April 28, 2010

I want dessert, and I want it NOW!


Sometimes you just gotta have dessert, and have it NOW. I'm not talking dessert like a scoop of freezer burned ice cream or the 6-month-old, stale Oreos hanging out on the top of your fridge. I'm talking about something sweet, hot and gooey and totally cavity inducing. Real dessert.


I just happen to have a husband who has a sweet tooth. A massive sweet tooth. Me, I'd choose salty over sweet any day of the week, but I swear my hubby would dump a pound of sugar on everything he ate if I'd let him. And the thing is, he eats and eats and eats and is STILL as slim and toned as a long-distance runner.

Feel free to bring on the loathing, ladies. It's SO not fair.


With all his sugar cravings, it does allow me to experiment and try out a lot of different dessert recipes. I'm dying to try making these homemade peanut butter and smores cups from The Hungry Mouse, but cute little candies like this tend to take awhile.

It was time for a fast treat.

It was time for ... Apple Crisp! There's not really much finesse to it. Heck, you don't even have to cut the apples very pretty. Just slice 'em thin and throw 'em in!


Easy Caramel Apple Crisp
(adapted from Betty Crocker)

- 3 medium tart cooking apples. sliced (though I didn't this time around, I suggest you peel them too)
- 3/4 c. packed brown sugar
- 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c. quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
- 1/3 c. butter or margarine, softened
- 1 tsp. (heaping) ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. (heaping) ground nutmeg
- 1 small jar caramel ice cream topping


Heat oven to 350º. Grease bottom and sides of an 8" square baking pan with shortening.

Spread apples in pan. In medium bowl, stir remaining ingredients except caramel until well mixed; sprinkle over apples. Drizzle caramel topping evenly over the top.

Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve warm with ice cream. 

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April 27, 2010

What's a "Tibbie"?


If you saw my previous post about the hubby and I doing a show with Tibbies on the Queen Mary, you probably asked yourself, "What in the dickens is a 'Tibbie'?". Or maybe you didn't use the word "dickens", but I bet you were curious! According to their website, "Tibbie" was the nickname of a popular New York cabaret singer at the turn of the century, who started it all.

But you know what I just found out? NONE. OF. THIS. IS. TRUE. Tibbies is just a name that the current owners inherited from the previous owners. We've been lied to! I'd start protesting, but here in California, no one would even notice.


My parents came to see our show, "Feelin' Groovy", this weekend and, like every proud mother/tourist, my mom took pictures throughout the performance, which I now get to share with you!


Later, you can partake in laughing hysterically at my hubby in his "hippie" costume. It's priceless.

And yes, I give you permission to use it as blackmail against him later.


Ah yes, the fabulous Tibbies serving attire. Notice the gold embroidered vest. Quite the fashion statement. If I start my own fashion line, I expect you all to purchase one.


Ah yes, the hired help, singing about "salad". Caesar salad to be exact. With lyrics like "It's time for salad now, we'll serve it boy, and how! Pick up your fork, don't be shy, dig right in!" For some reason we can never get the audience to sing along...


Hey look! The servers have changed out of those lovely vests and are now in matching blue and silver outfits! How splendid! That's David and I on the left, he's just about to sing "Good Love".


Singin' "Heat Wave", our little homage to the girl groups of the 1960's. Please pay no attention to the Amazon on the right. Thank you.


My friend Patti thinks my hubby is cute. I'm ok with that. Patti and I, we have an understanding. She can think he is wonderful and cute and dreamy... and I get to keep him. So far it's working out quite nicely.


Here I am singing a song I used to remember listening to on the Oldies station as a kid, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow". I thought it was a fun song about love. Turns out I was right. But it's ALSO about a one-night stand where the girl basically hopes the dude even remembers her name the next morning. Classy.


You know what? It's my party and I'll cry if I want to. I'm just sayin'.


Still crying about it...


Our little tribute to Motown. I think we're about to hear something through the grapevine pretty soon.


I don't know what he's singin' about, but he sure is cute!


My mom's favorite medley: the Beach Boys! Nothing says the beach like a woman wearing a bathing suit, sarong, high-heeled shoes and sparkly rhinestone jewelry. We must be from Malibu.


Peace sign = hippies. Yes, I have a college degree in Theatre Arts.


My mom said she had a full-body jumper / pantsuit thingy like this one when she was in high school. I'm kind of jealous. It's seriously comfortable.


And the moment you've all been waiting for... THE DRAG HIPPIE!! Please save this to your desktops now for future use.


I think he kinda looks like a mix between Jack Skellington from "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and Beetlejuice. Maybe with a little Bon Jovi circa 1980 thrown in for good measure.


 The hubby doing a Rod Sterling impression. Actually, he's speaking the "Gilligan's Island" theme song as if it were a Twilight Zone monologue. Don't ask.


My favorite part of the show: Star Trek! If you look closely you can spot Vulcan ears on my hubby.


I'm a very proud Star Trek cadet. But it's very short lived. Right after this, David pushes me out of the spotlight.


Lawrence Welk! "And a thank you to Bobby and Cissy. Bobby, when are you going to ask Cissy to marry you, huh? She's ready!" Please tell me you've seen that SNL sketch.

I sincerely hope their wigs on the original Brady Bunch show were as good as these. I'm pretty sure mine hasn't been combed through in months. Maybe years. Maybe I should get on that.


I'm in denial about the fact that we look a little like Donny & Marie here. We've gotten a few too many "are you brother and sister?" comments already.


Can you see the sweat glistening off our brows? I LOVE these costumes, but this dance, on the other hand... 10 minutes of an aerobic workout with full-out singing. Oi.


And finally, in the words of Lawrence Welk, "Goodnight, goodnight, and when I say goodnight, I mean... goodnight!"
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April 24, 2010

Don't know what to call it, but hey, it's gooood!

Last night my family came to see the hubby and I in our show, "Feelin' Groovy" with Tibbies on the Queen Mary. I'll post more on the show later (seriously, the hubby looks like a woman in drag during our hippie medley, just you wait!), but first things first.

Brownies = good.

Chocolate Chip Cookies = good.

Brownies + Chocolate Chip Cookies = gooooooooooood.


I made this brownie/chocolate chip cookie thing for the cast and crew last night and it was a big hit! True, I was feeding a bunch of ravenous performers who'd just finished shimmying and twisting for the past couple of hours, but we'll just forget about that and pretend that this brownie/cookie concoction is THAT good.

Is it cookie topped brownies? Or brownies with cookie dough topping? Maybe I can call it a "black and tan" bar? That's kind of cute. Hmmm... well, regardless of their name, this is a simple recipe using 1/2 boxed mix, 1/2 home recipe.

I'm sure there are plenty of recipes on the internet that are virtually similar to this one (Dorie Greenspan has one called "Chipster Topped Brownies"), but I think I came up with a better cooking process that will ensure the cookie dough topping doesn't get too overdone. There's nothing worse than hard, overcooked cookie dough. Ugh.

I promised my mother-in-law that I would post this recipe ASAP. And since I can't say no to her (she's the sweetest, kindest woman ever), here it is:


Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies aka Black & Tan Bars aka Cookie Topped Brownies:
(seriously, someone help me pick out a name)

Preheat oven to 350º.

BROWNIE LAYER:

- 1 box GHIRADELLI DOUBLE CHOCOLATE BROWNIE MIX (must be this kind, it's the king of brownie mixes - there's chocolate chips in the mix!)

Prepare brownie batter according to the directions on the box. Spray the bottom of a 9x13" baking pan with cooking spray (good ol' Baker's Joy for me) and pour brownie batter into pan. Spread out batter evenly.

Bake for 10 minutes to get the party started.


CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE LAYER (feel free to use your own favorite recipe):

- 2 1/4 c. All Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp. Baking Soda
- 3/4 c. firmly packed Brown Sugar
- 3/4 c. Granulated Sugar
- 1 c. Butter, softened
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 2 Eggs
- 1 pkg. semi-sweet Chocolate chips

Combine flour, salt and baking soda in bowl and set aside. In separate bowl, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter and vanilla, and beat with mixer until creamy. Beat in eggs. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips.

After brownies have been baked for the initial 10 minutes, take them out and drop the cookie dough by small spoonfuls evenly over the top of the brownie batter. Try to cover the entire top with little drops of cookie dough.


Bake in oven for approximately 10-12 minutes until cookie dough starts to get browned on the edges. Then, take the pan out of the oven, cover the entire thing (carefully) in aluminum foil and place back in the oven for 20-30 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out "almost" clean*.

*once the aluminum foil is on, set your timer for 20 minutes and then check in 5 minute intervals after that to ensure things don't overcook!

*when you do the "knife inserted in center" trick to see if it's done, don't worry if it still seems a little undercooked. The brownies will set more after they cool off, and it just tastes better a little fudgy anyway. :)

Feel free to experiment, using your own cookie dough recipe! You can add nuts, coconut, a layer of mint (mmmm...), anything you'd like!

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April 21, 2010

We eat ham and jam and SPAMALOT!


 

We're Knights of the Round Table
We dance when e'er we're able
We do routines and gory scenes
That are to hot for cable

We eat ham and jam and spam a lot

ALL:
SPAMALOT!

For those of you who aren't musical theater nerds like the hubby and myself, please bear with me. Most likely you haven't heard of the musical "Spamalot", but perhaps you are familiar with "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"??

You know - flying cows, french tauntors, a knight with no arms or legs, various shrubberies, and coconuts that sound like horses hooves?



Monty Python's "Spamalot" won three 2005 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Actress (Sara Ramirez of TV's "Grey's Anatomy"). I saw it on Broadway in May 2005 with the original cast and I swear I have never laughed so hard for so long in all my life! It was one of my favorite musical experiences of all time.


Fast-forward to April 2010, and the hubby and I decide to throw a Spamalot themed party in our apartment. Our final homestead hurrah before we move to New York!


The mission: to make a signature drink, appetizer, main course and dessert for 12-15 guests. All in the Monty Python's Spamalot theme of course!

THE MENU

Signature Drink: Lady of the Lake Punch
- 1 part lemon lime soda
- 1 part pineapple juice
- scoops of tropical sorbet (like little lily pads on the lake)


I don't have a photo of the punch, because quite frankly, it wasn't very pretty to look at. But it tasted wonderful! With only 15 people, we went through 2 HUGE bowlfuls.

Appetizer: Not-Dead-Yet Spam In A Blanket
- 2 cans buttermilk biscuits (20 biscuits total)
- 1 can SPAM, cut into long strips

Dipping Sauce:
- 2 tsp raspberry preserves
- 2 tbsp bbq sauce

The dipping sauce sounds bizarre, I know, but it honestly went really well with the salty SPAM. I had ketchup and mustard as well, but both weren't sweet enough to counteract all that processed sodium!

(awesome wooden cart courtesy of my talented hubby)

I am happy to say that all the not-dead-yet SPAMs got eaten. I wasn't sure people would be up for trying them, but I guess people are more adventurous than I thought! That, and the fact that 12 out of the people 15 were men. That helped too.

Main Course: King Arthur's Round Table Pizza

Homemade Pizza Dough (a la the Pioneer Woman's recipe)
(makes 2 crusts)
- 1 tsp. Instant or Active Dry Yeast
- 1 1/2 c. warm water
- 4 c. All-Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp. Kosher salt
- 1/2 c. Olive Oil


Sprinkle yeast over 1 1/2 cups warm (not lukewarm) water. Let stand for a few minutes.
In a mixer, combine flour and salt. With the mixer running on low speed (with paddle attachment), drizzle in olive oil until combined with flour. Next, pour in yeast/water mixture and mix until just combined, and the dough comes together in a sticky mass.
Coat a separate mixing bowl with a light drizzle of olive oil, and form the dough into a ball. Toss to coat dough in olive oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it aside for 1 to 2 hours, or store in the fridge until you need it.
Note: it’s best to make the dough at least 24 hours in advance, and 3 or 4 days is even better.
When you are ready to make the pizza, grab HALF the pizza dough (recipe makes 2 crusts) and squeeze the dough toward the bottom to form a nice, tight, pulled ball. You can roll out the pizza with a rolling pin if you’d like, but sometimes it’s just as easy to throw it around and pull and stretch till it feels right. And when the crust is nice and thin, lay it on an oiled baking sheet or pizza pan. Drizzle a little olive oil on the dough and spread it with your fingers. Very lightly sprinkle some salt on the crust.

Toppings
Pizza #1: tomato sauce w/oregano and basil, mozzarella cheese, jack cheese, cheddar cheese, pepperoni slices

Pizza #2: HALF = tomato sauce w/oregano and basil, mozzarella cheese, jack cheese & cheddar cheese.
HALF = all of the above + black olives, sliced tomato, onion, red pepper and mushrooms.

Pizza #3: bbq sauce, mozzarella cheese, jack cheese, diced cooked chicken, red onion and cilantro.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Top your crust with your toppings of choice. Then bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and toppings are bubbly.

Mmmm. The BBQ Chicken Pizza was my favorite. And 3 pizzas were (luckily) plenty enough to feed everyone.


Dessert: Coconut Shell Sundaes
- baking chocolate (1 lb. each vanilla and chocolate)
- balloons
- wax paper

The hubby and I made our own chocolate bowls that looked somewhat like coconut shells (see earlier post for details of the mess that ensued!). We put out toppings and let people go to town! It worked out great and the chocolate bowls made clean up a cinch! Patsy would have been proud.



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April 15, 2010

Chocolate Bowl EPIC FAIL.

I tried. I tried really hard. I tried really really hard not to pop the balloons. I did my research, I knew exactly what to do... but the exploding chocolate balloon gods really had it out for me.


Oops.


We had so much fun though, I think everyone should pop a chocolate-covered balloon once in their life!

What you need to make chocolate bowls:
- baking chocolate
- a bowl
- balloons, washed and dried thoroughly
- wax paper


I found some great water balloons at Target (purple, yay!) and had the hubby start blowing them up, washing them with soap and water, and drying them completely with a paper towel. While he did this, I made the chocolate! Mmmm.

Chop off a few pieces of baking chocolate, throw it in a bowl, nuke it for 30 seconds at a time (stirring after each nuking), and ta da! Melted chocolate.

Here's where most people fail: YOU HAVE TO MAKE SURE THE CHOCOLATE IS COOLED BEFORE YOU PUT THE BALLOONS IN IT.

I knew this. I'm an overachiever. I did my homework!

Still, EPIC FAIL.

Turns out the water balloons were no match for the chocolate. Even with the chocolate at room temperature, it was just too much for the thin, flimsy (but cute!) little balloons.


Chocolate everywhere.

Good thing we have white walls. Maybe our landlady won't notice when we move out next month? Teehee...

Luckily, I am prepared for every disaster and happened to have a leftover bag of regular party balloons under the bed. (Not really, it was just pure luck. I don't even know where the balloons came from.)

These balloons worked much better!


I was worried they would be too big and we'd end up with chocolate bowls the size of a wash basin, but by filling them up only half way with air, they were the perfect size.


Just leave 'em on your wax paper for about 10 minutes or so, and they'll firm up quite nicely.


We dipped ours in both white chocolate and milk chocolate to make them look like coconut shells for our Monty Python's Spamalot party (more to come on that later). I think the two colors really created a nice effect!


But are you ready for epic fail #2? When the chocolate had hardened and we popped the balloons, the balloons ended up sticking to the chocolate inside the bowls! What a hassle. We had to scrape off the balloon innerds with a spoon, and some of the bowls ended up having a multi-colored hue to them. Nice.


I think next time we'll coat the balloons with a light layer of shortening first, so the chocolate will come off without a hitch.


Aren't they fun? I would definitely do this again, with the couple of alterations I mentioned above. Maybe next time I'll do colored bowls or a fancy drizzle or something.

Or maybe not exploding chocolate all over the place will be enough of an improvement.

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