Monday, March 29, 2010

Instant Gratification: No-Bakes

Recently I had a sweet tooth attack. I needed something chocolaty and chewy. I didn't want to leave the comfort of my apartment, and I didn't want to wait on a batch of brownies. NO! I dug deep into the depths of my recipe collection and found this prized recipe. I scalped it from my fella's grandmother. She makes many-a tasty candy and other sweet things. This recipe is tried and true. Fo sho.
Bert's No-Bakes
1 cup sugar
5 tsp. cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup of butter
1/4 cup of milk
1/3 cup of peanut butter

Bring sugar, cocoa, butter, and milk to a boil on medium-high heat in a sauce pan. Stir well.
Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla until combined. Add oats.
Scoop with a tablespoon and drop onto wax paper. Let cool...or not.
Store in an air tight container.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day at Fountain Square

Afternoon girl time is a must - especially when life decides to throw lemons. Screw making lemonade, we noshed on fantastic, traditional English food at the Red Lion Grog House in the Fountain Square district in Indy.

We ate juicy blanket bangers. (Warning: those go in like a sunny day, but out like a hurricane.)

And some Scotch Eggs. (Karli makes some good Scotch Eggs, and she bakes them so they aren't so hard on the gut.)

The Fish N Chips. Oh, the Fish N Chips. I don't even know what to say about them. I'm still salivating. If you're interested you can read my full review of Red Lion Grog House here.

After gorging ourselves, we goofed off at this funky vintage shop next door, indySwank. If you're looking for the perfect gift for the guy who has everything, there's a pretty baller smoking jacket there. Don't forget to pick up a pipe while you're out.

At Days Gone By Antiques, we found lots of fun, old timey kitchen gadgets and this awesome scale from the no-longer Vonnegut Hardware Company. Yes, that's the same Vonneguts you've got in mind. Kurt Vonnegut's great-grandfather was the founder of this store which was established in 1858. Read more fun historical info here.

To finish off a perfect afternoon, we indulged in a handmade chocolate milkshake at the Smokehouse on Shelby. There was so much milkshake, it wouldn't fit in the glass. That was perfectly fine by me!

Fountain Square is an interesting neighborhood that takes more than an afternoon to soak up. I hope to make another trip with Karli soon to see what else can we get into.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Packaging Makes the Product

Hi, everyone! It's Karli here. I don't often get to post things because I don't do all of the baking and cooking experiments like Sarah. I wanted to share a little of my knowledge, though, as the one in our partnership that worries about how The Hot Cookie looks and what kind of message we are sending to our potential customers. If you want to sell your baked goods, or lip balm, or stationery, or soap it is important for you to consider how you package your item.

If your product is all-natural, made from eco-friendly materials, etc. you might consider recycled cardboard packaging with soy ink printing. Like this packaging from Lindsay Faye Sherman.

You can also use pattern, font choice and color to grab the customer's attention. The colors and patterns you choose don't necessarily have to be bright or overpowering, but can be interesting if they are different than the majority of packaging in the market for your particular product.Products whose packaging showcase a simple elegance often attract customers and position themselves as higher quality like this packaging for organic honey from designer Marcel Buerkle.

Even if you think your product will best be served by a more traditional package design, there are ways to do this that exude professionalism and quality. This butter packaging gives you the feeling of straight from the farm, yet you know that great care has gone into its production.

Even if you are just packaging your items for friends and family there are plenty of resources on the web that enable you to do it in style like these boxes from Twig and Thistle.

If you have any resources or photos of your own packaging please share them with us all!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Candied Kumquats

This is not a kumquat peel. It's a clementine peel. I just liked how it looked. Now on to the kumquats - nature's Tear Jerkers!
If you've never eaten a kumquat, you must! They are quite unusual. They're not really sweet, but not really sour. You eat them whole; rind and all, and they sort of "pop" in your mouth. I found that I could only eat 2 or 3 at a time in their raw state, so I wanted to find a way to eat them faster. What makes everything taste better? Sugar, duh! Mary Poppins couldn't have said it better.
Get yourself some adorable kumquats. You'll need 10-12 ounces. Wash them well, and find a sharp knife.
Slice and slice and slice into small sections. You'll probably find some seeds. Pick those buggers out. No one likes to chomp on citrus seeds.
This is a two part cooking process: blanching then cooking. In a medium sauce pan, bring 2 cups of water and 1/2 tsp. of salt to a boil. Add the kumquat slices and let simmer for 2 minutes. Drain off the water. Next, add 1/2 a pound of sugar (240g), 1 cup of water, and 3 oz. of corn syrup to the kumquats. Stir and bring to boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 15 minutes or translucent. Scoop out the kumquats with a slotted spoon, and place on a screen or baking sheet. Separate them so you don't have giant blobs of kumquat.
Fancy yourself a cocktail drinker/maker? Use the reserved sugar water to make a kumquat infused simple syrup. Bring the sugar water to a boil. Let it lightly boil until a lot of the water has dissolved. The consistency should resemble honey. Let it cool a bit and pour into a bottle or lidded jar in the refrigerator.
Now let them dry. It's best to let them dry on a screen, but if you don't have one, like me, you can just put your soggy kumquat slices on a baking sheet and put them in the oven on a really low temp (175 degrees F) for a few hours. Worked just fine for me. Just don't forget that they are in there.
Toss them in a bit more sugar to coat.
Ta-Da! Candied citrus always makes an impression, and kumquats are just so danged cute!
Store your little gems in an air tight container, and mix yourself a cocktail.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pêcher Avec Sauce Velouté - A Julia Child Inspiration

As with the rest of the foodie population, I've been getting into Julia Child lately. I recently finished reading My Life in France. It was a wonderful book that made me appreciate Mastering the Art of French Cooking even more. Upon finishing the book, I was inspired to whip up a dish that I would normally not. More a baker than a cook, I almost never make sauces. Here's my first attempt at a sauce from Julia's repertoire.

Pêcher avec sauce velouté is fish with white sauce, or to the American eye, fish n' gravy. I didn't know that this sauce was supposed to be/look like gravy. Sauce just sounds fancier. As much as I tried to deny it, this béchamel sauce is downright gravy. Julia said that it goes with eggs, fish, chicken, veal, and veggies. If you say so, Julia. You're the expert.

I embellished the sauce with some sauteed onions and celery in a bit of olive oil - cooked until almost tender. I like red onions because of their color and mild flavor.

Butcher Paper! Butcher Paper! I want to be buried in butcher paper! You think I'm joking.... For this dish you can use any white fish. (That rhymed.) I wanted to use cod, but my grocery store didn't have any. These small tilapia fillets worked well though.

Lay zee poisson over the bed of celery and onion. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Season the other side with S & P too. (It must be rhyming day.)

Remove the cooked fish from the pan and set aside. This is my attempt to keep them warm. Mostly a fail.

Toss in a chunk of butter - a tablespoon. Let's make a roux.

Add to the melted butter, a tablespoon and a half of flour. Stir until combined and bubbly.

Pour in one cup of hot milk. Season with half a teaspoon of salt and a quarter teaspoon of pepper. Whisk briskly over medium high heat until the sauce comes to a boil. Let it boil for a minute while still stirring. You'll know when it's thick enough - draw a line on the back of your spoon with your finger. If it doesn't run, it's thick enough.

This photo is less than lovely. This dish is less than lovely, I'm sorry. It's hard to make fish and gravy look good together. Anyway, I returned the fish to the pan with the sauce so that they could be the same temperature as the sauce.

Ah, my lovely fish n' gravy with a side of German potato salad. I was wondering if I had poured on too much sauce, but after watching a few episodes of The French Chef, I found that I was pouring lightly. It seems that Julia Child loved her sauce - lots of it. After she was done pouring, you couldn't even see what was underneath. She's my kind of lady.

See Julia Child whip up this versatile white sauce during this episode of The French Chef. The sauce part is about 7 minutes into the 28 minute show. (I hope you watch the entire episode because Julia is just wonderful, and this episode is a special one because she's shown preparing a spinach turnover with her cookbook partner Simone Beck in her own kitchen in France.) Bon appetit!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

D.I.Y. Fruit & Nut Bars!

You know those delicious, wholesome fruit and nut bars that you get at the grocery store. (Hint, they start with an L. L*** Bars.) You can make them yourself, to your taste and liking. Those bars are very tasty, the store bought ones, but they can get very pricey. Let's make some of our own! Get our your food processor, your favorite nuts, your favorite dried fruit, a pinch of salt, and optional spices (cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, etc.)

The nut to fruit ratio is simple. 1 to 1. If you like a crunchy bar, put the nuts and fruit in the food processor together at the same time and blend until combined. If you want a smoother bar, like me, grind the nuts first, then add the fruit and blend until combined. Go ahead and toss in your pinch of salt and a few dashes of your optional ground spices at this stage.

The most common fruit in these said bars are dates, but I use any ol' moist dried fruit that I have around, like these prunes and raisins. Works for me.

A good serving size is about 2 tablespoons. I line a cupcake pan with plastic wrap, drop in 2 Tbsp. of the mixture, and press them in the holes with the bottom of a cup so they become nice, flat discs.

They are nothing to look at, but these homemade fruit & nut bars are perfect for travel and snacking. I store mine in zip-top plastic bags separated by wax paper and keep them in the refrigerator. The batch pictured above was made from 1 cup prunes, 1/2 cup raisins, 3/4 cup hazelnuts, 1/4 cup almonds, and 1/2 cup walnuts. (1 1/2 cup of fruit to 1 1/2 cup of nuts.) It made about 12 servings. This recipe is perfect to mix and match. The last time I made them, I threw in some flax seeds for kicks. Just think, the possibilities are endless! Let me know what you put in yours!

Monday, March 8, 2010

EASY Spring Break Key Lime Pie

If you are one of the lucky ones who get to travel to warm climates and sandy beaches this spring break, stop reading now. This post if not for you. Go and drink your slushy, umbrella embellished drinks and get sunburned. Well, not burned, just singed. I still like you, after all. I'll be here when you get back. Hopefully, my cabin fever has broken by then.

Anyways, for those of us who are still under snow and ice, put your imaginations to work. Let's pretend we're in Key West, FL. Do you have a mental picture yet? OK, let's begin. Separate some eggs. Keep the yolks.

This recipe is almost like cheating. It has so few ingredients and comes together in minutes.

Use your crust of choice. For this pie, we used your standard pie crust, but for a more traditional Key lime pie, graham cracker does the trick.

If using a refrigerated pie crust, prebake it for about 10 minutes. Those crusts take longer to bake than this filling.

This is what a single filling looks like. Here's where meringue lovers would put some meringue.

Because we're not meringue lovers, we doubled the batch. Fill er' to the brim, we sez.

Ours turned out a bit dark, so keep an eye on yours. Slice a slice, put on some shades, and pretend that you're living it up somewhere where it's hot and the dress code is almost naked.

Super Easy Key Lime Pie

-Graham Cracker Crust or Refrigerated Pie Crust (whatever be your fancy)
-1 can sweetened condensed milk
-2 egg yolks, beaten
-1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (Get Key limes if possible.)

Beat condensed milk, egg yolks, and lime juice until combined. Pour into pie crust of choice. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until solidified.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

No Other Butter!

My Aunt Jean is a foodie like me. She renews my subscriptions to Bon Appetit and Cooks Illustrated every Christmas, and then we get to chatter about what recipes we dog-eared and tried with each new issue. She has a fantastic kitchen. Just look at her spice "cabinet" or shall I say, closet.

So when Aunt Jean raves about a certain food item, I make sure to try it. She's usually right about it's awesomeness. The latest item she introduced me to was this FABULOUS butter.

I do not consider myself a butter person. I mean, I put it in food and cookies especially, and I never use faux butter, margarine, or nonsense like that. This butter from the Vermont Butter & Cheese Company made me a butter person. What makes it special is that it's cultured, like cheese and yogurt. It does have a very slight hint of cheese, but it's still very much butter. I'm telling you, once you have this, you're not going back. I could only find it at one specialty store in Indy. I hope you can find it near you. It's worth making a call to Vermont. I promise. Buy it now if you know what's good for you. I don't even know these people, but I want to be their best friend.

At this same specialty store, I picked up this beauty. It's butter from Parma, Italy. I'm thinking, "Hey that's got to be some good stuff," and the packaging sucked me in like it always does. I conducted a blind taste test immediately upon arrival back home. I fed my fella two slices of toast, each lathered with one of the fancy butters. Toast #1 was the Parma butter and #2 was our new favorite from Vermont. After his blind tasting, he noted that #1 had a more average taste - a very subtle difference, but #2 had that little extra somethin' somethin'. But you don't have to take my word for it. This edible gold speaks for itself.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pumpkin & Butternut Squash Risotto

I found this tasty sounding recipe from a feature on Design*Sponge. I happened to still have some arborio rice from YEARS ago when I first was introduced to risotto. Back then, I wanted to make my own, so I went to a bulk store and bought a MASSIVE amount of rice. Enough rice to feed an Asian football team. I don't know what I was thinking. After this pumpkin risotto, I finally only have enough for one more batch. Shew!

I did derail from the original recipe quite a bit. I had some pumpkin puree I made in the Fall still in the freezer, so I didn't need to make any like the original recipe suggested. They roasted and pureed a pear along with their pumpkin. Fancy that!

I substituted roasted pumpkin chunks for butternut squash chunks. I liked the variety. They are very similar and go well together. The herbs and spices were a wonderful addition.

Here sits the rice and red onion after their drink of wine. It's crucial that you let all of the liquid absorb before you add the next addition.

Stirring is the key. I've tried to get past this with previous attempts, but if you want to make good risotto, you have to put forth the muscle. Don't even think of putting down that spoon!

Adapted from Jennie Love's Perfect Pumpkin Risotto

Roasted Butternut Squash Cubes (can be made in advance)

1 medium butternut squash
2 t. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 t. coarse sea salt
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. finely minced fresh rosemary
pinch of white pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F. Peel and cut the squash in half; scoop out the seeds with a large spoon. Cut into 1 inch cubes and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle the rest of the ingredients on top of squash and toss to coat. Place in oven and bake until the flesh is soft and slightly browned, about 30 minutes.


4 C. vegetable stock
3 T. butter
3/4 C. diced onion
1 1/2 C. arborio rice
1/2 C. white wine
1/2 t. finely minced fresh rosemary
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 C. pumpkin puree
2 C. roasted butternut squash cubes (above)
1/2 C. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 C. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1 tsp. salt (to taste)

Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir for about two minutes until it is thoroughly coated with the butter and toasted a bit. Add the wine and let everything simmer for another minute or two until the wine has evaporated.

Set a timer for 18 minutes. Add about half a cup of hot stock to the risotto and stir constantly until it is absorbed. Add another half cup of stock and repeat this process, adjusting the amount of liquid you add to the needs of the rice, until 18 minutes is up. The closer the rice is to being done, the less liquid you will need to add. Add the pumpkin puree, nutmeg, rosemary, and a final bit of stock, if necessary, and stir vigorously to combine. When risotto has once again become thick and creamy, add the roasted pumpkin cubes and grated cheese and stir again to combine. Finally, finish the risotto by stirring in the heavy cream and adding pepper and salt to taste.

Serve immediately while hot, garnishing with addition grated cheese.