Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Herbed Mashed Potatoes with Rosemary Cream

My 8 year old picky eating son has a love for rosemary...of all the crazy things. It all started with a batch of Foccacia bread last summer. It's funny because rosemary is prevalent in our neighborhood and every time he gets a whiff of it he asks me to make Foccacia bread. So tonight I looked at the rosemary in my refrigerator and decided to whip up something different. I pulled out some chicken, rubbed it with rosemary, garlic, and lemon juice and slow baked it in the oven. Then I started on some mashed potatoes. While I was peeling them I got this crazy idea to make a gravy/sauce that was infused with rosemary, shallots, and garlic. When I was done the house smelled amazingly aromatic and the taste was like no other mashed potatoes we've ever had. My son's verdict, "Mom, these are the best mashed potatoes I've ever had!" Maybe you'll agree.

Mashed Potatoes with Rosemary Cream Gravy

For the Potatoes:
about 2 lbs of Russet Potatoes peeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces (Yukon or Red would also work)
1 cube of chicken bouillon seasoning
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp. butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 c. lemon juice
1/2 -1 c. of milk
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
For the Sauce:
1 shallot, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. of diced fresh rosemary leaves
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. flour
1 c. milk
2 tbsp. cream cheese

In a large pot combine potatoes, enough water to cover, rosemary, garlic cloves (whole), bouillon, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and cover, simmering until potatoes are fork tender. Remove rosemary (some leaves can definitely be left behind), and drain water. Mash potatoes well. The boiled garlic will mash right into the mix. Add butter, lemon juice, Parmesan, and milk a little bit at a time until you get the desired fluffy consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a small saucepan melt butter over medium/low heat and toss in diced shallot and garlic. Cook until just fragrant, taking care not to burn the garlic. Stir in flour to make a roux, cooking a minute or two to get rid of the flour taste. Slowly add milk, whisking until all the lumps are gone. Add rosemary and cream cheese, continuing to cook until thickened to the consistency of a gravy or white sauce.

Enjoy...and plant some rosemary in your yard if you already haven't done so :).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Black and Tan Cupcake

I don't know what it was...maybe the baby that I'm brewing...but after months of not wanting much to do with anything sweet or chocolaty, or coffee like I finally got the craving for a cupcake...and the hubby quickly agreed. I gathered the things in my pantry, quickly realizing I wouldn't be able to make anything that included vanilla extract. I'm fresh out, and there's no way I'm going to the grocery store in this crazy rainy weather we are having. I doctored up a German Chocolate Cake mix with some extra cocoa powder and some coffee flavors, and then I began mixing the frosting. Truthfully, I thought this was going to be a frosting disaster...all good frosting contains vanilla extract right?  But to my surprise my improvisations resulted in this rich decadent goodness. So much goodness that I couldn't bear to part with the leftovers. You could decorate these cupcakes with pretty chocolate curls or caramel drizzle...but I kind liked out simple they were to make...and to frost. No piping bag, just the back of a tablespoon and a big bowl of frosting.

Black and Tan Cupcakes
1 box of German chocolate or other chocolate cake mix
1/2 c. vegetable oil (or the amount called for in the cake mix)
3 eggs
2 tbsp espresso liquor
1/3 c. chilled coffee or espresso
*Remaining amount of water called for on your cake mix.
6 oz cream cheese softened
1 stick of butter
2 tbsp espresso liquor
2 tbsp of caramel topping
1 pinch of sea salt
2-3 c. of confectioner's sugar

For the Cake:
Dump the box of cake mix in your mixer bowl along with the eggs and oil. Get out your measuring cup and measure out 2 tbsp. of espresso liquor and 1/3 c. of coffee. Fill that same cup with enough water to measure out what your box of cake mix calls for. I hope that makes sense...basically your substituting some of the water for coffee and espresso liquor...not adding to that amount. Also add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Turn on your mixer and beat until smooth. Fill cupcake tins (or cake pans) with batter about 2/3 c. full and bake according to box directions.

For the Frosting:
Whip butter and cream cheese in the bowl of your mixer until it is smooth. Add espresso liquor, caramel, and salt. Beat until incorporated. On slow speed add confectioner's sugar, starting with 2 c. and adding additional sugar if it appears to be too thin. Frosting will have a thick creamy texture, it won't hold shape like a butter cream but should be able to be swirled with the back of a spoon on top of the cupcakes and hold some form.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Long-Awaited Lego Bookshelf

So this has nothing to do with food...or homemade gifts...but it's a fun idea that I wanted to share.

Ever since we moved into our house, which was well over a year ago, I have been looking for creative Lego decor for our now eight year old son's bedroom. Amazingly...there isn't a whole lot out there to buy other than Lego themed storage containers. Anything else was atrociously expensive...well more than I'd spend on my own bedroom and definitely too expensive to put in the hands of an 8 year old boy. We settled for grey walls, red accents, plaid bedding, and a framed Lego Batman poster.  Kinda boring.

Then I got this idea...but I kept it to myself for awhile because my husband, who happens to be excellent at "home improvement" projects already had a very long honey-do list...and the mere mention of another project would probably have been like hooking a hangnail on a bed sheet.

Finally the opportunity to redo our son's bedroom came around...and I pounced with my project idea. Granted, it's not like he raced down to the hardware store immediately for the paint and supplies. I offered to do all the sanding and painting and much to my own surprise I did the majority of it on my own. I say this because if you know me...you're aware that patience is not my virtue.

So here's how it all went down....

This shelf was a plain birch veneer Wal-Mart bookshelf...probably not the best quality for sanding and painting...but we made it work.

1) We took off all the shelves and I sanded the finish off of the entire piece.

2) I dusted it off and wiped it down with a damp cloth to make sure it was squeaky clean.

3) I painted the shelf, using Behr Paint and Primer in One from The Home Depot. I used a Dove roller brush for a smooth finish and a paint brush to get in the nooks and crannies...I waited until it was dry and then gave it another coat.

4) Once the shelf was all painted my wonderful husband sanded the tops off of 3" PVC pipe caps with low grit sand paper. He attached the caps with liquid nail and generously painted the caps so tired pregnant me wouldn't have to do it.

5) ...the only troublesome spot on this project was the cheap cardboard backing for this bookshelf. The paint started peeling off of it, so at the advice of Home Depot we gave it 3 good coats of Varathane Spar Urethane (water based) to help seal it. Time will tell if it will peel with the wear and tear of an 8 year old boy. If that happens I'll probably just rip the whole back of the shelf off and leave it open against the wall.