Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Adventures in Food Land

I used to be the sort of person who would walk past the kitchen aisle of a store and have no interest in it. My tastes have always been a bit like my personality: plain and unassuming. I grew up a very picky eater of the "less is more" mentality when it came to flavor.

Turns out, though, that there was hope even for me of developing a passion for food. Some food, at least. Well, two types of food: Italian and desserts. And where there's passion, there's suddenly an interest in related gadgetry. (Doesn't hurt that kitchen toys are now so cute and colorful.) Which in turn means that the percentage of food prep items on my wish list has steadily increased over the past few years.

Luckily for me, my family has been known to indulge me from time to time. For my birthday a few months ago I got a bunch of nifty kitchen toys, and I've slowly been putting them to good use.

Experiment #1: Pasta

My father-in-law's family gave me a wonderful book recently that has been the source of much culinary delight in my household. It is Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Her basil and garlic tomato sauce is so easy and soooooo delicious. I tried it out with store-bought pasta at first, and I thought the result was the most amazing thing I'd ever tasted.

But then! Oh, but then. My dad's family gave me a pasta maker for my birthday, and I used it (on my birthday, in fact) to make a batch of spaghetti. (I had a bit of help from visiting friends.) Paired with the sauce, the pasta was beyond incredible. It was a revelation! I was completely enraptured.

Me, super excited about using my shiny new toy.

Experiment #2: Truffles

Chocolate-making has been an interest of mine for even longer. I started off with marshmallow fudge bonbons, as described here. Slowly I've progressed through peppermint fondant candies, along with orange and almond flavored. (I collected a double boiler and candy thermometer along the way, gifts from my mother-in-law.) So I was pretty psyched when my dad and step-mother also gave me The Art of the Chocolatier by Ewald Notter.

I picked up a few molding trays and set to work on one of the simpler recipes in the book: chocolate truffles. Here's a shot of the assortment I made for my church's annual tailgate:

Personally, I liked the extra dark chocolate the best.

Bonus: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

For my son's birthday I made a lion cake with cupcakes for the mane.

In hindsight, buying a whole bag of Twizzlers
just for the mouth and whiskers was a bit much.

When I was finished I had a bunch of frosting left over since I had used two different types of frosting. Seeing as I tend to let things go to waste in my fridge more often than I would like, I decided maybe this time I would find a use for that frosting.

What goes with brown and orange frosting? Why, pumpkin and chocolate chips, of course! So I searched online for a good pumpkin cupcakes recipe. I found this one (and added the chocolate chips at the end). The resulting cupcakes were suuuuuuper fluffy. In fact, they were a bit difficult to frost since they came apart so easily! But I finished off the frosting at least...

Not the prettiest frosting job ever, but they tasted just fine!

How about you folks? Any recent culinary adventures?

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