Saturday, June 30, 2012

Buffalo Sponge Candy Cake

Today we're celebrating Wilde in the Kitchen's second birthday!  It's hard to believe that just over two years ago I was talking with my friends, trying to decide on a name for my blog.  I had fallen for the food blogging world and wanted to join in on the fun.  I had no idea where this little place on the internet would take me.

Over the past two years I have gone through more pounds of sugar than I had in the previous twenty-eight years...

I have learned that nothing is out of reach in your home kitchen...


This past year seemed to be the year of the salad...


So much has changed in my life in the past two years as well.  The blog originated in Boulder, Colorado, in my mountainview apartment.  The kitchen was a mere two weeks away from getting packed up and shipped to New Haven, Connecticut.  The cooking tools available to me were simple and low tech, a whisk or two, a small kitchen scale and a demonic hand mixer.

When the boxes labeled "kitchen" were piled in my brand new, New Haven apartment, their contents overflowed the studios kitchen space.  With only 350 square feet to my name, the cooking and baking supplies took over every free space they could find.  The Sundays that I spent cooking there were some of the busiest times in my apartment, preparing all of my meals and treats for the week.

Around this time last year I made my most recent and most important move.  I got my first real-world job and moved to New Jersey to live with boyfriend.  With my new, much larger kitchen, normalized work hours and second human being to feed, WITK started to become more well rounded and offer more dinners and savory options, but still maintaining the occasional sweet post.

My life and this site have changed so much over the past two years, who knows where it will be in two years more!  I'm mostly grateful for everyone out there who stops by to say hi, comment on a post or try out one of my recipes.  The food-blogging community that I'm a part of is a huge reason behind why I keep going.  Of course I love writing, baking and cooking, but I seriously love the interaction with my like-minded foodies out there in the interwebs.

Thank you all for making this such a fun place for me come every week.  To celebrate WITK's two year, I made us all a cake!  Three layers of cloud-soft sponge cake, filled with sweet caramel frosting and coated in a rich chocolate glaze.  It's like a giant piece of Buffalo sponge candy.  Perfectly appropriate for WITK's birthday.  Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for the fun!  Here's to a fulfilling, savory, exciting and sweet next year!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Gnocchi

From potato to dinner plate in less than thirty minutes.  That is the first thing I will tell you about these little potato pillows.  In less time than it would take you to get in your car, drive to the grocery store and return home, you can make your own gnocchi from scratch.  Also, they will taste amazing.

I've made my own pasta a few times before (remember the acorn squash ravioli and ricotta tortellini?) and remembered what a time commitment it was.  Between making the dough, rolling it out, forming the pasta and letting it dry, the only time I was saving was for the fact that homemade pasta takes almost no time to cook.  When I arrived home (on a late train, of course), I wasn't really keen on eating at ten o'clock at night.  I really wanted to eat post haste!

This is where the microwave came into play.  Did you know you can microwave a potato, assuming you have poked enough holes in it, and it will cook in only twelve minutes?  If you neglect to poke holes in the potatoes, you'll have the joy of watching a potato explode violently in your microwave.  Take your pick, both are excellent ways to use a potato.

Once the potatoes were cooked through (and not exploded, thank you very much) I just had to let them sit for a moment.  It was at this point that I put together the sauce for my eventual gnocchi dinner.  It was simple, get this...  Melt butter and thyme together.  Keep warm.  Fin.

The assembly of the gnocchi was the part that took the longest and mostly because no one wanted to help me roll out the dough.  Someone was busy making a Hot dog film.  Don't ask.  After combining all of the ingredients and giving them a quick knead with my two hands, the dough was ready.

Working in three batches, I rolled the dough out into a long rope.  The rope was then chopped into 1-inch segments and each piece was rolled over the tines of a fork.  If you have a helper in the kitchen, you could probably get this done in half the time. 

But there we are, the little potato pillows were ready to go into the boiling water.  How long do they take to cook?  About three minutes.  More precisely?  Once these little guys float to the top, they are ready for consuming.  I slowly added the gnocchi to the water, one at a time and they slowly floated up to the surface one at a time.  The finished ones were scooped out with a slotted spoon and set to drain for a minute in my colander. 

When the final gnocchi was rescued from the boiling water, they all went into the pan with the thyme butter and were ready to go.  From potato to plate in thirty minutes flat.

How do these little guys compare to those vacuum-sealed store-bought packages of gnocchi?  No question, the homemade version trumps the premade ones.  You've got flavor for miles with your own handmade ones.  The texture of a freshly prepared gnocchi is out of this world.  The variety of potato pasta is endless, just think of all of the things you can add to the pasta dough! 

Hold yourself back from buying gnocchi in the store and make it a fun event with your little ones.  They'll really enjoy rolling out the dough and making the gnocchi shapes!  I know I did and I'm thirty years old!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pesto-Yogurt Chicken

It's been almost a year.  An entire year at my new job.  A full loop around the sun living with boyfriend.  And it's nearly my anniversary of doing a double-river commute through Manhattan.  Whenever I tell anyone where I live and where I work (my commute being from New Jersey to Long Island) they gasp, wince or give me a look of pain.  Everyone feels sorry for me and my long commute, but I have learned so much in this past year.  I have also read A LOT of books (and cooking magazines!).

What have I learned?  Having the right attitude about being a commuter is half the battle.  Being positive and relaxed about my commute helps to make the days go by easier.  It can also be a lot of fun if you look at it as a casual observer. 

Commuting has the inevitablity of being very predictable.  Here are a few things you can always count on...

~ Someone is always late.  Inevitably, at almost any time of day, there will be someone running through Penn Station to catch a train.

~ That guy next to me is in a hurry.  How can I tell?  As soon as the track number for his train is called, he takes off running.  Usually swearing out loud if it isn't on the track he's standing near. 

~ When I need to be at a 9:00 meeting, the trains will conspire to make me late.  Always.

~ Trains can be late for a wide range of reasons.  Each more ridiculous than the last.  The LIRR is often prone to "rain conditions," "heat conditions," "police activity," "wind conditions," "signal problems," and my favorite "DELAY."

~ The Starbucks near the ACE subway has a shorter line than the one in the center of the station.  Don't tell everyone my secret!

~ People riding peak trains are quieter than those riding off-peak trains.

~ The person who sits down next to me thinks their headphones contain the extremely loud "music" to their earbuds.  The "music" is terrible.

~ If there is only one train line that is delayed, re-routed or cancelled, it will be my line.

Are you a long time commuter or are just starting out your weekly treks to work? What have you learned in your time on public transportation?  Do you find yourself a magnet for talkative types?  Does your train always have a few empty beer cans rolling around?  Does your bus driver think he knows your name?

If you're not a commuter, enjoy the quiet solitude of your car.  And don't pity us commuters, we read a lot of books.  Or take a lot of naps, try doing that in your car!  Wait, don't nap while driving.  It'll be better for everyone.

One Year Ago: Baked Pasta Casserole

Pesto-yogurt sauce
Inspired by Easy Everyday

I always have a container of Greek yogurt sitting in my fridge.  It's useful in so many different recipes and I reccommend getting yourself a container of plain yogurt as well!  This pesto yogurt sauce can be used to marinate chicken or you can toss cooked new potatoes in it for a tangy side dish.
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 tbsp basil pesto
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine ingredients and use!

Pesto-yogurt chicken
Inspired by Easy Everyday

This dinner was very fast to put together.  I left boyfriend a note to put chicken in a bag with the sauce an stick it back in the fridge.  That way the chicken was marinated and ready to go in the oven when I got home.  The sides you see on the plate are simple glazed carrots and sauteed spinach.  While I went with chicken legs this time, I would definitely use chicken breasts next time around!

6 Chicken legs
1 batch pesto-yogurt sauce

Toss chicken legs in pesto-yogurt sauce and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in the fridge for 1 hour to marinate. 

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Line a baking sheet with foil, then parchment paper.  Place chicken legs on top, being sure that they aren't touching.  Bake for 30 minutes, turning over halfway through cook time.  You want the meat to reach 165 F.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

PB&J Mallomars

Welcome to Summer.  I'm very excited for this coming summer because it is my first real summer in eight years!  It's not a summer vacation like we had all those years ago in elementary school, filled with nothing but bike riding and ice cream truck chasing.  Yet, it's also not a graduate school summer vacation, which is actually non-existant.  Summer this year is all mine.  Well, mine and boyfriends.

Last summer was kind of a lost cause in terms of fun and relaxing.  It was also a very exciting time in the Wilde household.  In June I accepted a job offer and a start date only four weeks away.  In those four weeks I had to finish my current project, pack up my studio apartment and move to New Jersey!  According to my posts last year, I spent so much time in the lab that I subsisted on cereal as my main food source.

Not this year!  Boyfriend and I have plans!  A weekend touring our nations history in Washington, DC.  A long Saturday at the New Jersey state fair, eating as much fried food as we can find.  Late nights in New York, trying as many new restaurants as we can.  As well as many nights spent walking around our town and weekends sitting by the pool.  We're going to see blockbuster movies and go for long bike rides around town.  Am I too old to chase the ice cream man down the street?  Because that's what kind of summer this feels like.

What are you planning for this summer?  Have your kids got you scheduled to the max already?  Or are you sitting pretty with nothing but empty weekends ahead?

With school out and a long summer ahead, I thought that it was time to share with you my PB&J mallomars.  A fluffy, raspberry marshmallow sits atop a moist peanut butter cookie.  I chose to coat the marshmallow in sprinkles, rather than chocolate, to keep the flavors classic.  Now is the time to get those freshly picked raspberries, so try to get the freshest and most flavorful berries.  These cookies are super moist due to the fact that I went with shortening as my fat.  If you want a crisper cookie, swap out some or all of the shortening for butter!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Relayed for Life!

This past weekend was the culmination of all of the fundraising and we had our local Relay for Life! Boyfriend and I got to participate and make many laps around the Relay track. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, since I've never done a Relay event before, but it was lots of fun for everyone.

I'm pretty sure that it was the kids that had the most fun at the event and who could blame them. It's a parentally okayed event that you get to stay up all night and run around in a field. Or that's how our Relay event turned out to be!

The official events during the course of the evening were both fun and moving. I was intrigued to learn about the reasoning for an overnight event. The event runs from 6pm to 6am and Relay is meant to mirror a persons fight against cancer.

From diagnosis, to beginning treatment, to fighting through the darkness and finally being cancer-free, the setting sun begins the fight and the rising sun brings a new tomorrow with hope for a bright future.

Unfortunately, not everyone who is diagnosed with cancer makes it through the fight. The memory of friends, family and strangers taken early by cancer are celebrated during the sunset luminary lighting. Probably the most moving part of the evening, luminary bags, decorated and dedicated, are lit with candles. These luminaries lined the track, giving the Relayers a guide through the dark, helping us continue through until sunrise.

It was a fantastic event. I would definitely recommend taking part in your local Relay for life event. I also wanted to thank you allot helping raise over $350 for our team in my online bake sale. That amount was actually matched by my company, bringing our total to just under $700! Thanks to everyone!

To give you a little extra thank you, I made you a cheesecake. Made with freshly prepared, homemade ricotta cheese and locally grown strawberries!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why Bother? 2012 - Ricotta Cheese

I don't really know why ricotta cheese wound up on my Why bother challenge list. In all of my first twenty-one years of life, I never even ate ricotta cheese! Once I ventured out on my own, living in a one bedroom apartment as a newly minted graduate student, I occasionally came across a recipe requiring ricotta. Generally I passed it over for another recipe with "less exotic" sounding ingredients. Yes, ricotta was exotic at one point in time.

A few years later, the South Beach diet was the hot way to eat and I gave it a try, along with some friends. We mostly wanted to re-vamp our eating styles, rather than lose weight. If you know anything about the program, dessert during the first phase is always sweetened ricotta cheese. I ate it, it wasn't terrible.

As my culinary skills improved, I found myself trying out more and more items from the grocery store. Eventually things like curry paste, bakers yeast and fresh ginger made their way into the fridge, ricotta finally snuck into my grocery cart as well.

You still won't find me sitting down and eating ricotta cheese straight from the container, but I really enjoy adding it to pastas, making rich lasagnas and even lightening up a cheesecake. I don't use it that often and ricotta isn't really a staple in my fridge, which is why I was surprised to see it made it onto the list this year. Must have been someone out there that requested it!

If you came here this week for mozzarella, I'm sorry to disappoint. I neglected to look ahead on my list and failed to buy rennet in time. To keep up the cheese theme, I swapped the dates for mozzarella and ricotta!

Luckily, the ingredients to make ricotta cheese are incredibly simple. Get this - milk and lemons. That's it! How much time will you devote to making your ricotta? A little over an hour of your day. And that's time you can spend making cheese and doing other things, like laundry or making breakfast. It was so much simpler than I could have hoped and the results were amazing.

Shortly after beginning to heat the milk and lemon juice, the ricotta started to come out of the milk. Little curds were floating on the surface within ten minutes of heating! Once I strained and collected my curds, I was so happy with the fluffy, white outcome.

I decided not to add any salt to the ricotta, since I had planned to make pasta and cheesecake with it, and stored it away in the fridge. Today I'll share with you the simple method for making ricotta cheese and the deliciously simple pasta I made with it later in the week. Next week you'll be treated to the cheesecake recipe!

Was making ricotta at home worth it? I enjoyed making the cheese because it was like a fun science experiment. If you want to get kids involved in cooking, this would be a great recipe to have them help you with. Would I make ricotta all the time? Probably not. You won't save any money making your own ricotta, you'll just have a lot of fun and be able to tell your friends "Yeah, I make my own cheese."

One year ago: Coconut Joys

Ricotta cheese
Adapted from Homemade Pantry

Simple, straightforward and so easy to make.  This is the gateway into making more complicated cheeses.  Starting with whole milk, the lemon juice helps to separate the curds from the whey.  Don't throw out the whey once you're done making the cheese.  Save it and put it in smoothies, use it in place of milk in bread recipes or just drink it (I wasn't so brave!).

1 gallon whole milk (don't use Ultra-pasteurized)
2/3 cup lemon juice (from about 3-4 lemons)
Salt to taste (optional)

Line a colander/strainer with a double-layer of cheesecloth.  Place over a large bowl to collect any whey that will drain through.

In a large pot, combine milk and lemon juice.  Stir for 5 seconds, but don't touch the bottom of the pot (stir the milk like this any time you stir the pot). 

Clip on thermometer and heat over low heat to 170 F, stirring occasionally.  This should take a while, between 40-55 minutes.  Once you hit 170 F, raise the heat to medium-high and don't stir anymore.  Once you hit 205 F, maintain this temperature for 3-5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. 

Using a slotted spoon, scoop out curds and transfer to the cheesecloth-lined colander.  Let the cheese drain for 10 minutes.  You've got ricotta!
Herbed-ricotta pasta
Adapted from Everyday Food

With your homemade ricotta, this meal comes together in just 15 minutes!  Chop your zucchini while the pasta is boiling and you've got a great weeknight meal.

1/2 lb short pasta, spirals or shells
2 cups frozen corn
1 cup fresh ricotta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional to sprinkle on top
1 1/2 cups chopped zucchini
1/4 cup basil, cut into ribbons
1 tbsp dill, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.  Cook pasta according to package directions, add corn in the last minute of boiling.

Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, drain pasta.

In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup pasta water, ricotta, zucchini, basil and dill.  Add pasta and corn and stir to coat.  Taste and flavor with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes

Are you like me?  Can you have breakfast for any meal of the day?  Omelets for dinner.  Bagels for lunch.  Pancakes for a late night snack.  Breakfast, the best meal of the day.  Well, almost.  I don't really like eggs for breakfast.  Eggs - fried, scrambled or over-easy - are dinner fare.

I decided that this week, rather than making pancakes for dinner, I would make a true breakfast for dessert.  Cinnamon roll cupcakes!

A simple vanilla cake, with layers of cinnamon-brown sugar, topped with a layer of cream cheese frosting.  These little treats tasted just like the breakfast buns I can't keep my hands off.  Whenever I make a batch (or can if I'm in a hurry and have a big craving) of cinnamon rolls, I always have at least two.  I know they are about a million calories each, I can't help myself.

These cupcakes were just what I wanted and I was totally satisfied with just one.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Boyfriend Foods

It's been almost an entire year that boyfriend and I have been cohabitating.  We went from eight years of long distance, living in several different states, to seeing each other everyday.

There are lots of positives.  1. I always have someone to talk to when I get home and I'm not left talking to my shoes.  2. There is someone there to plan weekend outings with. No more heading to the park by myself, unless I really want to go by myself.  3. There are far fewer leftovers and I don't have to eat the same thing for lunch all week long.

It isn't all sunshine and butterflies, of course.  Living with another person again took some getting used to and living with boyfriend wasn't like living with a roommate.  Some things became apparently true.

1. The laundry folding doesn't take half the time.  Why? Because there is twice as much laundry to fold and boyfriend folds his clothes weird. (I mean really, who folds their jeans like fancy pants?  I don't need a crease down the middle of my jeans)

2. Picking weekend events can be stressful!  This is coming from a girl who for seven years didn't have a real weekend (thank you grad school).  There were too many options now open to me!  I actually broke down one weekend because I couldn't choose between going to the beach or going to the park.  I just wanted someone to pick for me (take away my choices, choose for me!).

3. Boyfriend has an unusual set of food likes and dislikes.  I've been slowly figuring out what he likes by doing the following - Cook what I like... Discover what he has left behind on the dinner plate/bowl... Make mental note about what remained.  Yesterday, I found a pile of mushrooms in the pasta bowl.  Why? "They didn't taste mushroomy enough to be good, but I don't really like he taste of mushrooms either."  Huh, flavorless mushrooms = bad, flavorful mushrooms = also bad. Mental note created.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tangerine Pound Cake

Hi everyone!  I'm guest posting over at the Spiffy Cookie!  Stop by and say hi to Erin and enjoy a slice of this Tangerine Pound Cake! 

Have a great Wednesday!

~ Vicki

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wedding Weekends

It's been over a decade since I started my first day of college as a bright eyed art major. Those of you who know me are aware that I was not always on the path of science, not forever lab-bound. I spent the entirety of my freshman year dedicated to becoming a photographer. I'm always reminded of my photography roots whenever I head to a wedding, like boyfriend and I did this weekend.

It all started in high school, with my first photography class and senior year internship at a local photo studio. My simple internship of checking people in, organizing the studio and calling customers turned into a four year job. I graduated from desk duty to becoming an active member of the awesome photo team.

My second summer working at the studio, I started to go with the photographers to weddings, shooting as a candid observer. Black and white film loaded into my camera, I enjoyed being a fly on the wall for many a wedding. And I do mean many. Over my four years at the studio I attended at least fifty weddings (This is actually the reason I don't want to get married in my hometown!).

Come my junior year in college,I accepted an internship at a chemical company and said goodbye to my friends at the photo studio. Even though I'm a chemist through and through now, the wedding photographer in me always comes out whenever I attend a friends wedding. Boyfriend asks me why I'm taking pictures of the confetti-strew aisle and half-empty champagne glasses and I just say "I can't help it."

I also made some cookies this weekend and took their picture.  They were delicious.

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