Monday, May 23, 2011

Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend

Best friends are awesome.  My best friend, April, is more awesome than most in my opinion.  No matter what, and I really do mean "no matter what", she has been and always will be there for me.

We try to get together once a week to sit around, talk and on occasion write on our perpetually changing book.  More often than not we meet up at my place which means that I get to cook up a storm for the two of us and we eat such things as red curry chicken and spaghetti bolognese at 9 o'clock in the morning.  If I can swing it, I really like to make something desserty to go with the meal.  Because how could that possibly be a bad thing?

Last week I made the beauties you see above.  In Serbian/Bosnian (Yugoslavian for me) they're called oblatne.  My oma, who was German by way of Hungary, called them oblaten, though strictly speaking oblaten in German are exceptionally thin edible wafers that go under cookies such as lebkuchen so that they don't stick to the pan when baking.  The treats above are wafer cookies that are very simple to make.  The wafers themselves come in packets of five and just about any filling that is spreadable can be put between them.  That's the only "hard" part, figuring out what you want to put in between; Nutella, pastry cream, peanut butter and jelly, marshmallow creme, et al.  The fillings that I know are the ones that my oma and mom made to put inside, chocolate with nuts and lemon with nuts.  I opted for the chocolate because Karina isn't chuffed with lemon and I knew April would not have any objection to anything with chocolate.

I got the recipe from my mother when we were up at her place for Christmas, she also gave me the packet of wafers, which she bought when she was in Germany.  They can be bought here in the states in stores specializing in Eastern European or German foods, or on the internet.  The internet option may be more viable if your local specialty store runs out of them as fast as they get them in, like mine.

Chocolate filled Oblaten
1 packet 18" x 11" (47cm x 29cm) wafers

6 eggs
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups nuts, finely ground (I use pistachios this time)

In the top of a double boiler whisk together eggs and powdered sugar until thick and pale yellow, and mixture reaches 160 degrees.  Remove from heat, add in butter and chocolate, and stir until completely incorporated.  Stir in ground nuts.  Mixture should be room temperature by this point, if not allow to cool to room temperature.  On the first wafer, smooth side down, spread 1/4 of the mixture evenly and thinly.  Place a second wafer on top with the smooth side down.  Spread 1/4 of the mixture over the second wafer and repeat two more times with remaining mixture and wafers.  Put plastic wrap on the top wafer and then lightly weigh down finished oblaten with a board.  Let oblaten sit for approximately 8 hours or over night.  Using a sharp knife trim ends from oblaten, cut into 2 inch strips using the wafer pattern as a guide, and then cut strips into diamonds or rectangles.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Devil in a Red Dress

Karina and I watched Throw Down with Bobby Flay over the weekend (we're not masochists, I swear) and Karina practically drooled when the cupcake throw down came on.  This rocker chick made red velvet cupcakes and I'm pretty sure Karina whimpered.  So I did a bad thing and said "hey, I can make those for you if you want".  To which she said "how about right now?  is right now good?".  And as you may have guessed already, I said "why yes, I can".  

Now, I, personally, am not fond of red velvet cake in general because every one I've ever tried tasted like a chemistry set.  But people on the show raved about these and I could tell that Karina really, really, really wanted to have one of them.  I searched up the episode and was happy to see a link to the recipe.  The only problem was, when I read the recipe I kind of urped in my mouth a little bit.  The amount of red food coloring was insane (2 1/2 tablespoons) and the amount of cocoa spartan (1 1/4 teaspoons).  The recipe for the frosting made my teeth hurt just reading it (2 pounds powdered sugar).  The only thing I could do was adjust the recipe to better suit what I thought should be in them.  

What I came up with wasn't a true red velvet cake, and since I added more cocoa it was leaning more toward devil's food, but still not quite that either.  Whatever you want to call them, they were amazing and delicious and I will certainly be making them again.

Red Devil Cupcakes
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk (I didn't have any buttermilk so I did the vinegar in the milk trick)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 teaspoons red food coloring

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease, or line with muffin papers, a 12 cup regular cupcake pan or a 6 mega-cup cupcake pan (I have no idea what that is actually called, suffice it to say it's a cupcake pan that makes overly large ones). Mix dry ingredients for cupcakes together in a bowl.  Stir together wet ingredients in another bowl until well blended.  Add the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir together until just combined.  Divide batter evenly in the cupcake pan.  Bake approximately 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in one of the middle cupcakes comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, cream together cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl with an electric mixer.  With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar in small increments until fully combined.  Frost the cooled cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

Keyser Söze

It's been a while since I posted anything about WoW, but since I got the Insane title, everything else seemed kinda low key.  Until now.

You're probably wondering what the post title has to do with what I'm working on in game.  Well let me tell you:  in The Usual Suspects, Verbal says "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."  And that applies to the WoW achievement Frostbitten.  This achievement has you trying to kill every silver rare in Northrend.  These guys only spawn a couple of times, sometimes only once, a day.  You have to fly around hoping to spot them and then gank them.  As you see below, I'm pretty well on my way to getting that.

What you don't really know yet is that the name at the top of the list, Loque'nahak, is a silver rare that is also tamable by hunters to use as their dpsing pet.  It's also the most desired by hunters of all the tamable silver rares out there.  

Now, I run and addon called SilverDragon that spams a macro to target silver rares for any given "country" I happen to by moseying along in.  Whether on foot or in the sky, I know if a silver rare is present, even if it's just its corpse.  My screen edge starts flashing red, a name plate pops up on my screen allowing me to target the rare, and I'm pretty sure there are sounds as well (not heard them myself since I play with my in-game sounds off...I like to listen to music, what can I say).  The information on which rares I've seen, how often and how long ago gets logged so I can cry over the times I missed a rare that I've needed because I was on a taxi, or the rare was already dead, or in the process of becoming dead due to the actions of another player.  I've run the addon for the past two years.  Want to know how many times I've seen Loque'nahak?

Yeah, you're seeing properly, 0.  Never.  Not once.  Not even as a rotting carcass.  You know why?  Because every hunter on the server camps the hell out of every spawn point for that damn cat.  Which brings me back to my comparison.  I think that the greatest trick Blizzard ever pulled was convincing players outside of hunters that Loque'nahak ever existed.  Seriously, just look at that.  I haven't even seen the other two rares in Sholazar.  Why?  Because as these hunters camp for Loque'nahak, they kill dead the other rares out of frustration.

I'm going to go and cry in a corner now. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Drunken (Pork) Master

Sometimes you see things and think to yourself "huh, I'd have changed x, y or z".  That's kind of what happened to bring about this really, really, tasty pork stew that Karina and I had last week.  I was listening to Food Network (which I freely admit is evil, but some days there just isn't anything good on the gazillion other channels and those are the days you need background noise, but not just background-background noise, you need something with a bit of substance, and you know you can't pop The Hunt for Red October or the Star Trek reboot movie in the DVD player again else your child will revolt and you'll wake up bald or covered in honey or some other heinous thing....but I digress) and Ina Garten was making Beef Burgandy, a dish I love long time (I shall post mine some time in the future).  As she went on about what to do I thought to myself "self, you don't have beef in the freezer, but you do have those tasty pork chops that you won't actually make as pork chops" because I wouldn't have, trust me.  Even though they came from Jaworski's and their meat is always amazing.  Just not a fan of pork chops in a pork chop preparation.  

Anyway, I thought of the pork chops and then I thought "I bet they'd taste good as a stew braised in white wine and tossed over hot buttered egg noodles".  And you know what, they tasted even better.

And please forgive the photography.  I like to use natural light for pictures, but for some reason have yet to find optimal placement of my freezer (which I use for placing things on) to capture the light.  In addition I really need to invest in a tripod.  Also, I should probably read more about how to take good photographs.  I took about 15 shots of the finished dish and this was the best of them.  I should have checked them out before saying it was done and digging in to the stew.  Live and learn.

Pork Stew
1 1/2 cups white wine (whatever makes you happy)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and just smacked with the back of a knife
1 tablespoon grey sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons dried rosemary
2 small bay leaves
2 pounds lean pork, cubed

1/2 pound button mushrooms, quartered
1 large onion, large dice
2 tablespoons bacon drippings (or oil)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups stock
1 cup white wine
grey sea salt to taste

2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 to 3 tablespoons flour

Combine all the marinade ingredients together in a gallon sized plastic bag, close it and then massage everything together.  Stick the bag in the fridge and let sit over night.

Next day take the pork out of the fridge and let it set at room temperature for about half an hour.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat a large pot over medium high heat and add the bacon drippings.  When the drippings are spitting hot, add in the pork cubes, roughly drained (grab them with tongs and shake them off), in small batches to sear.  Remove the seared meat to a large casserole dish and continue until all the meat is browned.  Add the olive oil to the pan, reduce the heat to medium and toss in the chopped onion.  Sprinkle with a little sea salt and saute until translucent.  Remove onion to the casserole and add the butter to the pot.  When melted and hot toss in the quartered mushrooms and saute until just barely browned.  Remove mushrooms to the casserole.  Pour wine into the pot to deglaze, then add stock and bring mixture to a boil.  Taste for salt and add if needed.  Combine the melted butter and flour to make a cold rue.  Add to the boiling mixture and allow to thicken.  Taste for seasoning again and adjust if needed.  Pour over meat and vegetables in casserole dish, stir to combine, cover with foil and pop it into the oven for about an hour to an hour and a half.  When finished, remove from oven and serve over egg noodles.

Monday, May 9, 2011

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato Four

For whatever reason Mother Nature has, the weather here in Northern Indiana has been weird, even for us.  Last week it was cold to the point where we had several frost warnings and I ended up having to turn on the heater so we didn't sit around with chattering teeth.  And I don't know why I thought of it outside of "it's really effin' cold", but I kept dreaming about baked potato soup.  I've never made it before and I'm here to tell you I still haven't made it.  What you see above is a cream of potato soup and oh my god, was it delicious.  

Not sure why I didn't end up with a baked potato soup, but that's ok.  I'll be keeping this recipe on hand for a very long time.

Cream of Potato Soup
1/2 pound bacon, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, coarsely minced
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3 1/2 cups stock (whatever you have on hand, I used homemade meat stock)
3 to 4 cups mashed cooked potatoes
1 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
1 bay leaf

Brown the bacon in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Add the olive oil to the pot with the rendered bacon drippings and bring to heat.  Add in diced onions, minced garlic and diced potatoes.  Saute the vegetables for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are almost done.  Add in the stock and bay leaf.  When the soup has come to heat, check for salt and add in if needed, to taste.  Bring to a boil and add in the mashed cooked potatoes.  Bring back to a boil, taste for salt and add if needed.  Turn heat down to low, stir in heavy cream and then the shredded cheese.  When cheese has melted, taste for salt and add, if necessary, with cracked black pepper to taste.  Stir in reserved bacon pieces.  Serve with baked potato skins or sour cream or both or whatever your heart desires.

Because I had planned on making a baked potato soup, I baked 5 large potatoes and had scraped them out to make baked potato skins to go with the soup.  I used the scraped out insides to thicken my soup, but you can boil and mash up some potatoes to do this instead or even use leftover mashed potatoes.