Instant Food

Normally I’m not that big a fan of instant food–I figure if you’re going to eat, you should make it worth it and eat something awesome, but things are different when more than half your things are in boxes. So I figured I’d write a post about the different instant foods I tried out before my kitchen was all the way unpacked.

The first thing I tried (and can’t find pictures of) was a frozen make-it-yourself orange chicken dish. It was neat because you actually were supposed to cook it in a skillet, not the mircowave, and the ingredients were separated for you to throw in like you normally would while cooking. The only thing that was done for you was the frying of the chicken. It came out really tasty, but a little too much for two people, but hooray for leftovers!

The next interesting one I tried was a prepackaged paella. Sounds weird, right? I’ve had real paella before, so I wasn’t even going to consider boxed paella until it was highly recommended to me by a customer.

It comes with seasoned rice and canned seafood.

And like the orange chicken, you cook it in a single skillet, all you need to add is water and stir a little. Overall, I liked the taste, but the mussels were a really weird, almost crumbly texture, so that made me kind of sad because mussels are normally super tasty. So I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it considering it was about $5 and that you can get a similar tasting rice for around a dollar:

Then there’s also the really simple stuff.

Grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh yeah.

I’ve made a few other things too, like butterkase-fontina fondue with chicken, apples, and bread for dipping, pudding (which I’ll be writing about later), and some more upgraded pasta. So I’ve found out that even if most of your stuff disappeared one day, there’s still plenty to cook.

Yellow Cake and Cherry 7 Up Icing

So I got a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer for Christmas and it’s pretty awesome.

It’s artisan 🙂

And the first thing I made with it was yellow cake and Cherry 7 Up Icing.

The yellow cake recipe came from the recipe book included with the mixer. It’s pretty basic.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup low-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

I did it a little differently, and it may have affected the cooking time. Instead of shortening I used butter and instead of low-fat, I used whole milk.

You can do this without a stand mixer, but for the butter, you’ll probably at least need a hand mixer.

Start by mixing the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) then add the liquids (shortening, milk, vanilla) and mix some more for about a minute total. Make sure to stop to scrape the bowl when you need to. Last, add the eggs. My booklet says to mix on speed 2 for 30 seconds, scrape the bowl and mix for another minute on speed 6.

I also wanted to test out one of those infomercial Big Top Cupcake molds. I got one at work for free and it seemed like a neat idea.

Basically the molds make your cake to look like a giant cupcake. They even leave room for a filling. It’s a pretty neat idea, but didn’t quite turn out right for me.

The bottom didn’t bake high enough and the top baked too rounded so that it filled up the filling hole. It has potential, and it came with its own recipes, so maybe had I followed one of theirs it would have made a difference… It still tasted good, though.

While the cake was cooling, I made the icing. You always want to make sure your cake isn’t still warm when you put on the icing. If not it will melt and be very hard to work with. Even still, the icing I made wasn’t super firm and was kind of hard to work with but again, it tasted good.

It was to be a basic buttercream icing, but I flavored it with Cherry 7 Up. To do that I had to boil down the soda.

That step took forever! You want to do it on a low heat so that you don’t agitate the sugars too much (according to Albert). You want to cook it down to a thick syrupy consistency.

And what I was always told about buttercream when I worked in the bakery is that you need equal parts fat and sugar. Butter was my fat and I used powdered sugar because it blends in better and ends up tasting better too. You also have to make sure that the butter is soft enough. One thing you can do is leave it on the counter when you start mixing the cake batter. Bu the time you put the cake in the oven and rinse off the mixer, it’ll be soft enough to work with. Once I mixed my butter and sugar, I added the syrup.

I ended up having to add more sugar, about a half cup at a time. I think I added maybe a cup and a half extra… but I don’t remember for sure. I think the more sugar you add, the thicker it gets, and the easier it becomes to work with. I also over-whipped it so that it would go farther. It also makes it taste a little less sweet and I think better. (I’ve never been much for icing, the lighter and fluffier it is, the better.)

Once the icing is done, decorate to your liking! I made mine into an ugly pineapple with twizzler accents.

To make it prettier, there are two things I should have done.

1. Shave off the edges of the cake so that they’re more uniform and therefore easier to ice.

2. Make more icing for better coverage. (I didn’t have quite enough, and so there are places where you can see through a little.)

But, what matters is that it tasted good and looked silly.

And as for the verdict on the mixer and molds, I really like the mixer and can’t wait to play with it more and I want to use the molds more before passing judgment.