Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rosemary Leg of Lamb (s)

Thanks to Chestnut Hill Farms, we had accumulated 2 legs of lamb. I decided it was time to make them! on Friday morning, I took them out of the freezer and put them in the fridge to thaw out.

Coming out of the freezer:

On Sunday morning, I rubbed the legs with lemon juice, fresh chopped rosemary, and chopped garlic. I put them back in the fridge and let them soak up the flavor all day. When I was ready to start cooking, I placed the prepped lamb legs on a rack, and set that over a baking dish. They went into the oven at 400 for 30 minutes, and then stayed in there for another hour and a half or so at 350.

When the lamb was almost finished, I made my favorite veggie- asparagus!! I lightly toss it in olive oil and Krazy Jane's mixed up salt and throw it on the grill until they are slightly charred. Yum!!

I took the lamb out when it reached about 145 degrees

I had a hard time carving the meat, and was only able to get little chunks off at a time:
Dinner is ready!! The flavor of the lamb was pretty good, I loved the rosemary.

My dessert for the day? Some yummy strawberries!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cheater's Chocolate Cookies

I came home the other day craving chocolate! It was already late, and I didn't have too much kicking around in my cupboard except for a box of Duncan Hines chocolate cake mix (Moist Delux Dark Chocolate Fudge, to be precise). I picked up the box, but then decided a baking a cake was taking my craving a little too far. However, as I put the box back on the shelf I noticed there was a recipe for "Chunky Chocolate Cookies" on the side. I couldn't resist... I totally cheated and used the shortcut!

It was so simple and took about 5 minutes to whip together. It was very, very thick dough... next time I will use a mixer, my hand got tired! These were some darn good cookies. Fantastic, actually. I only made a few, the rest of the batter is still wrapped up in the freezer for another day.

I will definitley be making these again! SO easy, and hits the spot when all you want is chocolate! Here is the recipe:

1 package Duncan Hines Chocolate Fugdge Cake Mix

2 large eggs

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I skipped this part in my rush)

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (skipped this too)

Stir everything together. Drop tablespoons (mine were bigger than that) onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Meat is back on the menu!

So, I am planning on posting more "real" food recipes. But before I start that, I wanted to write a little bit about meat.

Up until the fall of 2008, I hadn't eaten any red meat for 8 years. When I was younger, hamburgers were probably my favorite meal. But during my first semester of freshman year in college, I read "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. That book changed the way I thought about meat. From what I understood of the book (keep in mind this was a long time ago, my memory is a little foggy and my then-freshman brain was programmed to read the assignment as fast as possible), meatpacking plants had become sloppy and dangerous places to work. The priority had become quantity, not quality. Poor conditions and unskilled workers compounded the problem, and the result was tainted meat. The book boiled it down to one particular line which made my stomach churn and caused me to go cold-turkey on beef: "There is shit in the meat."

Being the germ-o-phobe that I am, I stuck with my conviction and didn't eat a drop of beef for years. I wasn't even tempted. However, my friend Grace recently told me about local farmers who raise their own animals on their own farms, and then sell the meat to their supporters. The animals are raised to be all-natural, grass-fed, happy creatures. Grace found one farm in particular, Chestnut Farm, which seemed great. Besides the fact that the grass-fed animals are a million times healthier for you than hormone-injected/corn-fed ones (read this about how grassfed beef has only a tiny bit more fat than commercial chicken!), the meatpacking process seems a lot more controlled and healthy. I'll take it! I signed right up and have been getting 10 pounds of meat a month since the fall. We get a mix of beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, and ham/pork depending on the month. Let me tell you that first bite of beef was hard... and I started slow... but now I am loving it. Sometimes we get a weird cut that I don't know what to do with, like a tiny pack of ribs, but I figure one of these days we'll just throw it all in the crockpot.

I made two small legs of lamb over the weekend, post coming soon!

S’more Cookie Bars

I saw this recipe for S'more Cookie Bars on CrepesOfWrath. They looked way too good to pass up! They were incredible and pretty easy to make. I doubled the recipe only because the only square pan I have is a 9x13.

My camera died in the middle of baking so I missed a few assembly photos. But here are a few of the process! Recipe below.

The batter. Pretty standard except for the ground graham crackers.

Splitting the batter in half. Half gets pressed into the pan. The second half gets smooshed onto the top after the chocolate and marshmallow fluff.

Half of the batter pressed into the prepared baking dish

Time for the good stuff! I didn't need this much chocolate.

I thought that the fluff was a little too stiff to spread easily over the chocolate, so I decided to try and microwave it. Bad idea! Luckily Dan (my husband) caught my mistake before there was marshmallow fluff all over the inside of our microwave. I'll pass on that step next time :)

This is where my camera died, so I missed the assembly process. I got some post-cooking photos though. Clearly my camera skills need improvement. I'll work on that!

S'more Cookie Bars
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 8 graham crackers)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 king-sized milk chocolate bars
1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)

I'll definitely make these again. I'm going to need to get a smaller baking pan though, having too many of these things lying around is not a good idea!

Next up I think I'll make something from my own library to share...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My first, unofficial, challenge

As I mentioned before, I found this cake that I just had to make for my sister's birthday. This was an old Daring Baker's Challenge. Since I am hoping to join that group soon, I'll consider the baking of this cake as a warm-up! I didn't take many photos, unfortunately. Next time, I will be sure to have my camera handy.

I checked out many of the Daring Bakers' Filbert Gateau cakes, but I just loved Sydney's tall, fluffy cake yet intensely creamy frosting version. So, I modeled mine after hers. My process looked very similar to hers! Check her page for photos and for the recipes/instructions.

My notes:
-I doubled everything
-I made this cake for a Friday night dinner. I began cooking it on Wednesday night. It took a few hours on Wednesday, Thursday, AND Friday to cook, assemble, and clean up after! Man, I went through a lot of dishes for this!
-I used the substitute simple buttercream. I added more praline paste than called for, I think that the simple buttercream makes more frosting than the Swiss buttercream and so it needs more praline paste. I just kept adding the paste until I felt like the taste was strong enough. It got a bit crunchy, which I thought was weird (maybe I didn't process the brittle long enough?), but my family loved it.
-I used a combination of raspberry and strawberry preserves. This was an accident, but it worked just fine.
-I loved what Sydney did with her cake by piping praline buttercream all over the outside. I didn't have enough frosting left for that, so I just piped the buttercream all along the sides of the cake, and left the top alone. I kind of liked the effect!

I really enjoyed this cake. I had leftover ganache, so I heated that up and passed it with the cake. If you like hazlenuts, you will love this cake! I might experiment with a more chocolately version next time.

Where to begin?

I've just discovered the world of baking blogs. I was looking for something fabulous to bake for my little sister's birthday. I don't remember how I stumbled across it, but here is what I found: http://thecrepesofwrath.wordpress.com/2008/07/30/filbert-gateau-with-praline-buttercream/. Um, wow.

I discovered that this incredible looking cake was the result of a Daring Bakers Challenge. Baking challenge??!! Endless blogs on baking??!! I was instantly intrigued. I combed through some of the other Daring Bakers' blogs, and I found some really great stuff. I love baking, always have. I remember back to my first solo attempt at baking in middle school. I made chocolate chip cookies out of a kids cookbook, which is probably still sitting in the cookbook rack at my mom's house. I've been cooking ever since! I love to cook pretty much anything (except seafood, blech), but baking is my specialty... and I love a challenge.

So, my goal with this blog is to challenge myself and to share my favorite recipes! I will try out recipes from other baking blogs, hopefully take part in Daring Bakers Challenges, and post my favorite recipes from over the years. It will mostly be baked goods, although you might see the occasional savory recipe as well! I've always toyed with the idea of leaving my comfortable, safe desk job to open my own bakery. I hope this can be my outlet for cooking, since such a dramatic career change would be unwise in our current economy.

Oh... if you are wondering about the blog name, my other hobby is triathlons. I've been competing in this sport for a few years now. I started competitive swimming young, took up running in high school, and in 2006 decided that biking wouldn't be too much of a stretch. After my first triathlon, Mooseman International, I was hooked. I've done several more races since then, including an Ironman at Lake Placid in July of 2008. Ironman was an incredible experience, but the training left little to no time for my other passions. So, I am back to shorter distances and a fuller life!

Most endurance athletes would consider baking a no-no (including my coaches). Low bodyfat and all that nonsense. I do strive to eat very well for the most part, however I allow room for splurging. Lean meats, fruits, veggies, and nuts make up my base diet. But I squeak in some goodies every now and then, especially when baking! I am able to keep it in balance. Everything in moderation... and 10-15 hours a week of triathlon training helps.

First post will be a review on that yummy Filbert Gateau!!