Welcome to another edition of Burning Down The Kitchen. I started this weekly series after I realized I had bookmarked a ton of recipes from fellow bloggers but had not been making the recipes. So I thought a fun way to make it more interactive would be to interview the person whose dish I wanted to make.
One thing led to another and I started this series. It's a riot to do each week. I love learning more about the folks behind the blogs. It's incredibly fun to peek inside their minds and their kitchens. So grab a coffee, or if you're like me grab a pepsi, sit back and enjoy!
BURNING DOWN THE KITCHEN WITH LIZZY FROM THAT SKINNY CHICK CAN BAKE:
I am so pleased to welcome Liz to the asylum. Liz has been here before. She guest posted for me in January and made the most delightful Better Than Milky Way Bars. Holy moly these things were incredible. Recently I guest posted for Liz while she was on vacation. inspiration came in the form of bars while staring at all her gorgeous bar recipes. It prompted me to make Smoothie Cheesecake Bars for her. I cannot thank her enough for turning me onto bar recipes. Liz and I met through Foodbuzz and over the past year we've become very good friends. She was so supportive during mini-me's health scare this year. Liz is a kind-hearted, very nurturing type of person. We're the same age but I like to tease her and call her Mama Liz as she is such an amazing Mom, and quite honestly I want to go live with her. We have a pact that once a room frees up I'm good to go. I've got a suitcase by the door just waiting for the word.
Most of you already know Liz from visiting her wonderful blog That Skinny Chick Can Bake. She is wickedly talented and makes the most amazing desserts I've ever seen. What I love about Liz's recipes is they are easy to follow and adaptable to any skill level. She does a great job of making you feel like you can make her food and the reality is you can. She explains the process well and her recipes are down to earth, real people food. She welcomes you into her life with open arms and an open heart. Then feeds your mind, soul and body. I think she is a rare gem and am so thankful to have gotten to know her over the past year.
I encourage you to go poke around her site. She has incredible range when it comes to cooking. I like variety in the blogs I read and you get that in spades at That Skinny Chick Can Bake. She makes wonderful desserts like Pastry Wrapped Caramel Apples that will make you want to reach into your screen and snag one. I have her Chewy Gingersnap Cookies bookmarked to make for my hubs. I am also in love with her Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies but those are just for me, not sharing those ones. She made Peanut Butter Cups one month that just about gave me a heart attack, who knew you could do that? She made Coffee Ice Cream that my hubs would go nuts for, I am not a coffee fan but he loves the stuff. She made a cake called Near Death by Chocolate that will blow your minds. She made Egg Shaped Brownies that are too cute for words. There's a Penne with Sausage and Tomatoes recipe that has my name all over it. It also had her dog's name on it and you'll love the photo when you see it. Her Ginger Flank Steak is amazing and inspired me to go buy flank steak for the first time. Liz's Lasagna is the first thing I want her to make me when I move in with her. This lady can cook and bake up a storm. You will end up spending a whole day reading her blog and drooling over her gorgeous treats when you visit.
Here's hoping the secret to her skinny bod while eating all that fabulous food is revealed. I think we're all dying to know how she maintains that gorgeous figure when she bakes the way she does. I am in complete awe every time I see a photo of her. Please tell me your secret Liz. It's okay, I will keep it to myself. If it's black magic it's okay. I am willing to take some chances in life if it means I can see my waistline again.
Rapidfire Q & A with Liz from That Skinny Chick Can Bake:
1. What inspired you to start a food blog?
I had been sharing recipes with my on-line foodie friends for years, but the idea of documenting them with photos for local friends and family was quite enticing, so I jumped in without having a clue as to what I was doing!
2. What would you say are the pros and cons of it?
The pros are all the amazing, supportive people I've met in the past two years...fellow bloggers who share their impressive knowledge, delicious recipes and good humor. The cons include having to take photos while the hungry family is waiting at the table...and all the time it takes to support fellow bloggers and to promote yourself.
3. How do you juggle kids and blogging? Any advice for busy moms?
Thank goodness my kids are older and quite independent...but I still need to cook meals, do laundry, and all that exciting stuff. I certainly could not have allotted the same amount of time to blogging 10 years ago when I was driving to and from after school activities and helping with the dreaded homework. Organization is key...and having a calendar with scheduled posts, future guest posts and group posts is imperative. I'm still looking for that perfect balance.
4. Tell us how you got started doing the French Fridays with Dorie? (I've been considering joining myself.)
One of my sweet on-line friends told me about this new cook along series for bloggers...Tuesdays with Dorie was not taking any more members at the time, and she knew I had received Dorie's latest cookbook as a birthday gift. It gave me a set post for every Friday...and helped me develop many marvelous friendships. I’d be thrilled if you joined us, Kim!
5. What's a typical day like for you?
LOL...not very exciting! I wake up before dawn, make sure my youngest gets off to school (a huge slow poke in the morning), sign on the computer while getting my caffeine fix to check email, blogs, foodie sites, etc. Hot yoga, errands, planning dinner and blog posts along with the humdrum chores of laundry, etc keep me on my toes the rest of the day. I'm also involved in 3 charitable organizations...and will be the director of Functions next year for the longest running Decorators' Show House in the country.
6. I honestly want to know, how do you stay so skinny when you bake and cook like you do?
I seriously watch what I eat 95% of the time...limiting fats (except for cookie dough…LOL), eating a vegan or vegetarian breakfast and lunch, and indulging in just a little sweet treat after dinner...a cookie or a small serving of a the latest dessert. And I make sure I exercise almost every day...from an hour to 2 ¼ hours a day split between running and hot yoga. Now you know why there is constantly a pile of wrinkled clothes on my ironing board :/
7. Do your kids like to cook? What about your hubby?
Heck no to both. They can boil frozen veggies and make mac and cheese from a box. One time, a few years back, I had a horrible stomach virus and was in bed all day and night. Hubby made dinner. The rice was fixed with water and rice...not a speck of seasoning or butter. My oldest could not choke it down...without salt, it was nasty. It took him about a year before he ever requested rice for dinner. He does a nice job manning the grill, though…I am, however, in charge of the marinade and flavorings. ☺
8. Do you have a dream foodie vacation you would love to do one day?
Definitely back to Italy. I have friends who have hired an Italian "Mama" to cook for them while in Tuscany...doesn't that sound fun?
9. Where do you get your inspiration from for cooking?
Magazines, cookbooks, TV, fellow bloggers...and then there are those 20+ binders of recipes that I've been printing off the Internet since the early '90's. There is no shortage of inspiration!
10. Which do you like better, cooking or baking?
Definitely baking...cooking dinner often seems like a chore...especially when one doesn't like meat, and the other 3 are carnivores. Hubby also has a loooooong list of ingredients he doesn't like (fake "allergies" is what he jokingly claims). I've always loved to bake...my mom let us experiment in the kitchen and I learned to make pies and cream puffs as a teen. And though I can make an incredible entree, nothing compares to the glorious feedback after a bite of an exquisite dessert.
11. Do you have a signature dish you make for company?
If I know they are chocolate lovers, I'd say a bête noire...a sensational flourless chocolate cake served with berries and whipped cream.
12. Is there anything you won't eat?
Hmmmm…I had to think long and hard…escargot? Organ meats? Chocolate covered insects? Yeah, I think I’d have to pass on those.
13. Milk chocolate or dark chocolate?
Milk …though white is a definite contender!
14. Butter or margarine?
Butter for sure!
15. Sweet or salty for snacking?
Ooh, I have a love-hate relationship with salt…so irresistible, but I puff up something fierce if I eat too much.
16. Nutella, Biscoff or Peanut Butter?
Straight up? Biscoff. In recipes? Peanut Butter.
17. Coke or pepsi?
Diet Coke used to be part of my breakfast…or maybe ALL of my breakfast. I quit drinking sodas about 10 years ago.
18. Apron or no apron?
No apron unless I’m spiffed up.
19. If you could cook with one celebrity chef who would it be and what would you make?
Sara Moulton. I’d have her help me perfect my pie crust.
20. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Is blogging still a big part of the picture for you?
I hope I’m still blogging, but posting only one or two times a week.
Dare Portion of Burning Down The Kitchen:
Dare option #1: Show us where you shop!
Dare option #2: Show us you in your kitchen mid baking spree!
Dare option #3: Show us your junk food stash!
Thanks to Liz for sharing her world with us today. I for one am starting hot yoga immediately. I have no idea what it is but if it makes me look like Liz and still be able to bake up a storm I'm totally in. And can I just say I love all the baking supplies. I love the bars all stacked up on the middle shelf. Am I the only one zooming in to see what everything is?
Okay so I made Liz's Ultimate Turtle Brownies for this. Come on now, are you really so surprised. I mean the woman made turtles in bar form, and they're brownies. I am the ultimate Turtle fan. Should this come as a huge surprise. I know I should have went out on a limb and made something utterly out of my normal range for this post but they're freaking brownies...that taste like Turtles. Come on people. I had to do it. And did it I did. Wait...what? Okay obviously someone has eaten too many brownies and is not thinking clearly. I have no idea who that someone is but I'll let you guess.
These were adapted by Liz from Cook's Illustrated.
Ultimate Turtle Brownies
For the Caramel:
- ¼ cup heavy cream plus 2 additional tablespoons
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1¼ cups white sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Brownies:
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 stick, cut into pieces
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate chopped
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate chopped
- 2 teaspoons Cocoa Powder
- ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ? cup pecans + 25 whole halves
- ? cup good quality chocolate chips
For the Caramel:
- In a small bowl measure out the cream. Add the salt, and stir to dissolve it completely. Set this aside.
- In a small saucepan, mix together water and corn syrup. Use a funnel or spoon to carefully add the sugar to the middle of the sauce pan, making sure NOT to touch the sides of the pot. (When sugar crystals touch the side of the pan it can cause the mixture to crystallize and it will become grainy.)Now place the mixture over medium high heat and stir gently until the sugar begins to dissolve, and the edges are just beginning to boil.
- Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Let the mixture boil until it is completely clear. (When you cover the pot it allows the steam to roll down the sides of the pan and dissolve the sugar crystals.)
- Remove the lid from the pot, continuing to boil the mixture until it reaches 290 degrees on a candy thermometer. Lower your heat to medium low,continuing to cook, swirl the pot occasionally until the mixture is lightly amber and reaches 360 degrees.
- Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cream. The caramel will now bubble, hiss and release a lot of steam, do not panic! This is normal! Keep stirring, making certain to scrape the bottom and sides as you go along. Once the caramel stops bubbling and acting crazy, add your room temperature butter and vanilla, and stir it until it is smooth, thick and well combined.
- Set the caramel aside.
For the Brownies:
- Set aside 25 perfect pecan halves to go on top of your brownies. Chop the rest finely, or place in a ziploc and whack the heck out of them.
- Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees.
- Take your pan, I used an 8 x 8 pan. Line it with parchment. I take two long strips, wet them slightly and place one in each direction with a little hanging over the sides. Keeps the brownies from sticking to the pan and makes it easy to lift them out when you want to cut them. You can spray the parchment with non stick spray if you like.
- Combine both chocolates and your butter in a microwave safe bowl. Gently heat till chocolate is melted. I tend to go in 15 second increments to make sure it is mixing well and does not burn. Stir in the cocoa powder and mix.
- Whisk in the flour and the baking powder.
- In a larger bowl beat your sugar, salt, vanilla, and eggs. Whisk in the chocolate and blend until combined, I almost find using a wooden spoon best about half way through so the mixture does not get stuck all over the whisk.
- Gently fold in flour with a rubber spatula, or wooden spoon until almost combined. DO NOT over mix! Add your pecan and stir lightly. Again, do not over mix.
- Pour half of your brownie mixture into your parchment lined pan and smooth it out.
- Warm up your caramel in the microwave for a few seconds. Dribble about a quarter of a cup of the warm caramel over top of the brownie batter. It can be messy, it does not have to be perfect.
- Add the remaining brownie batter on top, and smooth it out.
- Place in your preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle chocolate chips on top of the brownies. Cover with a plate or parchment paper to allow it to melt and spread out. Remove the cover and smooth out the melted chocolate chips.
- Allow brownies to cool for at least an hour and a half if you can, this part is tough.
- Warm up the remaining caramel until it pours easily.Takes about 30ish seconds in the microwave.
- Pour the caramel over top of the brownies.
- Place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, if you can. Again this is the hard part.
- Take brownies out of the fridge and use the edges of parchment to lift them out onto a cutting board.
- Cut into pieces, topping each with a pecan half.
- Serve with a big old Turtle loving smile!
I would like to thank Liz for this wickedly delightful recipe. It was incredible and I will be making it often. You know my obsession with Turtles in the stuff of legends so this was perfection. Such a great recipe.
A huge thanks to Liz for allowing us into her world and sharing her life with us. I really enjoyed learning more about her. We now know the secret behind that skinny bod, hot yoga. How cool is that. I loved peeking into Liz's cupboards as well. It's just so much fun to see into the kitchens of other bloggers. So thanks Mama Liz, I now know where to find all the good stuff when I move in. It'll make the transition easier if I know where the chocolate is right off the bat, trust me!
Please take some time to pop over to That Skinny Chick Can Bake and say hi to Liz. You will love her as much as I do. Honestly, most of the foodie community has a pact to make her place a commune for a get together of epic proportions. I look forward to it, as I am sure Liz does too. All of us camping in her backyard. Well, except me of course since I'll have my own room by then. I encourage you all to follow Liz's blog and also follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
Toodles and smoochies! xx