Friday, December 31, 2010

Pistachio Cake

I am a big fan of Taylor Swift. In fact, her new album was one of my Christmas gifts which I was rocking to this afternoon on my way to Newton. Although this adoration of mine may seem odd for someone creeping into her late-20s, I just can't not turn up the radio when one of her songs comes on. One of her latest mega-hits (humor me, ok?) is called Mine and it definitely pulls at my heartstrings. This year, one could say, I added an item to my worldly possessions that I can call 'mine.' I added a husband.

Even with the challenges of law school, living apart, and what-will-our-future-hold discussions, we had a bright and shining moment on October 9th when we married each other. The weekend was wonderful -- filled with our closest family and friends. We are still shocked at how perfect the weekend was and can't believe we (along with everyone else involved) managed to pull it off so flawlessly. These memories will keep us going through whatever struggles we face together.

Robbie's birthday is at the beginning of December and inevitably always hits during exams. One can imagine how this makes one's birthday nonexistent when you are on your 14th straight hour of Jurisprudence studies. Last year I started the tradition of making him a homemade birthday cake to devour after his exams when we can really focus on celebrating his birthday. This year was no different. I asked him to name a cake he wanted me to make and his response? "Pistachio."

I had to do a little digging because pistachio is not your classic chocolate or vanilla option. But my mom mentioned a recipe that was very popular in the 1970s involving cake mix, pistachio flavored jell-o pudding and dream whip. Sure enough, I did a little research and discovered it. I adapted it a little because my grocery store did not have Dream Whip (although I went into three more in another city the next weekend and saw it immediately . . . I think that was a scenario in an Alanis Morrisette song . . .). I used cool whip but this cake was still very delicious. The batter was almost gummy (geletinous perhaps?) and the icing was light and perfectly complimented the super-duper-moistness of the cake. Did I mention the cake comes out this cool shade of green?

I hope that the cake added some brightness to his dismal first-of-December, and we both acknowledged that this was his last birthday to fall within an exam period (hopefully) so things are already looking up. And with a new year ahead of us, I anticipate any uncertainties turning into excitement as we finally transition into living in one location, together, and hanging out for the next forever.

Pistachio Cake
Adapted from Two Tiny Kitchens' Pistachio Cupcake recipe

1 pkg white cake mix
1 pkg instant pistachio pudding mix
1 c. oil
3 eggs
1 c. club soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients and beat at medium speed for about 5 minutes. Pour batter into greased bundt cake pan and bake according to the directions on the back of the cake mix box.


2 regular sized tubs of cool whip (I used light and it worked just fine.)
1 pkg instant pistachio pudding mix

Combine cool whip and pudding mix. Beat with whisk until thoroughly mixed. Spread on cake. Top with salted pistachio kernels for an added decoration and crunch. Refrigerate.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Waffle Cookies

Cookie Swap. Two words that your instincts tell you to run away from while your mind (and tastebuds) find intriguing enough to think to give it a chance. I understand that the thought of making six dozen cookies seems quite the herculean task while the thought of seeing sixteen beautiful gold plates with a different type of cookie on each one is too awesome to pass up. Especially when you realize you get to take a sample of each variety home with you.

I poured through websites and cookbooks to find a cookie recipe that would be different yet easy to make since I wanted to impress my fellow swappers but didn’t want to spend all day Saturday in the kitchen. The concept of these cookies was first brought to my attention via a dear friend and bridesmaid of mine (Hi, Kristen!) who made them for one of my bridal showers. I love waffles and I love cookies and it turns out, I therefore adore waffle cookies! I literally made six dozen cookies in less than an hour because with my four-waffle waffle maker, I could make eight at a time. The batches just piled up in front of me like Christmas magic!

They are super easy and super yummy but they need to be eaten pretty quickly because in my opinion, and as is typical with waffles, they are a little dry and beg for some sort of liquid (but not maple syrup -- well, maybe maple syrup, let me know how that goes). I imagine drizzled chocolate would do nothing but make these more awesome but I promise they are delish (and fun to make!) without it. I, personally, wanted to nuke a couple in the microwave, put ice cream on top and pour chocolate syrup over the entire bowl but, alas, none were left to fulfill this desire.

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Waffle Cookies
Fine Cooking
Makes at least 24 cookies (I got 36 cookies out of a batch)

1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c plus 2 Tbs firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 c old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1 c semisweet chocolate chips
Nonstick cooking spray

Heat the waffle iron according to the manufacturer's instructions.

In a large bowl, whisk the butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips.

Coat the grids of the waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray. Use a tablespoon or small ice cream scoop to portion out a cookie onto each waffle square. Close the iron and cook until set and beginning to brown, 1-1/2 to 3 minutes, depending on the heat of your waffle iron. Use a thin metal spatula (or fork) to transfer the cooked cookies to a wire rack and repeat with the remaining dough, coating the grids with spray as necessary.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Jim"ed-up Banana Bread

Christmas is less than a week away and I am busy convincing myself that the gifts I have bought for my new family (ie, Robbie’s family) are sufficient. Sufficient enough for what, I don’t really know. I know I want to make a good impression since this is my first Christmas with Robbie’s clan but I also don’t want to set the bar too high so that I can’t meet it come next Christmas. See how I make myself crazy this time of year? If I come to the conclusion that the present bounty is not enough, time is running short so they may be getting Sheetz gift cards. Which may not be a bad idea actually . . .

Enter Holiday Baking. This is the perfect diversion to these mind games so bring on the chocolate, sugar, flour, and bourbon. That last ingredient was for the banana bread.

Robbie’s fruit bowl, bless-his-heart, is in a perpetual state of “runneth” over and rarely does he eat it all before it goes bad. Therefore, this banana bread from Smitten Kitchen (I promise, I will insert some diversity eventually into this blog – it will not be a two-year-delayed version of SK . . .) was the perfect first baking task on a snowy Saturday. My other expeditions for that bountiful day will follow but for now, enjoy what Deb calls Jacked-up Banana Bread but I will refer to it as "Jim"ed-up Banana Bread since I went with good ole Jim Beam.

"Jim"ed-up Banana Bread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
I love this recipe because I had everything it called for except for the bourbon which is optional anyway. (Have you ever been in an ABC store at 10 am on a Saturday the minute it opens? Good news – it was empty. So maybe AA is working out well for folks!)

3 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 c melted butter
1 c brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbs bourbon (optional)
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 c of flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered (I used Pam because I never have Baker’s Joy when I need it) 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Mine could have probably used 45 minutes and been fine. It was very done at 50 minutes. Cool on a rack in the pan.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Mushroom Bourguignon

Here we are on the eve of another work week after a very relaxing and wintry weekend that included an entire Saturday of snow fall, a Duke basketball win, a Panthers football loss and several trips to Starbucks for a holiday beverage. I know the Holidays are coming when Starbucks switches over to their festive cups and why is it that a Hazlenut Mocha Latte only seems appealing from Thanksgiving until New Years?

An entire season has passed since I last posted but that means there is much on which I can reflect. I am now Mary Mullinax Samuel after a wonderful wedding weekend and subsequent trip to the Social Security Office where I learned that I could not have two first names without a court order and since I did not have one of those lying around, I figured I had 100 pieces of stationary with the initials MMS (for my hope of First Name: Mary Jordan, Middle Name: Mullinax, Last Name: Samuel) so I figured legally, I could handle being Mary Mullinax Samuel on a few documents. And now the stationary will not go to waste.

I got to go to two new cities after the wedding including Paris for the honeymoon and a quick work trip to Portland. I adored both of them but felt more tied to Paris due to the fact that a) it was our first trip as husband and wife and b) it's Paris for crying out loud. Even with striking high schoolers leading to the closing of this one tower I wanted to see, it was a fantastic trip. Portland was great too but due to a missed connection and being by myself, it could have gone a little better. It was nothing that a couple donuts from Voodoo Donuts didn't take care of though.

My brother had a successful Election Day for which we are all very, very grateful and appreciate all the friends who supported him during this Election time. And it was my first Thanksgiving as a married woman and Robbie's first Thanksgiving in Newton where, unfortunately, law school kept him rather preoccupied and he was not able to enjoy the turkey and pie as much as the rest of us.

That being said, we are now into December and I am getting accustomed to taking advantage of my weekends in Winston-Salem. I only get a mere 36 hours a week with my husband so we have learned to make the most of it. Even with exam time around the corner, I was able to make Robbie a home-cooked meal of Mushroom Bourguinon which was much fancier than our usual Mexican or Chinese trip. It was appropriate that I snagged this recipe from Deb, of Smitten Kitchen which always has me smitten, and it was a rather successful meal. I bought two pounds of portobello mushroom caps but realized that was too much so only used half of them (four large caps) and found the cooking time and instructions were fairly spot on. The most difficult thing was waiting for the water to boil to cook the egg noodles at the very end.

I even was able to host Robbie's brother and use him as a guinea pig to prove to myself that I can cook and that it isn't just that Robbie will eat anything I put in front of him. He enjoyed the meal as well so my confidence continues to grow -- which will hopefully create more posts here on the blog!

Mushroom Bourguignon

2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter
1 lb portobello mushroom caps (4 large caps), in 1/4 inch slices
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely dinced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c full-bodied red wine
2 c beef broth (you can use veggie if you would like)
2 tbs tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 1/2 tbs flour
1 c pear onions, peeled (I did this by putting them in boiling water for three minutes then running cool water over them and the outer layer came right off.)
Egg noodles, for serving
Sour Cream and Parsley if you would like. I did not like either on mine.

Heat 1 tbs of the olive oil and 1 tbs of the butter in a heavy sauce pan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken but before any liquid is released. This took me only a few minutes. Remove them from the pan and place them aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the second tbs of the olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, salt and pepper into the pan and cook for 10 minutes until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just another minute more. Stir the veggies periodically throughout these 11 or so minutes.

Add the wine to the pan and scrape off any bits that stuck to the bottom. Turn the heat all the way up and reduce the liquid by half. Stir in the tomato paste and broth. Add the mushrooms and any liquid that has collected from them back to the pan. Once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers. Keep it simmering for about 20 minutes or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more.

Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined. (I did not do this before I threw it in the pan and therefore had to work a little harder to get the flour fully incorporated.) Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce it to the right consistency.

Serve over a bowl of egg noodles with a dollop of sour cream, chives and/or parsley.