Friday, May 15, 2015

Cupcake Day!

Hey all, Lisa here...

I've really come to enjoy baking recently, and anytime I feel like making cupcakes, I knock them out and then send them to work with Brian.  That led to my very first 
"professional" (paid) cupcake order, from one of Brian's co-workers!

I prepared by scouring Pinterest for decoration ideas to match my customer's theme, purchasing all the tools, accessories and ingredients I'd need, and making sure all of my equipment was spotlessly clean.

Then, it was finally time to make them!  The order was for 3 dozen, including 2 different flavors and 3 different decorations, for the customer's parents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration.  She wanted a rustic, lakeside camping theme, so we landed on fish/ water, trees, and campfire designs.

It was my first time making/ decorating that many cupcakes at once, and I had a blast (even though after 8 solid hours on my feet in the kitchen, I had useless bricks for feet!).  I'm so pleased with how they turned out, and most importantly, so was the customer!

Of course, being the photography enthusiast that I am, I photo-documented everything.  Enjoy!  :)

Setting the scene

An obscene amount of butter


Dry ingredients ready to go

I used light blue and brown cupcake liners to designate between the 2 different flavors

Using my handy-dandy metal scoop to evenly fill each cup

Using this much butter at once... is just this side of disturbing.

The buttercream icing is made!

Aren't they cute?  And so full of potential.  :)

Cupcakes for days!

My 5 different icing colors - 2 blue shades for water, green for grass, and brown & orange for the campfires.

A fish/ water cupcake!  I like how the fish appear to be leaping out of the water.

The full dozen

A tree cupcake!  With icing "grass" and a few cute flowers to spruce (pun intended) it up.

The full dozen

And a campfire cupcake!  I cut up mini Twix bars to serve as the wood logs.  Sooo cute, amirite??

The full dozen
Making and photographing cupcakes is pretty much my heaven, so this was just awesome.  And I've heard through the grapevine that more orders may very well be coming my way soon, which I'd definitely eagerly accept!  So fun!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Homemade Mozzarella

I absolutely love fresh mozzarella- with tomatoes, basil, oil, vinegar, on pizza, on sandwiches, all by itself...there's no wrong way to eat it. Unfortunately, fresh mozzarella isn't exactly cheap, and the quality varies widely from brand to brand. Luckily, it's way easier to make a ton of it on your own for a tiny fraction of what you'd pay in the store for considerably less.

Today I will be your guide (or change the "e" to an "o" and i'll be your Guido....) on a journey into mozzarella heaven.

You're going to need only a few ingredients:

1 gallon milk
Citric acid powder
Rennet tablets
Kosher (non-iodized) salt

So first of all, I got my citric acid at Whole Foods in the health and beauty area. Yeah, it's a little weird, but it's in over by the handmade soaps. It's cheap, so no worries. Second, you'll need rennet tabs. I used the Junket brand. Feel free to use whatever you want, but Junket is the easiest to find. The milk you use is up to you- I prefer to use whole cow milk, but you can use goat milk just as easily. Anyway, once you have all of this, you're ready to go.
Delicious beauty supplies
It looks like milk that has been in the fridge too long...
The first step is mix about 2 tbsp of citric acid in 1 cup of water and set it aside. Then mix 1 tablet of rennet into 1/4 of a cup of water and set that aside. Pour the gallon of milk into a large pot and heat it over medium heat until it's 90 degrees. If it gets a little higher, that's fine. I use a regular thermometer because it'd be stupid to buy a real cooking one for something like this, plus, i'm cheap.

Ok, so once you've got the milk warming, add the water that has the citric acid and the water that has the rennet to the milk. You'll notice it starting to curdle almost immediately, and it's pretty cool to see. Stir it gently, and check the temp to make sure it's almost at 90 degrees. Once it is, remove it from the heat and let it sit uncovered for 5 min or so. You'll see it start separating and part of it turning yellow. The yellow stuff is the whey. 

 After it's started separating, you'll notice it's starting to kind of getting clumpy. That's now, turn the heat back on and take it up to about 105 degrees. Try not to let it get much hotter than that or you end up with runny (but delicious!) cheese. Once it hits 105 degrees, remove it from the heat and let it cool down (i've let it cool overnight covered, but 10-15 minutes is fine). At this point, there should be an island of kind of firm but not really curds on the top of the whey. Using a skimmer, get as much of it as possible out of the whey and into a bowl.
If this is your temperature, please seek medical attention immediately

Skimming off the top
Shortly after, the Baskin-Robins was closed down by the Health Department
Whey removed, ready for microwave
Once you've got as much as you can into the bowl, remove as much whey as possible from the bowl. I used a turkey baster, but you can do whatever you want. After they whey is gone, pop the bowl into the microwave for 30 seconds. It'll come out and there will be even MORE whey in there that needs to come out. Drain that and then put the bowl back in for another 15 seconds. Drain the whey again, and sprinkle about 1 tsp of kosher salt on top of the curds in the bowl.
Ready to fold!
 Using either a spoon or your hands, start to fold the cheese over on itself to get the salt totally integrated to the curds. 

You'll notice them starting to get more solid as you work them. Once they've started to get a little more solid, begin shaping the cheese with your hands. The important thing to do at this point now is to stretch the cheese. Think of it like pizza dough- stretch it and then push it together. It'll start to get tighter, if that makes any sense. Then start rolling it into a ball. It will eventually be about the size of a softball, and weigh about one pound. Put the ball into a container, cover it with some of the whey from the pot (you did keep it, didn't you?) and put it in the fridge. It'll keep for about a week, but you're only fooling yourself if you think it'll actually still be there in a week.

Try not to eat the whole thing at once. Seriously. 

Congratulations, you're a cheesemaker!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Comfort Casserole (or "What can we throw in a pan?")

Most of the time I am making dishes from scratch- carefully breaded chicken, homemade sauces, soups that take longer to create than they do to eat. Then there are those times that I want something easy. Something thrown together. In this case, that something was a casserole.

This wasn't going to just be any casserole. It was going to be a comfort casserole. I was at work having a particularly difficult day, and started thinking about what I wanted for dinner. I wanted something comforting, and in this situation, that meant something cheesy, potato-y, and chicken-y.

What part of the chicken do the rings come from? 

I really love those bags of frozen chicken rings. Basically, they're just small chicken patties with the centers cut out, but yum. Seriously. I had a bag of diced potatoes, and a random package of marked down bacon, a bag of white onions, some green onions, a few Roma tomatoes, and a couple of half-empty bags of cheese.

I cooked the chicken rings in my toaster oven, then lined the bottom of the lasagna pan with them. The diced potatoes were cooked on the stove top with a little olive oil, and the bacon was done in a smaller pan on the stove top. I topped the chicken rings with a mixture of the browned potatoes, sliced onions, crumbled bacon, and shredded cheese. Popped it into the oven for 20 minutes or so at 400, and took it out. As I spooned the gooey concoction onto my plate, I topped it with some diced tomatoes and chopped green onion, and finished it off with some ranch dressing.

Not one of my more elegant dishes, but I'll be damned if it wasn't delicious. Sometimes the comfort foods are the best remedy for a bad day.