Deception Bread

Robert and I really do have a fantastic relationship.

We base our trust off what we call “open forum policy”.  We’re both too exhausted by general life to bother keeping things from each other.  Besides the fact that we know each other so well we can smell a lie by a mile off, why on Earth would it be worth the energy to lie to my better half?

Indeed, I can think of no reason I would ever lie to Robert (half the time I accidentally tell him what his Christmas is months in advance).  But stretch the truth?  Conveniently forgetting a few major minor details?  Well, we all have things we’re less proud of.20160211_223343

In this case the truth stretching is the main ingredient in a side dish I am lovingly calling Deception Bread.  It’s cauliflower based cheesy bread substitute.  Robert thought it was made out of eggs and asked such.  “No… Not eggs…”  Lies of omission are lies all the same, but I’ll take my chances to sneak a few more servings of vegetables into our lives.

I’m a little late to the cauliflower crust party.  In fact, I have been morally opposed to it for years.  I truly enjoy cauliflower,so I thought it was kind of shady to try and dress it up like something it’s not.  It’s a little extra work, but certainly isn’t hard, to go from a head of cauliflower to something that can pass as cheesy bread.20160211_223212

A word of caution before we begin:

This tastes like cauliflower.  This does not taste like cheesy bread.  If you don’t want it to taste like a vegetable you probably shouldn’t make a vegetable based side dish.  With that being said, there’s so much cheese in this please do not count it as a “healthy alternative”.  It’s certainly more healthy, but I wouldn’t stretch so far as to call it a salad.

I served the Deception Bread with chicken parmesan.  The leftovers were fab with poached eggs and pesto.  Le yum.

Assemble your ingredients!

  • 1 Cauliflower head
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Cup Italian cheese
  • 1 Cup Parmesan
  • 1.5 Tablespoon Oregano
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 Cups Cheese (topping cheese)

 

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F, and line a large baking pan with parchment.
  2. Chop chop chop your cauliflower head into small chunks.  I chose to use the stems because that’s the most nutritious part.  You could just use the florets, but that would make you wasteful and silly.
  3. In about 3 small batches, blitz your cauliflower in a powerful blender or food processor until it’s the texture of course corn meal.  You could also use a ricer, but I don’t know anyone who actually owns a ricer.
  4. Put blitzed cauliflower into a microwavable dish.  Cover and nuke for 10 minutes.
  5. Once it cools to a touchable temperature, add your eggs, 2 cups cheese, garlic, and oregano. 20160211_212931
  6. Mix that nonsense well.
  7. Dump it onto a jelly roll pan lined with parchment.
  8. Smoosh it out to the sides until it’s more or less even.20160211_213231
  9. Stick it in the oven for about 25 minutes, until you start to get a little browning on the top. (No, you forgot to take a picture of this step!)
  10. Add your remaining cheese to the top of your Deception Crust, and place back in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until your cheese is to your desired meltyness.
  11. Slice into squares, rectangles, or dodecagons.
  12. Lie to your loved ones, and drown your guilt in this delicious cheesy bread alternative.20160211_223343

 

Recipe adapted from Here.

Shake your Booty (butter)

Shake shake shake.  Shake shake shake. Shake your booty.  Shake your booooty.

I think it’s a mandatory school lesson for 10-year-olds to make butter by shaking it in a mason jar.  They never fully finish, because 10-year-olds aren’t exactly known for their upper body longevity and will to see projects through to the end.  They continue on their merry way learning about the pilgrims and the 13 colonies.  All is right in America.

We all know that before modern technology butter was made in a butter churn.  We all know that if you shake cream long enough it’ll turn into butter. If you’re anything like me you’ve accidentally whipped your whipped cream too long and ended up with terrible results.

So that’s how butter is made.  Yep. Woohoo. Sounds good. That’s it. Right?

Boy, have I got a surprise for you.  Apparently I was one of the lazy fourth graders who didn’t shake their cream long enough to make butter, because I had no idea about buttermilk.  None!

Buttermilk is actually a by-product of butter.  You shake your jar, the milk solids bind together to make butter, and the liquid is buttermilk.  Who even knew?

Let’s make it. Assemble your ingredients:

  • Quart heavy cream
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  1. Put your heavy cream into a jar, or into the bowl of a stand mixer.  I used a mixer.  10-year-old or not, I have no intention of shaking a jar to make butter.  Nope.
  2. Attach the paddle attachment for your stand mixer, and cover with a towel or saran wrap.  This is important.  Please cover your bowl, or you’ll have a mess on your hands.20160206_214419
  3. Turn the mixer onto medium, and work your way up to a high setting slowly.
  4. It should take about 10 minutes for the milk solids to clump together.  You’ll know it’s ready because the butter will be in a huge clump on your paddle and buttermilk will be flying out of your bowl and soaking through your towel.20160206_214428
  5. Strain off buttermilk. Take the time to squeeeeze the last ounce or so of buttermilk out of your butter ball.  It sounds weird, and that’s because it is.

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    I couldn’t get this picture to rotate. Sorry, guys.
  6. Refrigerate both the buttermilk and the butter separately, in air tight containers.

Now. Does this recipe save you money? Unless you usually have some buttermilk laying around (which I like to), probably no.  Please don’t discard your buttermilk though.  It’s wonderful. You could use it in bread doughs, pancakes, biscuits, or home made ranch dressing (le yum).

What this recipe does offer is a great back to basics foundation.  Sure, I used modern technology, but you could just as easily go Laura Ingalls Wilder on this one. I chose not to salt my butter because unsalted suits baking purposes better.

You could mix in some roasted garlic and chives to make a fantastic compound butter.  Add honey and cinnamon for a breakfast delight.  The options are endless once you have your base.  And don’t forget that gorgeous buttermilk to keep you warm at night.

10 minutes isn’t long at all to the perfect butter and buttermilk recipe. If you’re going to use it anyway, why not be confident in the ingredient list?

Happy Snacking!

xoxo,

Kitten

Note: I used both the products made from heavy cream to make my mother a delicious buttermilk birthday cake.  I used the recipe from here. I probably won’t get around to posting that recipe on Kitten in the Kitchen, but by Jove it was delicious. Give it a look at.

(Chicken Noodle) Soup-er Trooper

I am lucky enough to come from a very loving family. I have in my life, or have had until a less fortunate time in life when they passed, two sets of grandparents, a set of great-grandparents, a fantastic mother and father, a “sister” who we were all lucky enough to get to know during her studies in the US, a wonderful brother-in-law, a slew of aunts, uncles, and cousins, all of Robert’s family, and, lastly, my only biological sister, Rachel.

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We went to the Enrique Iglasias concert in 2015 because we could think of no better way to spend the night than with a sexy Spanish man.

Rachel is the shit.  She is strong. She is crazy smart. She’s fun to be around. She’s sassy and spirited. She has talent up to wazoo. Sure, she’s beautiful, but she’s a hell of a lot more than that too.Rachel-Cade-Wedding-557

When I got divorced and didn’t have anywhere to go, my sister and brother-in-law welcomed me into their home.  It was the kindest most generous thing anyone has ever done for me.  There’s no way I could have gotten through such a hard time without their love and support.  I am constantly trying to find a way to repay their immense kindness.

Luckily, I have on a one up on her in the cooking front.  Our parents might have loved her longer, but I can tie the race with a good dessert for family get-togethers. I feel fairly confident that I am the better cook of the two of us (Sorry, Rae. Fair is fair.), for now. When you’ve got a sibling as amazing as my darling sister, it’s important to work what you’ve got. 😉

Up until recently, within the last few years, my darling sister, in all her beautiful, smart, sassy glory, sustained herself mostly on frozen pizzas. After she and my brother-in-law bought their house, things began to change. Slowly at first, but now the girl is turning into a bonafide home cook. Rachel can grill like a champ. If you visit her in the summer, ask her to make the grilled chicken caprese. It’s legit amazing.

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My high school Graduation, back in 2010.

It’s happened a few times where I’ll have her over for dinner and the recipe I make turns into a staple at her home.  Nothing fills me with more pride than being able to put a delicious meal into my family’s bellies, even if it’s through sharing a recipe via Kitten in the Kitchen. Rachel made a whole chicken in the Crockpot the other day, and so, obviously, it’s time for some chicken noodle soup. I teased that I would write this on my “Playing (Whole) Chicken” post, but I decided to push the recipe forward so that Rachel could have some fantastic soup.

If you plan on using store bought stock, scroll down to the part where I actually make the soup.

First things first. You need to make some stock. I did this in a pot, because I was home all day, but I’ve had just as much success making it in the Crockpot for an 8-10 hour setting on low.

Assemble your ingredients:

  • Chicken carcass, cooked
  • 4 carrots, with green tops if available
  • 3/4 onion, quartered
  • 5 garlic cloves, whole
  • 1 bay leaf20160122_111757

Prep your ingredients. Peel garlic, peel onion. Wash carrots and celery, cut off the heads and feet if necessary. I don’t bother peeling the carrots for stock because they’re just gong to be tossed out anyway. If you have any veggies that are starting to wilt and be past their prime, this is a great use for them. If you have carrots with tops, they make a fantastic stock. 20160122_112208

Put all of your ingredients into a large stock pot, order doesn’t matter. Fill your pot with water until all of your meat, bones, and produce is covered. Bring to a boil, then turn to low. Cover, and let simmer for a few hours.  I’ve learned the hard way it’s a good idea to cover your stock. If left uncovered, you need to keep filling the pot with water as it evaporates out. You lose a lot of depth of flavors that way.  No sense in working this hard just to have it vanquished by an uncovered pot. 20160122_112542

Now is a great time to do something productive. You could do laundry, wash the dishes, vacuum, whatever. While I did some of those activities, I mainly did the most productive thing of all: Cat cuddles & Netflix. Hey, someone’s gotta do it. A few episodes of your favorite show later (around 3 hours, give or take), your stock is ready to be handled.

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Like mother like daughter.

If you plan on turning this into soup right away, you can ignore the following procedure.  I had some time between the stock was done and when I needed to make dinner for when R got home.  Long enough to worry about the temperature of the stock. After it was done stewing, I immediately dumped a tray of ice cubes into the pot, and put it outside. (Remember, Minnesota in the middle of winter. It’s like putting it in the freezer.)  It’s hard to get stock to cool safely in an industrial kitchen, and even harder at home.  Stir it once an hour to keep the edges rotating; that’ll help it cool more evenly.  After two hours I divided it into two large mixing bowls, and put them back outside.  It was still steaming, but this seemed to do the trick so the stock could cool.  If you plan on having that waiting period between stock making and soup making, this process is so important. Keeping it in that medium warm state is bacteria heaven. Either keep it hot, or do your best to cool it down rapidly.

For your soup:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 of an onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 carrots
  • 4 stalks celery
  • salt & pepper
  • parsley
  • oregano
  • paprika
  • thyme
  • a handful of pasta, I used a gluten-free rice pasta20160122_165737

Chop, peel, and wash your veggies accordingly.  Robert doesn’t care for onion, so I use less of that and more celery.  We both like carrots, so I use a hearty amount of them as well. Don’t throw away your celery greens, they’re so yummy.  The leaves have a really delicious delicate flavor.  Just chop them up and toss them in with your onion and carrots.20160122_170649

Melt your butter in the same pot you originally made your stock in on medium-high. Saute in the butter for about 4 minutes. Crush and mince the garlic, add and cook for an additional minute. Stir frequently so the veggies don’t stick to the bottom.

I choose to wait to strain my stock until now. Put a collindar or steam insert above your pot.  Slowly pour your stock into the strainer, making sure you don’t overflow the strainer.  One all the stock is in, you can start pulling all that delicious meat off all the bones.  It’s a little putzy and labor intensive, but totally worth the result. If you have any leftover chicken in the fridge from the whole chicken you roasted, you could certainly shred that and throw it in as well.  Reserve one ounce of cooled meat for the Cat.

Bring to a boil, and let it go for about 10 minutes.  Grab a handful of your favorite pasta, and break it in half so the noodles aren’t so long. Boil according to the package. In Jewish culture, it’s standard to boil your noodles separately and add them to the stock/veg mixture when you serve.  This results in a beautiful clear broth.  I subscribe to the lazier one pot method and cook my pasta in my stock.  This does cloud up the broth a bit, but it also thickens it.

I season my soup now, while it’s at a rolling boil. If you followed my recipe, you didn’t season your stock at all. I choose to do it this way so I can season my stock appropriately for dishes from all over the world.  Italian seasoning wouldn’t make sense in a Thai dish. With that being said, you’ll probably need a lot more salt than you think you will.  Use your best judgement, and taste it once the soup has cooled a bit.  Adjust the seasoning to taste.20160122_221717_001

 

DEEEELICIOUS.  Enjoy your soup!  Nothing warms up a cold winter day quite like a big bowl of chicken noodle.

For the stock:

  • Chicken carcass, cooked
  • 4 carrots, with green tops if available
  • 3/4 onion, quartered
  • 5 garlic cloves, whole
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Put all ingredients in a pot.
  2. Fill pot with water until all ingredients are covered.
  3. Bring to boil.
  4. Cover pot, and turn to low.
  5. Simmer for about 3 hours.
  6. Cool for use later, or use immediately.

 

For the Chicken Noodle Soup:

 

  • Stock, with chicken carcass OR store bought stock with cooked chicken
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 of an onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 carrots
  • 4 stalks celery
  • salt & pepper
  • parsley
  • oregano
  • paprika
  • thyme
  • a handful of pasta, I used a gluten-free rice pasta
  1. Melt butter in large stock pot.
  2. Prep vegetables by peeling, dicing, and chopping as necessary.
  3. Saute veggies in butter for about 4 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, and saute for a minute longer.
  5. Strain stock into the stockpot, making sure to pull all meat into the pot, and discard all bones and cartilage.
  6. If adding any other chicken, shred and add to pot.
  7. Bring to rapid boil. Season to taste.
  8. Boil for about 10 minutes.
  9. Add pasta, and cook according to package.
  10. Let cook, and adjust seasoning as needed.

 

Playing (whole) Chicken

I remember back when I was a little girl living with my parents my mother would have a panic attack every time I would pick up a Chef knife.  It wouldn’t matter if I was cutting a watermelon, chopping an onion, or slicing a chicken breast.  Every time she was present, she would cover her eyes and shriek, “I can’t watch!” and just wait for me to accidentally cut off my entire hand.  Well, that never happened.20160120_222231

And boy am I glad her endearing fear of me maiming myself didn’t transfer to me through osmosis.  I use my Chef’s knife every day, and in almost every meal. Interestingly enough, I don’t usually use it for chopping or slicing most often.  No, the most often used action is for smashing.  Garlic, specifically.

You need to smash the garlic to get the skin off. You can’t chop the garlic, or put it through a garlic press, unless you get that pesky skin off.  I know that you CAN buy the pre-minced stuff. I have indulged myself in it my fair share of times.  No matter what though, I always come back to the whole head of garlic.  Nothing tastes quite as good as a freshly smashed and chopped clove.20160120_222214

Don’t know how to smash garlic without accidentally cutting off your entire hand? Well, it’s easy!  Simply lie your clove on a cutting board. Place your chef’s knife (a paring won’t work. Don’t even try it.) on top of the clove, sharp side pointing away from you. Steady the handle with one hand, and quickly bring the heel of your hand down onto the side of the blade. With any luck, your garlic should be nice and crushed, and will pop open on the sides. Delicious.  Then you can just peel your garlic and you’re well on the way.

I can tell you this, there’s no way I could make a delicious whole chicken without some nice fresh garlic.  They go together like peas in a pod.  I make whole chickens on a regular basis.  Not only is it delicious as hell, it’s also crazy cheap.  A whole bird will run anywhere from $5-$12 depending on it’s size, if it’s cage free, on a vegetarian diet, so on and so forth.  Even though I don’t think the birds taste any different, I normally try to buy a mid-range chicken.  Even if it doesn’t make a difference to me, it certainly makes a difference to the chicken.  Let’s vote with our pocketbooks, eh?

Even more people are afraid of making whole birds than are afraid of smashing garlic. Fear not, my friends! Whole birds are super easy to make, they just require a bit of patience. For an average chicken, it’s a safe bet to say it’ll take an hour and a half to cook, so prepare accordingly.

First thing’s first, gather your ingredients. You’ll need:

  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Bay Leaf
  • Paprika
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter

Start with your onion, carrot, celery and garlic.  I don’t even bother to peel my carrots. I just chop off their heads and their feet, and give them a good rinse. Same goes for the celery.  Chop the stalks in half, and set aside.  Smash a few cloves of garlic, and quarter and peel your onion.20160120_193956

Rinse your chicken in the sink, and stuff it with your freshly prepped veggies inside the cavity of the bird.  (If you have all the gizzards and giblets, you could certainly make something with them.  I either throw them in stock or just throw them out.)  After all of your veggies are in, slide the bay leaf under the breast bone.  Le yum.  I use a dried bay leaf.  Obviously fresh would be far more flavorful, but this isn’t France and a girl has to do what a girl has to do.

Throw that in your baking pan. I like to use an 8″x8″. Next, make a paste with your seasonings.  The olive oil is your liquid, and just mixy mix until your happy with the flavor profile. I used what’s listed above, but never measure.  If you prefer a more bland basic chicken, just use poultry & Italian seasoning. Lastly, put two tablespoons of butter atop your bird. That way when it bakes you get a nice brown crispy skin.  YUM.

Put it into your pre-heated oven at 350°.  Check the temperature after an hour, but it probably won’t be ready for an hour and a half.  The internal temperature should reach 170° in the thickest part of the bird.

Let it sit for 10 minutes before you slice into that beautiful beast.  The skin should be golden and crispy, and it should be sitting in a substantial amount of it’s own juices.

Pour those delicious juices over rice & veggies.  Save the rest, along with the carcass, for a fantastic stock (and homemade chicken noodle soup!)  This is such an easy recipe it doesn’t even warrant putting the whole bit down at the bottom.  20160120_222218

Haley also adores this recipe.  Cat knows her stuff. Have your bird, and eat it too.

You Scream, Ice Cream

Robert & I are creatures of habit. Much like cats and children, we thrive with routine. We fall into happy routines easily, and have no desire to change them.  Mixing it is not necessary when you’re happy as clams together.

Every night after long days of work, and cleaning up after dinner, we settle down to cuddle the cat, eat ice cream, and watch Netflix.  Usually a gritty crime series, Doctor Who, or a cooking competition. My all time favorite is Chopped.  Ted Allen gives me life.R&C

 

Watching Chopped, there’s always a few cliche things that happen in each episode, without fail. They are:

  1. The “I’m not pleased with my presentation…”
  2. Followed directly by “but I’m confident in my flavors.”
  3. Someone decides it’s a good idea to fight with Marc Murphy (note: it’s not a good idea.)
  4. Someone sets something on fire
  5. Someone cuts themselves and has to put on about a million gloves.
  6. Someone forgets half the basket ingredients, and tries to justify it with
  7. “The time just got away from me.”
  8. Everything is served “en crout”
  9. Someone makes a bread pudding or french toast
  10. and tries to make it sound legit by adding some French words in.
  11. Last but certainly not least, the ice cream machine.20160113_002736

Everyone on Chopped thinks they know how to make an ice cream. They throw crap into a bowl, and throw that into the ice cream machine. They have never made it before, yet somehow they think this is a wise choice.  It melts, and they call it a semifreddo. They over churn it. They don’t add enough eggs. It tastes terrible. And without fail, someone decides to use the ice cream maker.

Usually I just accept this as a fact of the show, and I do my best not to roll my eyes. Sometimes, I get really cheesed off though. They just throw things into the ice cream machine, and (occasionally) it turns out perfect.  Please, if they can pull it off on Chopped I could certainly pull it off in my own kitchen.20160113_002723

Let me set the record straight. I am an ice cream lover. All the flavors, all the different base varieties. I love them all. Should you ask me what my favorite food is, I will say ice cream without skipping a beat.  I’ve made it at home quite a bit. I first got an ice cream machine from my mother back around 2012 for Christmas.  It did the job, but it didn’t quite freeze the ice cream hard enough.  In Christmas 2014 Robert upgraded me to the Cuisinart machine I now use.  It still doesn’t give a good hard freeze, but its a pretty big step up from my original machine.  I just pop my ice cream into the freezer for a few hours after its done churning and it gets to be pretty perfect.20160112_003153

In the spirit of Chopped cooking, I didn’t measure shit.  I just dumped it all into a bowl, threw it over a double boiler.  I am kicking myself in the face for my devil-may-care attitude. This ice cream turned out almost perfect.  I didn’t follow a recipe. I literally measured nothing.  And since there were no measurements, I had nothing to make note of to re-create this splendid ice cream.  It’s just like on Chopped. -__-20160112_003203

Unlike I Chopped, I do know what I’m doing.  Here’s a rough estimate of the ingredients I used:

  • 1 Cup Cream
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 Tablespoons Molasses
  • 3/4 Cup Hot Fudge

First things first.  Get a pot of water going for your double boiler. It’s nice to start this first so that you don’t have to keep waiting around for your water to boil.

Throw your cream into a stainless steel mixing bowl.  This bowl will be used over the double boiler, so it’s important you don’t use plastic.  Glass would work as well, but I don’t know anyone who actually has any glass bowls.  Using a hand mixer, whip your heavy cream until it at least doubles in volume.  It should be between frothy and soft peaks.

Add your yolks, and get your mixture over the double boiler.  This is a custard base, so putting the yolks over this double boiler will ensure that your custard isn’t full of raw egg.  As soon as you get it over the double boiler, start whipping it.  You need to whisk it constantly or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. Yuck.  Keep whipping this over the heat for about 3 minutes. I didn’t take pictures of these things partially because I’m a scatterbrain, and partially because I was convinced it wouldn’t turn out quite right.

Add the milk, sugar, salt, vanilla, and molasses.  Beat this constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Be patient and keep whisking away.  If you stop, the eggs can scramble.  Keep fighting the good fight (whisking your delicious custard).20160111_211620

Once your mixture is nice and thick, THEN add in the hot fudge.  The fudge is pretty dense and heavy, so adding it too soon can make it seem like your custard is thicker than it really is. Should you go down that path, it probably wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it may lead to raw yolks in your custard.

Put the custard into the fridge for at least a few hours, but preferably over night.  Since it’s the middle of winter in Minnesota, I just through it outside for a few hours.  The great outdoors is commonly referred to in these parts as “the big fridge”.  With my high class culinary career, I like to think of it as “the walk-in cooler.” It’s nice to let it sit overnight in the fridge because it lets the molecules get their structure in order.  Baking is science, you guys.20160112_000746

After it’s had time to cool and rest, throw that nonsense into your ice cream machine!  Let it churn for about 20 minutes.  The nice thing about most home ice cream makers is that they don’t get cold enough to over churn your ice cream.  So let it go until it reaches the consistency of soft serve.

Freeze it for a few hours for best results, but it’s good to eat whenever.  If it gets too firm in your freezer, I just let it sit out for a while before scooping.  It’ll last quite a while in the freezer, but you’ll probably eat it all in a few days. 😉

Best served with cat cuddles and Chopped. (and maybe an upcoming recipe for homemade chocolate syrup to satiate R’s chocolate cravings?! One can never know.)

Fudge Ice cream

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 Cup Cream
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 Tablespoons Molasses
  • 3/4 Cup Hot Fudge
  1. Start a pot of water for a boiling water.
  2. Whip heavy cream in stainless steel or glass bowl until soft peaks form.
  3. Mix in milk, sugar, salt, vanilla, egg yolks, and molasses. Beat constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.
  4. Mix in fudge.
  5. Refrigerate mixture for at least a two hours, preferably over night.
  6. Churn in ice cream maker for 20 minutes.
  7. Freeze in an air tight container.

 

 

(hot) Fudge you

Another day, another blog post that I should have taken more pictures of. Such is life.

I had today off work and had many grand plans for all the things I would accomplish today. I was going to finish my monthly meal plan (done & too be published for your enjoyment soon), go grocery shopping for next week, do some yoga (did that too), finish the laundry, get the kitchen clean, and make a fantastic dinner.

And then it snowed. And I accomplished nothing.

“But, Kitten! Half of those projects take place inside your own home! There’s nary an excuse for accomplishing squat!”

Well. Fudge you.

And I do not mind if I do.20160111_225143

This is a recipe I go back to time and time again. It’s rich, it’s delicious. It’s utterly sinful. All qualities I look for in a dessert. The ingredients are simple:

  • 6 oz Chocolate (use the fancy stuff. You know you want to.)
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • Pinch Salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 Cup half & half

Use the fancy chocolate. You can chop up a bar or get the nice chocolate chips. I’m want to use whatever the fudge (see what I did there?) I have laying around the pantry, today it was Hershey’s. I recommend Hershey’s, Ghirardelli, or literally anything that is not Nestle. (Stop buying their products or stop thinking of yourself as a decent human being. The choice is yours.) I used milk chocolate today, but semi-sweet or dark chocolate is my favorite.20160111_210150

Simply measure out your ingredients, and throw everything into a blender or food processor excluding the half & Half.

Place your half & half into a 2 cup sized microwave safe measuring cup (or larger form of microwavable dish). Nuke that sucker for 90 seconds on high.

Pour your hot milk into your blender, and immediately blend on medium power for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and blend again for 1 more minute.20160111_205815

Pour it into an air tight container and eat it with a spoon store in the fridge for up to two weeks. Honestly, I don’t think it’ll last you that long.

The fudge will thicken when it cools, but just heat it in the microwave gently (for about 15 seconds at a time. For real.) and it’ll be a nice runny consistency again. Perfect for pouring over ice cream, fancy bars, or into fancy cocktails. This recipe makes approximately 1 cup of hot fudge.
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“Kitten, why didn’t you take more (or any really) pictures of this recipe? And while I’m at it, there’s certainly less than 1 Cup of fudge in those pictures!” Because I was busy pouring this delectable hot fudge into an ice cream base, smarty pants. Hold your hats, friends. ETA on that post is tomorrow. It’s gonna be big.

Easy Home Made Hot Fudge

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • Dash Salt
  • 1/4 C Sugar
  • 1/2 C Half&Half
  1. Place chocolate, butter, vanilla, sugar, and salt in blender.
  2. In microwavable dish, heat half&half on high for 90 seconds.
  3. Pour immediately into blender. Blend on medium for 1 minute.
  4. Scrape down sides of blender & blend again for 1 minute.

This recipe can be found in it’s original format here.

Adult and Stuff…

For me, the holidays are officially over!  I love spending time with my family, but I also love having a routine.  I am a creature of habit, and I love making schedules and plans. How on earth could anyone expect me to function as an adult member of society without a game plan?! Making it up as a I go hasn’t benefited me much as an individual.

It turns out that writing a mere five blog posts isn’t enough for it to be habit to document my cooking like I’m exhuming Atlantis. Since making marshmallows & hot chocolate, I’ve made a lot of un-interesting dinners (i.e: “dump” slow cooker meals, chili) that simply haven’t been worth documenting. Then, the few times I’ve made something interesting (corn bread, and Belgian waffles most recently) I’ve been so focused on not ruining my recipe I forget to document!

I’ve also realized that I have forgotten to tell you the most important ingredient to my success in making everything I eat from scratch. Ready for this?

I meal plan.

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Hiding in my meal planning “shame”

Yes. I am one of those people. I plan my meals a month in advance. I account for holidays. I think about what stocks I can make from bones and use in the following meals. It’s a huge undertaking WITHOUT adding in making everything from scratch.

Meal planning makes me feel like an adult. It makes me feel like I really have my shit together. For me, there’s nothing worse in the world than coming home after a long day of work and playing the “what should I make for dinner?” game. Hell no. Not on my watch.

Meal planning also added some much needed structure to my life. Before I started meal planning, I had an unnecessary amount of anxiety attacks directly connected to “ohmygod. how am I going to feed Robert? HE’LL STARVE TO DEATH IF I CAN’T FIGURE OUT WHAT I’M DOING!” It sounds dramatic, and that’s because it was.  It was dramatically terrible.

We were also broke (read, more broke than currently.). Going to the store would usually cost about $300USD per trip. It was exhausting and financially draining. We’d probably do one or two big shopping trips a month, but we’d have to keep going back to the store for fresh produce, and to get ingredients we needed for making whatever random recipes came to mind that day. Shopping for food that you don’t know you’ll make is next to impossible.

For me, the choice to do a meal plan was a no-brainer. I asked R one day what his thoughts were. He didn’t really have any (“Whatever makes you happy, my love.”). So I signed up for a meal plan for one month. It was pre-made, on  a budget, and had all the attached recipes. It only cost me a few dollars, and that one month changed my life. It reduced my stress by about a million percent, saved us a crap ton of money, and no more of the “What should we have for dinner?” game! Everyone wins.

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The meal plan that started it all.

Once a month I do sacrifice an hour or two of my time to make the meal plan. It’s worth it. Here’s my step by step process

  1. Print out a calendar (it doesn’t even have to match the month. The one I use is just a big grid, really.)20160106_150854
  2. Ask R if there’s anything he wants special this month. (Usually beef tips, beef stew, steak, hamburgers, beef anything really.) I really do love R, and he sticks with me through thick and thin. I always try and make sure at least a few of his special recipes get on the plan.
  3. Check out the food blogs. Pintrest my soul away. Pull out some good recipes and print them.
  4. Drag out the archives. Between my internet finds, and recipes I’ve made before I..

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    The archives. The stockpile of sensational flavors.
  5. Plop it all onto my grid into a somewhat sensical fashion.
  6. Put it into a separate folder in the order you plan on making your dishes.

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    My monthly meal plan goes into this beaut. I can’t figure out how to rotate the picture though.
  7. Once you make the dishes, recycle the recipes you didn’t care for & put the ones you like into your archives.

Things I try to keep in mind when making my meal plan:

  • Any holidays or parties coming up that we need to work around?
  • What will I have to prepare ahead of time?
  • Do I have at least one vegetarian meal per week? (I’ve been faltering on this one lately. I don’t think R has minded.)
  • Do I have two meals next to each other that are oddly similar?
  • Do I have two beef meals in one week? (Robert would love this. I do not.)

We now go shopping once a week (on Wednesdays, since we’re off work) and get all the needed goods for that week. At home I make a list of exactly what we’ll need, and inventory it against our freezer/fridge/pantry contents. We only buy exactly what we need. It saves us money, and it saves us so much damn time.

I make large meals at dinner, so we’re able to bring leftovers for lunch the next day. If it’s a particularly large batch, I’ll freeze some and we’ll pull it out next month for dinner. Can’t get much easier than that.  Most meals I make are for a family of 4-6. We’re a family of 2 (+cat). Since our lunches are taken care of by leftovers, and breakfast is usually something quite simple (Eggs & asparagus is my favorite), our food budget is quite small. We generally spend less than $400 a month on food for EVERYTHING we eat, and buy organic whenever it’s available. Our weekly shopping trip usually comes up to about $70 to take care of everything no problem.

Guys, I know it sounds like a lot of work. The first month I really recommend just going with a pre-made plan. It made it a lot easier to stick with that way. So it’s actually the second month that’s the most daunting. Look through your cookbooks, think about what your normally make. Then throw it a bunch of new stuff! It’s so easy to end up in a food rut, making the same things over and over and over. A simple word of warning: When you throw a bunch of new recipes into your mix every month (as I usually do) they won’t all be winners. Take it as a grain of salt, and move on. Tomorrow will be better.

To repeat myself one last time:

Meal Planning changed my life. I think it could change yours too. Give it a shot. See what happens. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The original meal plan I used, and that changed my life, is a $150 Weeknight Dinner Meal plan from I am THAT Lady. You can view it for free, or you can buy it and get the printables (totally worth it.) I can’t find the one that I used specifically, but there’s a wealth of resources available.