My bundt cake pan doesn’t get a lot of use. It sits in a cabinet, mostly unused, but it’s never let me down. Cakes are easy to bake in general, but making them look appetizing is much more difficult. This is where the bundt pan comes in handy. All you have to do is pour in the batter, bake, flip it over, and you have an instantly attractive cake. No frosting required! Although there’s nothing stopping you from adding whatever frosting you like, of course. Flexibility is good when it comes to desserts. I’ve made a few fantastic bundt cakes over the years – a chocolate pound cake for when we had company over, a lemon cake for Dan’s birthday, a reincarnation of our wedding cake for our second anniversary, and a pumpkin cake for our Halloween party in 2009. These were all great successes, but I haven’t thought to make another one for a long time. For my own birthday I usually pick something outside the box like this year’s red velvet cheesecake, and for Dan’s birthday he prefers Georgetown cupcakes that I order online. (Very little effort required!) But this weekend as I was sifting through Pinterest, getting sick of all the chocolate chip cookie recipes I’ve been hoarding lately, I decided I was going to go all out this week and bake a bundt cake. I’ve been drooling over these two recipes for blackberry jam cake and raspberry applesauce cake for a long time so I think it’s finally time to make them myself. Wish me luck! I’ll have pictures to share soon!

Memorial Day weekend

There’s nothing like a three-day weekend to recharge your batteries! Especially after the crazy week I had (and I won’t even get into how much crazier things are going to get this week). Dan and I have definitely been enjoying our Memorial Day weekend. We spent Saturday at home – Dan put all of his camping gear away while I made lemon crinkle cookies. I’ll post that recipe on Friday, but for now I’ll just say that they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Then we sat down to watch an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that we’ve been wanting to see for a long time – “The Pumaman.” I discovered a fantastic website where you can buy single discs of every episode that isn’t already available on DVD – Hayce’s MST3K DVD Shop. It’s a great deal and I’m thinking of buying a few more episodes. While Dan and I liked “The Pumaman” it didn’t live up to our two perennial favorites, “Space Mutiny” and “Time Chasers.” They are a must-see for all MST3K fans. Anyway, on Sunday morning Dan and I put on hats and sunscreen and set off on a walk to the beach for lunch. We hadn’t made the trip since his brother Bryon visited in February and I was worried about being too out of shape for it, but it turned out to be good time. We walked all the way to the Manhattan Beach Pier, about 5.5 miles from our house, before turning around and having lunch at the Hermosa Beach Pier on the way home. Despite the crowd at the Fiesta Hermosa Memorial Day event, we got a table at one of our favorite restaurants, Mediterraeno, without a problem. Dan and I had a great lunch and then walked home. My legs were killing me by the time we got to our front door, but I was really glad we’d made the 11 mile round-trip. Maybe that will be the catalyst I need to jump start my workout routine. I definitely need a good kick in the pants – especially since so many of my pants don’t fit right now! But back to my weekend recap. Last night Dan and I had Papa John’s pizza for dinner while watching game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the Spurs and the Thunder. Since it wasn’t the Lakers (whose season ended in a whimper when they to the Thunder in five games) I didn’t particularly care who won, but it was nice to be watching basketball again. After the game I went grocery shopping. As I briefly mentioned earlier, this week is going to be crazy so I’ve been trying to do some meal planning to get ahead of the game and not have to scramble during the week. It’s always good to be prepared. I had to go to Whole Foods, Target, and Ralph’s to get everything I need for the dishes I’ve picked out, but the stores weren’t crowded at 8:30 PM on a Sunday. I’m trying a couple of new recipes this week so we’ll see how they turn out. And so we come to Memorial Day itself. Dan and I went to the car wash as soon as we got up this morning to get both of our cars cleaned. Mine definitely needed a bath after spending last weekend in the desert! Since then we’ve been spending the rest of the holiday at home. Dan worked in the garage while I whipped up a batch of chocolate mint cookies with a bag of dark chocolate and mint chips that have been sitting in my baking cabinet since Christmas. They taste a bit like Thin Mints, which is promising. I’ll post the recipe later this week. Right now I’m watching “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” and waiting for some ground turkey to thaw before I assemble some meatballs for tomorrow’s dinner. The rest of the day will be filled with more basketball (game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals), maybe a movie, and something for dinner. Then I have to go to bed because my alarm is going to go off very early tomorrow morning to get me up for work. Let the craziness begin!

Foodie Friday – Marinated Hawaiian chicken

A new recipe! Hooray! But I can’t seem to get away from chicken recipes these days. I think I need to stop pinning them on Pinterest. But anyway, on to the recipe! I needed a quick and easy recipe for a weeknight meal so I adapted this recipe for grilled Hawaiian chicken so I could make on the stovetop. I marinated the chicken overnight as directed and threw it into a skillet to cook the next day. It couldn’t have been simpler to make. Deviating from the original recipe a little more, I added cornstarch right at the end to thicken the sauce so it looked beautiful, as you can tell in the above photo. The chicken was really tasty, especially paired with some yummy coconut rice, but I’m not sure I would use the word “Hawaiian” to describe it. Maybe replacing some of the brown sugar with pineapple juice would help, but the way I made it didn’t taste the way I thought “Hawaiian chicken” to taste. Still good, but not what I was expecting. When I try this recipe again I’ll use chicken thighs instead of breasts to soak up more marinate, cut the chicken into smaller pieces, use more coconut milk and less soy sauce in the marinade, and add a little of the marinade to the skillet when cooking. I think this recipe has enormous potential because it is simple and tasty. I’ll keep working on it and let you know if I have more success.

1 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken (I used breasts)
1 c low sodium soy sauce
1 c water
3/4 c brown sugar
1 tsp onion powder
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 c coconut milk
Sesame oil for the pan
Green onions, sliced (optional)

Cut the chicken into bit sized pieces. In a large bowl stir together soy sauce, water, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic, sesame oil, and coconut milk. Add the chicken and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, heat a little sesame oil in a large skillet. Drain the chicken (discarding the marinade) and add it to the pan. Cook the chicken, stirring frequently until cooked through. Add a couple spoonfuls of cornstarch to the pan, stir to combine, and cook just about a minute more or until the sauce is properly thickened. Serve over coconut rice (just replace half of the water with coconut milk when boiling the rice) and garnish with green onions, if desired. Enjoy!

Based on A Dash of Thyme’s Hawaiian Grilled Chicken.

Chocolate chip cookies #10

Chocolate chip cookies #10: Based on The Kitchen is My Playground’s Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 5/19/12.

I love Nutella. When I have a jar of the chocolatey hazelnut spread in the house I can’t stay away from it. It’s just so easy to grab a spoon and eat a mouthful straight out of the jar. Dangerous even! This is why after making these Nutella chocolate chip cookies last weekend I vowed to never buy any more Nutella ever again. Not ever. OK, I might be talked into it if I happen to run across a Nutella frosting recipe, but that’s beside the point. It’s just too delicious to keep in my cabinet on a regular basis. But anyway, I saw this recipe on Pinterest and bookmarked it right away. I have some co-workers who are Nutella crazy so I figured they would be great to share with everyone. Unfortunately the cookies didn’t turn out as super amazing as I was hoping. They were still fairly well received by my co-workers, but I have a sneaking suspicion they’ll eat anything. Even though I refrigerated the dough for a couple of hours, the cookies still spread out a lot when baking. The were more like pancakes because the Nutella thinned out the batter. And the Nutella flavor was way too subtle even though there was a heaping 2/3 c in the dough. I just don’t think there’s a future in Nutella chocolate chip cookies – at least not for me. I like the idea of spreading some Nutella frosting on top of a classic chocolate chip cookie, though, so let me know if you run across a promising recipe!

Tonight’s agenda

The last two days of work have been killer for me, so here was my agenda after I got home this evening:

1) Nap
2) Go get Togo’s subs for dinner
3) Watch the “House” series finale
4) Watch the “Sherlock” season 2 finale
5) Go to sleep

As of right now the first four items have been successfully accomplished. As for the fifth…good night!

In my free time

With Dan out of town I had the house to myself for a couple of days. So what did I do with all of this free time? Well, first of all, I watched movies. If there were any movies in the theaters that I didn’t want to subject Dan to I would have gone, but that wasn’t the case this weekend. So I rented from Redbox instead. On Thursday night I watched “W.E.” (the movie about Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward directed by Madonna) and on Saturday I watched “Albert Nobbs” (Glenn Close’s amazing Oscar-nominated performance) and “A Dangerous Method” (a movie about Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud). The grand total for all three of those rentals was less than the price of one ticket for the cheapest matinee at a theater. I definitely appreciate that! I considered going to see “The Avengers” again this weekend, but decided to save the money and stay home watching Redbox movies instead. Also, on Saturday while I was working around the house I watched “Toy Story 2” on Disney Channel. Now that’s a great movie. As far as the Redbox rentals go, “W.E.” was okay, “Albert Nobbs” was wonderful, and “A Dangerous Method” was pretty good – well, what I could watch of it. The disc was scratched and unwatchable in several places. I still need to call and complain about it. But anyway, what else did I do with my weekend, you ask? I cooked. I’ve already written a little bit about the batches of cookies I baked, but I also made some tomato soup. It’s not the most ambitious culinary creation, but it was the best way to use up a bunch of leftover vegetables. I’m not sure what Dan is going to be in the mood for when he gets home from camping, but I’m planning a dinner of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s simple and won’t take long to throw together. The perfect meal! Also this weekend I’ve also been reading books. I finally finished A Game of Thrones which I started quite a long time ago. It’s just so long! But at least now I can start watching season 1 of the HBO series. After I finished A Game of Thrones late last night I should have just gone to sleep, but I had to start City of Lost Souls because I’ve been looking forward to it for almost a year. It wasn’t the next book on my “to read” list, but I allowed it to leapfrog to the front of the line for good reason. And after all of that fun stuff, I had to do some chores this weekend as well. I couldn’t let the house get too unruly while Dan was out of town! So I washed dishes, ran the dishwasher twice, washed four loads of laundry, changed the sheets, and took out the trash. Just the usual list of weekend work, but it’s nice to have it all done before the week starts. So it was a productive, if not overly exciting weekend. I’ll take it!

(Belated) Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #9

Chocolate chip cookies #9: Based on Lauren’s Latest’s Brown Butter Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Baked on 5/19/12.

It’s been a long time since I made a batch of chocolate chips cookies (lack of inspiration, emphasis on a healthy diet, etc.), but I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for a long time. Last year I made my first batch of brown butter blondies which were so insanely delicious that I’ve been eager to try the same secret ingredient in a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Browning the butter before adding it to the rest of the components may add an extra step to the process, but it’s well worth the time and effort. Let me tell you, these cookies do not disappoint. There is a distinct nutty flavor that the brown butter provides, making these different than any other chocolate chip cookie you’ve ever tasted. While these might not be the best version I’ve made in my search for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, I think browned butter is going to be a critical ingredient in the ultimate winner. So if you’re looking for something classic with a twist, try these brown butter chocolate chip cookies. You won’t be sorry!