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Friday, December 31, 2010

Guy's Big Bite: A McConaughey and Fieri Feast

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This episode aired Saturday, December 18 but I just watched it this morning as I am slowly catching up on my DVR taped Food Network shows. I really enjoyed this one hour Guy's Big Bite: A McConaughey and Fieri Feast and the recipes Matthew and Guy made looked delicious. To start things off Matthew made This Rum Ting drink for Guy and him while they cooked up Matthew's Malibu Oysters, JKL Pesto Pork and Veggie Roast, Soy Glazed Green Beans, and Farro Salad with Citrus Vinagrette. To compliment their food, Matthew made another drink Just Keep Livin' Margarita. You can find all the recipes from this episode on the Food Network site: http://www.foodnetwork.com/.

In between Matthew and Guy's cooking feast they shared stories about Guy coming over to Matthew's place in Malibu and cooking for hours and jamming on drums. Matthew also shared a little bit about his family, and the nonprofit he started Keep On Livin' which offers after school programs that teach teens healthy living and exercise in their lives. Guy and Matthew shared real nice chemistry and seemed to enjoy cooking together and chatting it up for the camera to die hard Guy Fieri fans like me. I am also happy they changed the intro for Guy's Big Bite - it's rockin' just like Guy!

-Sophia/Two Frys

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Barefoot Contessa's How Easy Is That? Cookbook Review

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Ina Garten - How Easy Is That?
One of the Christmas presents my husband got me was Ina Garten’s new cookbook Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips. I started reading the cookbook last night, and finished it this morning and am so excited to try these recipes. Ina offers helpful tips and makes thoughtful recommendations on equipment and kitchen stuff one should have handy and gadgets she does not bother owning. Most of us do not have an enormous kitchen as Ina has to stock everything we would like, but everything she recommends is practical and can work even in small kitchens like mine. Some pots I have not purchased yet since they are so expensive, but Ina offers affordable alternatives. There are 68 easy tips and some I already do, but Ina has given me new ideas for my kitchen space. I also love the Contessa's simple pictures of beautiful place settings for her dining table.

The recipes are simple, sound delicious, and the pictures are beautiful. I have seen some of these recipes on the Food Network already and remember wishing there were such a thing as smellavision. The book has six main sections cocktails, starters, lunch, dinner, vegetables and desserts. If you love to entertain friends and family, this cookbook is a treasure trove. The recipes are also perfect for family dinners or just for two as in my case. I have made many Ina recipes and they always come out great so I am eager to make many of the ones in this cookbook.

The main theme of the cookbook is the word "easy." Ina is keeping it simple by using easy ingredients, providing easy shortcuts, easy techniques, easy menus and easy recipes. I cannot wait to make Foie Gras With Roasted Apples, Roasted Vegetable Frittata, Tarragon Potato Salad, Greek Lamb With Yogurt Mint Sauce, Spaghetti Aglio E Olio, Easy Parmesan "Risotto," Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms, Chocolate Pudding Cream Tart and Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. I want to make so many other recipes as well but I will make these recipes first.

-Sophia/Two Frys

Monday, December 27, 2010

Darkened Red Velvet Snowball Cake

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Darkened Red Velvet Snowball Cake
This is the first time I made a red velvet cake, but I did not want to follow a traditional recipe or use cream cheese frosting since I use this frosting on Ina Garten's Coconut Cake that I often make for my loved ones. On Christmas morning, I made this Darkened Red Velvet Snowball Cake for my hubby and me. I love the richness, better taste, and color of dark chocolate cake so I used dark instead of milk chocolate hence the darker red color. I used the cake recipe ingredients from Redbook Magazine www.redbookmag.com/recipefinder/red-velvet-snowball-cake-recipe but not the cream cheese frosting. For the frosting, I made a Fluffy White Frosting from http://www.cooks.com/ so you can go there and search for "fluffy white frosting" and pick the recipe you like best. 

Slice of Darkened Red Velvet Cake
I used Mounds Sweetened Coconut Flakes for the top of the cake and loved the taste and freshness of the coconut flakes. The Redbook recipe divided each 9 inch cake layer in half so you have four layers, but I kept mine a two layer cake. When you frost the cake, be sure to let it set for at least three hours before you serve it. I think this is the moistest cake I have ever made with dark chocolate in the mixture. It is so delicious and beautiful as well.

Enjoy!

-Sophia/Two Frys

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday Cookie Baking

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Holiday Cookie Baking

I did not finish final exams and papers until December 20th, so I only had a few days to do Christmas gift shopping and holiday baking. Needless to say, I am still tired and recovering but am thrilled it is my final semester of classes and next semester is all about the thesis and graduating. Phew... Baking cookies I find takes a lot of preparation, patience and space. My kitchen is very small so this was a major challenge. On December 23rd, I spent nine hours baking and decorating cookies. I found it relaxing and had fun!

Decorating Icing, I didn't use the color dyes but had them out just in case I needed them
I used four cookie sheet trays since I could only put two trays in the oven at once and always had the other two ready to go as soon as they cooled and when it was time to switch. I placed parchment paper under all my cookie sheet cooling trays for easier clean up afterwards from my decorating mess. I also wore my awesome Guy Fieri apron since I was using colored icing and did not want to stain my clothes. It is a messy job.

Betty Crocker Decorating Icing
I did not make the dough from scratch and simplified things by using one package of Betty Crocker Gingerbread Cookie Mix and two packages of Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix. I ended up with about seven dozen cookies. For each Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix (in addition to the ingredient instructions), I added 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of milk and 1 teaspoon of clear Vanilla Extract. When you are mixing the dough use a large mixing bowl, put on gloves (or not) and get in there and use your hands to incorporate everything perfectly. Mix all the ingredients until a stiff dough forms. I recommend chilling the dough for at least half an hour so it is easier to work with. I do not have granite counter tops so I used my large wood cutting board and lightly sprinkled flour on it and the rolling pin so the dough would not stick. I separated my dough into quarters since my working space was small. I had to use flour with each section of dough.

Some of my gingerbread cooling

My funky snowmen!
The icing I used was Wilton Red Cookie Icing, Wilton White Cookie Icing, and Betty Crocker Decorating Cookie Icing in White, Blue, and Green. The Wilton Cookie Icing requires you to place bottles in the microwave for a few seconds until you get the desired consistency. Be careful not to leave the bottles in there for long. If you need the icing to soften up more just keep microwaving for a few seconds until you are happy with it. You just snip the tips and you are ready to use them. Always test them on a paper towel first to make sure it flows the way you would like it to. If it is too runny, wait a few minutes to use it. I have yet to master using these, but I think I did a fine job for the novice cookie baker that I am.

Assorted cookies drying
Gingerbread boys and girls
I used several cookie cutter shapes: gingerbread, circle, star, heart, snowman, icicle, and Christmas tree. The issue I had was the fact that I have no artistic talent whatsoever so this was a serious challenge for me. I was a little nervous at first but after I got going I had so much fun. You see my gingerbread peeps aren't perfect and neither are the designs. I guess you can say my cookies reflect my personality which is all over the map. My cookies baked for seven minutes so baking time is quick. You may need a few minutes more so keep a close eye on them. You have to cool the cookies completely before decorating them. I waited an hour.

Gingerbread men

Tree Ornaments
Before placing your shaped cookies on ungreased cookie sheet trays for your baking marathon, make sure they cool completely. Using the royal icing is alot of fun but not as easy as it looks. I had to use a toothpick when placing decorations on the icing and had some overflow accidents. The toothpicks were helpful and I recommend using them. Using sugars and sprinkles were much easier since you just dust them over the icing. I also burned a little spot on one of my fingers so be careful - those cookie sheet trays are so hot when they come out of the oven! Ouchy...

Stars!
Decorated icicles and stars
When you flood the cookies using the icing squeeze bottles they flood quickly so be sure to start in the center of the cookie and work your way out. Be sure to put your sprinkles and sugars on the icing before it dries or they won't stick on. Toothpicks also work great to help spread the icing and remove any bubbles to get an even surface. The great thing about using the icing squeeze bottles is having enough left over so just put the caps on and store them for the next time you bake cookies. 

Christmas Trees

Hearts
After you have finished decorating the cookies, do not store them in your cookie jar or holiday tins for at least six hours or your cookies will stick to each other and they will be ruined. I put them in cookie sheet trays overnight and covered them lightly with aluminum foil so they could try completely.

Enjoy!

-Sophia/Two Frys

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pillsbury Christmas Tree Shape Sugar Cookies

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Pillsbury Ready To Bake Christmas Tree Shape Sugar Cookies
I have to give all the credit to Pillsbury for their Ready To Bake Christmas Tree Shape Sugar Cookies. Hubby bought these to see if we would like them. They are delicious and there's hardly any work involved except for placing the dough onto two cookie sheets. Place the cookies about two inches apart and follow baking instructions. Keep an eye on the temperature for your oven and monitor them since they bake super fast between eight and ten minutes. Just cool the cookies for a few minutes and transfer them to a serving tray. If you want to place them in a cookie tin or your favorite cookie jar wait until they cool completely or they will break apart. I broke two and had to eat them immediately since I was being impatient. That's all there is to it.

Pillsbury Ready To Bake Christmas Tree Shape Sugar Cookies
If you are planning holiday festivities you can buy all sorts of designs from Pillsbury and bake a variety of them. It will look like you did alot of work but you didn't. They will look pretty on a platter and impress your guests. They are very tasty as well so you can't lose.

Enjoy!

-Sophia/Two Frys

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Apple Pie

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I decided a few days ago I would make an apple pie, and the results were amazing. The taste exceeded my expectations. To keep things simple and as mess free as possible, I used Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts and I highly recommend it. Our apartment smelled so delicious for hours.

Apple Pie
I followed the recipe exactly as listed on the Pillsbury site (see below for link) and it was very easy. There is also an accompanying video to make the process as smooth as possible. The longest prep time was actually peeling, coring, and slicing the apples. I recommend using firm Granny Smith apples and a glass pie plate.

Recipe:
Perfect Apple Pie

Enjoy!

-Sophia/Two Frys