Sunday, November 28, 2010

What one should bring when attending an adult-only party...

Every couple of years, one of my horny friends decides to throw a sex toy party which I always feel *obligated* to attend. (I see you rolling your eyes!) It's the ultimate girls night**, with yummy fruity cocktails, lots of amazing finger foods, nervous laughter, inappropriate jokes (me) and touching (me, again), demonstrations (not me!) and the exchange of funds for goods. Being a little deviant, I offered to make a cake.

Tell me? What the hell was I thinking? I HATE making cakes! But, since I opened my big mouth and couldn't back out without looking like a huge schmuck, I pressed onwards. I wanted to do some kind of kinky jacuzzi tub cake with nakedness that would shock the ladies. A couple of years ago, I made a camping cake with a "lake" made with jell-o, so I used that same basic technique.

The run-down:

  • The CAKE is Betty Crocker, from a box. No brainer! I doubted that anyone would want to eat this thing, so I wasn't going to bake from scratch and cross my fingers that it would be OK.

  • The TILES are Mike & Ikes candies.

  • The PEOPLE and ACCESSORIES are gum paste.

  • The "WATER" is jell-o. Prepared after assembly of the people, with a hope and a prayer!
The assembly:

Followed all cake ingredient directions with two 8 inch round cake pans. Frosted the layers, cut out the hole for the Jacuzzi, then crumb coated the entire cake and set aside. Later, frosted the cake, smoothing out the sides and top. Attached candy tiles.

Making the people sucked! I've never used gum paste before and it's tricky stuff. (And, BTW - tastes disgusting!) I found the gum paste in the cake decorating section of Michael's Crafts. $10 bucks for a 10 oz. bag. Some tips I picked up the hard way: 1. Keep the bag sealed, because it dries out fast! To tint the paste I used basic food grade food coloring and kneaded the paste until it was colored to my satisfaction. My hands were the color of the rainbow for a day or so afterwards - so 2. use plastic gloves or be prepared. 3. Make sure that you position your figures how you would like them to dry, otherwise you have to start over.

I tried to be as anatomically correct as possible. At least when it came to the nether-regions! I mean this guy has no head hair, but a very nice package if I do say so myself!

This lady was a little more demure, I decided.

Add your figures to the cake, using icing to prop them up if needed. Prepare jell-o according to the instructions. Let jell-o cool slightly, and gently pour into the iced cake hole. If you are not gentle, you'll get bubbles. If you get bubbles, just pretend that your figures are farting. :)

I am the first to admit that this cake, although hilarious, it's very amateurish - but really, who cares. There's penis and vagina and ass and boobies! Looking back, I should've tinted the paste that I used to make the people so that they had somewhat of a tan. Poor little sculptures were very, very white! I'm just happy that the whole thing made it to the party without a major cake'tastrophy and that it made all the ladies giggle.

**To all the boys out there, sorry...these parties are so much more fun without your participation - just sit back and hope that your woman receives a package in about 6-8 weeks.

Creamy Potato Gratin

When I think of my ultimate comfort food, I think potatoes. Mashed, with lots of sour cream and butter and a lake of thigh-hugging gravy on top. Baked with (more) sour cream, chives and REAL bacon bits. Roasted new baby reds with a sprinkling of olive oil and salt and pepper.
Pardon me while I wipe the drool off the front of my shirt....

Hats off to my friend Lisa who didn't balk when I proclaimed "I'm going to try a new recipe on you. I hope it works."

I've had a lot of really nasty Gratin potatoes, mainly from my mother's kitchen - god bless her non-culinary heart - so when I came across trying to make them myself, I was a little leery. Nothing kills your proposed food coma like half-done potatoes, or separation of the cream, or dry spots. However, if you do try this recipe (and please do!), you will see that they are fool proof and super easy, and so tempting that you may heat them up for yourself for breakfast the next day. (I can not be the only one!) What I will NOT promise is how calorie laden they are, but you know...all things in semi-moderation.


1 lb russet potatoes

1 cup each of whole milk and heavy cream

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup of white sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg* (optional)

3 tbsp breadcrumbs (Italian or plain)

3 tbsp Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x9 inch Pyrex baking dish and set aside.

Peel and slice potatoes to 1/4 inch thickness, either using a
mandoline or a steady hand. (I have a mandoline, but I am terribly afraid of it because I almost sliced my finger off, even though it came with a hand guard.)

Combine the sliced potatoes, milk, heavy cream, garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a large saucepan. Simmer of medium heat for about 8-10 minutes. Watch your saucepan, because you do not want to pick up the mess if it boils over! The potatoes will still be firm when pierced with a knife. Remove the potatoes from the heat and add in your grated Cheddar cheese, stirring to melt.

Pour entire mixture into your prepared baking dish. Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese and scatter over the top evenly. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and allow the Potato Gratin to "set" for 5-7 minutes before service.

Can you believe that there is no butter in this recipe?!

*I use freshly grated nutmeg in all of my creamy based dishes because it provides just a hint of something in the background that I really like. If you only have store-bought nutmeg, pre-ground, omit. The flavor just isn't the same.

Monday, May 17, 2010

3-Blend Citrus Poppy Seed Cake

"Cake from scratch."

That single line often makes me break out in hives. Seriously. The measuring, the testing, the uncanny ability for all of your hard work to go up in smoke! Hey...I'm a cheater. (No comments from the peanut gallery!) If I can use a cake mix, I will. I openly and freely admit it!

However, sometimes you have to take the when all there is for "Poppy Seed" mixes is muffin mix - and surely that would've sucked. Scratch was my only option. Sigh. Lucky for me, the recipe turned out to be pretty fool-proof. Without further adu...

(I apologize if you see the word "poopy" instead of "poppy." I've caught myself twice already.)

Cake (all ingredients should be room temp):
3 sticks of unsalted butter
3 3/4 cups of flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
4/3 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups sugar
7 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp grated lime, lemon and orange zest
1/3 cup poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 or 3 8x2 inch round cake pans. Set aside. (2 pans will give you (4) 1/2 inch layers, 3 pans will give you (3) 1-inch layers.)

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-low speed until lightened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar, and once again beat until lightened, about 3 to 4 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed to combine thoroughly. Drizzle in eggs, a little at a time, beating on medium-low speed after each addition until batter is smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in vanilla.

7 eggs is a lotta eggs!

Reduce mixer speed to low and alternately add flour mixture and milk, a little at a time, beginning and ending with the flour mixture until well combined, scraping often. Beat in the zest of the lime, lemon and orange, as well as the poppy seeds.


Divide batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 minutes, then rotate pans for even browning, baking an additional 5 to 10 minutes more - or until a skewer comes out clean when poked into the center of the cake. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes, then carefully turn cakes out (top up) to completely cool.


The icing will need to chill at least 3 hours before spreading. Don't taste it though, or you might eat it all!

Icing (reminder - ingredients should be kept at room temp!):
12 oz. cream cheese
6 tbsp butter
3 cups confectioner's sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the butter, scraping the sides often, until combined. Carefully add the confectioner's sugar on low-speed until the mix is completely combined. Beat frosting on medium-speed until smooth and fluffy, about 1 full minute, then transfer to an airtight container and chill until firm.

Assemble the cake...

Place a little of the icing on the serving platter to keep the cake from sliding around. Place one layer of cake on top, then spread 1/3 of the icing onto the cake and repeat until all you have left is one layer of cake.

When ready to serve, glaze!

Lemon Glaze (can be made 3 to 4 hours ahead):
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
3 to 4 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp poppy seeds

Place sugar in a bowl. Gradually add lemon juice, stirring with a fork to combine until smooth. The mixture should be slightly thick. Stir in poppy seeds. Glaze cake immediately by pouring mixture over the center of the top and allowing it to run down the sides.

Then, DIG IN!

The recipe is definitely not as complicated as it seems, and the finished product was excellent, much to the delight of my dinner guests (and co-workers who got the leftovers the next day). My only other alternate addition for next time...I might play a little with the moistness of the cake by brushing some Limoncello over the cut layers. It would also give the cake a little more robust lemon flavor, which I was missing. Wish I thought of it earlier.

Am I still afraid of "cake from scratch?" Hell yes! But this recipe did give me a little more confidence in that realm.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Seared Drunkin' Chicken

Even though I had only two guests over the other night for food and wine, I will herein call my little gathering a "dinner party." I'm really not sure what the socially accepted rules are to call such a gathering a "party," but I've decided that I make my own rules on this blog! So it shall be.

There were so many foodie ideas going on in my head that I wanted to try, now that I had a captive audience at my disposal. I threw some ideas out to one of guests and got very, very nervous when every reply was "Ew" and "I'm not a fan." I wanted something light (to save room for the copious amounts of wine and CAKE we would consume), but also something easily identifiable, since this would be the first time I would be cooking for these girls. Then it hit me...


Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp butter, divided
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large (or 2 small) shallots, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 cups of vermouth or dry white wine
2 cups of chicken stock
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp apple cidar vinegar
1 lb of fresh baby spinach
2-3 tbsp fresh basil, ciffonade
Salt and pepper, to taste
Halved cherry tomatoes, if desired

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat 1 tbsp each of butter and oil in a large skillet. Season both sides of chicken breast with salt and pepper, and place top-side down in pan. Cook until chicken is nicely browned, flipping only once. (Chicken does not have to be cooked through.) Place chicken in a large glass baking dish.

Meanwhile, heat remaining butter and oil in a deep saucepan. Add sliced shallot and cook until shallot is translucent. Add vermouth, chicken stock, mustard and vinegar to shallots, stirring occassionally, and boil until mixture reduces to half. Once reduced, immediately pour over chicken in baking dish and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

While chicken is baking, re-heat the large skillet. Add minced garlic and spinach, turning to wilt the spinach. (You may need to add a little more oil.) Season with salt and pepper.

To plate: Spoon out a portion of spinach in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Arrange cooked chicken on top of spinach. Place cherry tomatoes around the dish, if desired (I think the dish needed another color to make it pop!). Spoon broth on top of chicken and garnish with the chiffonade of fresh basil.

I served some Pinot Grigio to bring out the flavor of the vermouth in the broth.

The dish was lovely! Simple, pretty and full of flavor. The raw tomatoes softened up nicely when the hot broth was poured over the top. The perfect bite included a piece of chicken, some spinach and a tomato half!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jar vs. Homemade

I received an email a few months ago from Patak's Original, the company that makes a variety of Indian cooking spices and sauces. The Chicken Tikka Masala recipe that I posted on January 27, 2007 apparently sparked their interest, and they asked me if I would try their Tikka Masala Curry cooking sauce (medium heat) and share my opinion.

Tikka Masala is a curry dish in which chicken chunks (tikka) are served in a rich red, creamy, lightly spiced, tomato and yogurt-based sauce. It's one of those dishes that I have to order every time I go to my favorite Indian's just so good.

I don't generally endorse fast food since it's loaded with sodium and other bad stuff. I actually like to be able to pronounce the ingredients that go into my belly! Plus, what if the jarred stuff is better than my recipe?! How embarrassing would that be? I replied with a hesitant "yes" and waited for my jar of cooking sauce to arrive.

I finally got around to trying the stuff out, and you know was actually very good.

The ingredient list actually impressed me: water, tomato, onion, yogurt (spelled wrong, btw), cream, spices, concentrated tomato puree, sugar, corn starch, lemon juice, garlic, salt, vinegar, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cumin seeds, black pepper, coriander seeds, cilantro and dried crushed chili. Not artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. WOW! Most home cooks probably know what every single one of those ingredients are! DOUBLE WOW! (P.S. - this product is Gluten Free.)

For a complete meal all you have to do is follow 3 easy steps...1-2. Heat some oil in a large skillet and brown up some chicken breast, 3. Pour the jar of sauce over chicken and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Of course, I jazzed it up a bit with some sliced onion and green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks, then served the whole thing over some steamed rice and garnished with a little fresh basil for color. Naan on the side.

This jar sauce did have a little more heat than my recipe, and it's a heck of a lot more convenient and less time consuming than cooking tikka masala from scratch...but it was missing *something* and I think that something was the tang of plain yogurt. I would probably add about a 1/3 cup of plain or Greek yogurt next time and maybe a touch of nutmeg. The jarred sauce was not as smooth as mine, but the color was gorgeous. Of course, like any curry you might make at home, the smell lasted for days. In fact, a day later I went out with some friends and one of them mentioned that it smelled like curry was seeping out of my pores. Not sure if that's a good thing!

My final verdict...if you have the time and desire to make a home cooked meal of Chicken Tikka Masala, definitely go with my recipe. However, if you want dinner in 20 minutes Patak's Original Tikka Masala Curry cooking sauce is a pretty darn good substitute. I'll be keeping a jar in my pantry.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chunky Tomato Soup

It's soup season! Well actually...the Northeast is pretty much half way through "soup season," and I unfortunately am coming to the party a little late. As usual. Don't judge me!

I just love taking everyday ingredients, like tomatoes, potatoes, rice and pasta and making something that's tasty, healthy and easy. Soup is a great way to stretch your dollar, and for me as a singleton living alone, one pot provides many wonderful meals throughout the week. I also like that soup is filling, yet satisfying - so it's great for the waistline (as long as you don't load it with butter and cream).

This particular soup can really be steller...however, it does need a tiny bit of tweaking. So if anyone makes this, please let me know your thoughts and what you added to make it yours. There is one major shortcut that I will also make note of!


3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs roma tomatoes*
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 large carton of chicken stock (use Vegetable Stock to make this Vegetarian)
1 can of cannalini beans, drained
3 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve roma tomatoes and place on baking sheet skin side down. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil and season with salt. Roast in oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cooled, peel skin off of tomatoes set aside. *This step can be omitted if you would like...substitute roma tomatoes with 2 large cans of stewed tomatoes.*

In a large stock pot, heat 2 tbsp oil and butter until butter is melted. Add onion and garlic, stirring until onion is translucent. Add reserved roasted tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken stock. Stir until tomato paste melts into liquid. Add paprika and cumin. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook for 20 minutes or until tomatoes fall apart completely. Add drained, but not rinsed, cannalini beans, parsley and cream. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve with shaved parmesan cheese and crusty bread for dipping.

I can't even begin to imagine how sweet and robust this soup would be if tomatoes were actually in season right now! I can't wait to try it again in the summer. I also think that fresh basil should be the herb'age of choice since parsley is so mild in flavor. And maybe a little palm-ful of crushed red pepper flakes for some heat. However, even with those issues not addressed the first time, I totally enjoyed this soup. I loved how the starch in the beans slightly thickened the liquid and the addition of the cream added just a tiny bit of sweetness that was to die for.