Holiday Sea Creatures

In case your endeavors with holiday cookie cutters go awkwardly wrong, I present an alternate suggestion:

Draw faces on them.

Magic! Lopsided Santas become Christmas Whales. Mis-shapen reindeer are transformed into Holiday Octopuses. Mangled gifts take on new life as Yuletide Jellyfish.

Oh, come on. They’re cute.


The Reckless Chef Makes House Calls

In case you were curious, I don’t just set my own kitchen on fire.

Sometimes, I bring my talents to other people’s kitchens.

Funny story: when we opened the oven and saw the burning cobbler, my first reaction was “Where’s your camera? Does your Blackberry have a camera?” while Rebekah‘s was “WE NEED TO PUT THIS OUT NOW!” Priorities, duh.

Case of the Mondays (Alternately: Winning is Fun)

I’m pretty sure you’ve gathered this by now, but in case you weren’t aware — I’m accident-prone. Very much so. I’m even more inclined to melt spatulas, catch my hair on fire, or make a batch of sugar cookies that doesn’t have any sugar in them if I’m low on energy (or if it’s a Monday). And I have a hunch that it’s not just me :)

This? May not have happened if I’d had a Starbucks Doubleshot® Energy+Coffee handy.

The lovely folks at Starbucks invited me to run a fancy little contest to introduce you to their Starbucks Doubleshot® Energy+Coffee, and all you have to do is tell me about an embarrassing or funny thing that you’ve done in the kitchen.

So, what’s in it for you?

Prizes, of course! I mean, obviously, it’s fun enough to share your hilarious stories, but what kind of contest would this be if there weren’t some fun things to win? You get the chance to win a $5 Starbucks Card, Starbucks Doubleshot® Energy+Coffee coupons, a white board (who couldn’t use that for jotting down recipes on the fly?), and a fancy little gizmo called the StealthSwitch™ that makes computer applications go invisible (in case you’re checking out recipes at the office). Who doesn’t love prizes? (I know I do! Totally looking forward to checking out the samples I’ll be getting.)

So, in short: you can win things just by having a funny kitchen story! And I’ll even cut you some slack in case you’re coordinated and polished and all of your recipes turn out perfectly — it doesn’t have to be your story. You can tell me about the time your roommate set your kitchen on fire, or your puppy knocked over your cake stand, or your neighbor down the street put aluminum foil in the microwave.

Fancy legal terms:

This promotion is solely sponsored by Jenny A. and has not been endorsed or approved by North American Coffee Partnership. By entering, you agree to look solely to Jenny A.  for any claims in connection therewith, and not the North American Coffee Partnership

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Subject to Contest guidelines. Open to U.S. residents only. Contest ends 11-1-09. Void where prohibited.

Starbucks Doubleshot® Energy+Coffee will be sending me some samples soon, and I’ll be letting you know what I think about them. All the opinions expressed here are mine.

So! Leave a comment, and tell me about your funniest or most accident-prone kitchen experiences! You’ve got two weeks to participate, and I’m looking forward to reading your stories (and hopefully sending some prizes to you!).

Thanks, Starbucks!

Why, Yes, You CAN Mess Up Grilled Cheese

So, my classes this fall are pretty stressful. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t posted very much.

This is why:

Just kidding. I mean, I did ruin that grilled cheese (yes, that’s smoke near the top of the picture), but I’ve been working on some delicious recipes, too. In between scraping burnt cheese off of my frying pan and throwing out another melted spatula (if you’re keeping score, that’s TWO spatulas rendered useless).

And! Stick around for the month of October (at least!) because there are fun fall treats on the way AND a contest. And who doesn’t like winning?

Crying Over Spilt Milk Is Wrong

Crying over spilt vanilla extract? Totally acceptable.

Accident-prone. That would be me.

Butter and Shortening. Not The Same.

So, I learned some things yesterday.

(1) My parents have not done much baking since I moved out of their house.

(2) Shortening does, in fact, have an expiration date. Even if it’s not printed on the container.

(3) Rancid shortening is one of the most foul things on the planet.

(4) Butter is only a semi-acceptable substitute for shortening.

All that aside, it is possible to make choreg without using shortening. It just doesn’t have the same dough texture — the dough is sticky and less friendly to work with. Simple solution: instead of braiding the choreg, make little roll shapes.
So…if your shortening happens to have gone rancid, and you’ve already started mixing everything else (cough, cough…who checks their ingredients first?), you can switch out the 1/2 lb of shortening for 1/2 lb (2 sticks) of butter. To compensate, you’ll need to add some extra flour — I honestly can’t tell you how much because I was just adding a tbsp at a time until it worked, but it was enough to make the dough not stick to my hands. Best guess? Another cup of flour.

(5) My old camera is not nearly as good as the other one. Everything looks so blurry!

On the bright side: no matter how ugly and pointy the choreg might look before they go in the oven, they’ll smooth out and look better during the baking process. I was seriously concerned with the sticky factor, but it looks like it’s not that big of a deal after all.

Want that choreg recipe? It’s right here.

Medium Saucepan Corn!

I’d call it kettle corn, but I don’t have a kettle.

Sweet + salty = just perfect.

I based this recipe on the one found on the website for Velma’s Wicked Delicious Kettle Corn. There’s a cute little slideshow with the recipe, and I couldn’t resist giving it a try in my own kitchen. Obviously, I reduced the quantity…I don’t have a giant kettle! A medium-sized saucepan worked just perfectly.

The Recipe:
Medium Saucepan Corn
1/3 cup white popcorn kernels
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
several glugs of vegetable oil (I didn’t measure it, but use just enough to coat the bottom of the pan and dissolve the sugar)
salt to taste

Do This:
Find a medium-sized saucepan, and double-check the amount of popcorn. You should have just enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pan. A few more or less isn’t terrible, but there shouldn’t be lots of kernels on top of each other, nor should there be so few kernels that you could be using a smaller saucepan. My pan works perfectly with 1/3 cup of kernels, so that’s what I went with. If you use more (or less) than this, adjust the amount of sugar so it’s just around half of the measure of popcorn (the original recipe suggests that if you use 6 cups of corn, use 3 cups of sugar). Once you figure this out, set the kernels aside.
Put the sugar in the saucepan, and pour oil over the top until the bottom of the pan is coated, and there is enough that (with a bit of stirring) there isn’t a mound of sugar above the oil line. Turn the burner to medium-high heat, and brown the sugar. Stir constantly.
After a few minutes, the sugar won’t be visible in granular form, but will take the shape of a caramel-colored puddle at the surface of the oil. When this happens, turn the heat down to medium-low, dump the kernels into the saucepan, and cover with a lid.
Hang out near the saucepan, because once the popcorn starts popping, you’ll want to be in control. If you ignore it, you run the risk of burning the popcorn or having a serious mess on your hands when the popped corn forces the lid off and starts exploding all over your kitchen.
When the popped corn starts to near the lid, lightly hold onto the lid. Don’t push it down, but use it to keep the exploding corn contained. If the corn pushes too hard at the lid, carefully shake some of it into a bowl and return the pan to the stove while the remaining kernels pop.
Transfer all of the popped kernels to a large bowl. Shake salt onto the corn, and stir with a wooden spoon to distribute it evenly over the popcorn. Taste a few pieces, and when the batch has the right combo of salty and sweet, go ahead and serve it.

Accident-prone moment: I totally burned my hand when I took the lid off the pan too soon. Hot oil splashed up right along with the zooming popcorn, and it was unpleasant. You should…try not to do this. If you do burn yourself with the oil? The popcorn is not as important as fixing your burnt self, so if you have to remove it from the heat to the detriment of the batch (don’t leave it on the stove to burn!), life will go on and you can make another batch. Grab a towel soaked in cool water and cool your burnt skin (Alternately, run cool water from the faucet over the burn, or soak the burned area in water. Don’t use ice, though! Cool water is the best option), gently pat it dry, and apply aloe vera (but not lotion!) and a sterile gauze bandage if you so desire. If you happen to be unlucky enough to get a serious burn, bring in some reinforcements (emergency help).

This is a snack worth enduring a minor hot oil burn for.