Recession Chic

a down economy does not = ugly shoes

Desserts from the heart, not a box May 3, 2011

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 11:22 AM
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My love for baking as a kid is really what got me interested in cooking as an adult. The satisfaction of creating a meal is only topped by smiles from friends and family after their first bite of your dessert. After a long, yet fruitful (and fruit-filled to fight sweets cravings) Lent, I was ready for some non-stop dessert making. I tried four new recipes in the span of 10 days and learned a good bit about what makes a dessert really good and a baker really crazy. I forgot to take a photo of my fourth dessert, brownies, but I promise they looked as good as they tasted.

Dessert 1: Lemon Angel Pie (for Passover/Seder) – Vanilla meringue crust, lemon curd filling, whipped cream top

Lessons learned:

  • There are a lot of good ideas for dessert that can easily accommodate diet restrictions without tasting like a dessert of affliction.
  • Fresh, homemade whipped cream always tastes better and is worth the effort.
  • People forget how much they love lemon.
  • It never hurts to try to make a boring-looking dessert more attractive

Dessert 2: Flourless Chocolate Torte (Passover/Seder and Chocolate Lovers) – dark chocolate, eggs, sugar, magic

Lessons Learned:

  • Always buy the best ingredients (read chocolate) you can find. Just do it. It’s worth the money.
  • Know your audience. Not everyone appreciates dark chocolate, so be sure to add some sweet whipped cream on the side.
  • I wish I had two ovens.
  • If you have to transport it, keep it in the spring-form pan.

Dessert 3: Blueberry Pie (My Jeffrey’s Birthday) – fresh blueberries, old-fashioned crust, more corn starch than you think

Lessons Learned:

  • Pay attention to the rack position in the oven, even if the recipe doesn’t make a suggestion.
  • Try the fruit first before deciding how much sugar to use. That way the filling isn’t too sweet.
  • Don’t multi-task when rolling out your dough for the crust. You will just create more work.
  • Let go of perfectionist tendencies and realize that a crisper crust authenticates a homemade pie.

Dessert 4: Fudge Brownies – unsweetened chocolate, coffee, chocolate chips

Lessons Learned:

  • Everybody likes brownies, so go ahead and bake them.
  • Use big chocolate chips or chocolate chunks in the brownie batter. A crunch of chocolate in a fudgey brownie is sublime.
  • Don’t have coffee ice cream? Shame on you.
  • No need to feel like you must eat all the brownies at once, stick them in the freezer and pull one out as you need them.

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.


Dining In: Shrimp Orzo with spinach salad and garlic bread January 22, 2009

Filed under: Food & Drink — karakrautter @ 10:55 AM
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In the current economy, ladies night for my friends and I might seem more potluck than posh. But, with combined creativity and cash three of good girlfriends and I pulled together quite a fabulous meal.

Just like a potluck, everyone contributed one part of the meal. However, various emails shared throughout the work day made the menu come together more like a dinner party. Check out all the recipes below!

The girls!

The lovely ladies! (left to right, Rachel, Kristy and Ashley)

Kristy’s Shrimp Orzo

For the pasta:

~1 lb pastina (any small pasta; I used orzo)
3 cups low sodium chicken broth/stock
3 cups water

Cook the pasta. (I’m pretty sure this doesn’t require too much instruction.) Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

For the shrimp (or clams & mussels, if you actually have them):

Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
Cherry or grape tomatoes (add as many or as few as you’d like; I like a lot of them), halved or quartered
~1 cup dry white wine
1 lb shrimp, peeled & de-veined; or 12 mussels and 12 clams
Lemon juice (I used half of a lemon because it was really juicy; use as much or as little as you like)
Salt & pepper to taste
~1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a deep saute pan or Dutch oven, saute the onion in some olive oil for a few minutes, until translucent, then add the garlic. Let cook for another minute or 2, then add the tomatoes and wine. Stir and scrape all the tasty brown bits off the bottom and let cook for a minute or 2.

FOR SHRIMP: Add the shrimp and cook for a couple minutes on each side. Just before the shrimp is done, squeeze in the lemon juice and stir. Taste and add salt & pepper as needed. Pour everything over the pasta and garnish with parsley and olive oil.

FOR MUSSELS AND CLAMS: Add the shellfish after the wine and tomatoes. Put a tight-fitting lid on the pot/pan you are using and let them steam for 5-8 minutes. They should cook through in that time. Transfer the clams and mussels to a plate – and get rid of any that haven’t opened – and pour the wine sauce over the pasta. Put the shellfish on top of the pasta. Squeeze the lemon over everything, and garnish with some chopped parsley and olive oil.

Ashley’s Spinach Salad

1 bag of baby spinach (HEB brand is my personal choice, and it’s already washed)
1 bag of snow peas (snip off the ends if they are a bit stem-y or woody, might need a rinse)
1 bag of croutons (garlic and butter was my selection yesterday)
1 bag of vine-ripened tomatoes (really any will do) rinse off and slice in half for easier eating 🙂
Balsamic Vinaigrette of choice

Toss all ingredients together and enjoy!

Rachel’s super easy garlic bread

Fresh baked cibatta bread, sliced in half
1 stick butter
6-8 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup (approx) of fresh parsley

Mix ingredients and slather on bread.  Place on baking sheet and put in 400 degree oven for approximately 15-20 minutes until bread is toasted.

shrimp orzo

The spread, complete with a light pino grigio.

I was in charge of dessert (not a big surprise). I knew that something chocolaty was in order and needed the perfect brownie recipe. Something more exciting that just plain brownies (just adding nuts does NOT make a brownie better). In my search for the best brownie recipe, I found another wonderful blog BakingBlonde. The Double Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies were #1 on her top 10 recipes from 2008 and I understand why. They were ridiculous from batter to baked! (Below is my photo, BakingBlonde’s image of the brownie is better – I need a new camera).

peanut butter cheesecake brownies