In The Kitchen With…Lissa

InTheKitchenMe.

It’s been a long time, huh? I know. I feel it too. I need to get back to talking to y’all. It’s not that I don’t love ya anymore, only that I’m trying to get books written for y’all to read.

I’ve been cooking a lot lately too. I actually cook every day so… In my house we’ve gone with theme nights. At least that’s what I call them.

Monday: Comfort Food
Tuesday: Italian
Wednesday: Crock-pot
Thursday: Finger Foods (Pizza, Burgers, BBQ Nachos, etc…)
Friday: Mexican
Saturday: Salads and Leftovers
Sunday: Breakfast

This has helped me a great deal in dinner preparation. It breaks down things enough that I can try different things without having to rack my brain going through every food category on the planet. If I already have an idea in my head, it makes my life that much easier. It’s not as tedious as meal planning, because I still like the open-ended creativity without the planning, but it narrows things down for me. It helps my family too with making requests/suggestions…

Do you do meal planning to any degree? If so, what is your process?

Something else I’ve started doing lately is taking some of my herbal and flavored teas from Teavana and making quarts of iced tea. It’s finally starting to get warm out and while my typical beverage menu (for myself) includes coffee and water, I do love iced tea. I am a Southern girl, after all. This week I’ve made Watermelon Mint Chiller and Blackberry Mojito. I made a simple syrup (2 parts water to 1 part sugar for a slightly thinner syrup) to sweeten them with, and it’s been a very nice deviation from the norm. (I think I’m trying to channel Chrissie from Keep It Together with her iced tea)

I’m going to get back to writing now, but we’ll get together again soon to talk about what I’m cooking up or baking…

~lissa

In The Kitchen With…Lissa

Everyone waits with baited breath and eager anticipation for Starbucks to bring out the Pumpkin Spice latte each year. Okay well, almost everyone. Not me. I tied one once and promptly returned it. It was too sweet for me.

So, while the majority of latte drinkers seek out the Pumpkin Spice, I await the Gingerbread latte. It’s not advertised as much anymore and I’ve been in several Starbucks stores that won’t even make it. Makes me very sad. I had to take matters into my own hands more this year than usual. Instead of buying gingerbread syrup for the latte, I decided to make my own.

The internet has more food blogs than one could visit in a year, even if you tried to visit one several in one day. And because there are so many food blogs, there are many recipes for homemade gingerbread syrup. I’ve only tried one so far, and it’s very good. When it’s gone, I’ll try a different one simply because that’s what I do. I like trying different versions and modifying, tweaking…

Most of the recipes I read through use whole spices. I don’t usually have whole ones. I might invest in them for the next time. For now, I had to find an equivalency chart for whole spices to ground spices. I had to fiddle with the amounts a bit, but it worked just fine, I think. The chart I used was Cook’s Thesaurus: Global Spices

The recipe I tried came from the blog, The Galley Gourmet. I’ve visited this site many times and really like her recipes.

Homemade Gingerbread Syrup:
(modified from The Galley Gourmet)

Homemade Gingerbread Syrup
makes about 1 1/4 cup

1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon molasses (the only molasses I have is Sorghum, but Blackstrap would be good)
1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ rounds
1 (3-inch) stick cinnamon
8 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract (though I think I added more like 1 Tablespoon)

In a medium saucepan, bring all the ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes. Strain the syrup through a cheesecloth or very fine mesh strainer and transfer to a container to cool. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

The vanilla is my own addition. It cuts the sharpness of the spices and adds a bit of sweetness in a way that only Vanilla can.

If you are looking for a Gingerbread latte recipe, the Galley Gourmet has one on her site as well. I never follow a latte recipe exactly because some days I want it stronger and some days I want it sweeter.

Usually though, a latte is 2 oz espresso, 3/4 cup steamed milk, 1-2 Tablespoons syrup (gingerbread, cinnamon, caramel, etc…), and whipped cream or the froth from the milk. I add a dash of nutmeg to the top of the whipped cream… Yummy!

The Gingerbread latte is my holiday indulgence. I make one several times a week. If I bought one from Starbucks (when I can get them to make one), I’d be broke very quickly. My espresso machine was relatively inexpensive given how often I use it in the fall and winter. After the holidays I usually make caramel or cinnamon lattes, sometimes a mocha (I’m still trying to get a mocha right).

For now though, enjoy…

~lissa

In the kitchen with…Lissa

Today’s recipe is boiled peanuts. In the crock-pot. Why? Because it’s game day. Today marks the start of the NCAA 2012 College Football season.

My team doesn’t play tonight or tomorrow night. My team doesn’t play until Saturday night against, well, we won’t discuss it. See, my Florida State Seminoles like to start off the season with a little pre-season play against teams who, we should be able to win over if the mood and gods and tide are on our side. Otherwise… Yeah, again, we just don’t discuss it. My second team, Cincinnati Bearcats, don’t start playing until next Thursday night…

What we do discuss is that it IS game day. It actually is game weekend! There are games from tonight straight through to Monday night. I am stoked. I am excited. I am bouncing up and down in my chair. And be very glad you can’t see that… I have the FSU serving platters out, the cups out, the t-shirts and hats and flag and banners. It’s football, y’all. It’s college football, y’all. It’s college football in the South, y’all. Let’s play.

Boiled peanuts. I can’t go to a college football game without getting a cup of boiled peanuts. They’re sticky from the salt water brine, they’re hot (both in temperature and if you want, taste), they’re a staple in the South, especially in the summer/fall.

I made mine this year in the slow cooker. It took 18 hours. I added water when it needed it. I taste tested the peanuts a few times. But otherwise, I just left them to cook. Awesome!

The following recipe is from the 2006 edition of the Southern Living Slow Cooker Cookbook…

Yield: Makes 18 cups

Cook time: 18 Hours

Prep time: 3 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds raw peanuts, in shell
  • 3/4 to 1 cup salt
  • 12 cups water

Preparation

Combine all ingredients in a 5-or 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH 18 hours or until peanuts are soft. Drain peanuts before serving or storing. Store in zip-top plastic bags in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Cajun Boiled Peanuts: Add 1 (3-ounce) package boil-in-bag shrimp and crab boil and 1/3 to 1/2 cup hot sauce (we tested with Frank’s) to slow cooker before cooking.

Freeze It!: Freeze these peanuts in zip-top freezer bags up to 2 months. Reheat them in the microwave before serving.

Note:

Slow-Cooker Size: 5- or 6-quart

Adjust salt to your taste… better to start with less and add more 🙂

Y’all have a great day!

~lissa

In the Kitchen with…Fallon Blake

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen especially when I’m stressed or I need to plot something out for a book. Baking has a calming effect on me and helps me think. Cupcakes are my drug of choice. Yes, I’m addicted. I can admit that. I thought I’d share with you one of my all time favorite cupcake recipes.

Chai Latte Cupcakes

Recipe originally from  http://www.theppk.com/ (best Vegan site EVAH) and also appears in the book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Ingredients
1 cup soy or rice milk
4 black teabags (I used chai tea instead. I like them to really have that spice flavor)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup vanilla soy yogurt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of ground white or black pepper

Buttercream Icing
6 tablespoons vegan margarine, softened (I use Earth’s Balance)
3 tablespoons soymilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1 tablespoon sugar for the tops

Directions
Preheat oven to 375F. In a small saucepan heat soymilk until almost boiling, then add the tea bags, cover the pan, and remove from the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes then squeeze the teabags to release as much tea as possible before removing the bags from the soymilk.

In a large bowl whisk together oil, yogurt, sugar, vanilla and tea mixture until lumps are worked out. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and pepper into wet ingredients. Mix until large lumps disappear; some small lumps are okay. Pour batter into lined cupcake tins and bake 20 to 22 minutes until a sharp knife inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

For icing: Beat together butter, milk and vanilla until smooth. Add sugar a cup at a time until you get the consistency you want. If icing seems too runny, at more sugar, if it seems too thick, add a bit more milk. Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Mix together the cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar, then sprinkle a bit onto the top of each cupcake and indulge!

Blurb:

Plus-sized fetish model and aspiring chef Indigo Hartley has plenty of tattoos and a fiery attitude to match. When she’s offered a job as a sushi model for one of Miami’s trendiest restaurants, she jumps at the chance. Little does this country-mouse-turned-city-vixen know that what starts out as a modeling job will end up the answer to all of her kinkiest fantasies. Three days serving as a sub to this hot chef is too tempting an offer to refuse.

Banner Faust has worked his ass off and sacrificed his love life to become a rock star in the culinary world. On what should be the biggest night of his career, he realizes something is missing from his life—the submissive woman he’s always craved. The curvy new model with the blue-streaked hair and innate submissive nature just might be the one he’s been waiting for. And when he gets her home—and in his bed—he soon realizes three days will never be enough.

Available from : Ellora’s Cave Publishing | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | All Romance eBooks

About Fallon Blake:

Fallon Blake loves to spin stories that explore the romance of dominance and submission or venture into the realms of the paranormal. When she’d not glued to her netbook writing away, you can usually find her in the kitchen whipping up something vegetarian. She loves horror movies, has a soft spot for zombies and cupcakes, and reads everything she can get her grubby hands on.

Find Fallon: Website | Twitter

 

 

 

In the Kitchen with… Amanda Usen

You Can Have My Mini Offset Spatula

When you pry it out of my freakishly strong, heat-resistant fingers! Or you can leave a comment on this post and Lissa will put your name in the hat to win one for your very own. J

Welcome to the kitchen! It’s always been one of my favorite places to be, even before I met my husband in culinary school. Since then, I’ve done more baking than cooking and I always have a mini offset spatula close at hand. Anything you can do with a butter knife or a spoon, you can do better with a mini offset: frost cupcakes, mix color into icing, spread melted chocolate on a crust, fix decorating mistakes, spread batter in a pan, etc. At the moment, I have four in my toolbox and one in my purse. You never know when a baking emergency might crop up!

I often have baking emergencies, although they usually take the form of needing something impressive and fast for a function that I forgot to write down on the calendar. When this happens, I usually make brownies. Serious brownies. Hardcore brownies. Brownies that inspire the NEED for a cup of coffee or a glass of milk. Sometimes both. My brownies can be whipped up in an hour, including baking time, but I never feel like I’ve “lamed out” when I make them. This recipe offers two excellent opportunities to use your mini offset spatula: when you spread them in the pan and when you frost them. Bonus! J

 

Decadent Brownies

Soooo good, they are worth every calorie. Every. Single. One.

Oven temperature: 325

Pan: 13X9

Bake time: 40 minutes

 

2 sticks unsalted butter

18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

2 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 ½  cups granulated sugar

6 large eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup flour

a serious pinch of salt

Optional: 1 cup nuts or dried fruit

Also optional: Powdered sugar, store-bought frosting

 

Spray your pan with pan-spray or, if you want to cut them beautifully, line the pan with parchment, making sure the parchment extends over opposing edges by at least 2 inches.

In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolates with the butter.

Stir in the sugar.

Stir in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Add the vanilla.

Then add the flour.

Mix vigorously for one minute.

Scrape into the pan. Smooth the top. Bake for about 40 minutes, until they feel set in the center.

Let cool. If you used parchment, pull them out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into portions.

Easy Finish: sprinkle with a light dusting of powdered sugar.

The Extra Mile: Frost these bad boys with store-bought chocolate fudge frosting or make chocolate ganache and glaze them. It makes cutting the brownies a hair more challenging, but in the best possible way.

Never Let Them See You Sweat: Pipe a rosette of frosting on top of each brownie and garnish with anything that strikes your fancy. I’ve use gummi candies, pieces of candy bars, bouncy balls and chocolate covered coffee beans. Yum!

What’s your favorite last minute dessert? Or do you have a kitchen tool you can’t live without? What is it? I’m always looking for great recipes and useful gadgets! Leave us a comment and Lissa will pick one lucky winner of a mini offset spatula. Happy baking!

Scrumptious Blurb

Joe Rafferty is just as mouthwatering as the food he cooks. But if he thinks he’s going to waltz in and take over her kitchen, he’s denser than a thick slice of chocolate ripple cheesecake. Marly has invested too much of her life in Chameleon to hand off the restaurant to someone else—especially a cocky-as-all-get-out superstar chef. But there’s no denying the man knows how to light her fire. Question is: Can she have the sizzle without feeling the burn?

Links:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Buy link

About Amanda Usen

Amanda Usen knows two things for certain: chocolate cheesecake is good for breakfast and a hot chef can steal your heart. Her husband stole hers the first day of class at the Culinary Institute of America. Amanda spends her days teaching pastry arts classes and her nights writing romance. If she isn’t baking or writing, she can usually be found chasing the kids around the yard with her very own scrumptious husband. Visit her at http://www.amandausen.com if you’d like to chat about romance, writing or recipes.

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