January is the Monday of Months

January is the Monday of Months
I read that somewhere recently and boy does it feel true. I miss the light! The weather isn't cold enough for snow and I never know what to wear that day. All I want to do is go home eat pizza smoosh my face on the hubs and go to bed under piles of blankets. But I've done that for the past 2 days and I'm pretty sure that regiment isn't helping with our blues in any way.

I have a list of things I want to work on and bake but really my apartment is lucky I even unpacked from being home. I have a bunch of new leather tools I got for Christmas that I really want to give a try but I pull it out look at it all and put it back away and grab a month old Christmas cookie and tea instead.

But I'm working on it, we've rock climbed, ran to the beach, worked on planning in a brewery instead of our couch : baby steps. Mostly though I've been working through it cooking some comfort food that I wanted to make before it gets to warm. And it's almost February!

First up gourmet chicken and dumplings:

For Broth:
2 leeks; cut lengthwise
1 red onion; quartered
3 carrots; cut lengthwise
3 parsnips; cut lengthwise
3 cloves garlic minced
1.5 lb chicken wings
handful parsley
handful thyme
3 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
8 whole allspice
3 quarts chicken broth
1 1/2 lbs chicken breast
1/2 cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
1   combine all except the chicken breast into a large pot and bring to a simmer
2   add the breasts in skin side down and stir regularly. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Then remove the chicken and let cool, continue to let pot simmer for another hour
3    pull skin off of chicken breasts and discard, pull meat from bones and put into container and store in fridge, put bones back into pot
4   once the broth is done simmering strain out all the vegetables, wings, and spices and discard. Set the broth pot back on stove on low and stir in cayenne and salt
For Veggies:
1 tbs oil
3 carrots; diced
2 parsnips; diced
3 celery stalks; diced
1 white onion; diced
1 clove garlic; minced
1   in a large pan heat oil and add in all vegetables
2   sauté for 5-7 minutes, remove from heat
For Dumplings:
2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup water
2 tsp
handful of chopped parsley
2 tsp of rosemary
2 tsp of thyme
1   in a large bowl mix flour, salt, and baking powder with herbs
2   make a hole in the middle of the flour and slowly add the water and oil, mix until incorporated
2   turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead a few times, add additional flour if necessary to keep dough together
3   roll out dough to about 1/4 " thick and cut into about 1" strips by 1 1/2"
4   bring broth back to a boil and drop in all the dumplings, use a wooden spoon to make more room around the dumplings so you can drop them all into the broth. Cook dumplings for about 6-8 minutes, feel free to pull one out and cut in half to check that they are done
Finish Up:
1   add vegetables and chicken pieces back into broth with the dumplings and cook for a few minutes to get it all warm
2   spoon heaps into giant bowls and sip away January 


Brown Butter Popcorn Cookies

Yesterday I had to leave early for a meeting in Vancouver, BC. It started with my boss not able to find her passport so I was then running the workshop, at workshop only 1 mom coming (we were told 10) and them running around to find some, to presenting to 4 moms (1 very aggressive one) then driving back home. Ugh Monday, I wanted cookies!

I wanted cookies fast though and I also wanted to do something different than normal. Then I was like - duh - you have all these awesome cookbooks. I started flipping through my Smitten Kitchen cookbook and halted as soon as I saw popcorn in a cookie. Unsure, I proceeded.

OH MY WORD these were so darn tasty! Joshua got home from riding his bike from work, I announced I have cookies, he was excited, saw them and was then confused, ate one and was then obsessed.

 It's so simple and fast make these and dazzle your family and friends :)
I tweaked the recipe a bit and here it is:

2 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup butter; room temp
1/2 golden brown sugar; lightly packed
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1    in a large skillet with a lid heat oil and 2 kernels of popcorn on medium heat. Once the 2 kernels pop add the remaining popcorn with lid, shake around so all the kernels are coated in the oil. Then once the popcorn is all popped remove from heat (careful when removing lid the like to randomly pop a few into the air)
2    in a small pot melt the 2 tbs butter, then swirl it a little and let it start to bubble/foam, start stirring it then and watch for when it becomes browned. Watch it carefully, it is easy to let it become black butter which doesn't have the hazelnutty appeal of brown butter.
3   pour half of the melted butter in a large bowl, 1/8 tsp of salt, and 2 cups of popcorn and mix it all together. Then add in 2 1/2 cups of popcorn, drizzle over remaining melted butter and 1/8 tsp salt. Mix all popcorn together well and set aside.
4    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl beat the 1/2 cup butter well. Then beat in the sugars. Then beat in the egg and vanilla.
5   in another bowl mix together the flour and the baking soda. Then slowly mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture until incorporated.
6    although it will look daunting add the popcorn into the dough and fold in with a spatula. Some of the kernels will break but eventually it will start to mix into the dough, I promise
7    plop heaping 1 tbs size cookie balls onto a cookie sheet, they don't spread a ton so you can fit quite a few on a sheet. The kernels will poke out and that is part of their appeal so don't worry
8    bake for 12-15 minutes, they will turn a light golden brown. let cool and savor the amazingness that is the popcorn cookie! 


Star Wars Ewok Celebration Cake

One of our lovely friends Liz was having a Star Wars themed birthday party (YES!) and I was honored to get to make her a cake. I asked what scene she loved most in the movies and she replied the Ewoks, so I made an Ewok Celebration cake and it's just so darn adorable!
I love making cakes and figuring out how to bring something in my mind to life in icing and edibles, but sometimes you just don't have the time and that's how this cake came to be. I pulled images from the internet of an Ewok and AT-ST Walkers and then edited and drew them up in poses in Illustrator and had them laser cut out at work. I used sanding, films, coloring to make their look fit my fancy, and most importantly I remembered to add portion to stick in the cake so they'd stay standing. I'm in love with the little Ewok faces.

I've been saving the chocolate, matcha tea, and hazelnut chocolate pocky since we got it in Cincinnati from Jungle Jim's for about 6 months. I wanted to surround a cake with them so badly and this worked perfectly to create a foresty feeling for the Ewoks, plus her favorite color is green. I love the texture it adds and whimsy of it all.
Inside it's my favorite chai chocolate cake with a nutella frosting covered in almond buttercream, 3 layers tall.

Her party was fabulous and included a Dark n' Stormy-Trooper, games, decals and a drinking game to The Empire Strikes Back, such as drink when Luke whines (uh oh) It was lovely and fun to get to celebrate Liz with everyone!


An Oberon Clone

This past Sunday began with epic plans so to be able to keep up with them all of course we first went to fuel up on donuts, then we laid around on the couch, and then we got to work. Joshua has an Oberon clone he's been researching and we wanted to brew it and then I got a cheese kit that we've been wanting to give a try so homemaker DIY Sunday it was.
According to Bell's website their Oberon may be described as: Bell's Oberon is a wheat ale fermented with Bell's signature house ale yeast, mixing a spicy hop character with mildly fruity aromas. The addition of wheat malt lends a smooth mouthfeel, making it a classic summer beer. 
Oberon the king of fairies as the name is also known.

Josh was diligently working on the recipe
he wanted to use and how to vary it to his preference
so once it's bottled I'll post his custom Oberon recipe :)


Chocolate Cookie Butter Crepe Cake

I've been wanting to make a chocolate crepe cake for awhile. I needed the right audience though and our chocolate loving friend's the Aaron's were the perfect victims. I love slicing into a crepe cake and seeing all the little layers, but those layers are even better when they're chocolate sandwiched by cookie butter frosting. Trader Joe's has a specculoos cookie butter, but I think you can find it other places as well. This stuff! I want to find a way to get my face into the jar and lick all the edges clean!
Chocolate crepes:
used good ol Martha Stewart recipe
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup butter; cut into slices             
8 ounces semisweet chocolate       
1 1/2 cups flour      
1/3 cup sugar       
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk             
6 eggs      
1 tbs vanilla
1     in a small pot bring water to a boil and then melt in butter one slice at a time
2     remove from heat and whisk in chocolate, stir until it is all melted, set aside
3     in another bowl combine flour, sugar and salt
4     in another large bowl whisk eggs lightly and then mix in milk and vanilla
5     slowly mix flour mixture into the egg mixture
6     then mix in the chocolate mixture
7     cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight
8     then melt 1/2 tbs of butter in a small pan and heat over medium-high for 3 minutes
9     then remove from heat and pour in 2 tbs of crepe batter and swirl around to cover pan
10   turn heat down to medium-low and cook for approximately 30 seconds
11   using a spatula slowly peel up crepe and flip over, cook for another 15-20 seconds
12   remove and place on plate, repeat with remaining crepe batter (this will take awhile)
remember the first few may not work, I usually tear, make to thin, or fatally flip the first 5-6 while getting the hang of it again and the temperature of the pan right, don't give up! you have plenty of batter!
13  let the crepes cool or all your frosting will melt and run
Cookie butter frosting:
(I used cookie butter mixed with essentially what is nutella because that's all I had)
4 tbs butter; room temperature
1/2 cup cookie butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tbs milk
1     beat butter until fluffy
2     then beat in cookie butter
3     slowly beat in powdered sugar
4     slowly beat in milk 1 tbs at a time until it becomes desired consistency
you want to make sure it's not to thick to spread across delicate crepes
to assemble:
1    place one crepe on plate and spread about 1 tbs of frosting on top gently
2    place another crepe on that and repeat until all your crepes are gone, you don't need much frosting in between each layer because there are so many so don't over frost and use all your frosting up to soon
3   then I whipped about 3/4 cup cold whipping cream and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste to top the crepe cake with whipped cream and espresso sprinkles.
I love that it looked messy and gooey, added to its appeal in this case for me :)
My friend Jessica said it was one of her favorite desserts I've made so...

The most from scratch pizza EVER

A good ol pizza party with some lovely friends + a pizza pinata
 Since we made homemade cheese we decided to go all the way and make an all from scratch pizza for when our friends came over for dinner. So dough, cheese, sauce all from scratch. Sadly we don't know how to make pepperoni yet :(

Whole wheat pizza dough:
4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs sugar
2 tsp sea salt
3 cups white wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1   sprinkle yeast over warm water and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes
2   mix olive oil, sugar and salt into yeast mixture
3   in a large bowl combine flours
4   pour yeast mixture over flours and stir with a wooden spoon until combined
5   grease a large bowl and place dough inside, cover with a towel
6   put in warm dry place for an hour to rise
7   separate dough into 2 balls and knead each one a few times on a floured surface
8   use immediately or cover and place in fridge for a few days or freezer for up to 3 months

homemade cheese that we made a few days ago, the little add ins
 made it super tasty, and it melted really well

I love love vodka tomato sauce! LOVE IT, so I wanted to give making it a try but then Trader Joe's only had a very random assortment of tomatoes so I grabbed the last of the cherry tomatoes, some heirloom mini tomatoes, and yellow tomatoes on the vine (random but if you saw the options you'd have done it too) O man o man was this sauce delicious!
Vodka cream tomato sauce:
4 cups tomatoes cherry tomatoes (or assortment similar)
1 onion; roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup Vodka
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt
1   preheat oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil
2   scatter the tomatoes and onion on baking sheet and throw on the garlic cloves
3   roast for 25-30 minutes, tomatoes should start to brown a little
4   toss it all in the blender and mix well
5   in a large saucepan add vodka, cream, tomato mixture, and salt
6   bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low stirring often for about 15 minutes
and then devour it!

We rolled out our dough, slathered on our sauce and topped it all with mushrooms, zucchini, prosciutto, homemade mozzarella slices and basil. Baked in oven at 385 degress F for about 10-12 minutes. It was pretty darn tasty.

And then since our friend Kenneth turned another year older but is going on a year long adventure very soon we made him a pizza piñata filled with Asian candies for his birthday (consumable goods our favorite gifts) We thought it might be hard to break open, I taped it up pretty good, but hey him and his rolling pin batton killed it and candy scattered throughout the apartment. Loved it!


Post-Holiday Office Party

This year's post-holiday party was another hit. Sadly the Seahawk's playoff game was also on so many were distracted by that for awhile, but after that it kicked up. Photo booth, glowing ZGF, silly old man band that can rock a tune, giant dance party, pretty venue, open bar, and the opportunity to wear a red cocktail dress. Also the night ended at a place called Hooligans where we infiltrated a Seahawks jersey wearing bar in droves of bowties and dresses to throw peanut shells on the floor and play big buck hunter - wouldn't be a ZGF office party if it didn't end that way!

Joshua holding down the dance floor during an awkward song choice :)


Cheesemaking Adventurers

I bought us a DIY cheese kit about 6 months ago (because it was on super sale of course) and we finally got around to making some. It's similar to this one. We decided to start out with mozzarella and next we have big plans to make ricotta and use my pasta maker to make homemade lasagna noodles mmm. We had a really great time trying to figure out what we were doing. In the end it's not the best texture, a little too tough, but we think it's because we used 1% milk instead of whole and then brought the temperature up a little too high. But since we have 9 more cheeses of supplies left we plan to mold our skills into pro cheese making.
got to buy the fancy milk

rigged a thermometer holder and look it's forming curds

cheese curds!

tip toes because we over estimated the size pot needed

cheese salt and molds

we wanted to make one with herbs and a little spice

stretching and mixing the cheese
heart molds :)

mmm look at that cheese
we're pretty proud
A winter type date night that melded perfectly with our Sunday. The best part is it only takes an hour and then the cheese is best if eaten fresh, no arguments here!

the mess after a full day of beer and cheese making