Friday, February 18, 2011

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Happy Blog-a-versary to me! Happy Blog-a-versary to me! Happy Blog-a-versary to the Newtonienne! Happy Blog-a-versary to me!

One year ago this week I decided to dedicate my blog to my culinary adventures. A few (27) recipes later and I have officially been food blogging for one year. No, I'm not on any of the cool food blog aggregators like foodgawker or nor am I unaware that I need a new camera to improve my photos nor am I in denial that this constant cooking thing is taking a chunk out of my 'grocery store food' line item in my budget . . . But I am enjoying it and judging by the hits on my site, a few others are too for which I am sincerely grateful. In order to celebrate the milestone as well as the recent Valentine's holiday, I made these Whoopie Pies. I may have set the fire alarm off twice (still don't know how that happened - I blame the suspect apartment appliances) and I may have doubled the size of my whoopie pies so that instead of making 15 like the recipe says, I made only 7 -- but these slight hiccups did not diminish the deliciousness of this dessert (or snack if you are that hardcore).

Now, not to brag or anything, but I make a stellar Red Velvet Cake for Christmas (future post, I'm sure) and I will admit these weren't as good but they were fun and cute and festive. Sort of like myself . . .
So here's to another year of food blogging. Here's to hoping I do more than 27 posts in 2011 as I continue to improve. Here's to hoping my blog is finally approved by (they have like 5 billion blogs on there, how come I can't be one?) and my photos are accepted at (ok, I respect the stellar quality of the photographs on it so I get that one). And here's to hopefully stumbling upon a Canon Rebel XTi with a 50mm f/1.8 lense laying on the side of the road . . .

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies
Sweetcakes Bakeshop
Makes 10-15 sandwiches. (Or 7 if you measure like I do.)

1/4 c butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp red food coloring
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add in eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in buttermilk, vanilla and red food coloring. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet.

Scoop dough onto a lined cookie sheet using a generous medium scoop (2-3 tablespoons). Bake at 375 degrees F for 10-12 minutes until centers appear set. Allow to cool slightly. Then pull the liner onto the wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Filling

8 ounces cream cheese
4 tbsp butter, softened
2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar

Cream together cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl. Beat in milk and vanilla. Sift powdered sugar over the wet ingredients and beat in until smooth. Spread in between two cooled red velvet cookies.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Texas Caviar

My dad has taught me a lot in the 27 years I have been on this earth. As a “Daddy’s Girl,” I spent the bulk of my childhood following him around the farm where I grew up mimicking his love for the outdoors, being exposed to The Who, The Stones and the Moody Blues and serving as his partner in crime. Due to our near-identical personalities, we have sometimes clashed but I know that our love for each other is one of understanding and acceptance that we are the same person – just in different bodies. It gives me comfort to know that wherever I go, I have a little (ahem, a lot) of my dad in me.

Through the years he has given me many words of wisdom. From the instruction to “Just follow the sun” if I were ever to get lost in the woods and needed to get home (which I only had to use once when I lost the trail and found myself in the middle of nowhere and, sure enough, I followed the sun and came out a mile down the road from where my house was) to “never forget from where you came” (which, just looking at this blog title, would suggest I won’t do that).

One other tidbit he taught me was to “Never pull for orange.” He said this in half-jest but it does prove to be a pretty wise mantra when it comes to deciding which team to pull for in a sporting event. This means I refrain from pulling for any teams sporting jerseys in burnt orange (Texas), neon orange (Tennessee), or just plain orangey-orange (Syracuse, Miami, and Florida). As with most guiding principles, there are times when one may have to abandon her directions. I added an addendum to the “Never pull for orange” rule so that it is “Never pull for orange. Unless they are playing baby blue.” Therefore, this afternoon, I spent two hours pulling for Clemson (they are of the orangey-orange variety) and was as frustrated as any Tiger fan when they lost to the Tar Heels.

Oh well, at least I had good dip while I watched it.

Texas Caviar
Spark Recipes
(Luckily the University of Texas and its burnt orange color are not related to this dip. I can enjoy it with a clear conscience.)

1 can Black beans, drained
1 can Black eyed peas, drained
1 can shoepeg corn, drained
2 green peppers, chopped
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
2 bunches green onion, chopped
jalepeno peppers to taste
1/2 cup fat free Italian dressing

Mix all ingredients and let sit for an hour or two in the refrigerator. Serve with Baked Scoops. Makes a giant bowl, about 20 1/2 cup servings.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Bars

Well it was bound to happen one of these days. I've been at this cooking blog thing for almost a year (anniversary is soon!) and I had my first failed recipe attempt. I hate to fail. In fact, if you know me at all, you quickly pick up on my self-deprecating humor that I inevitably fall back on in social settings which, at the core, suggests that I set the standard pretty low so when I exceed it, everyone around me will be impressed and I will not have - you know - failed anyone.

This uneasiness with failure probably explains why I like cooking and baking. Not experimental cooking and baking -- that could lead to too many errors which could lead to a failed outcome and I just can't have that. So instead I follow the recipes verbatim -- ok, maybe with a tiny change here or there -- and so far, the outcomes have been close enough to perfect for me. (Did you catch that Alabama reference? Great song.)

Enter the Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie. I was so excited because as I mentioned earlier, I visited Ma Peche while in NYC and got to grab dessert from the Milk Bar as well. I was so excited to find this recipe for their famed cookie, complete with detailed instructions and timed mixing cycles perfectly laid out. And lo and behold if they didn't turn out the opposite of large and thick and deliciously salty and sweet. They spread more than I thought cookies could by-definition spread. They were incredibly flat. And they were more salty than sweet. I had to rename them Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Bars instead of Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookies. (When I do fail, I try to make it look like I didn't fail by changing the names of things (and sometimes the rules) so that it applies.)

I did everything as it said even refrigerating overnight but I don't know what happened. Maybe I needed a bigger pan. Maybe my baking soda and baking powder were old (I do have the tendency to ignore expiration dates on food) or maybe! Oh! Maybe! It's a conspiracy and they purposefully botched the recipe so you could only get the REAL Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie from the actual Milk Bars! I bet that's it . . . and this way, I only partially failed. But only because I was led down that path by the conniving minds of others. See how I do that? Pretty impressive right?

Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Bars
The Amateur Gourmet (I'm ignoring the fact his look normal in his pictures.)


1 c butter (unsalted preferably)
1 c granulated sugar
3/4 c light brown sugar
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsps Kosher salt (I would drop this down a bit -- mine were pretty salty especially since you use salty snack food.)
1 1/2 c your favorite baking ingredients (options: chocolate chips, Raisenettes, Rollos, Cocoa Krispies. I used Milk Duds thinking they were the size of TicTacs.)
1 1/2 c your favorite snack foods (chips, pretzels, etc. I used Pretzels)

1. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars and corn syrup on medium high for two to three minutes until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Scrape down the sides with a spatula.

2. On a lower speed, add eggs and vanilla to incorporate. Increase mixing speed to medium-high and start a timer for 10 minutes. During this time the sugar granules will fully dissolve, the mixture will become an almost pale white color and your creamed mixture will double in size.

3. When time is up, on a lower speed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Mix 45 - 60 seconds just until your dough comes together and all remnants of dry ingredients have incorporated. Do not walk away from your mixer during this time or you will risk over mixing the dough. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

4. On the same low speed, add in the hodgepodge of your favorite baking ingredients and mix for 30 - 45 seconds until they evenly mix into the dough. Add in your favorite snack foods last, paddling again on low speed until they are just incorporated.

5. Using a 6 oz. ice cream scoop, portion cookie dough onto a parchment lined sheet pan.

6. Wrap scooped cookie dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour or up to 1 week.

DO NOT BAKE your cookies from room temperature or they will not hold their shape. (This is a lie, mine did not hold their shape even though mine were refrigerated for 24 hours.)

7. Heat the oven to 400 F. Take the plastic off your cookies and bake 9 to 11 minutes. While in the oven, the cookies will puff, crackle and spread (no kidding).

At 9 minutes, the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown towards the center. Leave the cookies in the oven for the additional minutes if these colors don't match up and your cookies still seem pale and doughy on the surface.

8. Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan before transferring to a plate or an airtight container or tin for storage. At room temp, they'll keep five days. (This step could also be - 8. Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan before slicing them into bars and transferring them to a plate . . .)

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Hot and Sweet Sausage Sandwich

On the eve of Super Bowl Sunday I always get a little nostalgic. I think back to that hot August day when I first hear the catchy NFL theme song and I know that what awaits me are many a Sundays napping in front of the TV while that creepy Fox Network robot does his darnedest to make me watch only the games being aired on Fox. Lucky for him, Fox is the station that airs my beloved Panthers’ games so in spite of his weirdness, I inevitably spend at least four hours a weekend marveling at his quirkiness.

Alas, the Panthers haven’t played since December but that doesn’t mean I have been disinterested in the game. In fact, instead of feeling obligated to pull for my hometown team, I now have the freedom to do more research on each game and make a more-educated choice on what team I will be rooting for. Or I have been pulling for the team with the cutest quarterback. Hence my choice to pull for the Packers tomorrow. (I think Aaron Rodgers looks a lot like Jim from the Office.)

So, in honor of this last-Sunday-of-football-for-the-next-six-months-(pending-a-lockout), there is no reason not to have a party and celebrate the culmination of another season. And so you can spend time decorating homemade sugar cookies with both the Steelers and the Packers logos (kudos if you make jerseys with the name and number of each person on both rosters), I recommend making this hearty sandwich dish for dinner. Made in a slow cooker (old-school, right?), you can set everything up before you go about your Sunday morning business and have it ready to eat by game time. Touchdown!

Hot and Sweet Sausage Sandwich*
Makes 8 to 10 Servings
From the
Best-Loved Slow Cooker Recipes

4 to 5 pounds hot Italian sausages (If you follow this recipe exactly, you will purchase a boatload of sausages. Four pounds of sausages turned out to be 20 good-sized links. Robbie will be eating off of this for days.)
1 jar (26 ounces) spaghetti sauce
1 large onion, sliced (Vidalia preferred) (Dear Cookbook Authors, Did you know Vidalia onions have an incredibly small growing season and are therefore not available on a regular basis? Therefore, please encourage your readers to use any sweet yellow onion. Love, MJ)
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced
¼ c packed dark brown sugar
Italian rolls, cut in half
Provolone cheese, sliced (optional) (Or, mandatory if you are in my house.)

Brown sausages in a skillet on the stove (this is optional but I found it useful). Combine sausages, spaghetti sauce, onion, bell peppers and sugar in a 5-quart slow cooker. Cover; cook on Low 8 to 10 hours or on High 4 to 6 hours. Place sausages on rolls and top with vegetable mixture. Add provolone cheese if desired.

*This was originally called “Big Al’s Hot and Sweet Sausage Sandwich.” I have no idea who Al is nor do I feel it is that much of a compliment to have a sandwich named after you so I will keep it just “Hot and Sweet Sausage Sandwich.”

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Banana Cake with Sour Cream Frosting

I spent this past weekend in chilly New York City for an enjoyable few days with some college friends. Robbie has had the good fortune of staying close with a group of guys since Freshman year (all of us were in the same Freshman dorm) and I was grateful to join them at their mini-reunion weekend. It was filled with delicious food, a frigid-but-still-energizing city, and a lot of laughs. Unfortunately, it ended on a somewhat sour note because of the Duke vs. St. John’s basketball game of which the ending ruined my first trip to Madison Square Garden. But I am not bitter.

Why you ask? Because we ate
here (and sat next to Matt Dillon!) and here for some delicious duck and dessert (respectively), here for a classic brunch, here for a cozy dinner, here for some hand-pulled noodles (which were recently featured in the NY Times!), here for some BBQ (and an unbelievably long wait) and here for some pre-game noshes. Somewhere between all of that we managed to get some hot chocolate here and here. Did I mention I like food? A lot? Bless my heart . . . good thing we were only there a few days.

But, alas, I left the city that provided charming snow flurries each night and solid celebrity sightings to return to North Carolina and have it be 55 degrees when we landed.
That was certainly a warm welcome!

I will try to make some dishes in the next few weeks that are inspired by some of the delicious foods I ate while in the City (I sound like Whitney Port) but, for now, I leave you with some delicious Banana Cake with Sour Cream Frosting.
I have already told you about Robbie’s and my tendency to have too many bananas so when we ended up with five that needed to be eaten in two days, I had to find a remedy. Enjoy!

Banana Cake with Sour Cream Frosting
10 – 12 servings
Bon Appetit Fast and Fresh

2 cups all purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ c sugar
2 large eggs
1 ¼ c sour cream divided
1 1/3 c mashed ripe bananas (about 3 large)
2 tbs fresh lemon juice

1 8-oz package cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 c powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly butter and flour 13 x 9 x 2 inch metal baking pan. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and 1 ½ c sugar in large bowl until blended. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Mix in ¾ c sour cream, bananas, and lemon juice. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture and beat until well blended. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake cake untic top is golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on rack.

Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and remaining ½ cup sour cream in large bowl until well blended.
Spread frosting over cooled cake.