Friday, October 12, 2012

German Chocolate Baklava

Here is the thing about Baklava. I was terrified of it. I'd heard horror stories of just 'how hard' and 'so many steps'. But then I ended up with some Phyllo dough and I wanted to take on the dragon...and I did.

Oh, I did big time.

The batch you see pictured? Yeah, it's the second batch. The revamp. The studly younger son of Big Daddy Baklava.
It's Keifer to Donald, Scott to James, Alexander to get what I'm saying? I mean if there were ANY way to improve upon the original. You get me?

See I made a tray of regular..and it was in...I cut it and it was out the door. But I had left over syrup and some more what was a girl to do? Well, I had a little on some ice cream. And I had a little in my coffee..don't judge. And then I knew I just had to make more.

Now I will tell you, there are a few steps.
There is some wait time.
But you will be rewarded.
We're going to pretend with the recipe that I did a whole batch of it GC style, k? Just because I used my leftovers doesn't mean I know exactly how much syrup I had leftover.
And I really recommend going to the Ree's site as well because she has step by step pictures, and well, she rocks. The link is right below!

German Chocolate Baklava (adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

1 package Phyllo dough
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans-toasted
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut-toasted
1-1 1/2 stick butter-melted
2 cups Honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Oven at 350
Liberally butter a 13x9 baking pan..I mean it, don't be shy.

The phyllo and the filling-
you really do need a pastry brush and melt a stick of butter in a bowl.
your phyllo stays in the freezer until the night before, then it goes to the fridge, then about an hour before you are gonna use it take it out and let it come to room temp. My phyllo came in ONE box, but TWO packages, I only used one package.

I worked with all of mine in one pile and buttered them by two.
Brush on butter, two sheets into the pan
so you've got 4 sheets of phyllo down in the pan-
sprinkle with the pecans and coconut
top with two buttered sheets
and you go like this until you run out of stuff. If you happen to have 3-4 sheets of phyllo on top, no biggie. Make sure to give the very top layer a nice kiss of butter. I poured my leftover butter OVER the entire thing..just for good measure.
Cut it in the pretty diagonals, open the oven, say a prayer, and let it go for about 45 minutes or until it's golden.

The syrup-
Put your honey, water, sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce to low.

Once you pull the baklava out of the oven, give it a healthy dose of the syrup. Then go check your email or something. Then give it another good drink of syrup. Now forget about it for awhile. Or at least try to. Give all those crunchy layers and sticky sweet syrup time to really get to know one another.

But who am I to tell you how to handle this relationship...notice there are missing pieces from my batch above and it was not cooled. I can't say that if any of the listed studly sons showed up I'd take my time with them either. *winks*

Quinoa Turkey Alfredo Bake

I like quinoa, don't get me wrong, but alot of times I don't exactly know WHAT to do with it. We aren't really a side dish family, so I try to incorporate it when I can. And this dinner was very tasty, and in true Suzy fashion utilized things I happened to have on hand. I'd like to call it healthy since it's got both quinoa AND broccoli in it, but the alfredo sauce and cream cheese might beg to differ, either way...the kids were impressed and ate like little pigs. Neither commenting on the healthy stuff they were eating, just going to town on the cheesy goodness.

1 cup of quinoa-cooked..I'm guessing it turned out to be about 2 cups cooked.
1 lb of ground turkey, browned
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 bunch of broccoli, blanched
1 jar of alfredo sauce
1 block of cream cheese
mozzerella cheese to top, however much you want
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook your quinoa and put it aside. I cooked mine in a microwave rice cooker. It's the same ratio as rice 2 cup water to 1 cup grain-it took my microwave about 10 minutes. Which to me, beats standing over it on the stove.
2. Ground turkey and onion into a pan, crumble and cook until the turkey is nice and browned.
3. Broccoli. I boiled some salty water and put it in there until it was brighter green, pulled it out and put it into my food processor to chop it into teeny pieces that would kinda mimic the quinoa.
4. Melt your cream cheese into your alfredo sauce, I added some pepper at this point b/c that is how I like my white sauce.
5. Assemble! Mix it all together,then top with shredded mozz, and bake at 350 until the edges get a little brown and the top is nice and melty.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

10 Day You Challenge-10 secrets.


I saw this, and thought..."why not?" Part of my 30s Resolution is to get back out there, and how else would I if I don't share a bit?
I'll start today, although I think others started a few days ago-
So, 10 secrets...hrmm....

1. I have an allergy to alcohol. It's both a good and a bad thing. It's a good thing b/c it keeps me from drinking (and there are days I could seriously become an alcoholic). But it's an annoying thing because in some social situations I feel like I'm just boring.

2. I have a terrible, emotional connection to stuffed animals. I blame it on watching The Velveteen Rabbit too much when I was little. Even now, I know that I have an old stuffed horse in a trash can down stairs, and I'm tempted to go get him out, sew him up, and toss him in the wash, because I can't bear to think of him being tossed away into the trash...not given another chance. Ugh.

3. I suck at dieting. Ok, you might have figured that out if you've been reading my blog long enough. But really...I think that doing Zumba twice a week should equal at least a 5lb loss (after each workout) and that not eating carbs for 3 days straight should mean I've lost at least another 20.

4. I love goats. I mean I don't LOVE goats. But I do think they are great, and so much better than sheep. They have personality, and they are great for milking. Growing up we had dairy goats, and now that we're starting our own little farm, I'm excited to get some again.

5. I could eat Kraft Mac and Cheese daily and not get sick of it.

6. Ramen noodles-I don't eat them conventionally...I boil the noodles in water, drain them dry, then add the powder, then add a little bit of shredded cheese. Heaven.

7. I'm an adult and worried about nutrition, but sometimes NOTHING tastes better to me than a bowl of Ramen noodles...or two, when I'm really stressed.

8. We have 5 dogs. I don't exercise the same rule as I do with my children of "you love them both the same", because I love Leroy (our Blue-Tick Coonhound) the most. Even though we've had Tucker and Bertha longer (our Setters), even though Cotton is mine (our Lab), and well..I simply detest Lucy so she's not even in the list..I love Leroy the best.

9. I've been writing a book for about the past 4 years. One of these days I really hope to finish it, get it published, and have someone turn it into a movie.

10. I can't stand foods with bones in it...gags me out. For this reason we're mostly a boneless, skinless, chicken breast and ground meat family. I don't eat fried chicken or buffalo wings unless it's in the form of chicken strips/boneless.

So there you go! I'll try to make it back for the number 9 tomorrow!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Turning 30 happens

It is a number that I'm claiming as a New Year's Resolution. It's a new 'year' of life for me after all.
And I did spend so much of 29 anxious, sad, and just not 'ok'. It's not that 29 was a BAD year, it just wasn't great for me. 
I still struggle daily with not having a 'leave the house and go to work-job' and yet feel as though I am failing miserably at times at my job of being a Stay at Home Mom. The laundry, the dishes, the daily up keep of daily life, fell by the wayside while I would just sit and do nothing.
The other job of property manager takes it's daily toll as tenants continually lie to me, screw me out of money, and mess up my grates on my already frazzled nerves.
I spent a good amount agonizing more and more over how I was so miserable with my body and my looks, and yet I did nothing about it. One thing I did try to do was not complain so loudly about it, as to not damage my own little girl with the hurtful things I think about myself.
I came to the heartwrenching realization that I don't have 'babies' anymore. I have kids. I have two wonderful, beautiful, hilarious kids. But no more babies...and it hurts. It hurts in a way that, just...just sucks I guess. There is no way to really put it into words.
I went through the 7 year itch, where I was discontented and curious and questioned everything about my married life and decisions...and hit a place where I was having that Reba song "Is there Life out there?" run through my brain on repeat.
And with all of those things going on in my head, it was not a great place to be. That was 29.

I don't want to be that way for 30.
I want to be happy. I want to be healthy (physically AND mentally). I want to strong and determined.
I'd like to like me again, because it's been a long time since I have.
I want to sing more-out loud, maybe while I'm cooking, because it's fun.
I want to turn the tv off and listen to the radio more.
I want to disconnect from electronics and turn to books more.
I want to follow through on plans for actual physical visits with people.
I'll say it again, I'd like to like me again. I spend so much time and energy into being Mom, Mrs., Donna Reed, and Landlord that I've gotten lost somewhere in the shuffle. And I miss me.

So here is to hoping I can stick with my New Year's Resolution, maybe I'll start a new trend that THIS is when I make them, instead of January.

Banana Bread Crepe Cake

 It was my birthday, so I made myself a 4 year old Little Miss put on the candles. I picked an intentionally 'difficult' (at least in my mind) say Goodbye to what I thought was a difficult year. Oh, and I looked online, and a bakery that sells a cake similar charges like $75 plus shipping, so I decided to go easy on the Husband and just make it myself.
 I usually stand by the "things taste better when someone else cooks them" phrase. But not in this case. In this case, no one could have done my cake better. Call it boasting, call it pride, heck, you might make the cake yourself and not even like it. But it was exactly what I needed. It was a stress relief and an act of Love for one A completely selfish endeavor for my birthday and I deserved it....and I enjoyed every caramel dripping, sweet bite of it!
The crepe part:
Banana crepes (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

4 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 cup whole milk
1-1 1/2 banana*
3/4 cup ap flour
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
pinch nutmeg
pinch cloves

The filling:
Banana Cheesecake filling w/walnuts
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 banana*
1 jar Cheesecake in a jar**
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

The sauce:
Caramel sauce (adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe)
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
pinch of salt

The crepe part (cooking)-
I suggest putting all the crepe ingredients into a blender and just letting that do the work for you? I've got a small single serve blender (for smoothies and such) and I did up two different blends (eggs, milk, flour, spices/eggs, butter), then just put them in a bowl together and whisked it up.
I used more butter to rub over my medium heated non stick pan (I didn't have to, I wanted to)-I tried to use a 1/4 cup measure for this, but I didn't feel like it was really enough...that and it took me a few times to get the pour and swirl down, but my experience taught me that crepes are suprisingly forgiving. The first side takes about two minutes, the flip side only takes about 30 seconds, but you are going to spend a good 20-30 total cooking them all up. As you take them out of the pan, just lay them out on some wax paper to cool. I stacked mine a bit too, they didn't stick to one another.

The filling (prep)-
I used my KA w/ the whisk attachment to whip my heavy whipping cream, until it got pretty thick. While that was whipping away, I microwaved my frozen banana to 1)thaw it and 2)warm it so it would warm the Cheesecake. I'll address both my * and ** now. I generally keep peeled frozen bananas in the freezer, so I used those instead of fresh, they tend to be sweeter and it's what I had on hand-but they have to be thawed, so either sit them out for a few hours, or pop them in the microwave. I had some of the Cheesecake in a jar spread. I would think you could easily sub a block of cream cheese w/some karo and cinnamon mixed in and be fine OR they sell 'cheesecake filling' in the dairy case too. So I had my warm-micro'd banana and the Cheesecake spread and I put that in my little blender, whizzed it up, then folded it into the whipped cream.
Toast the walnuts in a pan on the stove and STAY with them...a burnt nut ruins things so easily. DON'T mix your walnuts into the cream...

Putting it together (did you think I forgot the caramel sauce? I didn''s a topper, you can make it while the cake hangs out in the fridge)-

I layered a plate with plastic wrap, just for easier clean up-
One crepe down on the plate, topped with about 1/4 cup of the cream filling, and a sprinkle of the walnuts-
repeat,repeat, repeat, until you are out of crepes. Don't top the last crepe with the cream. Just let it hang out and be the lid.
I used the hangover plastic wrap to pull up on the sides, just to tighten it up a bit, and popped it into the fridge for a few hours.

The caramel sauce-
I HIGHLY suggest you click the link and follow her tutorial! I had the recipe in my head and gave the ipad back to the kids and really should have read it a couple more times..I was happy with how my sauce came out, but next time I'll let my sugar go longer to get a deeper caramel flavor.

On medium heat in a saucepan add the sugar and water. Let the sugar totally dissolve, then pop the heat up a little to a boil and cover for about 2-3 minutes until you start to get a golden color. Add the butter (1 stick chopped up) and stir to combine and let that go another 2-3 minutes. Add the cream and stir until combined. At this point it's pretty much done, you can let it cook until it reaches the consistency you want...but keep it mind it will get thicker as it cools as well. I put mine in a Mason jar and let it hang out on the counter until the cake was ready.

This was around 10-11ish that I made the cake, and we pulled it out for the candles and song around 5. It needs a good few hours to get settled, maybe even overnight if you can bear it.

The cream filling didn't set up as perfectly as I had hoped it would, I think that the moisture from the bananas (thawed freezer bananas tend to be pretty wet) threw it off.

But overall....awesome cake. The banana flavor was prominent, but not overpowering. The crunch of the walnut was essential. And the delicate chew of the crepe made it all perfect.