Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tarragon Chicken & Pesto Potatoes


Have entered to win the candy giveaway yet?  No?  Head back to Tuesdays post and be sure to get in on the action!  I'll wait...

Okay, welcome back!  I'm still off in the Caribbean, sailing around on a floating city.  This is actually my fourth cruise, third one with boyfriend.  The remaining cruise?  I took that one with WildeMom! 

A few years back, WildeMom and I descended on Florida from our northern locations of Buffalo and Madison.  We sailed out of the port of Fort Lauderdale to celebrate WildeMoms 50th birthday!  The plan was just two crazy girls, living it up on the high seas!  And that's just what happened.


We walked around Old San Juan and dodged random cloudbursts in the fort.  Trolling through the city we enjoyed creamy gelato and warm weather.  We faced the ocean on St Maarten and someone was smarter than I and stayed in the shallow end.  Truth be told, I'm pretty sure the ocean was trying to drown me.  We kayaked through a mangrove forest on St Thomas and cheered on a hermit crab during a race.  We even managed to hit the ships gym every morning and I made friends with the fitness coordinator onboard.

It was a fantastic trip for both my mom and I.  We never had, and haven't since, had so much time to spend together.  A whole week of mother-daughter bonding time.  Lots of time to relax together. 


Travelling with boyfriend is nothing like travelling with WildeMom (as you could have guessed from Tuesdays post!), but tomorrow I can have a direct comparison.  Tomorrow our ship docks in St Thomas after a full day at sea.  How will my day on St Thomas compare with the day spent with WildeMom?  I'll let you know next week, along with the winner of the candy giveaway!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chocolate Malt Marshmallows

As you read this, boyfriend and I are cruising around the Caribbean.  Depending on what time you read this today, we may be rappelling through waterfalls, sitting on the beach or stuffing ourselves with buffet food. 

We are on a cruise vacation because I wanted a nice, calm, relaxing break from work.  Our past few vacations have been anything but relaxing, with the trekking to far flung foreign lands, managing several different foreign languages and packing in as much sight-seeing as we could.  You want to go on a calm vacation, do not go to Bangkok.  You want a relaxing vacation, do not go on a trek around Europe.  You want to sit still for more than ten minutes, do not go on vacation with boyfriend.


This boyfriend of mine has energy for miles.  While vacationing on a white sand-ringed island last year, we decided to spend the day at the beach.  Snorkels, beach towels and Gatorade in tow, we made our way to a quiet and secluded beach overlooking the neighboring islands.  I laid my beach towel out, dropped my sandals in my bag and went to wade in the warm Caribbean water.  Having decided that was enough movement for now, I made my way back to our beach towels and realized I was by myself.

Boyfriend had wandered off.  Figuring he couldn't go too far (I had his shoes), I decided to wait for him by reading a magazine (okay, I was doing logic puzzles.  I'm a big old nerd!).  I kept hearing rustling noises in the bushes behind me, but we had been hearing that all week.  The noise was always birds.  A half hour later, boyfriend strolls up the beach from a completely different direction from where I last saw him.  When I inquired about where he was, his answer was simple.  "I was looking for monkeys!"


No, boyfriend isn't crazy.  We were on St. Kitts, which is an island with a bountiful monkey population.  He didn't find any monkeys on his little tour of the beach bushes and this wasn't his last trip off the beaten path.  When offered two options - the easy way - or - the way that requires climbing over rocks and shimmying down perilous ledges - boyfriend will always pick option 2.

This is why we are spending the day canyoning, rather than sitting on a beach and baking in the sun.  And you know what?  I wouldn't have it any other way.


Since I'm away this week, I didn't want to leave you feeling sad.  I realized there were two things I could do to make my absence a little easier. 

1. Chocolate malt marshmallows!

2. Throw a giveaway while I'm away! 

What am I giving away?  If you have been following the Candy Month hype on my twitter account, I mentioned giveaways!  This is the first of two that will happen this month.  (Oh just wait for the second, it will be delicious!)  I'm giving away one of my favorite candy cookbooks to one lucky reader!  This book gave me so much help and insight in the first few months of Candy Challenge 2011.

The Giveaway is now closed!  Congratulations to the winner - Amy Marantino!

Now it's your turn to give it a try!  This giveaway is for one brand new, shipped fresh from Amazon, copy of
Chocolates and Confections at Home with the Culinary Institute of America!


And...

How can you make candy without a thermometer?  You'll also receive the very same thermometer that I have come to love.  It's digital, has an alarm and two settings (oil & candy).



How do you enter?  There are so many ways!  Do them all and get up to 6 chances to win!

1. Simply comment on this post and tell me which candy recipe was your favorite from Candy Challenge 2011 (you can find the recap on the tab at the top labeled "Candy Collection")  Or maybe which candy you would like to try (or have made!).

2. Subscribe/follow/RSS Wilde in the Kitchen so you don't miss out on a single post!  Leave me a comment saying that you did!

3. Follow @WildeKitchen on twitter and leave me a comment here saying that you did so!

4. Tweet the following on twitter (or something along these lines!) and let your friends know about our fun giveaway!  Leave a comment here saying that you did so!

I just entered to win a copy of Chocolates and Confections at Home from @WildeKitchen so I can make candies at home too!  Enter to win at wildeinthekitchen.blogspot.com

5. Like Wilde in the Kitchen on facebook and leave me a comment, you know the drill.

6. The last and the most involved way to earn a chance to win...  Take part in the Wilde in the Kitchen Relay for Life Bake Sale!  Happening on May 17-18, I will be fundraising for Relay for Life and need your help!  Up for sale will be several popular Wilde candy treats and I would love to have you all help out! 

Drop me an e-mail [wildeinthekitchen @ hotmail (dot) com] and let me know if you would be interested in making a baked good/sweet confection for the bake sale!  For more information on the bake sale, check out Sundays post.

If you already do any of the above, like you already follow me on Twitter, you can leave a comment stating that fact.  That's cool, we're already friends!

Giveaway is open from April 24, all of the way until Tuesday, May 1st! The Giveaway is now closed, thank you everyone for entering!

Disclaimers...  This giveaway is open to those in the United States and Canada.  Sorry international friends, I'm not good with shipping abroad!  I have no affiliation with the publishers or writers of this cookbook, I just think it's awesome and want to share!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sweet Potato & Choriquo Gratin

I am very excited to announce my very first Wilde in the Kitchen Bake Sale! But I need your help! In June, less than six weeks away, I will be participating in Relay for Life out here on Long Island. For those of you who don't know exactly what the event entails, here is the description straight from the American Cancer Society.

Relay For Life is a life-changing event that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.


At Relay, teams of people camp out at a local high school, park, or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Because cancer never sleeps, Relays are overnight events up to 24 hours in length. Relayers do not have to walk all night, but each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event.

The event begins with a lap completed by cancer survivors, showing their victory over cancer. The caregivers then join in the next lap, showing their support for those who have battled cancer. Finally, the remaining walkers join the track and start the relay. As daytime passes into night, luminaria bags are lit to commemorate those who have lost their fight to cancer. The relayers then walk through the night with the light of those now gone guiding them around the loop.


Our Relay will take place from 6 pm until 6 am the next day and our team will be camping out at the local college. I will be relaying with several of my work colleagues! Being a newer member of my company, I'm looking forward to not only raising money for ACS, walking with survivors, but also getting to know some of my coworkers a little better.

Now I need your help! May 17-18 will be the Wilde in the Kitchen Bake Sale for Relay! I'll be putting up several candy confections to help raise money for Relay and am looking for people to join in the bake sale!

How does it work?  Don't worry, I do all the heavy lifting!  You provide an image and web address for whatever baked good you would like to donate to the bake sale.  People bid on the items by e-mailing me with their bids.  Once the bake sale closes, the baked goods go to the highest bidder!  Here's where your work comes in...  Within a week, you just have to bake your item and mail it to the winner!

What would be a good item for the bake sale?  Anything that ships well, is delicious and is something that you love.  Cookies & Bars ship really well.  I'll be making several different candy recipes to contribute to the sale.  Marshmallows are their own packing material!

Do you have a little extra time in your week to whip up something sweet and delicious? Send me an e-mail at wildeinthekitchen (at) hotmail (dot) com and let me know!

As a thanks for your help and kindness, I've made you dinner. Kinda. In order to prepare for an all-night relay walk I think my team is going to need some carbs. So make yourself this spicy gratin and leaf through your dessert cookbooks!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Salad Dressing

I planned the posting date for this Why Bother? challenge very carefully.  With the unofficial start of summer a mere six weeks away, I think this is a good time to start eating lots and lots of healthy salads.  I know that there is a group of people out there who just detest eating salads.  Sitting down to a plate of lettuce just doesn't seem right to them.


And who could blame anyone for thinking that way?  Salads can be boring, unsatisfying and just plain forgettable.  There is another train of thought, the one that I have adopted toward the salad.  Salads can be bright, filling and the main course of any meal, with the right ingredients.  And of course, with the right dressing.


I have had more awful store-bought salad dressings than I care to mention.  The flavors tend to be muted, the salt to everything else in the dressing ratio is way off and the ingredient combinations sometimes wacky.  Sure, there are some pretty delicious dressings out there.  I'm not suggesting you steer clear of the salad dressing aisle completely.  There are just so many reasons to make your own dressings.

1. You know what all of the ingredients are.  As a chemist, I look at the back of a bottle of salad dressing and wonder why they need all of those chemicals.  The main reason?  To make the stuff shelf stable.  Look in your fridge, those bottles have expiration dates.  Granted, they are usually pretty far out from the purchase date.  Please go and throw away all of your old bottles of dressing, you'll have so much more space for the new dressing that you're going to prepare.


2. You can control the salt.  For the same reason that there are so many chemicals in your store-bought salad dressing, there tends to be a lot of salt.  Americans consume far more salt than is necessary for daily life and it affects our health in a negative way.  By making your own dressing, you can add just a pinch of salt (and that's only if it needs it!).


3. Think Fresh.  Those salad dressings sitting on the shelf at your local grocery store can't call any of their ingredients "fresh".  Nothing is better than putting together your own dressing and finishing it off with some freshly chopped herbs (straight from your garden if you're lucky!).  With the flavor that those herbs bring, you'll be leaving the salt shaker on the table.


4. You control the fat.  Along the lines of eating healthy in preparation for bathing suit season, everyone is watching their fat intake.  Store-bought dressings contain primarily soybean oil or canola oil.  There are some true winners out there containing extra virgin olive oil as their main fat source, but you have to be sure to read the labels.  Why settle for flavor-less canola oil when there are so many other delicious options!  From avocado to walnut, there are more options for oils than ever before.


So head out to the grocery store and skip the condiment aisle.  Go to the vinegars and oils section and pick up a few options.  I like to have white wine, rice wine and balsamic vinegar in my pantry at all times.  Specialty vinegars make an occasional appearance and are fun when changing things up, try champagne or pomegranate.

Stock up with a large bottle of extra virgin olive oil, try to catch it when it's on sale!  You'll find other amazing oils, such as walnut, sesame and avocado, often hiding in the natural foods section.  Specialty oils are a little more expensive, but give your homemade dressings amazing flavor.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cookie Dough Fudge

It's time for more candy!  It has been just over a year now that I decided to take on making homemade candy.  It started off innocent enough, with a few marshmallows, and grew into something almost uncontrollable.  Once I realized the vast array of candies that can be made with a simple sugar syrup, I was completely hooked.


Have you joined me on my journey and started making confections in your own kitchen yet?  If you haven't, then you must head to the store immediately and stock up on the following ingredients...

Sugar - I use this by the pound when I get started on a candy recipe heavy weekend.  Luckily, the larger the sack of sugar you buy, the cheaper it is.  Splurge on the ten pound bag.  Get someone with big muscles to carry that grocery bag to the kitchen.

Corn Syrup - Corn syrup is made of glucose and provides the necessary molecular structure for correct crystal formation in your candy.  (I feel like I need to do an entire post on corn syrup, it's so complex!)  Corn syrup is special and I've found that it is almost specific to the Americas.  I've begun testing my recipes with other liquid sugars, like glucose syrup and invert syrup, that are more globally available. 

Candy Thermometer - Available in alcohol and digital, I've had both.  My first candies were made with an alcohol thermometer, it's a perfect, inexpensive option for those just starting out their candy journey.  Just be sure to get down and read the temperature at eye level.  After my alcohol thermometer broke (bubbles may form in the red liquid) I upgraded to a digital model, one with an alarm.  Now I never miss when my sugar reaches hard ball stage!


That's it!  If you want to start making simple candies, all you need is sugar and corn syrup.  If you want to make more specialty candies, invest in some of these items...

Candy oils - These little bottles of oil pack a flavor punch.  Just a few drops of this stuff and your candies will taste like bubblegum, egg nog, cheesecake or root beer.  The options are endless and the flavors are cheap, buy a couple and begin to experiment.

Chocolate or Chocolate Candy melts - You want to coat your candies in chocolate, you need to go out and get some chocolate!  Sometimes block chocolate is elusive at the grocery store.  You can generally find it in the bulk food section of the store and it's usually Merckens.  Whole Foods also sells blocks of chocolate, mine carries the deliciously smooth Belgian Callebaut.  If you want to skip the process of tempering chocolate, you can use candy melts.  They are chocolate flavored and lack the snap that real chocolate has.

Powdered Milk - Mixed with water, this powdered stuff reconstitutes to skim milk. Mix it with a sugar syrup and you can make nougat.

Cocoa Powder - Natural.  Dutch cocoa powder contains a bit of fat and shouldn't be used when making or coating marshmallows.  Cocoa powder will allow you to turn plain nougat into chocolate nougat.  Plain marshmallows into chocolate marshmallows.  You get the idea.

Gelatin - Choose your favorite type, sheets or powdered.  Gelatin is necessary for so many candy treats, marshmallow, sponge candy, certain gummies.  Sometimes you can substitute with egg whites.  Vegetarians out there, I haven't tested any of my recipes with agar powder.  Let me know if you have!


Citric acid, malted milk powder, powdered pectin, invertase, the list could go on and on.  Start out with the basics and soon you'll find yourself trolling the specialty food stores and websites for new candy ingredients to experiment with!  (My primary sources are the King Arthur Flour.com, Lorann Oils.com and Amazon.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Potato Chips

Why bother indeed.  I was very excited to give homemade potato chips a try.  I sat on my train ride home, dreaming up delicious flavors of potato chips.  Spicy Buffalo and blue cheese.  Parmesan and garlic.  Thai sweet curry.  Alas, this was all not to be.

This is the first challenge of the year that has me a little stumped.  Perhaps it's that I just need a little more time to figure out how to make these bad boys?  Maybe I need to do a bit more research before peeling any more potatoes?  Or maybe, I realized that I prefer cheese puffs to potato chips.  Unless someone out there has a spare cheese puff making machine (as the cheese puffs are puffed with a special vacuum apparatus), I think I'll continue buying my cheese puffs from the store.


I made a batch of oven chips, destined to be Buffalo and blue cheese.  The chips that were too thin, burnt.  The chips that were a little thicker, never crisped up.  I think that I might need to experiment further.  I was so downtrodden by the baked chip fail that I refused to go on and make any attempt at frying some.  It would have been a sad day if I wasn't also preparing these...


Peanut butter and jelly marshmallows!  More candy for candy month!  Opposed to the epic fail of the potato chips, these little fluffy treats were an absolute knockout.  It's so funny too.  The process of making these two-layer marshmallows was not simple.  It required making two separate (and very different) marshmallow batters, cutting, dusting and attempting not to eat them all.  In total it took three hours to get these sweets from sugar to final product.


Not that this should scare you off!  Even if you don't want to make a double-layered marshmallow, each flavor was amazing on its own.  The concord grape layer was sweet and full of flavor (courtesy of the 100% grape concentrate) and they were a ridiculous purple color.  The peanut butter layer tasted just like a fluffernutter sandwich, sans the bread.  Put them together and we have a completely lunch inappropriate PB&J sandwich (although it tastes just like the lunch original).


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Gorgonzola Soup

Ever since the time I moved in with boyfriend, he has been asking me to make him gorgonzola cheese soup.  For months and months he has been giving me this idea, telling me to add it to the weeks menu.  I asked where this suggestion came from?  Boyfriend says he had a gorgonzola soup at a restaurant in Buffalo.


I asked "What else was in the soup?" 

The response I got was "I don't know, it had gorgonzola cheese!" 

"Well, was it a brothy soup or a creamy soup?"

"Creamy and cheesy!"

"Were there any vegetables in it?  What was the base of the soup?"

"I don't know, cheese?"

So, you can tell that boyfriend, while he enjoys a good soup, loves gorgonzola cheese.  He is also not one to taste the mild flavors in a meal.  Especially when cheese is involved.

I knew right from the start that this soup could not possibly be just broth and gorgonzola cheese.  That would be disgusting.  I knew that it had to have been a vegetable based soup, finished off with gorgonzola cheese.  Gorgonzola is a very pungent cheese and you don't need a lot of it for flavor.


I settled on a potato-leek soup base and finished it off with some caramelized pears.  The verdict?  The soup is just what boyfriend wanted.  I got back a bowl of caramelized pears, sitting in an otherwise empty bowl.  Someone doesn't like fruit.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Peppermint Pillow Mints

I hope that you are all enjoying your holiday weekend. Maybe you are spending time with family today, sharing a nice meal around the dinner table. Perhaps you are heading outside to enjoy the warmer spring weather. Or maybe you are like boyfriend and I, you're going to do nothing special at all.


My weekend has been spent getting ready for candy month! Have you been waiting patiently for this month and all of the sweet treats that it promised? According to the poll you all took last month, you wanted more recipes for classic candy bars and gummy candy. I have been boiling away batches of caramel and melting slabs and slabs of chocolate. Today however, I went simple and with a confection that had a sentimental facet to it, pillow mints.


My first, and only, experience with pillow mints are from my many childhood visits to my grams house. No matter the season or time of year, there was always a small crystal bowl of mints sitting on the buffet table. I would inevitably sit in my grandmothers rocking chair and eat mint after mint. Picking my favorite from the other colors, I would leave her little house with a bowl emptied of pink mints.


Making these mints was not only easy and fun (my fingers were stained blue from the food coloring!), but it brought back the memories of my gram and spending weekends at her little house.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Grilled Chicken & Potatoes

I'm back from Chicago and back to work.  For some reason I decided that I didn't need to change the time on my watch while I was away.  People kept suggesting that I could easily change the time (with a simple turn of the knob!) and just change it back when I returned.  I told them not to be silly.  My phone acts as my real clock, my watch acts as the minute hand.


Think about it.  How often do you find yourself not knowing approximately what time it is?  Almost never.  Usually only in the middle of the night, when you are thrown awake from a dream, having no idea where you are and what time it is.  Well, maybe that was just me this week, sleeping in my big hotel room bed.


By keeping my wristwatch on east coast time, I feel like I saved myself at least a whole minute of time.  Now I just have to get back onto east coast time!  I don't think that you can say that you have jet lag when you've only flown from one time zone to the next.  Also, half of my company was at this conference with me.  I don't think it will go over well if I'm dragging and complaining today, when everyone else is in the same boat!  Better go get some caffeine and get some work done.  I've got to put all my new conference knowledge to use!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wilde in Chicago

Hello from the sunny Midwest!  Today I'm coming to you from my hotel room in downtown Chicago, sending you some tasty cookies rather than dinner.  Why am I in the windy city this fine Tuesday morning?  I'm off on my first official business trip!


The majority of my coworkers and I have packed up and relocated to Chicago for a week long conference.  I've been spending endless hours in dark rooms, watching powerpoint presentations and listening to scientists talk about their research.  There is a lot of biology, a little bit of chemistry and a whole lot of note-taking!  Let me tell you, my brain is fried!


 Luckily we've been able to enjoy the evenings away from the conference and in the great city of Chicago.  I've spent a lot of time here in the past, with going to grad school in Madison, Wisconsin, a mere two hours up the I-90.  It's been great being back in the city.  I've actually gotten to do a few things that I never had the chance to in the past.

I saw the bean...


I had some deep-dish pizza...


I took a walk through Millenium park...

Yay!  Tulips!  You all know how I love tulips


And I saw the new Trump building...


This building wasn't anywhere near finished last time I was in Chicago!
It's been an exhausting few days, and I've got another day before the conference is over.  I think that I'll sleep very well on my way back to New York City tomorrow night!

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