Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cake Pops - They're Big on the Internet

My musically-inclined friend has been having a big couple of weeks, what with her thesis defense last week and her senior recital yesterday. Because she didn't need to worry about all sorts of refreshments (and because we've already established that I'm a stress baker, and this is the last hurrah of the semester), I volunteered to make a treat.

At first I didn't quite know what to make. Then, walking either in or out of the library on Wednesday morning, I thought "Cake Pops!" I called my mom that night and explained what I was talking about. I got a rather tepid response even after explaining them, but rest assured. For quite some time now, they've been all the rage on the internet.

Since even stress bakers realize that time allowances must be made for things like final papers in your major seminar, I made these babies in the do a step - homework - do a step fashion. Turns out, cake pops lend themselves to process baking, as you need to let cakes cool, let cake balls chill, let chocolate solidify... They are perfectly conducive to the last week and a half of classes.

My musically-inclined friend's recital went really well. She played a handful of really great pieces, including one written specifically for her by her former horn teacher. That piece, which concluded the concert, ended rather spectacularly. Let's just say someone left the church doors open and, turns out, squirrels are curious about French horn sounds.

Several people at the after-recital reception, upon having a cake pop or two, told me I should skip library school and think about something culinary, maybe have a bakery. Flattering, yes, but as you all know, I am all too happy to give away my secrets (or not-so-secrets) that no sort of cooking career would be viable for me. And besides, with library school under my belt, I can be that girl who can answer the really random questions who will always bring something to a dinner party. Not a bad type of girl to be.

Cake Pops
inspired by the Pioneer Woman, Bakerella, and Confections of a Foodie Bride

a 13" x 9" cake of your choice
a can of frosting, your choice (or an equivalent amount of homemade frosting)
melting chocolate
wax paper
sucker sticks

Bake the cake and let it cool completely, preferably overnight. Crumble the cake into a large bowl and stir in almost the entire can of frosting. This process might take a little while, but make sure the cake and frosting are completely mixed. Take spoonfuls of the cake mixture and roll them into balls, placing them on a wax-papered baking sheet when you're finished. Place the cake balls in the refrigerator for a few hours until they are sufficiently chilled and firm.
Melt your melting chocolate carefully. Sticking each cake ball with a sucker stick, dip them into the chocolate, being careful to let the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl before sticking the cake pops top-end-up to dry. (A block of styrofoam would, I'm sure, be great for this. If you have any.)
Note: If the sticks fall out, use a spoon to coat the cake ball in chocolate anyway. Ta da! Now you have a cake truffle!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Celebration Dinner

On Friday, my musically-inclined friend defended her honors thesis. The two of us have stuck together throughout the year-long research-and-writing process, and we've established a regular weekly work night -- a time when we know we'll get things accomplished in good company. It seemed only natural, then, to celebrate the completion of her thesis as well as mine. Lending a nice bit of symmetry to everything thesis-related, I chose the recipe for our celebratory dinner from my thesis community cookbook.

The recipe, poppyseed chicken, is from a very good friend of mine who actually works within our honors program here at my school. She had touted it to me as a "great (EASY) dish to serve when your boss is coming to dinner"; having no real boss, at least one that I would be inviting to dinner, I figured our Friday dinner could be reason enough to try out the yummy-sounding recipe.

Now, I for one am not usually a "cream of" cook; I don't normally cook from recipes that include cans of "cream of" soup. This proclivity is for two reasons: 1) recipes including "cream of" soup often result in relatively large yields, and leftovers, not matter how good, aren't really my thing; and 2) many of the "cream of" soups available are not particularly healthy. If this second concern is one of yours also, I'm sure you can find a recipe online to replace canned soup with homemade. You really should consider it.

I cannot tell you how simple this recipe was, and with what great results. My four dinner companions all said they heartily enjoyed it, and that was even before the wine kicked in. Once the wine kicked in... well, that's another story.

Poppyseed Chicken
from Amy Welch

3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and torn/cut into pieces
1 c sour cream (choose your preferred level of fat)
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 tbsp poppyseeds
1 c Ritz crackers, crumbled
4 tbsp butter

Mix the chicken pieces, sour cream, cream of chicken soup, and poppyseeds and dump the mixture into a 9"x13" casserole. Sprinkle the top of the mixture with the Ritz crumbs, and slice the butter evenly over the top. Cover the casserole with foil, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve over rice.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Fiftieth Post: Breakfast for Dinner

Welcome, all, to my fiftieth post here at Americana Kitchen! I've enjoyed what's been the beginning of this food blog, and I hope you have, too. Seems like I've been chatting about food for quite some time already. And goodness! It's just dawned on me that I should start thinking about a blogiversary post. After all, May 25 is really just around the corner. Yikes.

I've decided to share with you this evening what I've been eating for dinner a lot over the past few weeks. Actually, what I've been eating up until tonight is the meat-free version of this dish, as I started cooking it as a Lenten dinner. Breakfast for dinner is wonderful for that; you really can adjust it to whatever dining situation you have in front of you. And I must say, I was rather happy this evening to have the slight addition of bacon to the mix. Thanks, Kroger, for the coupon for a free package of bacon. =)

I'll admit that, in writing, this recipe doesn't seem like much of anything. When you're eating it, though, it's quite tasty and so comforting. (Or maybe the comfort just comes from me remembering my dad making a weekend breakfast on occasion while I was growing up? Whatever.) Try it!

Potatoes, Eggs, Bacon, and Cheese

Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Cheddar Cheese

Peel your potatoes, cube them, and boil them until tender but not falling apart. While the potatoes are boiling, cook the bacon according to your favorite method. When the bacon is done, set it on a paper towel to drain.
Drain the boiled potatoes. In a large nonstick skillet, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the potatoes to the hot oil, sprinkling them with sea salt and pepper. The point here is to get the potatoes browned and starting to get crispy. Keep turning the potatoes every once in a while until they reach your desired degree of crispiness and color.
When the potatoes are perfect, crack your eggs into the skillet. Scramble them around in the pan with the potatoes until they are fully cooked. Crumble in the cooked bacon, and top the whole thing with cheddar cheese.
Note: I haven't provided precise amounts for ingredients. The beauty of this dish is that you can suit it to your specific tastes. Be free!