Monthly Archives: October 2011

Smith Pasta Carbonara

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I have tried many variations of Pasta Carbonara, ranging from having a raw egg on top (an Australian version, not so good) to pancetta and peas mixed in. After getting married, my husband and I decided that we would try to implement as many new recipes into our diet as possible. One recipe that we wanted to make the best possible version of was Pasta Carbonara. I went through so many recipes online but couldn’t find one that epitomized what Pasta Carbonara meant to us. Thus, the creation of our own version! The definition of “carbonara” means “a sauce for pasta containing eggs, minced bacon or ham, grated cheese, and seasonings” (The Free Dictionary).

Smith Pasta Carbonara
8 oz. egg noodles
1/2 lb. bacon, diced
1/2 cup chopped onions (we’ve used yellow and red, they each give different flavors)
4 oz. sliced mushrooms (optional)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup grated or shredded cheese (we use what we have on hand…sharp cheddar, Italian blend…play around with different types until you find one that you like)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta, drain, run warm water over egg noodles, set aside.
Cook bacon in large skillet until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, place on paper towels to absorb grease.
Pour out remaining bacon grease, leaving about 2 tbsp in the pan.
Saute onions and mushrooms for about 2 minutes. Remove from skillet and drain.
Melt butter in skillet.
Add the pasta, bacon, onion and mushroom. Add cheese, salt and pepper. Stir until blended.
Add eggs gradually and mix for a minute or so until well blended.
Remove from heat and serve. Should make about 4 servings.

Please eat slowly and savor the delicious flavors. I tend to eat one scrumptious noodle at a time, while my husband on the other hand gobbles it down immediately, which isn’t anything new 😛

Lucky Charms Cupcakes

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These cupcakes are so simple to make…all you need are the cupcakes and a few simple decorations. You can use a box mix or make them from scratch. For these I used vanilla frosting, green sugar sprinkles, and Lucky Charms marshmallows. You can even get fancy and bake some of the cereal into your cupcakes too! I made these cute cupcakes for my students as a treat for St. Patrick’s Day earlier this year. They loved them!

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes w/ Bailey’s Buttercream Frosting

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This was the first cupcake recipe that I attempted after reading The Cupcakery Blog. I saw it mentioned in a friend’s post on Facebook after she tried baking these. I hadn’t ever been much into reading blogs, but once I saw The Cupcakery, I was hooked! After reading a little bit of the current post, I decided that I would go back to the beginning and try every cupcake recipe that sounded appealing to me, starting at the beginning. The first one that caught my sweet tooth was the Chocolate Guinness Cupcake. Then I saw that it had Bailey’s in it and I started drooling. I love anything with Bailey’s or Kahlua…yum 🙂 I had never attempted a cupcake with so many ingredients and directions, so I was a little nervous making these. It definitely took forever (and made 60 cupcakes!) but believe me – they were DELICIOUS! Everyone that was able to try them told me how yummy they were. This recipe is definitely a keeper if you have the time. 

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
(makes about 60…you can cut the recipe in half if needed)

2 cups Guinness Extra Stout
2 cups unsalted butter
1.5 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tbsp baking soda
1.5 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sour cream
1 package semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line baking pan with cupcake liners.

Bring Guinness and butter to simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Do not boil.
Add cocoa powder and wisk until smooth. Let cool for a few minutes.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk until blended.
Beat eggs and sour cream in another bowl until blended. Use an electric mixer if you have one.
Add the Guinness mixture to the egg mixture and beat until combined.
Add the flour mixture and beat on low until combined.
Gently mix in the chocolate chips.
Spoon the batter into your cupcake tins and bake 17-22 minutes. Let cool completely on wire racks.

Chocolate Ganache

12 oz package semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

Combine ingredients in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler you can make one with items that you most likely already have in your kitchen (saucepan and smaller pan). How to make your own double boiler. Continue to mix ingredients over boiling water until smooth and melted. Spread the ganache over the cooled cupcakes and let them harden. To make this process go quicker you can stick the tray in your fridge.

Bailey’s Buttercream Frosting

1 stick unsalted butter – softened
2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp + 1 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp lemon juice
2.5 tbsp Bailey’s Irish Cream

Using your electric mixer, cream butter and salt 30 seconds.
Add half of the powdered sugar and the milk and beat again until combined. Scrape the bowl so that it’s all at the bottom.
Add the rest of the powdered sugar, vanilla and lemon juice. Beat until combined. Scrape the bowl again.
Add the Bailey’s and beat on high for 5 minutes or until fluffy.
Stir the frosting before using and pipe or spread onto cupcakes.
Lick your fingers and then ENJOY 🙂 

Smith Fun Night “G” Edition – A Charlie Brown Christmas

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Smith Fun Night “G” Edition took place on Saturday, December 4, 2010.

Ginger Glazed Cocktail Ribs
Garlic Garlic Dip (from Tastefully Simple…check them out they make delicious stuff!)
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Guacamole & Chips
Green Beans Farm Style
German Chocolate Cake with Toffee Bits
Gingerbread Cupcakes
Green Appletinis

Entertainment: The Goonies (you can’t go wrong with The Goonies!)
We also ended up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas complete with scene re-enactments from our guests. We laughed so hard. Simple fun, that’s all you need 🙂

Wisconsin Beer & Cheese Soup

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Here it is…as promised in an earlier post. This recipe is one of our fave soup recipes from the Crock-Pot Slow Cooker Best Loved Recipes book. Now that the weather is starting to get cooler we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our crockpot to come out of summer hibernation so that we can use it again. And yes, we know that it can be used year round, but there’s just something so enticing about taking it out once it gets cooler. It makes everything feel warmer, and smell yummier too! We made this recipe for our “W” party and there definitely wasn’t enough. Brendan didn’t even get to try any that evening. We made more the next night for dinner…it was that yummy 🙂

Wisconsin Beer & Cheese Soup
(makes about 4 servings)

2 to 3 slices rye bread
1 can 14.5 oz chicken broth
1 cup beer
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
3/4 tsp dried thyme
6 oz shredded American cheese
4 to 6 oz shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp paprika

For Croutons:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Slice bread into 1/2 inch cubes and place on a baking sheet. Bake 10-12 min until crisp, stirring once. Set aside.

For Soup:
Combine broth, beer, onion, garlic & thyme in crockpot. Cover and cook on low 4 hours.

Turn crockpot to high. Stir in cheeses, milk, and paprika. Cover and cook 45 min to 1 hour, or until soup is hot and cheese is melted. Stir well to blend cheeses. Ladle into bowls and top with the croutons. ENJOY!

Raspberry Spinach Salad

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When I made this salad for Smith Fun Night “R” Edition, it got so many oohs and ahhs. Here’s the recipe:

Raspberry Spinach Salad
Makes 6 servings

2 tbsp raspberry vinegar
2 tbsp seedless raspberry jam
1/3 cup corn oil
4 cups torn fresh spinach, tightly packed (about 5 oz)
1 cup fresh raspberries

Optional:
1 3.5 oz jar lightly salted macadamia nuts, chopped
3 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced

Process vinegar and jam in a blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides. With blender on high, gradually add oil in a slow, steady stream: blend until thickened.

Combine spinach and remaining 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss gently.

(From the “Cookin’ Quickies” Mr. Food cookbook)

I did not add macadamia nuts or kiwi, but it would definitely give the salad additional pizzazz! I served the dressing and raspberries on the side so people could add as they please. Let me tell you…I’m not a fan of fresh raspberries (but I love the flavoring of raspberries!), but this was yummy!  Definitely a keeper recipe 🙂

Smith Fun Night – “R” & “W” Editions

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Smith Fun Night “R” Edition happened on September 24, 2010. Here are the details:

Roasted Garlic Dip – My food processor ate up the blade cover that someone (maybe it was me…) forgot to remove before using.
Raspberry Spinach Salad – YUM! (recipe in future post)
Ravioli Skillet Lasagna – Yum again!
Rice Krispie Treats
Ranger Cookies
Root Beer Floats – (I don’t even know if we made any!)
Roasty Toasties – What a yummy beverage 🙂
Rum & Cokes
Rogue beer

We watched “Robin Hood: Men In Tights” – It was my first time seeing it…be proud!

Smith Fun Night “W” Edition also served as our Halloween party for the year. It took place on October 30, 2010.

Wings – 2 Ways
White Cheddar Popcorn
Wisconsin Beer & Cheese Soup – DELICIOUS! (recipe in future post)
Wicked Good Halloween Pasta
Wonderful Pumpkin Brownies
Weird Creepcakes – If you have some extra time, these are so fun to decorate!

Drinks:
Witch’s Punch
Wild Scary Berry Cosmos
Woo-Woos
White Russians

Entertainment:
“When a Stranger Calls”
“The Witches”

Everyone dressed up, and the best part was when Lefay – otherwise known as Matt- came up to the back slider with his chainsaw and Frank threw his drink across the room from being so startled. CLASSIC! 😛

 

The First Ever Smith Fun Night – “S” Edition

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I feel like I should get everyone up to date on our Smith Fun Nights. The first ever Smith Fun Night took place on August 27, 2010. It was scheduled as our official housewarming party, even though we bought our house in February of that year. The letter was chosen by my husband Brendan and it was the letter S. What an appropriate letter to start with 🙂 Here is the menu from that night:

Dinner:
Spinach Salad
Salsa Verde Dip
Southwestern Chicken Wraps
Stromboli

Drinks:
Strawberry Lemonade
Southern Rock
Serenades

Dessert:
Snickerdoodle Cookies
Strawberry Cupcakes

Entertainment:
Viewing of all 3 Shrek movies (we got through the first 2)
Scene-It Squabble

We wished a very happy birthday to Rob that night.

Click for recipe

Next letter up…R!

The Beginning of The Optimistic Baker

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Why hello there! I have decided, after receiving lots of positive feedback, that I would start a blog. And here I am! I am hoping that this will become a great outlet for me to post about gatherings, recipes, and new discoveries (both food and life related!). I am sure that you will also get plenty of updates on my kitties, Coco and Dunkin, and my shoe purchases 😛 My love for shoes is almost as great as my love for baking and cooking. As I write, I hope to make you hungry with each and every food post 🙂 I am inspired by so many things, and I hope to find more inspiration through this blog, as well as inspire those who read it. I am open to suggestions and comments, and will gladly bake for those who request it (time and energy permitting of course)! Happy baking…