November 1, 2007

My After Hiatus Return

Yeah, I'm still around. Just been busy with work is all. Not enough time to do any real cooking, let alone blogging. *sigh*

Anyway, my cooking project has been halted somewhat. I only have a few nights a week to cook and I am usually too darn tired to whip up some new recipe. So, I've been eating a lot of stove-top mac-n-cheese...always homemade now...last time with a bit of butter, cream, and Italian blend cheese. I'll never go back to that blue-boxed stuff.

I did do some baking for my birthday. I had been thinking about the s'mores cupcakes I saw on Cupcake Bakeshop for a while, wondering how to vary that idea....chocolate cupcakes with marshmallow frosting & graham cracker crumbs, or a graham cracker cupcake with chocolate filling and marshmallow frosting, or vice-versa....

I decided to experiment. I made the graham cupcakes from Bakeshop's recipe (minus the cracker crumb bottom), topped each cake with milk chocolate ganache, then a dallop of marshmallow fluff and some graham cracker crumb sprinkles.

Sounds good, right?

Sadly, they weren't even all that edible. The cakes were dense, with no real graham flavor. The ganache was too runny, and the fluff eventually spread instead of staying in a nice little dallop on top. They were messy, much like real s'mores, but weren't at all tasty.

So, I gave them to the students in one of my classes.

Then, I decided to bake myself a birthday cake. I wanted something yummy and pretty. I considered a flourless chocolate hazelnut cake (I wanted Nigel Slater's recipe, but couldn't find it anywhere), a multi-layered coconut cake, a maple cake I saw on I went with the maple cake. All together, there's like four cups of maple syrup in this recipe...the good this wasn't necessarily an inexpensive cake to make. Nevertheless, it was pretty good. The cake was moist and flavorful, and the icing was rich and sweet. I didn't like Martha's maple buttercream recipe; I didn't feel like cooking syrup to the soft-boil stage. So, I found another recipe online...a simple mixture of butter, syrup, and powdered sugar. So sweet. Almost too sweet. However, the sweetness mellowed and the cake was delicious with coffee the next day. My best friend, Sarah, helped me decorate the cake (really, she did all the decorating) and it was even a pretty cake...with whole walnut halves around the outer-edge and chopped walnuts sprinkled in the center. YUM.

I also made a pot of black bean soup last week. I started it in the crockpot, thinking the beans would cook up just like navy beans. They didn't. After like 8 hours, the beans were still crunchy. So, I dumped it all into a pot on the stove and boiled the hell out of them, adding onions, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, tabasco, and some coffee stout. When the beans were soft, I pureed three cups in the blender and added it back to the pot. I ate the soup with sliced andouille sausage. The stout added a depth of flavor that made the soup very rich. All in all, I was pretty happy with my made-up recipe.

I do have lots of plans for cooking. I want to make mustard-glazed pork chops, roasted pumpkin, Tyler's ultimate warm spinach salad, baked mac-n-cheese, and lots of different soups, stews, and casseroles (yeah for cooler weather, finally!). From now on, I am going to plan on making new food for dinner on Wednesdays, my easiest day of the week.

Next week....those mustard & cider glazed pork chops I recently saw in Nigella's new book.

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