It's Not Like After the Risotto...

Let's be honest here: I do not like risotto. I can't actually remember the first time I came to this conclusion, but I do know I came into risotto with an open mind, hoping--nay, expecting--that it would taste good. And ever since then, every time I've tried risotto, I've been disappointed. To me, it tastes like rice that's been cooked with too much water, leaving it bland and mushy and sticky. It tastes like something that you cook to give a baby or someone who doesn't have teeth. It's just gross.

So I was shocked and surprised to try my future-mom-in-law's risotto over the weekend and discover that not only did I love it, I went for seconds, asked for the recipe, and made it for myself immediately after arriving home.

This sublime. It's also not really risotto--it is orzo, cooked in vegetable broth, with a little mixed-in garlic and onions. Topped off with a handful of parsley and a dash of parmesan, and it is melt-in-your-mouth delicious, knee-weakening delicious, Seinfeld-moan-inducing delicious. It is taking all my willpower right now not to burst into the kitchen and polish off the extra portion I made for tomorrow night. Must...resist...deliciousness....

What makes it taste so good? How should I know! My mother-in-law got the recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything (my no-holds-barred favorite cookbook) and passed it along to me. It was cheap and simple to make and made my kitchen smell like magic. I paired it with an herb crusted roasted salmon that looked straight out of a Dean & Deluca catalogue, and a chilled glass of sweet, fruity rosé, courtesy my home-brewing coworker. It was awesome, all of it.

Here's the risotto recipe. In a few days, if I haven't--ahem--forgotten my blog again, I'll post the recipe for the herb salmon, which also was quite good, although could have been better (I went with fresh parsley, but forgot to stock up on other fresh herbs, so had to resort to dried rosemary and thyme). Cook some risotto and bask in the glory of deliciousness.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4 cloves, garlic, minced
3 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups orzo
1/4 cup parmesan cheeses
1/2 cup minced parsley
*For smaller portions, substitute 1 cup orzo and 2 cups broth

Saute onion and garlic in oil.
In separate pan, heat stock to boiling.
Add orzo to onions, stir, then add to boiling stock.
Cook covered over medium low heat, stirring every few minutes til liquid is absorbed and pasta tender (about 15 min)
Can add up to 1/2 cup more broth if needed.
Stir in cheese and parsley.

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Take Me Out To the Cupcakes

Mmmm cupcakes...

I like making/eating/decorating cupcakes. But what I really like, truly, is designing cupcakes--coming up with a unique blend of flavors and techniques that make the cupcake less a cupcake and more an experience. Witness: shotglass cupcakes, delicious in their own right, amazing because they are cupcakes hollowed out and filled with booze.

So I jumped at the opportunity again to create some unique cupcakes for the third annual Cupcake Project/Scoopalicious Ice Cream Cupcake Contest!

My little beauties (bum ba bum...)

Pretzel Cupcakes with Sour Frozen Yogurt!

I am so excited for these--they are absolutely amazing! Google tells me they are the first pretzel cupcakes of their kind, which was fun, and I made my first foray into homemade frozen yogurt, with delicious results. I started with a very sweet and buttery pretzel recipe, which I invented by blending recipes for pretzels, butter cake, and sweet rolls. Dipping the unbaked pretzels in baking soda gave them their characteristic pretzelly flavor, and a crisp crust of salt added the right flavor. To offset the saltyness and butteryness of the pretzel, I used a recipe for a tangy, smooth frozen yogurt, which provided the perfect clean contrast to the flavorful pretzel. Amazingness, indeed. And because cupcakes should have frosting of some kind, I topped the whole thing with a very thin, very sweet sugary glaze (another frosting I considered was a lemony or strawberry topping. But, I don't like fruit in desserts, and these are my cupcakes, so straightforward sugar was all I needed).

The results were terrific--even more delicious than I was hoping--and got raves from my guinea pig tester. And because for some reason I was feeling the whole summer/baseball/soft pretzel vibe (and because I am a diehard, 24-years-and-counting Yankees fan), I gave them a baseball name: Take Me Out to the Cupcake.

On to the tips and tricks
Make sure the cupcakes are cool before putting on the ice cream--you want them just warm enough to still have that rich, bready taste, but not too warm so they melt the ice cream. I made my frozen yogurt without an ice cream machine, and it turned out pretty well, if a little gloopy. To give my fro-yo the characteristic Pinkberry swirl, I stuck it inside my Wilton Dessert Decorator Pro. This thing is awesome, and I was stoked for the opportunity to use it. Dave was stoked for other reasons...

I should also note, he was an excellent helper, hardly batting an eye when I told him I wanted to take fancy pictures. "With props!" So I pulled out my beloved old-school Yankees gear and my little plastic Yankees cap and set about taking fancy food pictures. It did not go well.

And so my career as a food stylist ends not with a bang, but with a t-shirt covered in fro-yo.

4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 stick softened butter
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and butter.
Add in yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water.
When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is all shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, until browned.

*Adapted from AllRecipes

3 cups plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix together the yogurt, sugar, and vanilla until the sugar is dissolved
Freeze in a large, shallow container for one hour
Whisk until all the ice crystals are broken up, refreeze
Repeat freezing and mixing for 4-6 hours, or until it's reached desired texture

2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons milk
1 tablespoon honey
vanilla extract (optional)

Blend all ingredients together

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Rumors of My Blogging Demise Have Been Greatly Exagerated

Hello everyone out there in Internet land!

Yes, I am still alive, and yes, I am still eating (although I seem to increasingly be falling on the dual crutches of homemade pizza and nutmeg roast chicken. mmmm....). Life, travel, and work having sapped nearly all my creative energy, I've mostly been spending my dinner times eating as fast as possible (mac n cheese may or may not have featured prominently). And while this solitary foray back into the blogging world may not be a sign of things to come (check back in around December), it's at least fun to cook delicious food and then write about it for an audience of my peers and/or future in-laws (hi guys!).

And what could rouse me from blogging silence? Nothing other than a cupcake and a contest.

I'm a big fan of the Cupcake Project, Stef's imaginative, novel cupcake blog, wherein she combines unusual ingredients with delicious cupcakey results (when she was preggars she made pickles and ice cream cupcakes, which supposedly were amazing. Not being pregnant, or liking pickles, I wouldn't know). Last year, for the second year, she teamed up with the folks at ice cream blog Scoopalicious to hold an ice cream cupcake contest. I entered my chocolate-peanut-butter ice cream cupcakes and won a wonderful bread dough. And while winning was exciting, I was more thrilled to experiment with ever new and unusual cuppycakes (I tried smores cupcakes and fried ice cream before settling on the peanut butter ones).

When this year's contest rolled around, with the grand prize of an ice cream maker, I knew I had to bring it.

Bring. It.

So, for the past few weeks I've been brainstorming, trying out new recipes, experimenting. I have finally settled on my final recipe/concoction, and let me tell you, I am excited. Really. Really. Excited. As soon as I come home tonight I plan to whip up the little beauties and feed them to my roomies/fiance. Can't wait. Hopefully, if I don't get sidetracked by tomorrow's Yankees game or the wedding we're going to on Sunday, I should have the next post up, wherein I detail the whole cupcake experience, within a day or two.

Check back soooon!

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GET LOST (cookies)!!!!

Ok, so, did you all just watch that? Yeah, awesome. Even more awesome than a Lost season premiere? Cookies based on a Lost season premiere. I had tentative plans to go a Lost party tonight and offered to bake some cookies, and while the party plans didn't quite work out, I still decided to make me some geeky fandom cookies. Enjoy (after the jump)!

The doctor says "Eat your cookies!"

Time travel bunny rabbits!

These were a pain and a half to make (which is why I only focused in on one: the Orchid)

I tried to go for terrifying, but they sort of just look like sleepy polar bears...

Vincent! How is that dog still alive? Who knows!

Claire with baby Aaron
(my roommate ate the first baby Aaron because she thought I was baking extra cookie dough)

Locke. The bald head made him so easy to make. I coulda done a baker's dozen

Sawyer, in an extremely masculine mint-green shirt

Jin and Sun, together, where they belong

Hugo cookie. I didn't even know he'd be wearing a big red shirt tonight!

Richard and Miles. Notice Richard's copious eyeliner

Cookie Kate with frosting freckles!

I tried to give Sayid little frosting handcuffs, but just didn't work out

Ilana. Does anyone really know who this person even is?
Whatever, she is now a cookie.

The whole gang!

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