Friday, December 30, 2011

Potato, Potatoh

The final appetizer at the grad student Christmas partay was Twice-Baked Potatoes. For the first time in my life, I made baked potatoes in the oven instead of the microwave. While I can't say that I'll be heating up the oven whenever I want a baked potato, I did like the fact that the potato skins were nice and crunchy. Apparently oven baking preserves more nutrients than microwaving. Whouda thunk...

Twice-Baked Potatoes
4 large unpeeled potatoes
1/4 to 1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. butter or margarine, softened
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1 c. shredded Cheddar cheese (4 oz.)
1 T. chopped fresh chives (didn't add these)

Heat oven to 375*F. Gently scrub potatoes, but do not peel. (Cut out any icky spots though.) Pierce potatoes several times with a fork to allow steam to escape while they bake.

Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender when pierced in center with a fork. (I just stuck them in for the full 75 minutes.)

When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut lengthwise in half; scoop out inside, leaving a thin shell. In medium bowl, mash potatoes with potato masher or electric mixer (or the Big Bertha of your kitchen, Ms. KitchenAid) on low speed until no lumps remain. Add milk in small amounts, beating after each addition, until potatoes are smooth and fluffy.

Add butter, salt, and pepper; beat vigorously until potatoes are light and fluffy. Stir in cheese and chives. Fill potato shells with mashed potato mixture. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Increase oven temperature to 400*F. Bake about 20 minutes, or until hot.

(You can fill them, then freeze or refrigerate. Refrigerated taters bake for 30 minutes, frozen for about 40.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

I can do classy!

I threw a kind of adultish Christmas party the weekend before Christmas. I say 'kind of adultish' because we watched 'Frosty the Snowman' and 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer', but we had classy appetizers for food gosh darn it! This was a recipe I really really really wanted to try. It's definitely going into my party food rotation. Or just my quick and easy dinners rotation. Yum!

(oh Betty, I'd be so lost and hungry without you)
12 slices Italian bread, 1/2" thick (I picked up a 'manager's special' loaf at worked great!)
1/4 c. olive or vegetable oil (I used extra-virgin olive oil, hereafter referred to at EVOO)
1 large tomato chopped (1 c.)
3 T. chopped fresh basil leaves (I used spinach leaves instead, like the bagged salad kind)
1 T. large capers or chopped ripe olives (tiny can o' chopped ripe olives)
1/2 tsp. salt, pepper
12 slices (1 oz. each) mozzarella cheese

Heat oven to 375*F.

On ungreased cookie sheet, place bread slices. Drizzle 1 tsp. EVOO over each bread slice.

In small bowl, combine tomato, basil (if you're using spinach, don't add it now!), capers/olives, salt, and pepper. Spread half the tomato mixture over bread slices (put the spinach down first, then put the tomato mixture over it if you're doing things that way); top each with cheese slice. Spread remaining tomato mixture over cheese.

Bake about 8-10 minutes, or until bread is hot and cheese is melted. Serve hot.
'Crostini' is Italian for "little toasts."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Sharona and Manwich!

(I promise that this is his happy face)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I am my mother's daughter

So. One year for New Year's, my mom decided to make a cheese ball. My mother usually doesn't try crazy stuff like this (if you have time and know my family well, ask me about The Onion Tart Disaster) BUT cheese balls apparently fell into safe territory.

So. This cheese ball. It was like a new baby or something. My mom was SO PROUD of it! I'm figuring, hey, it's a ball. Of cheese. Not that hard. Right? Meh, yeah, mostly. I made one for my Christmas party this year. Aside from almost burning out the motor on my hand mixer (KitchenAid stand mixer to the rescue!) and having terrible reading-ahead skills (which lead to 'not enough time...can I freeze this?' lines of thought), it wasn't bad. And it was tasty. Double win!

Cheese Ball
(thanks Betty Crocker!)
2 8 oz. packages cream cheese
3/4 c. (4 oz.) crumbled blue cheese
1 c. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (4 oz.)
1 small onion, finely chopped (I didn't add this)
1 T. Worcestershire sauce (I forgot to add this)
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley (I didn't add this either...)
Assorted crackers, if desired (uh, why wouldn't you have crackers Betty? I bet you sit in dark corners, eating blocks of cheese, don't you....)

Place cheese in medium bowl; let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes or until softened.

Beat onion and W. sauce into cheese with electric mixer on low speed until mixed. Beat on medium speed 1 to 2 minutes, scraping bowl frequently, until fluffy. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours until firm enough to shape into a ball. (You can let it chill for 4-5 hours and still be ok. I know this. Trust me.)

Shape cheese mixture into a large ball. Roll in parsley; place on serving plate. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours, or until firm. (So 1 hour. Half of 2. Close enough...) Serve with crackers (which apparently aren't so optional any more.)

I had lots of compliments! And it looked so pretty.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The best way to spread Christmas cheer.... baking cookies for friends so dear!

Anyone who's known me for at least one holiday season (doesn't matter if it's Christmas, Halloween, Easter, etc.) knows that I have this thing for baking cutout sugar cookies. Since my final this year (don't ask me about it or imma hurt you) was on Thursday, I had tons of time to procrastinate studying. How did I procrastinate, you ask? By BAKING!

The weekend before my final, I decided that gingerfolk sounded fun. To make it even better, I got to mix dough with my hands, try out a new frosting/icing recipe, AND eat too many tasty, tasty soulless cookies :)

Gingerbread Cookies
(from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, since I don't own her Cooky Book)
1 c. packed brown sugar (go dark instead of light for extra flavor!)
1/3 c. shortening
1 1/2 c. dark molasses
2/3 c. cold water
7 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt

In large bowl, beat brown sugar, shortening, molasses, and water with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. (So a word of warning about this step: at some point, there will be so much flour in your very stiff dough that you will break your wooden mixing spoon. At least, I broke my wooden mixing spoon. I recommend rolling up your sleeves and mixing with your hands once the dough isn't quite so sticky. And definitely don't add all your flour at once. I mean, if you hate life, do it, but I recommend you don't.)
Your dough will kind of resemble squishy graham cracker crumbs. It's will smush together nicely when you go to roll it out.
Heave oven to 350*F. Grease cookie sheet lightly with shortening or spray with cooking spray.
Roll dough 1/4 inch thick on floured surface. Cut with gingerbread boy and girl cookie cutters. On cookie sheet, place cutouts about 2 inches apart. (Santa will know if you use inappropriate cookie cutters on your gingerbread. Just saying....)

Bake 10-12 minutes, or until no indentation remains when touched. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Decorate if desired...and of course, you DO desire to decorate! So....see the next recipe, after the break :)
Chilling out on the wire rack.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Oh finals week...

Dear Santa,

I really want tickets to the Coldplay tour this summer. I'd also like an A in ME 581, but I know you're not a miracle worker, so I'll just stick with the tickets.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Crunch time!

Since it's Dead Week here at Purdue, I give you this.

This morning, I spent the better part of 4 hours in my pajamas working on Math area exam review problems.

Purdue's Graduate Student Government is hosting a grad student lock in this Thursday. They're offering an hour of yoga at some point. There's probably free food and coffee involved as well. I won't be attending. Why, you ask? Why would you skip free food and yoga?!?!

Because, knowing grad students, only a few people would actually get anything accomplished. The rest of us would just sit around and complain about classes/research/professors and try to one-up each other with 'my life/advisor/research sucks more!' stories.

One day, when I get hooded and have a fancy title in front of my name and watch undergrads think through whether they should call me 'doctor' or 'professor', it will all be worth it :)

To end things on a positive note, I give you a Cat Covered in Stuff:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree....

...Manwich loves to chew on thee.

The first year I put up the tree, he didn't touch it. Last year, I found out that my cat has a thing for (in addition to cardboard) chewing on fake plastic pine needles. Neither myself nor the tree (pictured right left) were impressed with this knowledge. This year, in a feeble attempt to keep King Kong Kitty out of the tree, I didn't put in the bottom row of branches. (You can see a row of empty holes drilled into the wood.) He still messed with the tree.

I headed back to Limaland this weekend for the ONU Holiday Spectacular. I was worried for the safety of the tree and Mannie's digestive tract. Solution? The vacuum. Manwich is terrified of it, plugged in and working or not. So I put the vacuum on guard duty. I'm proud to announce that this seems to *mostly* work :)

Completely unrelated to Christmas, I found this recipe archived in my written-but-not-yet-published blog post folder. I promise that you'll have a more seasonal recipe up soon. Unless Mannie decides to eat the tree. Then we'll be having roast cat...

Tortellini and Cheese

1 9oz. pkg. cheese-filled tortellini
1 c. frozen peas, corn, or pea pods
1 8oz. tub cream cheese spread with garden vegetables or chives and onions
1/2 c. milk
1 9oz. pkg. chopped cooked chicken breast (or just DIY)

In a large saucepan, cook tortellini according to package directions. Place frozen veggies in colander. Drain hot pasta over veggies to thaw. Return veggies/pasta to saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine cream cheese and milk. Heat and stir the mixture until everything is completely melted and smooth. Heat the chicken according to package directions.

Stir the cheese sauce into the cooked pasta/veggies. Cook and gently stir until heated through. Spoon into serving bowls and top with chicken.

Edit: Apparently I'm still learning my left and right. Thanks seester dearest for pointing this out. I hope whatever you spat water on is still working. Maybe it was your CHEERFUL AND PERKY PLANT.