sides anyways. :)

Remember; Don't trust the pop up thermometers!! Good on turkeys, not with this recipe. Not for me, anyways.
And yes, my book always has at least that many post it tabs. Its full of awesomeness!!

PS: I am using the amazon associates feature. This means I get a small cut if you buy something I recommend. I am not in it for profit, I just find it convenient for mentioning products I love. I felt being upfront about its presence was important. Please don't feel that I expect anything.
That said, know that any small revenue made there will likely go to food or cooking tools! XD


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