help?

I want to make my blog cuter! I’ve seen a ton of food blogs and they have really cute fonts and layouts and look really impressive.

If any of you pros out there happen upon this and have some suggestions for finding layouts or making this thing look better, I will love you forever.

And maybe bake you something great.

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Easy Homemade Pita Bread

I love to bake. You know this already.  I really like to bake things that look and seem complicated, but aren’t.

This is how it goes: I make something that takes no time at all, but looks complicated. People are impressed and say things like “That’s amazing! I wish I could do that!”. I say nothing and keep on letting them think I am a baking genius.

But as I’ve said before, I’m turning over a new leaf. I want to help people learn.

…and I also wanted to impress my boyfriend. Some habits never die. Sorry.

So here it is: The easiest pita bread recipe ever.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/8 c warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp white sugar
  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus a little more to coat pan

You can change this recipe up however you want. When adding the flour, mix in any spices you want. Garlic, red pepper, basil, oregano, brown sugar…You decide!

In a large mixing bowl:

Start with warm water and stir in sugar. Next, sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and let it sit for about 10 minutes to proof (bloom, get bigger, expand…whatever you want to call it.)

Next, stir in the flour, salt, and olive oil.

Knead dough until everything is incorporated and is no longer quite so sticky.

Coat another bowl or pan with olive oil, and transfer dough. Cover with a warm, damp towel and move bowl to someplace warm to rise and double in size.

I let mine sit for about an hour and a half. It probably didn’t need that long, but I got distracted by America’s Next Top Model and forgot about it.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Next, on a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a log shape. (About a foot long, I think…maybe a little bit longer)

Next, divide the dough into 8 sections. I reccommend (recommend? reccomend? reccccccommmend?)) starting from the center…Divide it in half, then each of those in half, etc.

The next step is really important, because (and I don’t know why) this is what allows the pocket to form inside the pita.

Roll each section into a ball.

Kind of anti-climatic, yes?  I know. I was expecting something crazy.

Anyhow-

Each ball then gets rolled out. I should have measured. I didn’t. I’m sorry. Let’s just call this the “creative part,” and say that you can roll them out into whatever size you want. If you want baby pitas, roll smaller circles. Bigger pitas, bigger circles. The dough doesn’t really change size when it bakes, so whatever you roll out will be about the same size when it’s done.

(I didn’t take “lightly flour” to heart…I went a little crazy with it. But it helps them from sticking to each other!)

Here’s another shot, to see how thick they are.

Here’s the fun part. The baking.

If you’re really awesome and have one of these, then use it. I’m poor and don’t have one, so I stuck them right on my oven rack.

The first time you bake one, I suggest doing one at a time, until you get the hang of it.

It’s simple: Place one of your circles of dough on the bottom oven rack for about 4-5 minutes. Don’t run away! Sit and watch because after a few minutes, this is what it does:

I thought it was cool. But then again, I nerd out about baking and kitchen-y things.

Once it puffs, leave it for a few more seconds and then remove. Once it’s cool enough to be handled, cut in half.

Pita Pocket!

You can fill these with just about anything.

Marinara, cheese, veggies, lunch meat, peanut butter…

Or my favorite, slice them up and dip them in hummus! Yum hummus. I need to upload some hummus recipes soon.

If you’re not a fan of the soft pita, go a step further.

Preheat oven to 375, slice pitas and drizzle with olive oil and garlic powder…Bake for about 10 minutes…Homemade pita chips!

Currently dancing to: “Daydreams,” Adele.

Brownie Pillow Cookies

As promised, here they are…Brownies. Stuffed inside cookies. I don’t think it gets much better than that.

I don’t know if any of you have ever visited The Fresh Market, but if you haven’t you should. Lots of organic, fresh produce, great vegetarian options, local meats…the list goes on. The one in Lexington is located on Tates Creek road, in the same shopping center as Malone’s and Rite Aid. The Fresh Market was also the place that introduced me to these cookies.

I made this recipe up one night when I was craving one of those suckers and didn’t feel like braving the traffic to go buy some. I’m sure there are a million ways to create them, but this is how I went about it.

First things first. The cookie part.

I’m sure you guys have already made the chocolate chip cookies I told you about a few posts ago. Right? Ok, well if not…here you go.

Make the dough as directed. If you don’t want to be assaulted with tons of chocolate (although I don’t see why that’s a problem), then skip the chocolate chips. After the dough is made, it needs to chill in the fridge for about 45 minutes to an hour. The colder the dough, the easier it is to shape around the brownies.

Now the brownie. If you want to go all out, then by all means, make some brownies from scratch. I was lazy and didn’t feel like washing any more dishes than I had to. So I used a Duncan Hines mix that I had handy. You can get creative, use whatever kind of brownie mix you want.

Make the brownies per the package directions. Let them cool, then cut them into small squares, about 1/2 an inch by 1/2 an inch. (Thought I had a photo of this, but I don’t. Lame.)

Now the fun part.

Grease or line your cookie sheet with parchment paper, and spoon out a pretty hefty amount of the cookie dough. Maybe 1/4 of a cup? I didn’t measure. I suck. My first batch, I probably used 1/2 a cup of dough and the cookies were crazy huge. They ran and the brownie popped out and they were terrible. Anyhow, use enough so that the brownie will fit in the middle while still leave some extra dough around the outside.

Don’t crowd your cookie sheet, these cookies spread out quite a bit!

Using you finger, press down the center of the dough and press a piece of brownie into it.

Now shape the dough around the brownie. This part can get a bit messy. If there isn’t enough dough, just spoon some more on top of the brownie and roll it until it forms a ball.

Bake them at 350 degrees, for about 15 minutes. My oven is a monster, so you may need a little more time for yours.

Ready to see them again? I know you are.

Voila! Brownie in a cookie! Slip into some sweatpants, grab a glass of milk and indulge!

Currently dancing to: “These Streets,” Paolo Nutini

I’ve been lazy…

I haven’t been lazy about cooking, just about blogging. I make something and take the pictures…then I eat what I made and watch TrueBlood. Or Harry Potter. And by the time that Vampire Bill says “Sookie” for the 20th time, I forget to blog.

No worries though. I have lots of treats coming your way. Once I get home (I’m stuck at work in office land at the moment, and don’t have my camera), I plan on posting my recipes for Brownie Pillow Cookies (You heard right. Brownies. Stuffed inside a cookie. Delicious.) and one for my 3 Bean Veggie Minestrone.

Until then…

Currently dancing to: “Hello, I Love You,” Glee version.

Birthdays, the lake, and some Shrimp Dip

I haven’t done much cooking in the past few days because I’ve been out of town. I went to Lake Michigan for Labor Day weekend (Pictures here). My stepdad’s birthday was on Friday, so I made him some shrimp dip before I left.

This dip happened the first time kind of by accident. I was trying to think of some dips that I could take to a family get together and didn’t feel like going out to the grocery store, so I looked around my kitchen and just started mixing.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb cooked and cleaned shrimp, tails off. (I bought mine already cooked and cleaned, because the vegetarian in me refused to clean them myself)
  • 1/2 a green pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 bar of cream cheese, softened (about 6 oz)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sour cream
  • juice of half a lemon
  • dash of paprika (I don’t measure this, but it’s about 1/2 a tsp.)
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • olive oil to sautee with

Chop peppers, onions, and garlic. In the meantime, have some olive oil heating up in a sautee pan.

Sautee onions and peppers for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic. Don’t add the garlic first because it tends to burn up by the time the veggies are finished cooking. Continue cooking until veggies are soft.

Next, chop the shrimp. I chop it pretty small, but if you’d rather have larger chunks then go for it.

In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and sour cream with the veggies and shrimp.

Next mix in the lemon juice, paprika and cayenne. If you like things spicy, add in some more cayenne or you can nix it all together.

Chill for about an hour, and serve with crackers or veggies.

Now, I can honestly say that I have no idea what this tastes like. My step dad, grandpa, and boyfriend all say it’s great…but if you have some suggestions, I’ll gladly take them!

Currently dancing to: “Bubbletoes,” Jack Johnson

Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you’re wanting to learn how to bake, learn this cookie recipe and you’ll be set. Even though it says it’s chocolate chip, you can use the dough for this cookie as a blank slate and add anything you want. I’ve come across a lot of recipes for chocolate chip cookies, but this is the one I always come back to.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c (2 sticks) room temp. butter
  • 1 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 12 oz (1 bag) semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, mix flour, salt, and baking soda.

In a different bowl, cream the butter and sugars together with a hand mixer.

It doesn’t have to be completely smooth. Once you add the eggs and mix it together, the batter will smooth out.

Speaking of which, add the eggs and vanilla.

Mix on low or medium speed until everything is combined.

Next is the flour mixture. Don’t dump it all in at once, or it will take forever to mix and your mixer may have a stroke and die. I generally do about a cupful at a time. Also, before you just stick your mixer into the batter and crank it up on high, try blending the flour in a tiny bit with a spoon. That way you don’t end up looking like you took a bath in flour.

Finally (this is the best part), it’s time for the chocolate chips! This is where the fun can come in. If you’re not a fan of chocolate, 1. You’re crazy, leave my blog (I kid, I kid!) and 2. You can use anything you want. Substitute caramel chips, any kind of chopped nuts, coconut, butterscotch chips, dried fruit…The list goes on. But for me, I’m choosing the chocolate!

Using a spoon, fold in the chips.

Now, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease a cookie sheet. I use the paper, because clean up is much easier. If you use parchment, after ripping off the amount you need, flip it over so the ends curl under. It will keep it from popping off the sheet while you’re spooning on the batter.

By the way, these baking sheets are probably the best thing ever invented. Check them out here. Mine is a little beat up, but it still works like a charm.

The rest of this recipe is up to you. I normally use about 1 tbs of batter for a medium sized cookie. You can adjust to your desired size.

Everyone likes their cookies a little different. I go for the really soft ones, with gooey centers. My mom likes them rock hard. For softer cookies, I bake them for about 10 minutes. Harder cookies stay in for about 13. Don’t forget that all ovens vary, so you really just have to watch them. Generally, 10 minutes is a safe place to start and you can go from there. Also, cookies continue to cook for a few minutes after they come out of the oven, so don’t wait until they’re completely hard to take them out. You will end up with frisbee, rock cookies and no one will want them.

Serve up warm with a cold glass of milk, or if you’re feeling really creative…Wait until the cookies cool, spoon some vanilla or coffee ice cream onto one, put another cookie on top and pop them in the freezer for an hour. Homemade ice cream sandwiches!

Currently dancing to: “All American Girl,” Carrie Underwood.

Microwave Chocolate Mug Cake…

Two posts in one day? I guess you could say that I’m excited about getting this blog started. Or, if I’m being honest, I have a sweet tooth and want to share one of my favorite things.

If you’re like me, long after dinner is over and you’re finished watching TrueBlood or Glee, you start longing for some chocolate.  This is probably one of the fastest and easiest desserts I know of and you don’t need any experience! This recipe also saved me during those horrible dorm days when all I had was a microwave and found myself in desperate need of cake.

This:

Plus this:

Makes this:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs flour
  • 2-3 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder (depends on how chocolatey you want it!)
  • 2-3 tbs sugar (again, depends on you. I always go for 3!)
  • 3 tbs milk
  • 1 egg white (from a smallish egg, if your egg is bigger, use about 3 tbs of the white)
  • 3 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp of vanilla (I’m guilty of never measuring the vanilla. Sorry!)

First, pick your favorite mug. You can use a smaller one because the cake won’t get very big. I used my huge Shakespeare mug because…I love Shakespeare. The only way Shakespeare gets better is to add chocolate to it.

Start by adding your dry ingredients to the mug.

Flour, Cocoa and Sugar into the Bard’s mug!:

Before you add the liquid ingredients, make sure you use a fork and get out all the lumps. No one wants to bite into a huge, dry lump of cocoa powder. Yuck. Mr. Shakespeare does not approve.

Moving on. Next comes everything else. Stir everything together until it’s nice and smooth.

Now time to “bake!” Since everyone’s microwave is a little different, I would put it in for 1 minute to start. After that, check it and see if it is still runny. More than likely it is. I normally have to cook mine for about 1 minute, 30 seconds. After the next 30 seconds, check again. The cake should come away from the side of the mug, and the bottom should lift up, but not be runny. You may have to do a couple seconds more.

This cake is really easy to overcook! Instead of delicious, chocolatey goodness in an awesome Shakespeare mug, you will have a brown, rubbery mess. Have fun scraping that out…”Out, out Damn Spot!” Wait, did I just quote Macbeth? Sigh…Told you I was a theatre kid. I can’t help it. The mug inspired me.

Now the fun part: Toppings!

I chose to top mine with a little whipped cream and some chocolate chips, but you can use whatever you like. Butterscotch chips, bananas, strawberries, caramel, mint chocolate chips, pecans…Whatever your little sweet tooth desires.

It’s small enough to curb your late night chocolate craving, but big enough to share with someone special…But you probably won’t want to!

Currently dancing to: “The Guilty Ones,” Spring Awakening