Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Eat Your Veggies!

I’m currently obsessed with vegetables. I slice, dice, chop, or shred as many veggies as I can these days into just about any dish possible. Its really quite exciting. I can say Hm, lets eat chicken for dinner, and its that easy. Cook the chicken and add a million vegetables in any form and I’m done!

I’m all about easy, good, and fast. Last night I made baked chicken. I used to be afraid of baked chicken. I used to be afraid of cooked chicken, period. These days I’m venturing out with eggs and bread crumbs for breaded chicken, stove-top chicken, finely chopped chicken, etc. Tonight was good old slow-cooked oven baked chicken.

I cut two gigantic chicken breasts width-wise into fat slices. I lightly covered them in olive oil then seasoned them with randoms from my spice cabinet…garlic powder, sea salt, pepper, chicken seasoning, lime (I love lime in/on everything), and Newman’s Northern Lite Italian Dressing (my ffaaaaaaaavvvveeeeeeeee dressing ever. I love it so much I put it in my macaroni and cheese sometimes…shoutout to my big bro for introducing me to that delicacy).
Baked it on 325 for 35, then 350 for 20. I probably would have been fine on 350 for 45, but I was afraid I’d overcook it or something so I kept having to cut it and check it and add it longer.
When I had about 15 minutes left, I sautéed sliced red peppers and jalapenos. Jalapenos take on this oddly sweet flavor when their de-seeded and sautéed. Love them. I piled the sautéed veggies on top of the chicken to keep them warm until we were ready to serve.

We had salad with all the trimmings with the Newman’s dressing I used to season the chicken, then some steamed frozen veggies. It was delicious.

Here's to healthy vegetables!!!!!!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Great Ice Cream Adventure

Last week was my boyfriend’s 29th birthday. I got him exactly what he wanted for his birthday which was all well and good, but I started feeling bad because you see, he’s a twin. And his twin doesn’t have an awesome amazing girlfriend to get HIM exactly what HE wanted for his birthday. So I asked him what his favorite dessert was, and told him I’d make him a cake. Lucky him.
He says “ice cream cake”. Eh, no biggie, right?

Well, not only have I never made an ice cream cake, I’ve pretty much never made a cake before, other than maybe once or twice making a crappy cake right out of the box. And of course our family’s annual Harvey Wallbanger cake which happens to be the best cake ever. But that one doesn’t count, it is most definitely it’s own beast…so much so that its not even really a cake, it’s more like a little piece of heaven. I’ll share that one another day.

Anyhow, so an ice-cream cake it is, I told myself. I worked out a plan, bought my materials, and the great 3-day Ice-Cream mountain challenge began. Here’s my steps if you ever want to take on this wacky challenge yourself…

Step one: gathering tools
I had to think ahead for every step of this trek. Okay, so I needed a cake pan. What size? I have to layer these. How many cakes do I buy/make. If it’s too big, it won’t fit in a cake box.
I stopped in at Party City (first time, fell in love, holy smokes). I bought a pretty small cake pan…well, the only one that would fit the only square cardboard cake box they had…which I also needed. Cake pan, cake box, little aluminum foil doily, candles.

Step two: Day 1
I spread saran wrap down in the bottom of my cake pan. My ice cream was soft from the drive home from the grocery store, so I scooped it into the pan and mashed it down making it fill the pan. I covered it with wrap and froze it. After a few hours, I pulled it out, uncovered it, and rolled the top with a rolling pin so it would be perfectly flat on top.

Next, I sliced strawberries and generously poured sugar over the top and shook the bowl around. I love strawberries with sugar, especially when its sat a couple days and really soaked in.

For my decoration, I wanted something really sparkly. I bought Hershey bars, and Hershey cookies and cream bars, and sliced along the side with a potato peeler. Gorgeous results <3

Step three: Day 2
Time to bake my cake(s). I originally bought 2 cake mixes (chocolate and red velvet) and envisioned 5 layers of cake/icecream, but once all my supplies were gathered, it was apparent only 3 would fit in the box. So I needed two round cakes from my one red velvet box. I baked the first one (awesome) and used a long knife to slice the top off using the top edge of the pan as a guide making the top of the cake flat instead of rounded. Once the second cake was baked, I realized I’d used too much cake for the first one, and my second cake was a measly little layer. Awesome…  I went ahead and sliced most of the top off using my eyes to hopefully create a flat surface. That worked out, thankfully.
Next I poured my soaked strawberries, juice and all, into the blender and pureed the heck out of them.

Step three: Day 3
Oh my. So with my roommate and a friend, we began the cake stacking/decorating. All went well with stacking cake, icecream, cake, then we started frosting it. First, Blue Bell Vanilla icecream melts REALLY fast. I wish I had a picture of the three of us standing around this cake trying to frost it as fast as we could while the icecream is melting down the sides.
We frantically put it in the freezer and reevaluated.
#1, frosting doesn’t stick to icecream.
After about 30 minutes, we removed the cake and frosted again.
#2, frosting doesn’t stick to icecream even when its frozen solid.
After another break/freeze/re-evaluate, I pulled it back out, finished off the frosting, and scraped all the frosting remnants off the icecream so it was a smooth side. Break/freeze

Next I drizzled the puree over the top and began sprinkling the top with the chocolate shavings. My roommate and I got a little too excited, and perhaps went overboard on the cutest little chocolate spirals ever. I tried to pull some off later, but they were frozen into the puree, sadly.

I had to cover the icecream somehow, so I poured puree all along the top edge of the cake and let it run down. Break/freeze
When I looked in the freezer some time later, it was quite a mess. I was a little worried. I took a knife and sliced the runoff from the bottom edge of the cake to get a clean finish, then picked it up and set it on the doily in the cake box. Viola, it was gorgeous.

Step four: Eat
I was a little worried about the looks of my cake. All I kept imagining every time I looked at it was the melting frantic mess we had when we started icing it. When the waiter brought it from the freezer for dinner, though, nobody believed I’d made it. They thought it was beautiful, and accused me of buying it since it was in an actual cake box. They all ooh’d and aah’d over it, and almost the entire cake was eaten. Not just a bite or two off each plate, everyone finished their entire slice!!!! It was exciting.
In their defense, though, we were outside on the patio and it was pretty dark, so of course the cake looked magnificent! Still, I think it was a pretty happy birthday.