Archive for October, 2010

October 31, 2010

Cupcake Cone Cupcakes

Last week we had my “2nd annual pumpkin carving party“. I knew I wanted to make some sort of fun dessert (and was going to try “cake pops” but then realized I needed a creative way to serve/display them). Finally I realized that I have wanted to try “Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes) for a while! After finding numerous different recipes online, I used this one from All Recipes as a basic kinda-sort-ish guide!

ready (very full) for the oven

A few places I read that you should make these cupcakes like normal cupcakes but before putting them in the oven that you put the cone upside down on top of it. I wanted filled cones (the cones were never my favorite part of ice cream – so I didn’t want them to just be a handle). There were many places that I found where they filled the cones – but warned about overfilling. For the record – filling them to the part of the cone where it gets really wide at the top is probably a bit too much! There will also be enough from one cake mix box to make 24 cones (I made the rest in a mini-loaf pan & we snacked on it!!)

Once I filled up the cones I put them in the oven for the “cupcake” time on the box – that ended up being way too little. I think (when I kept adding a minute or 2 – I lost track of time) I ended up cooking them for about 8 minutes more than the cupcake time – just keep experimenting! As you can see – I ended up with some nice overflow (but if you notice – the method of covering your mini cupcake pan with foil & cutting an “X” in the openings really does work and make for easy clean-up and non-tipping cones!) but that overflow was the perfect time to taste-test!

Overflowing with love

The next day I opened the jar of frosting (sorry – I was doing everything else from scratch, just didn’t feel like making icing either!) & tried to use the cake decorating plunger thing Rich got me for my birthday. Some turned out more ok than others, but after talking to the baking expert from my school (she wins contests like crazy – it is always a GREAT day at school when Deb brings in a treat) – I was told that I should try to use a pastry bag, she finds it easier than the plunger thing. I will let you know how that goes in the next week or so as I am going to be a good friend to my band teacher & make her the cupcakes she requested (yes, I know you are probably reading this Jolene & yes, I will bring in cupcakes for your birthday on Friday!).

Cupcake Cones

Once I put on some orange sprinkles (which I could not find ANYWHERE in the Mr. Z’s, but luckily the nice woman at the bakery gave me some), candy corn, & spiders we were beautifully in business. Overall – I was quite happy. These would be a hit at any kids party (no – make that any party) because they are easy to eat – a good serving size and just so darn cute when served (I was lazy by dessert and just served it up in those muffin pans!!)

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October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Carving 2010

2010 pumpkin party

This past weekend marked my 2nd annual pumpkin carving party! I tried to create a table filled with lots of yummy & boo-tiful treats – I still need to work on the “scary-factor” of the food. Unfortunately, a lot of the cool looking Halloween treats are sweet and not as healthy! Since we were not going to have a sit-down meal I tried to go with some tasty treats that were at least a little healthy & kinda creepy looking.

ready to dig in to some pumpkin party goodies

delicious dip

We LOVE my spinach dip (even if I never make it the same way any two times) which I served in a pumpkin (which is currently washed out & sitting on the counter so I can cook something else with). Then chips & salsa may be one of my favorite treats, so that was a must. Also deviled eggs turned into eyeballs (have I mentioned that I am not an artist – yeah, use your imagination on the “eyes” here!)

Devil Eyes

Then for a nice warm dish I did a baked ricotta dip (read through the comments – I added pesto, salt pepper, garlic) which I couldn’t resist after seeing it a few weeks ago on Food Network! Lots of sliced up bread (in the sweet Dollar Store cauldron) for dipping, especially in the beer-cheese fondue (oops – didn’t take a picture of that) – but I took 3/4 beer on the stove to boiling, then added a bag [slowly and at a really low temp] (8oz) of cheese which I tossed with some flour. Once it was melty and yummy – we threw it in the mini crock pot…. short time later it was gone!!

Cupcake Cones

Finished off the night with my cupcake brownies & some sliced apples for  dipping in the caramel sauce.

A great evening of food and fun and friend and pumpkins and games! I look forward to continuing this tradition and enjoying the talent that my friends [who are armed with knives and pumpkins] have!

October 23, 2010

Scott’s Pizza Tours – NYC

After much waiting – here it is (the lead-up to this entry might be more exciting than what you read here, but I hope you are not too disappointed and instead that the great time we had on this tour comes through! This tour all started about 10 months ago….. *insert time travel here* Rich and I had been dating for a few weeks (we started dating around Thanksgiving!) and Christmas was quickly approaching and I realized I needed to get him something. But what do you get someone that you barely know and even if at that point you “know” it is right, you don’t want to spend a million dollars!? Well, I knew that he was a lover of pizza & wine and saw an add for the Food Network Wine Fest in NYC – but I don’t like drinking to the point of not seeing straight, where would we stay, and the whole thing seemed a bit pricy. At that point I started researching other walking tours of the city – figured it would be fun. I was all set to book a chocolate tour when I realized that was probably more of a gift to me than him (he enjoys good chocolate – but not the way I do and not the way he enjoys pizza), SO look for pizza tours, stumble across Scott’s website, am throughly entertained, & purchase 2 gift certificates! When Rich got the certificates he was a little confused and honestly, I think he thought it was a pretty corny present…. We live crazy busy lives (and need to figure out how to be home more sometimes I think). As the summer drew to a close, we realized we still had not taken this tour – so we opened the Google Calendar & found the next open weekend – and booked the tour *fast forward to current time* – sorry for the long ‘back story’!

Dogs at parents – check, Gift certificates in hand – check, Dressed in layers – check. OFF TO NYC. We met with Scott at 53 Spring Street. Which just happens to be right outside what is now an Irish Pub (great place to start a pizza tour?) WELL – this Irish Pub used to be the FIRST Pizza Place in the whole of the USA (Lombardi’s) which originally was just a supermarket that sold pizza from their brick oven in the

Lombardi's - the first

back as a way to get rid of their old stuff. Eventually this coal-fired-brick-oven broke & environmental laws were finally in place in the city and they would not let them re-build. But you know those Italians – they were down but not out…. they found a bakery a block and a half away with the same type oven – bought the place and re-opened. Off to the ‘new’ Lombardi’s……

Scott is one of those people you really have to meet to appreciate how cool he is – he has SUCH a passion for what he does (and pizza) and cares about his people (if the pizza thing doesn’t

photo opp for Lombardi's pie

work out – I think education would be lucky to have a passionate person like this who encouraged any & all questions on this tour!) So Lombardi’s has a HUGE (12 ft? deep/wide) brick bottom coal fired oven (I can really appreciate this after all my days at Quiet Valley) that they bake their fresh dough, uncooked sauce, & fresh mozzarella pizza in. The oven is HOT (800+ degrees) and pizza is in and out in minutes. When Scott asked what we thought, Rich’s response was “best crust ever” – it was pretty darn good!

love at first bite

After more crazy awesome info from Scott, we packed our survival kits (emergency pizza a must – you never know) and bundled up to head to the restaurant supply store, where the only “made in America” (or “made in NYC” –  I forget) pizza ovens are made (you know the ones that most pizza places have – no, actually you probably don’t know, because most of us do not study pizza ovens – BUT, luckily for us, Scott has & his passion for it and the importance it makes is awesome). Anyway – we get some education, I see wooden spoons (big big ones) that I need for our production of Robin Hood (got them SUPER cheap – this is why I am kinda cool when it comes to props sometimes) and off we went. At this point, Rich finds out that Scott has been playing with making his own pizzas as well and Rich decides to not leave Scott alone until he has picked his brain clean (and as my earlier post showed you – there was lots of inspiration, some which flopped, but we look forward to more experiments!)

JOE's Pizza

Finally we arrived at Joe’s. This is your “typical NYC slice” (and I guess Spiderman climbed the building in one of the movies & everyone knows Joe’s –  I was out of the loop). If we had a place that served pizza like Joe’s – I would be very happy. But that being said – not my favorite slice of the day (“stone cooked” pizza from electric oven, cooked sauce, processed cheese – not a bad slice at all, a great NYC slice, but it was “just pizza”)

Some more walking, more history, Scott making his personal call to John’s to let them know we are on our way – and we arrive at John’s (a 1st generation descendant of Lombardi’s) – our final destination. This is where we had our “final exam” of what

Scott' found a baby slice to enjoy @ John's

we learned (brick bottom oven, cooked sauce, processed [but good] cheese – by the way). I really liked this slice too, although Rich said it was his least favorite of the day.

Now if you read this and ask yourself…. “they got 3 slices of pizza and some whacko talked about it – what is so exciting!?” Then you missed the point! Scott is part of what makes the tour, his energy is contagious. The history, the sights, the fun, the great pizza – it all works together to make a great day!!! If you live in the city & want to learn something new – go for it. If you are going to travel in to the city, go for it. If you need a different date idea – go for it. Also – check out the places that Scott goes & chooses from for his tour (think of it as you “on your own guide to pizza”) Thank You Scott for turning a “who knows” Christmas present into a great day which we will remember for a while!

October 18, 2010

Inspired by Scott

So after our tour on Saturday (with the Amazing Scott of Scott’s Pizza Tours), Rich was totally inspired by Scott & his love of pizza AND all of the new techniques/ideas Scott is trying & suggested that Rich try. (I know – this is just another teaser for you!) Lots of things were kinda obvious, but just not the way Rich had done it while others were “hmm” moments! We also were told about the oldest Italian cheese shop in the city, Alleva, (so we had to visit, even though after tasting their fresh mozzarella which was “good” I fell in love with Calandra Cheese even more – and they are less than a half hour away)!

Since Rich was so inspired and it was a weekend and my parents have heard about his pizza for almost a year but still never tasted it – we decided to have them over (after the guys finished putting a railing up on the stairs so that it is not a safety issue anymore) to taste the experiment(s)….

 

You can see that he was VERY excited about these pizzas!

 

Technique #1 – Pizza Stone

 

So this 2nd pizza on the stone only made it 1/2 way on - in the end it tasted fine (just not as pretty)

 

 

First try on the stone... not a bad attempt!

 

This worked GREAT… except that our brand new stone broke just by being seasoned in the oven & my parent’s [well used] stone broke after it was cool and we went to scrape it clean – we are currently in contact with Pampered Chef to hopefully get them replaced, but if anyone has any insight on this, it would be greatly appreciated! Anyway – these two pizzas cooked this way were my personal favorite on the day 🙂

Technique #2 – Cast Iron Skillet

 

This turned into a disaster as soon as he tried to put it on the skillet

 

 

You can see how much of a "fail" this was - at least he got to practice cleaning cast iron!

 

After visiting the flea market and coming home with 2 different skillets ($15 for both, not too bad) and having my dad teach him how to care for them (after the cooking they bonded over cleaning it some more) we were ready to go. The smoke alarms going off & dogs freaking out while the pan was heating up (it SHOULD have been: cook it on the stove, then broil with the cheese in oven – yeah, this was a fail on try #1 – I don’t think we could even pass it off as a tomato filled bread thing, it was bad – BUT also the first attempt at the new method) were a bit annoying (until we finally turned off the breaker for the smokes & took out the battery!) But the 2nd attempt on the Skillet was much better (on the flat one, instead of the “skillet” one)

 

Looking nice from the Cast Iron - yum!

 

 

This is looking MUCH better from the other Cast Iron pan

 

October 16, 2010

Pizza tour Teaser

A preview of coming attractions….. today I took a tour with Scott – the pizza expert of NYC – http://www.scottspizzatours.com/ Please take a look at his site and get excited about my update in the next few days about this tour. (And if you don’t book a tour now, I’m sure you will want to after hearing about our fun day!)

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