New Boss in Town

Two days ago, Tristan and I went to the Peninsula SPCA to drop off some donations. While we were there we figured we would take a moment to say hello to all the animals… I think you know where this is going.

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Well, we found this two year old male cat named Chess and it was love at first pet. He crawled right into both of our laps and even licked our faces. So now Tristan and I are the proud owners of a new feline child – who we quickly renamed Owen. He already owns the whole house and bed. I think life just got even more interesting!

Cupcakes With A Kick

Today I made…

Jalapeno Corn Cupcakes

with Cream Cheese Frosting!

I wanted to make Tristan a more savory cupcake, since he (despite my best efforts) is not a lover of all things sweet like me. I long for the days of popping open a fresh container of icing with him and digging into it with a huge spoon, but, alas, I know that day will never come. I will always have to enjoy this simple pleasure alone…

The recipe that I used (from Taste of Home) was very simple to make and produced fantastic cupcakes that blew Tristan and I out of the water (I must admit to feeling a bit smug since just this morning Tristan said he thought “user-submitted” recipes from home cooks would most-likely produce second-rate minicakes – since there is no one around to review and validate their quality)! I can definitely say that this is the first time that I’ve made a cupcake with olive oil, cornmeal, corn, and jalapenos.

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These cupcakes were not too dense, they had the perfect amount of moisture, and the corn and jalapeno pieces were delightful to bite into and taste. The cakes even rose (and retained their shape post-cooling) better than any cupcake I’ve made to date!

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The best part about this recipe is the amazing flavor. But, another unexpected benefit, it is that if you don’t add the icing you actually end up with one of the best cornbreads I’ve ever tasted – so much so that I plan on making these for Thanksgiving!

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Grilled Cheese + Soup

Ambre requested the ultimate sore throat sickness recovery comfort food: grilled cheese and tomato soup. I produced for her Cooks Illustrated Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup. Torn up pieces of white bread is the secret ingredient that adds creaminess without subtracting from the tomato flavor. As for the grilled cheese, I stuck with tradition. Kraft American Cheese and softened butter spread on both sides. Cooking it on medium-low allowed it to get evenly crispy and brown without burning, and letting the cheese get to room temperature helped speed up the melting.  Simple, soothing and tasty. She loved it.

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Biscuits

Dissatisfied with the poor showing I’ve had on earlier occasions of biscuit making I’m doing some experimental baking for myself.  I started with White Lily Self-Rising flour as per Southern tradition as well as the multitudes of recommendations. Since this flour already includes leavening and salt, all that’s required is the liquid and fat. Taking a tip from a Cooks Illustrated recipe, I grated frozen shortening (very snow like in consistency) into the buttermilk a before mixing in the flour.
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One mistake I made was preheating the baking sheet before adding the biscuits, the bottoms cooked too quickly.

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The shortening version of the recipe produced a nearly cake like biscuit, delightfully fluffy and airy.

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I tried the same recipe, using butter instead. The texture was nearly the same, a bit moister I think because of the higher water content in the butter. Flavor was markedly improved(suprise suprise!) and butter imparted a pleasant yellow hue through the biscuit.

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Next time I will try to figure out how to get them to rise without spreading out!

Drumsticks, Three Ways

I planned on having these drumsticks for dinner Wednesday, but due to my infatuation with experimentation, and a new technique, they took nearly 5 hours to cook. That’s pretty crazy and I assure you, in many ways it is. But it was a really informative experiment.

I coated each of them with spices(in order from left to right, Ethiopian Berbere, Tony’s Cajun, plain salt) and stuck them in an oven set to 200F and took them out when they reached 175F internally. I put them in the refrigerator overnight(it was my bedtime, and I still had more recipe to do.) The next day I broiled them. I was inspired by a couple of extra low and slow recipes for cooking beef and I wondered if chicken could benefit from a similar technique. At first glance they look dry, the middle one for instance has a quite leathery looking patch. But, as I learned, this is deceiving and that overcooking is nearly completely responsible for dryness. These, however, were perfectly cooked and were the juiciest and most delicious drumsticks I have ever eaten.

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