Recession Chic

a down economy does not = ugly shoes

Cooking 101: Perfect Fudge Brownies July 30, 2010

Filed under: Cooking 101 — karakrautter @ 8:59 AM
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After a long, stressful day, all I want to do is bake.  Since I was young, baking has been such a comfort to me and the best way to get my mind off of the chaos of the day. This week I needed to bake, and fudge brownies sounded just right. I think a lot of people assume that making brownies from scratch (no box mix) is super complicated, but it’s actually very straightforward.

From the amazing America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book, I chose a beginner friendly brownie recipe and discovered several great tips to make them even more delicious and simple.

  • Cutting and serving brownies can often be the most challenging part of making your own brownies. A ‘foil sling’ at the bottom of the baking pan (lining the pan with two pieces of foil to help lift the cooked brownies out) makes serving simple and cleanup a snap,
  • Ina Garten suggests it as does the America’s Test Kitchen, add a little instant espresso to the mix. What a little lemon juice or zest can do to pasta and fruit desserts, the espresso does for chocolate. Oh, and if you have any extra chocolate chips, just throw them in the batter. The brownies won’t be a smooth, but it provides a crunch without nuts.
  • Afraid of having a bunch of brownies sitting around the kitchen calling your name all day? Wrap of half in plastic wrap and foil and store in the freezer. Also, I used a larger pan to make thinner, snack-sized brownies. Just remember to reduce the time in the oven by about 15 min.


Cooking 101: Steaming Mussels and Seafood July 22, 2010

Filed under: Cooking 101 — karakrautter @ 7:24 AM
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I went back to Austin for a few days last week to finalize things with my renters, spend a little time at the office, but mainly see my brother who was visiting from overseas. As different as he and I have always been, we’ve both always enjoyed cooking. As adults, cooking is a creative outlet we still love to talk about. During the week we had a ton of delicious food (he made pizza from scratch, dough in all!), but my favorite was the whole family effort for our Latin dinner. My brother made some of the tastiest sangria, my dad served up margaritas, my mom was the best sous chef for me as I pulled together seafood paella for everyone.

This was the first time I’ve ever made paella, which is strange since I love rice and one-pot wonders. I did a meatless variation of this recipe from and added mussels. It was amazing! The technique was very similar to risotto, but my biggest learning from this cooking adventure was how simple it is to steam seafood. With such a flavorful base, the scallops, shrimp and mussels absorbed all the seasoning and cooked up in just minutes. I always thought that cooking mussels would be more challenging, but you can just steam them in a large pan with your sauce and wait for their shells to pop open.

Here’s a snapshot my mom took of me hard at work…you can’t really see much of the paella, but it’s there.

We over bought on the seafood, so my parents sent me home with enough uncooked seafood to prepare another meal. During my drive from Austin to Houston I decided it was time to pull out the pasta maker and create a light, summer seafood pasta dish.

The sauce: Garlic, olive oil, whole peeled tomatoes, Italian seasoning

The pasta: Fettuccine – much better than the first try at this noodle

Again I steamed the seafood in the sauce, added the pasta and topped with flat leaf parsley and Parmesan. Super delicious!


Dough Diaries: Bread for a New Home July 12, 2010

Filed under: Dough Diaries — karakrautter @ 3:59 PM
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Nothing says ‘welcome home’ like the smell of  fresh bread baking in a new oven. This past weekend I made the move from Austin to Houston and did a lot of downsizing in the process. The only thing I didn’t cut back on is the kitchen. I know, surprise, surprise. My new kitchen is far more open, about twice the size and the best part of my new place. It was super exciting to unpack all my boxes and still have space in my cabinets and on the counter tops. So, I guess I need to find some more kitchen tools (my closet is packed to the brim, so no new clothes for a while).

To christen my new kitchen I decided it would be appropriate to bake a nice, simple bread that would compliment any meal. A baguette. Yeast, water, salt and flour are just amazing ingredients that do so many different things. The shape isn’t perfect, but it looks homemade 🙂

Oh, and here is my new kitchen. *Love*