Cooking can be an adventure - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Cooking can be an adventure

truffles

Well, where do I begin? Recently I was asked if I would be interested in authoring a cooking blog. Apparently my husband told someone that I would be totally willing to do the blog, and one thing led to another – and here I am, writing my first entry.

I’ll begin by telling you a bit about my cooking background. I grew up in a home with a mother who knows how to cook EVERYTHING. Well, at least I thought she knew how to cook everything. I don’t think I was the brightest kid in the world, and when I would ask my mom if I could help cook something, she’d just get frustrated  with me and take over everything I attempted to do. I didn’t even know how to add a cup of flour properly to cookie dough batter. So, I wasn’t much of a cook when I went on to college.

In college, my diet would consist of the late night munchies and adding red pepper flakes to a delivered pizza or dipping everything in Ranch dressing was my idea of creativity in the kitchen. Needless to say, my cooking skills were not something that I was proud of.

In the summer of 2008 I got married to a truly wonderful man (you know, the one who suggested I do this blog). When we got married, he knew more about cooking than I did, and he made me some impressive meals. I called him the grill master. As the months went on, I began to take more of an interest in the kitchen.  My husband still laughs at me because when I first started to cook I would serve things such as glorified chips and cheese for dinner. Yes, this is what I would serve when I first started cooking, as a main course:

GLORIFIED CHIPS AND CHEESE

Ingredients:
-Salted Tortilla Chips
-Lots of Shredded Cheddar Cheese or Pepper Jack Cheese
-Canned Refried Beans
-Canned Black Olives
-Old El Paso Salsa

Beth baking in her kitchen

Directions:
Preheat oven to 280 degrees. Spread Chips over an oven safe dish, and tops with grated cheese. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with warmed refried beans, chopped olives, and salsa.

He might still laugh at me, but hey, baked chips and cheese is quite tasty. Now I can cook much better, much more interesting dinners. Chips and Cheese is a thing of the past, and now if we are craving Mexican, I’ll make something like Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos.

I also got into baking, and baking also started with baby steps. I would take a box recipe, and I would “doctor” it up by adding different things to the mix. Then I would usually top with something homemade, such as a homemade frosting. My baking kind of went out of control for a while, because I became the “snacktician” on my husband’s sailing team. I didn’t’ want any duties on the boat, so my only role was to provide treats at the end of each race. During the winter of 2009, I got really into making truffles. I never in a million years thought that I would be able to make truffles. I found fun recipes on blogs, and also found a truffle cookbook when visiting my mother. A couple of weeks ago, I made coconut truffles – without any recipe to follow – and they turned out pretty darn good.

I still pretty much consider myself an amateur in the kitchen, but my friends and others rave about certain things that I have made. Learning how to cook has been a progression, which I hope will be a lifelong progression. I’m thankful to have made some friends who enjoy getting together for cooking adventures, where we work together to try new things. I am also so happy to have learned about great cooking blogs on the Internet, where I have gotten tips and ideas.

What I have found about cooking is that it is always an adventure, sometimes a wonderful one, and at other times it can be disastrous. But cooking or baking can be a way to unwind, and it is so fun to create amazing food that you can share with others. I know that when I’m cooking for my friends or my family, that I want to make them smile or make their jaws drop and have them say things like “This is the best thing I have ever tasted in my life.’ It is so fun to cook for the people who I love.

My hope is to be able to post about tips, products, recipes, adventures, and whatever else comes to mind. I hope to be able to post recipes that I would have been able to understand back in 2008, when I was just starting to experiment in the kitchen.  I also hope that my future entries will be a lot shorter than this one!

I’m going to end my first entry with the coconut truffle recipe, which I thought of the other day while baking coconut macaroons. I hope you enjoy the recipe. Thanks so much for stopping by.

 

COCONUT TRUFFLES

Makes about 35 – 45
Prep Time for Coconut Mixture – 5 MINUTES

Mixture sits preferably OVERNIGHT in fridge

Prep Time for Shaping – 15 MINUTES

Shaped Coconut Balls in Freezer for AT LEAST 4 hours

Prep Time for Dipping in Chocolate – 15 MINUTES

Ingredients:
-One bag of sweetened shredded coconut
-One can of sweetened condensed milk
-3 TBSP of flour
-1.5 – 2 tsp of vanilla extract
-1 – 1.5 tsp of almond extract
-16 squares of Baker’s Semisweet Chocolate Baking Squares (2 boxes), broken in half.

Directions:

Combine coconut, condensed milk, flour, vanilla extract, and almond extract in a bowl. Mix until well combined. Cover bowl and put in refrigerator, preferably OVERNIGHT.

Form mixture into 1 – 1.5 inch round balls. OPTIONAL – add slices of almond or toasted almond to coconut mixture after they have been shaped in to balls. To do this, take the almond and press it firmly on top.

Place balls onto foil lined container(s), cover container(s) with foil and put into freezer. Freeze for at least 4 hours.

After freeze time, place a silicone baking mat or parchment paper over a baking sheet. This is where you will drop the truffles once they are dipped.

Set stovetop to medium high. Put about a cup or so of water in double boiler. Set on stove and allow water to begin simmering.

Place chocolate pieces inside a medium-sized metal pot. Once steam is starting to rise from double boiler, place the pot with chocolate on top of the boiler, and stir until  the chocolate is fully melted.  When chocolate is close to being fully melted, get coconut balls out of the freezer and remove the foil. Once the chocolate is fully melted, turn stovetop off and remove the pot from the boiler. Use a spoon to place one ball into chocolate,  swirl around in chocolate until covered in chocolate on all sides. Use spoon to place the dipped truffle on baking mat, repeat until all truffles are dipped.  Put truffles in the fridge to harden up. After 10 to 15 minutes, start to indulge.

Don’t have a double boiler? Check prices here.

Need a silicone baking mat? Silpats are the best I highly recommend one, and you can find them here .

COOKING TIP OF THE WEEK

When making a new recipe for the first time, be sure to fully study a recipe, even if it looks simple at first glance. Check the ingredients and kitchen tools to make sure you have everything you need, and make sure you have ample time to make the recipe before it needs to be served.  Following these simple rules will save you a lot of stress in the kitchen.



About the author

Beth Whitesell

Looking for more recipes from Beth? Find recipes at bakeitmakeitwithbeth.com. Beth loves to cook foods of all types and is not afraid to try new things in the kitchen. She has learned a lot through cooking blogs and is happy to share what she has learned in the past few years with you. Contact the author.
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