Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mac and Cheese: The first interfamilial stove verse microwave cook off

Two amateur chefs will enter the kitchen; only one will leave victorious; both will leave with kick-ass mac and cheese.

The Competitors:
-Chris "The Microwave Magician" - Tom "The Stove Sorcerer"

The Game:
Mac and Cheese

The Ingredients: Whatever necessary, that's right "playing by the jungle rules"

Tom "The Stove Sorcerer"
: Knowing that my sister would go with microwave noodles and sauce, I knew that the quality of my noodles would be what set my mac and cheese apart. I also knew that having a constant flame under my sauce would allow me to combine more spices and cheeses for a more interesting taste. First, I heated milk and heavy whipping cream in a small pot over medium heat...stirring it...ever so gently... round and round the whisk would go...creating a vortex of delectability. I added two type of cheese: New York Extra Sharp Cheddar and Wisconsin Classic Cheddar.

I added a few, I don't even know how many, teaspoons of cornstarch.
I find the best way to cook noodles is to: 1) Bring 4-6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add salt to taste, if desired. 2) Add contents of package to boiling water. Stir gently. 3)Return to a boil. For authentic "al dente" pasta, boil uncovered, sitrring occasionally for 8 minuted. For more tender pasta, boil an additional 1 minute. 4) Remove from heat. Drain well. 5) Serve immediately with your favorite Barilla sauce. (Chris' note: if that step seems a little out of place, it is because all of these steps were stolen straigh from Barilla's pasta box.)

I then put pasta in the bowl, poured sauce on top, grated some more Wisconsin Cheddar on top. Then I added my secret ingredients: mustard powder and paprika. For those of you recreating this recipe, add the mustard and paprika when you add the cheese to sauce. Enjoy.

Chris "The Microwave
Magician": Tom loves spices, so I decided to keep my mac and cheese simple. First, put the raw pasta (about a pint's worth) in a microwavable bowl. For the cream sauce, microwave about a cup of milk until it is near boiling (2 to three minutes), then add three teaspoons of cornstarch and stir until it is dissolved. Add a grated mix of Wisconsin and New York Sharp Cheddars and Dubliner's cheese and stir the mixture until the cheeses were mostly melted. Then, microwave the mixture for about another minute and stir everything again. Pour the mixture on top of the noodles. The mixture needs to cover the noodles or else they won't cook all the way.

Microwave on high for 5 minutes then stir the noodles and sauce and microwave again for 5 more minutes. If after 10 minutes, the noodles are still too firm, let them sit for about 3 minutes and check again. If still too firm then cook for a minute and check again. But a caveat! Do NOT put them in for another 5 minutes, once noodles start to cook they can overcook really easily.

Top with some grated extra cheese. Omnom!

Taste Test: The mother was then given a blind taste test of the two mac and cheeses. Unfortunately before she even tasted them she knew which was no actual verdict was reached. She critiqued both and offered no real controversy for this post...alas... However, my brother and I determined that both stove and microwave versions of macaroni and cheese work and that both are truly kick ass.

PY HOLIDAYS! (and congrats to all of you who finished exams finals!!! yayyy!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Intro to Chocolate Covered Pretzels

To accompany the chocolate mice for my assortment of winter sweets, I made chocolate covered pretzels. I've actually never really tried chocolate pretzels, but a lot of my friends LOVE them. So, here was my first true experience with chocolate covered pretzels.

Based on the name I assumed that you would need:
-Rod Pretzels

First, melt your chocolate. I use semi-sweet chips. Microwave the chips for 30 seconds on High, then stir them. Repeat two more times. Depending on how much chocolate you have, dip or spoon the chocolate on the pretzel, so that about an inch is left undipped. Take the spoon and skim off some of the chocolate on the pretzel. Place the pretzel on a buttered piece of foil or parchment paper. Repeat for as many pretzels as you'd like to make.

While the chocolate on the pretzels is still warm, add your toppings. This can be anything that might be good with chocolate: sprinkles, chopped nuts, other chocolates (I used white), coconut, toffee bits, a LIGHT dusting of cinnamon or equally light dusting of red chili powder (avoid Indian chili powder though, it will burn away any other flavors), etc. etc.
My friend has also suggested dipping the pretzels in white chocolate and then in Nerds. Have not tried this, sounds delicious, if anyone does this please let me know how it is.

So, having now tried chocolate dipped pretzels, I get the hype. These things are good. Omnom!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chocolate Mice and Finals

It is officially the season of finals, a slightly problematic fact since it is also the season of cookie and candy making. Luckily, Chocolate Mice are able to balance the artistic needs of us college candy makers in a time of studying.

Years ago, my teacher was given chocolate mice as a present, and I thought, and still do think, that they are some of the cutest and simplest candies possible. The best part about chocolate mice is that they can be made in different steps, leaving time for finals prepping while different parts harden and cool.

To make chocolate mice you will need:
  • a 16 oz jar of Maraschino cherries with stems. 16 oz jars hold 40ish cherries and some always have their stems removed. Sadly, to be stemless means that the cherry is useless for this project and must be eaten directly.
  • a 8.5 oz bag of Hershey's Kisses. this holds just a few more Kisses than there are cherries
  • about 6 oz of semi-sweet chocolate
  • slivered almonds
  • butter to prevent sticking
First, take out the Maraschino cherries and pat them dry on a cloth or paper towel. You want them to retain some liquid but not be dripping. If they are covered in liquid when dipped in chocolate, then the chocolate will slide right off thanks to hydrophobic/hydrophilic molecular interactions (aka chocolate does not stick to water).

Next, microwave the chocolate in your microwavable bowl on high for 30 seconds; take it out and stir. Repeat this step two more times, until the chocolate if smooth, liquid, and glistens. Dip the cherries in one at time, making sure that the fruit but not the stem is completely covered with chocolate. Set the dipped cherry on a buttered plate of tray with the stem at about a 45 deg. angle from the tray. These will be the mice's bodies and tails.

While those cool, you can either go study or make the heads. To make heads unwrap the Hershey Kisses. Then pour out some of your sliced almonds and look for pairs of longer, unbroken pieces. These are your ears. Attach the ears by applying a little bit of melted chocolate (remelt chocolate if needed) to the bottom of each ear and lightly pressing it to the back of the Kiss. Mouse heads! wow, that actually sounds awful...

To attach the heads to the bodies, apply a dab of melted chocolate to the back of each head and lightly press it to the side of the body opposite the tail. Let the chocolate harden and you have your very own chocolate mice! I hate to say it (they're so cute), but omnom!

P.S. if you have a bunch of left over almond slivers, fear not, I am working to find a way of making almond cookies.