Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dough or No Dough?

Inspired by Hannah and Matt's progress with their mid-century modernize, Chris and I decided to get crackin' on our own kitchen.  After getting three quotes which were above what I wanted to spend, I ruled out hiring someone to install the cabinets and we are moving ahead with the project to be completed by us and our generous friends and family who have volunteered their services.  Having a kitchen in complete disarray during my favorite baking season has got me thinking about "dough-less" holiday baking.  I still have a microwave and a stove, I am just not eager to be rolling dough or cutting cookies in a half demo'ed kitchen.  So I've done some brainstorming and heavy-googling and found that there are multitudes of holiday recipes which do not involve any dough. Some are as simple as some microwaving and dipping or stirring.  Cookies will just have to wait until next year. 



Christmas Corn Flake Wreaths

1/2 c. butter

40 regular marshmallows

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. green food coloring, or more to desired shade

6 c. corn flakes


Melt butter in large saucepan. Add marshmallows and cook over low heat, stirring frequently until marshmallows are melted. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and food coloring to desired shade of green. Add corn flakes and blend, stirring and mixing gently until all corn flakes are coated. With 2 teaspoons or buttered fingers, shape golf-ball size portions into wreaths on wax paper. Put 3 red cinnamon candies at intervals on each wreath to look like holly berries. Makes about 24. Store on waxed paper in tins.


White Chocolate Oreo Fudge

18 oz of White Choc morsels (a pkg and a half)
14 oz can of Sweetened Condensed Milk 
1/8 teasp. of salt 
2 cups of coarsely crushed Oreo-type cookies

Line an 8X8 square baking pan w/ foil. Then, in a heavy saucepan over LOW heat, stir & melt the choc morsels, Sweetened Condensed milk and salt together. Be sure to watch it closely, just until it is melted uniformly. Remove from heat and stir in oreo pieces. Pour evenly into 8×8, and chill for a couple of hours. Turn fudge upside down on a cutting board, peel off foil, and cut that into small squares. Store tightly covered/cool place.

Olive watching me cook from her perch over the radiator.  Notice the crazy walls.

Classic Chocolate Fudge  
3 cups sugar 
2/3 cup evaporated milk 
3/4 cup (1 1/2) sticks Margarine 
1 12 oz. pkg. chocolate chips 
1 1/2 cup marshmallow cream 
1/2 cup pecans, chopped 
1/2 t. vanilla 

Combine sugar, milk, and margarine in heavy saucepan; heat to boiling. 
Stir constantly about 5 minutes over medium heat or until mixture reaches soft ball stage (238 degrees). Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients. Stir vigorously until well blended. 
Pour into greased 13 x9×2 inch buttered pan. Cool. Cut into squares. Makes 3 pounds.

Ritz Cracker Thin Mints

1 pound bittersweet chocolate
80 buttery round crackers (I used Ritz shaped like snowflakes)
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Using a double boiler method, melt the chocolate coatings over hot tap water for 15 - 20 minutes. Stir . Do not cook or get water into the chocolate.  After it is melted, stir in a couple drops of peppermint flavor into the chocolate.  Dip crackers into the melted chocolate and then place onto a cold cookie sheet and put into the refrigerator to set. (A freezing tray to rest the dipped cookies will keep the bottoms neat looking.)  I sprinkled them with some crushed candy cane.  In a few minutes take them out and package in candy cups. The cookies are best kept at room temperature or a cool dry place away from any odors.

I made all the dishes above and peanut brittle and made tins for my friends, co-workers, and neighbors.  Both fudges made a lot and were a big hit!  I love the ritz cracker things - they taste just like thin mints!  Katie helped by making the caramel corn and those wreath things look more like a grinch face, but taste great.  Overall, the dough-less baking was a BIG success!

More dough-less dishes:

Awesome and Easy Peanut Brittle, Graham Cracker / Saltine Toffee, Spiced Almonds, White Trash, Chex Mix, Peppermint Bark, Buckeyes, Holly Jollies, Turtles, Chocolate covered pretzels, Rice Krispy Treats, Watergate Salad, Icebox Cupcakes

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Becky!

Happy 22nd Birthday little sister!  Our little brother made Becky this lovely birthday card:



Today is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year!  To celebrate the return of the sun, here are some more fun videos I've been enjoying:


James Franco is such a babe.  I love him.


I crack up at the girl at the 21 second mark every time.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

These are a few of my Favorite Things!

When I get together with my college roomies, one of the very first questions we inevitably ask each other is, "so have you tried any good products lately?"  It is our duty as girlfriends to share our secrets and best finds with one another.  Lately I have been very pleased with different beauty products I have been trying, and while not every product provides the same success to every person, it also may be just what someone was looking for.  Oprah isn't doing her favorite things this year, so in case you are looking for some inspiration, here are some of my favorite things (lately), the 2009 Edition.  These are the things I would recommend to my girlfriends, and now to you: 

Beauty Products 

1. Bobby Brown Long-wear gel eyeliner - the $21 tub looks small, but it lasts a long time.  It goes on beautifully and never smudges. 

2. Trish McEvoy Lash Curling Mascara - similar to Kiss Me, this stuff comes off in "tubes" with a little water, but it is much more dramatic. $28 

3. Origins Skin Care Line - made with all natural ingredients and feels fantastic.  I use the Checks and Balances face wash, Modern Friction to remove dry, dead skin, and the ultra-rich Make a Difference face cream because my skin is crazy dry.   

4. Bare Minerals Moisturizing Mineral Veil Kit- This came with the softest brush I have ever felt and in the winter I need all the moisture I can get 

Electronics 

1. Flip Video Camera - The. easiest. to. use. device. ever.  Ultra-portable, simple to use, great picture quality, and overall great amateur video camera 

2. Blackberry - I am late to the game on this, but after two year with the worst phone on earth, my blackberry feels like it is too good to be true.   

3. DVR - I can no longer imagine life without it.  Because I can't imagine life without Glee, Lost, How I met your Mother, SNL, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Community, 30 Rock, Modern Family, and The Soup.   

Cleveland 

Lilly's Chocolates - HUGE fan (literally fat fan) - I won the chocolate eating contest this year and I think I have tried every flavor they offer. 

Cleveland Yoga - everyone needs hot yoga in their life.  

Vine and Bean for Sunday brunch - cuz Lucky's is too crowded 

The North Union Farmer's Market - year round farmers market.  come over, we'll walk up

On the Rise Bakery the best sticky bun and coffee in town

C.L.E. Clothing - show some cleveland love

Anything from Room Service or Made in the 216 or Banyan Tree

Media / Websites: 

Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebowitz 

Cook's Illustrated - home cook's best friend.  get a subscription

Lady Gaga - instant dance party

someecards.com - super snark 
mint.com - good for budgeting, everyone needs that 
fatsecret.com - good for tracking calories in/ calories out, if you are into that sort of thing 
barefootfoodie.com - the funniest blog i know

Miscellaneous: 

Olive - adopt a pet in 2010 

Fage - the plain with fresh berries and honey, or the one that comes with cherry and tastes like cheese cake that is really good for you 

GT Kombucha - cuz it is crazy weird and good for you

This is not a thing, but a wonderful way to knot your scarf - Megan shared this with me and says it is European.  Whatever it is, I love it.  Megan helped me make a video to demonstrate the technique:
 
video

Gordon Square Arts District Date Night

Chris and I had such a fun and quirky date night last night in the Gordon Square Arts District.  I have read so many articles and blogs over the last year about how this is an up and coming hip neighborhood in Cleveland and I am fairly familiar with the area with Jenny and Scott living in Battery Park.  And the articles and blogs are right, this neighborhood felt like you had discovered something that many hadn't yet.  I say "yet" because with all the articles out there, this secret isn't going to last much longer, if we can even call it a secret now.  So if you have read about the hype and speculation and you've been there, you know it is all true, and if you haven't been soon, you should make plans to go.  We already have plans with Jenny and Scott to go back on Friday.

Our date night started at the Bizarre Bazar in the 78th Street Studios.  This weekend indie craft show showcases local artists and their handmade goodies.  We picked up some C.L.E. Clothing t-shirts, Christmas ornaments, cards and admired all the jewelry and creativity.  Some of my favorites were greeting cards, including Oddball Press (out of Cleveland Heights) and Candra Squire.  I wish this show was here more than once a year, but sadly it is a holiday season phenomenon (a la Christmas Ale), but off-season shopping can be done on etsy or at our next stops - Room Service and Made in the 216.

At Room Service we were handed a glass of wine as soon as we walked through the door.  Need I say more?  Ok, well this shop is so darn cute I wanted everything in the store.  And then I wanted the owner to come to my house and arrange it for me.  It is like a smaller version of Anthropology with an emphasis on local.  And Made in the 216 - its sister store, down the street next to the Capitol Theater, is all Cleveland based artists.  The owner helped me pick out the perfect house warming / graduation gift for Hannah. (Well I think it is perfect, we shall find out this afternoon.  Chris and I are going down to see her and Matt's new house and lend a hand in the renovation.  You can read about their mid-century modernize here).  We also picked up some more greeting cards at Made in the 216 - I have to keep up on my correspondence.

Next stop - dinner at Happy Dog.  They don't have a good website, but here is a link to Cleveland Foodie's review.  This place is basically your typical Lakewood, townie dive bar, which I say with 100% love because I love me some townie bar.  The chef/owner from Momocho in Ohio City bought it about a year and half ago and now the only food they serve is hot dogs (vegetarian option available) with tater tots and fries.  The kicker is that there are 50 gourmet toppings and sauces to choose from, all for $5 a dog and $2.50 for tots or fries.  PBR's for $2.25 a piece and I am Happy Girl at Happy Dog.  And a happy couple walking out very full, slightly buzzed, and for under $30.  For my dog I tried the habanero pickled red onions, caribbean coleslaw, and brazilian chimichurri.  Chris was more adventurous and had the brazilian chimichurri, hot banana pepper rings, potato chips, and rainbow candy sprinkles.  Sounds crazy but it was good.  To dip our tots, we tried the house made ketchup, black truffle honey mustard, garlic and herb tomato jam, marcella's grape jelly and chile sauce, and the chipotle hollandaise.  Before we even got our food I was texting friends and plotting future birthday parties.  The bartender gave us the low down on a karaoke place, Tina's, right down the street.  So, yeah, I will be back.

Last stop, was the Capitol Theater to see Fantastic Mr. Fox.  This theater is newly renovated and you can tell.  It feels like you are in an actual theater and there is that buzz of seeing a real hollywood picture! (say that with a 1940's accent for fun)  My only complaint is that the seats don't have as much leg room as today's multiplex's, so I was a bit squirmy.  The movie - I loved!!  It is unlike anything I have ever seen and Jason Schwartzman's does the voice of the son, Ash, and was just hilarious. We will be back this Friday to see Avatar 3D (say that in a booming echo voice for fun).   

So thank you Gordon Square Arts District for a fantastic date night, what a great addition to our city!  As we drove home down Route 2 with downtown all lit up on a clear night, I said to myself, "I love Cleveland".

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Holiday Season

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!  This weekend we put up some Christmas decorations including my little four foot tree.  Which Olive proceeded to climb, over and over again, and knock down, over and over again.  As annoying as it was, it was also the just about the cutest thing ever.

video


Tomorrow is our Holiday Party at work and I signed up to bring dessert for 24.  I wanted to make something simple that would keep well.  I had this treat at Jenny's bach party and it was so yummy and easy that I thought I would try it.  I used Christmas colors, but they can be modified for any occasion.  For example, I saw pink M&M's at the store for breast cancer and thought they would be cute for an upcoming baby shower.  

The nameless treat is just a snap pretzel with a Rolo on top, melted slightly in the oven (like 3-5 minutes at 300 degrees).  Then while the chocolate is malleable, press an M&M - pick your poison, I did regular and peanut - into the Rolo.   Then put them in the fridge to firm back up.  Done.  Enjoy.  Yum.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Christmas List

November is over and December, the month devoted to Christmas, has begun.  So I have put together my Christmas List for anyone that is interested.  Let me know if you need my mailing address :)

Here is my first draft.  It is really domestic:

4BPA-Free food containers (Rubbermaid Produce Saver, Easy Find Lids, and Lock It are all BPA Free)

Sad. I know.  Those are really the things I want though.  In case these don't interest people (who isn't interested in composting??), here is a bit more fun list:


That's the best I can do.  I have searched for more exciting things, but honestly, all I can think about is getting cabinets installed, picking out a sink and a faucet, countertops, a new mattress, repairing walls and painting, a snowblower, blinds and curtains, and that's the short list.  It's just gonna be a practical year I guess.  

Monday, November 30, 2009

I Did It! The Conclusion of NaBloPoMo

I completed NaBloPoMo!!  30 posts in 30 days, can you believe it?  And this what I earned:


Notice it has taken its place in the right sidebar.  I picked this badge mostly cuz she is in a kitchen, but it also pretty accurately reflects how I feel about the month.  I am really good at getting excited and into something for like a week, but not so good with the follow through.  So I am honestly proud that I was able to finish something I committed to.  And I know it was just blog posting, but it felt like homework a lot of the time.  There were many nights I really just wanted to go to bed, but I managed to get at least a few sentences up.  So that taught me that blogging doesn't always have to be a huge time commitment.  There is really no reason to have such long periods of time between posts.  But admittedly every post this month was not up to what I consider my usual standards.

So I completed it and I'm glad to be going back to my usual blogging when I feel like it ways. And you know what, I already know what I am going to post about tomorrow!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dumpster Diving

Can you think of a worse title for a post on a food blog?  Don't worry, while homeownership did bring me to an all time low today, it isn't quite as bad as it sounds.  I've mentioned before that our backyard here at Wildwood is completely covered in ivy and we are attempting to make it not so.  Chris is a landscape architect, so he has the winter to design something better than all ivy yard, and in the mean time, we are tackling ivy removal.  The standard reaction this gets from people is a sarcastic, "good luck", which makes me think this is not going to be an easy job.

I sprayed the ivy with Round Up a month or so ago, which had absolutely zero effect.  Chris went on a mowing rampage and mowed down all the perennials in the front yard and all the ivy in the back.  Obviously it is going to come back, but it was nice to catch a glimpse of what a clean backyard would look like.  My mom suggested laying down wet newspaper over the ivy, cover that with wet leaves and leave it over the winter.  In spring, rototill the whole shebang, plant grass seed and hope that it isn't ivy that pops back up.  

So here is where the dumpster diving comes into play.  This afternoon was unseasonably gorgeous, so we got to the task.  We didn't have anywhere near enough newspaper around, so Chris and hit up a few local paper recylcing dumpsters to get what we needed (I also got two Cooks Illustrated and a Elle Decor, don't judge me.)  Chris, Katie and took turns laying the newspaper, spraying it with the hose to keep it down, raking leaves on top and then hosing it again. We finished the whole backyard, so I'll get back to you in the spring to let you know if our little experiment worked.  

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Darna

Tonight my parents brought my grandma over to see the house for the first time and to have dinner at Darna on Shaker Square.  This is my third time dining at the Moroccan restaurant and the flavors are consistently dazzling.  Favorites have emerged, especially the trio of salads - one of spicy seasoned carrots, one of roasted beets, and one of eggplant and roasted peppers.  Becky's favorite is the monkfish.   Dad was adventurous and tried the quail and I went with the langoustine special.  



Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday


Chris and I went out this morning in search of a range.  We went to Sears, Best Buy, Lowe's, Sears Outlet, B&B Appliance, and Home Depot and decided on a great deal on an Electrolux slide in range from the Sears Outlet.  It just makes me so excited to get the cabinets installed and someday enjoy a new kitchen.  Patience is a virtue, right?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful for spending the day with family and eating so much my belly hurts. I am falling asleep to the smell of turkey cooking down on the stove. Pumpkin pie for breakfast and I am off to face the crowds in hopes of finding a range. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Just in time for Thanksgiving, here is an easy, delicious, and pretty lo-cal pumpkin recipe.  This recipe comes from Megan who made it for a potluck at work and I loved it.  She added pieces of Heath bar to the top, so I am doing the same for Thanksgiving.  Chris was able to find some pumpkin at Heinen's, but they were out at Dave's and I've heard there is a pumpkin shortage.  But if you are lucky enough to have some around, I highly recommend you try this recipe:

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Ingredients

1 box duncan hines spice cake mix

1.5 cups pumpkin (not pumpkin pie, like straight 100% pumpkin...comes in a can at the store)

JELLO instant butterscotch pudding

Cool whip Lite (I usually use all of one of the smaller containers)

Chocolate for shaving on top if wanted

Directions

Preheat oven to 325.  Grease an 8.5 x 11 pan with Pam.  Mix the pumpkin and the cake mix together (ONLY those 2 ingredients do not mix in any of the ingredients that the cake calls for like eggs or oil).  Put mixture in the pan and bake for about 22-23 minutes (it is ok if some of the cake sticks to a toothpick in the center).  Remove cake, and let cool completely.  


Mix together the pudding like the box calls for, using skim milk (or whatever you drink).  Pour the pudding over top of the cooled cake and smooth so the layer is even.  Put whole thing in fridge for an hour or so to let that set together.  Then take it out and put layer of cool whip on top of pudding and then top with chocolate shavings if desired. (or I used crushed Heath bar)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wicked!

Tonight Chris and I went with Gene and Mary to see Wicked.  The show was awesome!!  Not quite as exciting as the first time I saw it 2 years ago - when I was obsessed with the soundtrack - but still amazing.  I was very impressed with Elphaba, but Glinda wasn't as good as the last time and no one will ever touch Kristen Chenoweth (not that I was fortunate to actually see her do it, just watched her performances on YouTube, see below. And I love her on Glee).  



I think the other reason I didn't enjoy it in quite the same way is because I recently read Gregory Maguire's novel on which the musical was based.  The book and the musical share character names and general similarities, but the book is much darker and more complicated.  So I kept finding myself thinking about the differences between the book and the musical and thinking how much simpler the musical is.  I have to say though that I don't think I could have gotten into the book without my pre-existing devotion to the characters from loving the musical. 

The first act is so much fun and ends with my favorite song - Defying Gravity (which has also been on Glee).  My problem with the second act is the song "As Long as Your Mine".  It is just awkward and I don't enjoy it.  I do think Lady Gaga may have had some inspiration from the Emerald City Wizomania costumes:

Great music, great show, great night!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Icebox Cupcakes


How pretty are these cupcakes?   I made these for a co-workers birthday tomorrow.  She said each year for her birthday her mom makes her a homemade 4-layer chocolate cake, with raspberry preserves between each layer, iced with real whip cream and topped with fresh raspberries.  I wanted to make something similar in a cupcake form and thought Smitten Kitchen's  icebox cupcakes would be a great substitute.  So I can't take much credit for the recipe, just adding the raspberry on top. I have made an icebox cake before and the cupcakes are just as easy.  Especially now that I have established Heinen's as a reliable source for Nabisco's chocolate wafer cookies.  

Once you have the chocolate wafer cookies, these are as simple as whipping some heavy cream with a teaspoon of sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract until the cream stiffens enough to form peaks.  Then just layer the cookies with the whip cream, top with a raspberry, place in a cupcake tin and refrigerate over night.  It doesn't get much easier than that.  The cookies soften to form a cake-like consistency, no baking required!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pumpkin Carving

I have two pumpkins sitting in front of the house left over from Halloween.  About a week ago I came home to find one of the fatty squirrels that live around our yard sitting on top of one of them and he had taken a chunk out of the side.  Everyday I have come home to find the chunk out of the pumpkin has grown and turned into a hole and has now turned into this:


I didn't even know squirrels liked pumpkins, but apparently the fatty squirrel in my yard LOVES pumpkin.  Or maybe he is collecting pumpkin for his Thanksgiving dinner.  Either way, this pumpkin looks scarier than anything I could have carved.  

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What a day.  This morning we went downtown for the Pigskin Classic at Blind Pig for the Ohio State Michigan game.  Chris ran a 5k while Jen, Brooke, Kelly and I attended the Snuggiefest Tailgate.  So cozy!!  The collegiate snuggies are even softer than the originals.  And you know I love drinking in a snuggie.  The Buckeyes of course won and we had a great afternoon!

After a good two hour nap, Chris and I cleaned up and met Sarah (Ruby) and Nick at L'Albatros for dinner.  It. was. so. good.  Sarah I started with three cheeses.  The waiter talked us through the whole cheese plate, probably 15 different cheeses, and I don't know how he remembered all the cheese info.  We went with a goat cheese, a semi-hard manchego, and a truffle cheese.  Mmmm, I love cheese...  For dinner, I tried their vegetarian root vegetable cassoulet with goat cheese, Chris had the beef bourguignon, Sarah had the mussels, and Nick had the croque monsieur.  The food was awesome, the wait staff very attentive with the water (we really needed it, see above), and nice overall atmosphere.  And here is the best part - its really well priced.   I would say this food is some of the best value in the area.    So cross #2 off the list.  Oh and this cassoulet blew Lure's out of the water and it didn't even have any meat in it.  So if you are as curious about cassoulet as I am, I suggest you head to L'Albatros very soon to try it!

Friday, November 20, 2009

I love Eugene

I made the mistake of sitting down at Harry Buffalo tonight and proclaiming that "I love Eugene".  Which got me some funny looks cuz my friend Gene was sitting across from me (next to his lovely wife Mary).  But while I am very fond of Gene, I was actually referring to my new Home Depot kitchen designer.  Most of our kitchen cabinets were purchased from the Kraftmaid outlet, the pantry piece came from Craig's List, and the base mixer stand (that I am really pumped for) was ordered from Home Depot.  And after getting some quotes, I was surprised to find that Home Depot was our cheapest option for cabinet installation.  

So Eugene has been helping us schedule the official kitchen measurement and has also assisted with some tweaking of the floor plan and design.  I get so inspired and excited every time I go to the HD to talk to him.  Eugene is not only a very helpful designer, but he is also super friendly.  Every time I talk to him he says, "say hello to Chris for me".  Which is extra cute cuz he has a bushy mustache and an accent.  He's the best.  So now you know while I am going around proclaiming my love for Eugene.

I am also in the market for countertops and a new range.  I'm saying prayers for a Black Friday miracle on the LG range I want:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Little Potato

How cute was yesterday's post?  Katie is a natural blogger.  She's my little sister so obviously we lived together for the first 20 or so years of life, but living together now is a little different - post-college "adults" and minus the rest of the family.  I really like it and not just cuz she will blog and make popcorn for me.  So because I love lists, here is my top 5 reasons I'm glad to be living with Katie again.

5. Espresso.  She has an espresso maker and she taught me to use it.  And on the weekends she makes me lattes.

4.  Cleaning.  She cleans the house on the weekends and says it is "satisfying".  amen.

3.  Entertainment Weekly.  She has a subscription and she is ON TOP of pop culture.  She makes sure I don't miss anything.

2.  Needle Point.  She makes funny needle point sayings:


nice housewarming gift

1.  TV Club.  She has the same taste in tv and we have a serious tv schedule that we stick to.  Hours of DVR time, couch lounging, Olive cuddling and popcorn eating going on over here.  And I love it.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Come and Get Your Popcorn

Here at Food'n'Such, I'm all about variety (hence the n'such).  That's why I've decided to offer you a variety of popcorn recipes in two days. That's also why I decided to let my sister, Katie, guest blog. She's our family's popcorn expert...sometimes you have to call in the big guns. You are in good hands, I promise.

Hello, this is Katie. For those of you who don't know me, let me start with what I am not. I am not a chef. I am not a baker. I am, however, great at pouring wine. Does that count??

So, when Molly asked me to write on her blog I was secretly hoping that I'd be asked to cover the "n'such". Not the case. Apparently, I do make a mean caramel popcorn. It's definitely my go-to for parties and gifts. So, I'm hoping others do not swipe this recipe only to give it back to me for Christmas...
I feel that it is important to note that this recipe is straight from a church cookbook. God-fearing women do many things well but they are especially adept at whipping up guilt-ridden treats. Scroll down and you'll soon understand...anything with this much butter does not come guilt-free.

Caramel Corn
1 1/2 c unpopped popcorn
1/2 lb butter or margarine
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 c Karo or white corn syrup
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

First, pop the popcorn. I use an air popper when I make this recipe but I imagine you could use microwavable popcorn. Just make sure it's plain. This recipe makes A LOT of popcorn so do not be alarmed when you have three bowls of plain popcorn sitting on your counter. Set aside popcorn in large pan(s). I use two roasting pans- like I said earlier, this recipe makes a crazy amount of popcorn and I mean that in the best way possible.

In a medium sized pot, heat butter, brown sugar and white corn syrup. Bring to a boil  for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Remove pot from heat and stir in soda, salt, and vanilla. You'll notice a change in color and consistency while stirring. The caramel mixture will become a much lighter brown and almost fluffy in consistency. Pour the caramel mixture over popcorn in the large pans and mix well, spreading the caramel evenly over the popcorn.

Once its completely coated, place the pans in a 250 degree oven for 40 min stirring every 10 minutes. This will ensure that your popcorn comes out perfectly coated and evenly baked. Remove from the oven and move popcorn into a large brown paper bag or several large plastic bags. I like using ziploc bags because they are easy to shake up and will keep your popcorn fresh without moving it from one container to another. 

Trust me this caramel corn is worth the effort! It was even requested by one of Food'n'Such's faithful readers. 

Ok. So maybe you don't have 40 minutes of your life to dedicate to making caramel corn? Or, are you are so hungry at this moment that you need a quick fix- FAST?! I find myself in this predicament often. In these cases, I whip up a batch of kettle corn. It's super quick, super simple and requires 4 kitchen staples. Love it!

Kettle Corn
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1/2 cup peanut oil (This is really important. The peanut oil heats to the right temperature and allows the sweetness to come through. Other oils get distracting. The first time I tried this recipe, I used a mixture of sesame oil and olive oil- it was like gnawing on burnt sesame bagels.)
salt

In a large pot heat peanut oil over med-high heat with 3-4 popcorn kernels. You'll know the oil is ready once the kernels have popped. In the meantime, combine the sugar and unpopped kernels together. This will help to better coat the kernels while popping. Once your oil is ready, add the sugar and kernel mixture and shake it like a polaroid picture. Make sure that the sugar and popcorn are spread evenly throughout the pan to keep the sugar from burning. Cover the pot and continue to shake. Listen until most of the kernels have popped and remove from heat. 

At this point you could do a number of things to add salt. I prefer to pour the popcorn into a bowl and then add it. The original recipe suggests a large brown paper bag. Or hell, you can add it while you eat. Just make it salty. You cannot have kettle corn without the dynamics of sweet vs. salty. Its a fact. Ask The Church Lady. Or Kate Gosselin...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sweet & Spicy

I am a big fan of the sweet & spicy combo.  Whether it is Jeni's Spicy Thai Chili ice cream (yes you read that right. Intrigued? Click here for Cleveland Foodie's interview with creator of the fabulous ice cream line and here to find out where it is available in Cleveland) or Lily's Chocolates signature Heather (in honor of Heather Haviland of Lucky's Cafe and my local fave - the Vine and Bean Cafe) filled with spicy cayenne pepper, a dash of Madagascar Vanilla Bean and surrounded by yummy dark chocolate.  So when I saw this article in the NY Times combining this winning flavor combination and my favorite food, I knew it would made tonight.  


It just so happened I had already planned a dinner for this week that also fit the bill.  It is a healthy grilled cheese recipe from Ellie Krieger that doesn't use fakey fake weird fat free cheese.  It uses real ingredients and while it isn't exactly what you ate as a kid or what you would get at Melt, this is still a very satisfying sandwich for 350 calories.


Spicy Caramel Popcorn


Nonstick cooking spray

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup popcorn kernels

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cups sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt.

1. Lightly coat two large, heatproof rubber spatulas and a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a large saucepan or pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels, cover and keep the saucepan moving until all of the kernels have popped, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the prepared bowl, removing any unpopped kernels.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda and cayenne pepper.

4. Have two large baking sheets ready. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, salt and 1/2 cup water. Cook over high heat, without stirring, until the mixture becomes a light golden-yellow caramel, 10 to 14 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the baking-soda mixture (the mixture will bubble up).

5. Immediately pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn. Working quickly and carefully, use the prepared spatulas to toss the caramel and popcorn together, as if you were tossing a salad, until the popcorn is well coated.

6. Spread the popcorn onto the baking sheets and quickly separate them into small pieces while still warm. Cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Once cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 4 quarts.

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Cheese

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 large red onion, finely diced

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 ounces sharp Cheddar, thinly sliced, divided

8 slices whole-wheat bread

3 ounces pepper Jack cheese, thinly sliced, divided

1 large or 2 medium beefsteak or hothouse tomatoes, sliced

Cooking spray


Directions

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lower heat to medium. Add onions and saute, stirring, until edges are browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Place 3/4-ounce Cheddar on 1 slice bread. Spread 1 tablespoon caramelized onions on top of cheese and top with 3/4-ounce pepper Jack. Top with 1 large or 2 medium slices tomato and other slice of bread. Repeat with 3 other sandwiches.

Spray a nonstick skillet or griddle with cooking spray and heat until hot. Place sandwich on griddle and weigh down with a heavy skillet or plate. Lower heat to medium-low and grill until underside is a deep brown but not burnt and cheese is partially melted, about 5 to 6 minutes. Flip sandwich and grill other side, an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Slice in half and serve hot.