Sunday, April 25, 2010

Kabobs and Smoothies

Tonight Steve and I decided to be adventurous and make kabobs. I had watched an episode of Rachael Ray a couple weeks ago and she was making shish kabobs. We made beef kabobs instead of shish kabobs because the shish part is lamb and I refuse to eat baby animals. Same goes for veal which is a calf (baby cow for you non-farmers). Don't get my wrong... I'm not a vegetarian, not even close, but I prefer my meat to be fully grown. I had looked up Rachael's recipe for the kabobs awhile ago but decided to wing it tonight. Steve cut a beef steak into bite size cubes and I did the same with a green pepper, red pepper, cucumber and half an onion. I seasoned the veggies and the beef liberally with salt and pepper before putting them on the skewers. We were using wooden skewers so we soaked them in water to avoid burning them. The veggies and the meat had their own skewers because each had their own cooking time. Thanks for the tip, Rachael! Another liberal seasoning of salt and pepper and the kabobs were ready for the grill. We also had rice going in our rice cooker for the side. The kabobs cooked really fast on the grill and tasted awesome! I think we've found another summer staple for our menus!

Now for the smoothie! The smoothie is actually tomorrow's breakfast. One of my goals last year was to eat breakfast every day but this habit has been kind of forgotten. I'm trying to revive the habit and make it healthy too. I had a recipe for smoothies from a HyVee magazine. It called for orange juice, which I don't have, and ice, which I refuse to use because the ice in our freezer tastes (and smells) disgusting (no matter what we do). I've made smoothies before and decided to wing it. I did have the fruit and the plain yogurt the recipe called for. I put in the amount of yogurt and the fruit according to the recipe in my food processor. Side note: I love my food processor. The blender I find annoying but I absolutely love my food processor! I gave the yogurt and fruit a whir and took a look. It looked a little skimpy... I added milk and gave it another whir. Not enough cherries... in more cherries went. I gave it a quick taste and concluded... that it needed a little sugar. A couple spoonfuls of sugar (no medicine involved here) blended in and it tasted great! I gave Steve a taste and he gave it a positive review. Breakfast is served!

I Bake at Strange Times

It's true. I bake at strange hours, some by choice, others not so much. Friday, my husband and I went out for supper with a friend from college. We hadn't seen this friend for awhile so supper was a little longer than usual. We went out to eat at our favorite Chinese restaurant from college, 45 minutes away. We got home later than we usually do which normally wouldn't have been a problem. My husband's co-workers were having a "Fruit Saturday" pot luck. He had signed up to bring fruit pizza. I love fruit pizza. I made it a lot when I was studying in Spain and crafted my own recipe. In the past, I remember not being 100% satisfied with the crust. I told Steve to buy ready made sugar cookie dough since it was so late. I didn't want to stay up all night making the pizza after all. Steve stopped by the grocery store to pick up some much needed ingredients... strawberries, cream cheese, the cookie dough, Clementine oranges. I had started slicing the kiwi and measured out the sugar for the crust. Steve came home and we got serious about this pizza. I tried to smooth the cookie dough onto a cookie sheet. I say try because the dough was sticky and kept sticking to my hands as I smoothed it out. I tried using a glass sprayed with cooking spray... it worked... somewhat. Steve started chopping strawberries and peeling oranges. I finally popped the cookie crust into the oven. I debated poking holes in the crust with a fork. My mom does this with pie crust but I decided against it. I'm not really sure why except that it was late and I was a little tired. I turned my attention to the pizza "sauce". The sauce is a fruit dip which is one of the reasons I love this version of fruit pizza. Like I said, it was late and I was a little tired. Instead of adding 2 teaspoons of vanilla to the sugar and cream cheese, I added 2 tablespoons! Yikes! I tried adding more sugar but it was still a little runny. I did the best I could and prayed that it would thicken while it was in the fridge overnight. About the same time, the cookie crust was done... The cookie was bubbling slightly... it looked alive. I pierced it with a fork and stuck it back in the oven. After taking it out of the oven a second time, I popped it in the fridge to cool down. I didn't want the crust to cook the sauce! In the meantime, Steve had finished chopping the strawberries and peeling the oranges. I'm fortunate that he loves to cook/bake as much as I do. It was getting extremely late and he had to be up for work at 6, so I told him to go to bed while I finished the pizza. After 10 minutes of being in the fridge, I decided the crust was ready... if it wasn't I was. Like I said earlier, I didn't want to be up all night making this pizza. I spread the sauce on and started the rows of the fruit. Oranges on the outside, then strawberries, then kiwi, another row of strawberries and a row of kiwi in the middle and I was done! Put some press-n-seal wrap on it and time for bed! Yay!

Making the pizza reminded me of my time in Spain and for a few minutes late Friday night, I felt as though I were in my apartment in Spain making the fruit pizza for my friends to enjoy. I hoped Steve's co-workers would enjoy it as much as my friends in Spain.

With as late as it was Friday night when I went to bed, I expected to sleep in until at least 8 Saturday morning. Not even close! I was wide awake at 5:30! That isn't even close to the time I get up for work during the week. However I didn't want to wake Steve by tossing and turning. I got out of bed and checked my Facebook account. The light of the screen blinded me until I opened our blinds to let natural light in. After 30 minutes of computer time, I was bored. What to do? What to do? What to do? Oh I know! I'll bake the cupcakes that I've been meaning to bake all week! Yup, 6 AM and I'm getting ready to bake. A little side note about these cupcakes: I like chocolate cupcakes but I have yet to find a recipe that I love. I also plan on hosting a bridal shower for my best friend sometime next winter. I wanted to do a trial run of cupcakes and find the best chocolate cupcakes. Texas sheet cake is my favorite chocolate cake. It always turns out perfect and my relatives harass me to make it for them all the time. "I wonder how it would be as a cupcake recipe?" I thought to myself many times last week. Saturday morning I decided to go for it. I measured out the flour and sugar... doing OK so far. The portion of the recipe that requires the butter, cocoa and water to be boiled was a little problematic. I didn't have enough butter. I used what I had and remembered a tip I had heard before but never tried. Applesauce can replace a half cup of oil or shortening in a recipe. Perfect! I have homemade applesauce in my fridge! I did NOT add the applesauce to the boiling cocoa mix... that sounded a little disgusting to me. I did however add it immediately after adding the cocoa mix to the flour/sugar mix. Things seemed to be going just fine for these cupcakes until the eggs. Cracking eggs is both fun and gross. Half of the shell for the first egg fell into the batter. Thankfully, the mixer was not running so I could simply scoop the egg shell out. The second egg behaved itself better than the first and didn't pose a problem at all. I spooned the batter into a muffin pan, lined with white muffin liners. I like white muffin liners better than the traditional pink, yellow and blue liners. Those liners are perfect for Easter or some other spring activity but any other time seem a little weird to me. After fussing over the cupcakes and their cooking time, they were done! They looked and smelled great. I let them cool for hours before I frosted them. OK, that wasn't actually the plan but Saturday is also my day to do laundry and I got a little distracted. I frosted them about 4 in the afternoon (oh yes, baking is a whole day activity for me!). I used my aunt's recipe with one little exception... I added a little more water. I'm still new to the decorative frosting experience and my hands hurts if the frosting isn't a little soft. I tinted the frosting teal (or as close as I could get) and got to work. Sanding sugar was sprinkled on top to make the cupcakes really elegant. I think they turned out quite nicely.

A little side note about the fruit pizza, Steve called me at 11 to say the sauce hadn't thickened and was there something we could do? Nope. Not one thing. Except start over which wasn't an option since he was at work. When he got home, he told me that the middle of the pizza was soggy so he had thrown away those pieces. The pieces on the edge were OK. I consider the fruit pizza to be a half-failure and proof that I probably shouldn't bake when tired. The cupcakes on the other hand turned out great! Proof that I can get up ridiculously early and bake!