What’s a Grilled Cheese Invitational?  Every year during National Grilled Cheese Month (yes, it really exists) there is the Grilled Cheese Invitational right here in LA.  Of course its always on a Saturday and during the day, so that means I don’t get to go because I’m teaching at the shop every Saturday.  So I decided to host my very own Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational.

 

 

The day before I went to my local Trader Joe’s and picked up seven kinds of cheeses and three kinds of breads.  Then on Sunday Rory went over to one of our favorite local breakfast places, Zabies and picked up a Rosemary loaf I ordered a few days before.  The types of cheeses we had were: Double Creme Brie, Mild Cheddar, Imberico from Spain, Tripple Creme Brie with Wild Mushrooms, Semi-soft Fontina, American, and Raclette.  The bread choices were a rustic style French bread, Cracked Wheat Sourdough, Pretzel Challah, and the Rosemary bread.  I also made sure to pick up some other key ingredients for the Grilled Cheese Invitaional- tomato, avocado, basil, garlic, onions, butter (of course), pear and prosciutto.  Here are a few pictures of all the cheese.

 

   

 

There were only a few rules, everyone had to make a sandwich, you have to make at least three of one type of sandwich (so everyone can taste the sandwich), the scoring was from 1-10.  Of course with my friends, every singe rule was broken.  Boys watched some kind of sporting event on TV instead, Veronica made only two that she cut three ways each, and people scored numbers that were not between 1-10.

Nicole (my sister and model) was the first one to made a sandwich… I can’t really remember what went in it- I think it was garlic, onions, tomato, butter and the cheeses were Fontina & Imberico (that part I remember) and she used the Cracked Wheat Sourdough bread then popped it under the broiler.  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of Nicole’s first sandwich because we were so excited to eat that it wasn’t until after that we remembered.  But I do have a cool action shot of Nicole in the kitchen.

 

 

Next was Veronica (I named the Veronica’s Mitts after her).  She started with a guacamole (that she made) and then used the Imberico & Soft Fontina along with the Rosemary bread and threw in some thinly sliced onions and cooked it on the skillet with butter (of course).  Veronica gave me a hard time when I was watching her cook, so there are no “action” shots, but here is a picture of her finished sandwich. Yum!

 

 

I was up next.  I wanted to kick this competition into high gear.  I sliced some onions and cooked them in butter and white truffle oil and then added a few garlic cloves as well as a rosemary and thyme bundle.  Then I put the onions aside and sauteed some thinly sliced pear in the same skillet.  I took the garlic from when I cooked the onions and mashed it up into a paste an mixed it in with some butter and (fat-free) mayo (how do they make that?).  Then I took the rosemary bread and made a layer of Imberico then topped it off with the onions and pears, then a layer of the Raclette.  It went into the skillet and browned until it got all gooey.  When it was about 5 seconds away from being ready I took them all off the skillet, spread one side with the garlic paste I made and threw them in for another five seconds.  Here are a couple pictures:

 

       

 

After that we were all a little tired of cooking and the game was over, so we decided to take a break and go to the beach for a little while.  We drove over to Will Rodgers beach and just hung out there for about an hour or so until we were ready to head back home for some more cheese.

 

When we got back Nicole was very excited to get started again.  She started to crisp up some thinly sliced pieces of the Prezel Challah in the toaster oven.  Then she made some kind of mustard-butter paste (I wasn’t really paying attention, I was on Pretzel Challah crisping duty).  She used the Sourdough for the outside then out in a layer of Semi-soft Fontina, a layer of the crisped Prezel Challah, a layer of Tripple Creme with Wild Mushrooms and then spread the mustard paste over the top slice (on the outside), and then popped it into the oven and then then the broiler.  After it was all golden brown and crispy she added some freshly chopped tomato to the center and served.  It was very good.

 

   

 

Then I decided to make one more sandwich.  I was pulled out the big guns!  I had made some of my mac-n-cheese for Thanksgiving and threw in a separate batch into the freezer for the perfect day.  Two days ago I pulled it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to defrost.  I warmed it up in the oven (man I forgot how good this stuff is!) and was got ready for the sandwich of a lifetime.  Woohoo!  The Macaroni and Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich!  Yes!  I pulled out the Pretzel Challah for this one and put a layer of Cheddar, a layer of The Mac, and a layer of American.  That is all.  I greased the baking sheet with olive oil spray and covered the sandwiches in it as well and put it in the oven.  Here are a couple of photos so you can see the decadence.  It was very gooey (I promise), and yummy!

 

     

 

After that it was all over.  That was the heaviest sandwich ever!  It was pretty good too.  I think Nicole’s first sandwich was the best one of the whole day.  The other judges did not agree.  Veronica got first place with her guacamole grilled cheese sandwich.  I guess we all should have used some avocado to level the playing field.  Here are a couple of pictures of Veronica with her prize!

 

      

 

She got a wonderful and very official certificate and a coupe of washcloths I knitted up from Mason Dixon Knitting (a personal favorite).  I wanted to make a t-shirt for the prize, but I ran out of time.  Next year I might made an apron as a prize for the winnder, with pictures of cheese everywhere.  Haha!  So my little gathering was quite successful and that included a detour to the beach.  We had fun and can’t wait until next year!  Woohoo!

A couple days ago I had a hankering for some coconut cupcakes.  Yum!  I went online and found a few recipes.  After looking through all of them I had it narrowed down to Martha’s recipe and the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe.  It wasn’t a hard choice when I looked at the ingredients – the Barefoot Contessa wanted me to use SIX sticks of butter for 20 cupcakes!  Are you kidding me?  So naturally I went with Martha.

I used this recipe here – but of course I am terrible at following directions.  So I goofed a little.  When I was reading the instructions it said to pre-heat the oven (check!), then to whisk all the dry ingredients together.  So I did that…. then it said to cream the butter and sugar together. Damn it Martha!  Sugar is a dry ingredient!  I had only butter and coconut milk in my sad wet ingredient bowl and then this big dry ingredient bowl with flour, baking powder, salt, coconut and of course sugar.

I continued to mix – I figured if these cupcakes came out bad that I would blame it all on Martha.  So I went ahead and mixed in my eggs (one at a time) – because after the wet ingredient dry ingredient fiasco I learned my lesson.  Always read the whole paragraph!  Then I mixed in my dry ingredients in three batches (like Martha said).  The batter looked a little thick and kind of sticky after mixing in all the ingredients – so I just added more coconut milk until I thought the consistency looked right.  If they were too gooey I’m not sure who I would have blamed that one on.

So I line my cupcakes with these brand new silicone cupcake liners that I got at Bed Bath & Beyond and fill them up 2/3 of the way – into the oven they go! Here I go to make some frosting.  Now again being bad at directions – “nah – I don’t like Martha’s frosting recipe, I’ll make up my own.”  I knew I wanted a cream cheese frosting and pulled it out of the fridge a while ago to bring it up to room temp.  I mixed the cream cheese with 1/2 a stick of butter the rest of the coconut milk, about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar (I lost track) and a about 2-3 tsp of lemon juice and 3-4 tsp of vanilla extract.  Mixed it all together till it tasted right.  It was good!  But a little runny.

About 25 minutes later the cupcakes were ready to come out of the oven. They looked normal and cupcake like.  I did it!

I waited till they were cool and frosted them and then sprinkled coconut over the frosting.  I took a bite – they were oh so yummy!  Rory didn’t really like them all that much since he doesn’t like cream cheese frosting.  I was not aware of this.  But he ate the cakes that weren’t frosted yet.  He loved those – they were very moist.

Since I only had one cupcake tin I make a cake out of the rest of the batter.  I think it came out good…. it looks good, but I haven’t tried it.  The only thing is that it took about twice as long to bake.  I am going to bring it to the shop tomorrow so that I don’t eat it all up.  All in all the coconut cupcake endeavor was quite the success. I would have liked it to me more coconut flavored, maybe next time I’ll use six sticks of butter for more coconut flavor.

 

Last Wednesday I baked a batch of cookies for a friend as a thank you gift.  I made Lemon Rosemary Butter cookies!  YUM!  I got the recipe in June when I met Kim Dolce of Dolce Handknits at TNNA in Columbus.  Kim was handing out these little morsels of goodness to pretty much anyone with a smile.

 

The second I had a bite I knew I was in love.  The flavor of these delicious cookies is almost impossible to describe.  Now- I myself am a die-hard chocoholic, but this cookie with all its lemony goodness blew my mind.  Kim was nice enough to share the recipe with me and even nicer to let me share with you.

 

Now I must preface by saying that I AM NOT A BAKER!  If it’s going in the oven I am likely to mess it up one way or another.  So to reduce my chances of messing things up, I took my time with every step.  And an hour and a half later I had these yum yum cookies!

 

Of course it’s in my nature not to follow directions (which is why I design my own patterns).  So naturally I made a few modifications and learned a few things.  The number one thing I learned: Apparently there are different grades of cornmeal.  Did not know this!  So I just got cornmeal (the first one I saw).  This made for some very crunchy cookies and a pretty good laugh.

Here is what you need:

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3/4 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 egg yolks (reserve whites for a healthy breakfast tomorrow)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup super-extra-fine cornmeal
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Make sure to finely chop that rosemary!

How to make the cookies step-by-step:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees (I always forget to do this part, and then end up waiting forever)

2.  Place lemon zest, rosemary and sugar in a small bowl.  Rub, rub, rub that rosemary and lemon zest vigorously, then set aside for a few minutes to allow the oils to release.

 

Sugar, rosemary & lemon zest mixture, post rubbing

3.  Beat butter & sugar mixture until combined.  Beat in the egg yolks and the vanilla.

4.  Mix flour, cornmeal, and salt in a separate bowl.  Then add to butter mixture slowly in batches.  Beat until combined.

5.  Shape the dough into two logs 1″ in diameter.  Wrap in plastic and chill for two hours (Now that I am typing up this set of instructions I see this, but I totally skipped over that part when I made mine.  If you don’t chill they still taste good!).

6.  Brush logs with lightly beaten egg whites and roll in sugar to coat. – I missed this step too.  I told you I’m terrible at following directions.  So this is not a crucial step either, the cookies will still taste good!

7.  Slice logs into 1/3″ wide rounds.  Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown.  Transfer to racks to cool.  Tip: I was watching the Barefoot Contessa on Tuesday, and she did an entire show on cookies (it was meant to be, really!).  The Barefoot Contessa says to place your cookies in the center of your oven and then rotate them half way through the baking process.

 

Before bake

After bake :)

8.  Once the cookies cooled down I gave them a generous dusting of powdered sugar.

Sugar dusted cookies, MMMMMMM!

 

Once again, an extra special thanks to Kim Dolce for sharing this recipe.  I hope you enjoy these cookies as much my friend and I did.