April 26, 2015

PizzAvengers Assemble!

This is one of those posts that you only get because of the unique way my brain works.

It started out simply enough. I was looking up Iron Man cupcakes on Pinterest (for completely non-blog related reasons. Sometimes you just wanna look at superhero cupcakes, y'know?) and I stumbled across an Iron Man pizza. I thought that was a really cute idea. And then I thought, I wonder why I've never seen a Black Widow pizza. That would be super easy. And then my brain thought about doing a Captain America fruit pizza, and it just kind of snowballed from there.

Plus, with Avengers: Age of Ultron coming out in LESS THAN A WEEK OMG I AM SO EXCITE, it seemed like the perfect time to let Mr. Brain go wild and create the PizzAvengers: Earth's Mightiest Pizzas. (Those of you that live places with an earlier Avengers release, no spoilers, please!)

I stuck with the core 6 Avengers from the first movie because it just worked out better that way. 6 pizzas is already more than enough for just me, and I wouldn't have the slightest idea of what to put on a Scarlet Witch or Quicksilver pizza.

All of the pizzas (except Cap. He's special) start off the same way. I used pre-baked crusts to save some time (you can usually find them in the refrigerated section of the grocery store near the cheese), a simple tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella. You can go with any sauce/cheese combo you like-- the Thor pizza would be really good as a barbecue pizza-- just make sure the cheese is white or lightly colored to give you a plain backdrop.

Because I'm cooking for just me, I decided to make three of the pizzas mini. You can totally make them full size, this is not a comment on their importance as Avengers, they just had the easiest designs to scale down and gave me less to fit in the fridge.
I started out with the Black Widow pizza because she really did have one of the easiest designs to put on a pizza. Take some pepperoni and cut it in half. Outline an hourglass shape using the cut side of the pepperoni to give you straight lines. Fill in. You're done.
Simple and elegant. Just like Natasha. But the pizza is far less lethal.

Hawkeye's pizza may look simple, but it took me forever to figure out. Hawkeye's costume is purple, which means that purple is usually used to represent him, and I couldn't figure out anything purple to put on a pizza. I briefly thought about skipping him, when I remembered about Pizza Dog, and when a character has a Pizza Dog, you can't not make him a pizza. (Lucky, aka Pizza Dog is from the comics, but I'm totally hoping he shows up in the MCU soon)(Lucky is called Pizza Dog because Clint gave him pizza and called him Pizza Dog. It's that simple)

Finally, I remembered that red cabbage is purpley. I chopped it and gave it a quick saute in a hot skillet-- not long enough to make it soft, I just wanted to jumpstart the cooking process since it didn't get very long in the oven-- and used it to make a bullseye pattern.
I feel like Clint would be very torn about whether to shoot at it or eat it.

The Hulk pizza is the one I'm least happy about because he kind of just ended up looking like generic green monster. But I didn't know of anything else that seemed appropriately Hulk-y, so that's what I went with. Plus he's kind of cute.

So what you need are some chopped green peppers and olives, and some extra mozzarella for eyes and teeth. I found it easiest to start by outlining his mouth with the chopped olives. Fill it in with more olives, then add some little pieces of mozz for his teeth. Fill out the shape of his face with green peppers and cut out some eyes out of more mozz. Make the eyes kind of slanty and angry looking, but don't worry if the shape's not perfect since it will melt in the oven. Add tiny pieces of olives for the pupils.

Once you're satisfied with the size and shape of the head, outline it with more chopped olives. Use larger olive pieces for his hair and nose.

I totally meant to add some angry slanty eyebrows and some red onion (cause the Hulk is always wearing purple pants), but since it was one of the mini pizzas, I didn't have room.

For Iron Man, you need pepperoni, cheddar cheese, and some more chopped olives, plus some mozzarella to make the eye slits. Start with outlining the Iron Man helmet shape with pepperoni. Tony has a big head, so don't be afraid to use most of the pizza. Then you need to shape the face plate. I found it easiest to create the shape with the cheddar, then I used the halved pepperoni I had left over from the Black Widow pizza to give it a more defined outline. Place vaguely rectangular pieces of mozz for the eye slits (again, don't worry about getting the shape perfect), then use the olive to add some of the ridges and details in the mask.
Tony probably thinks ALL pizza should have his face on it.

Thor's pizza I almost forgot about because I was so worried about what to do for Hawkeye's pizza, but it actually ended up being one of my favorites. What you're going to need is shredded cheddar cheese, chopped olives, plain shredded chicken, and cooked, crumbled sausage.

Start by using the cheddar to draw a lightning bolt on the pizza, slightly off center, and then learn from my mistake and outline it with more chopped olives (the lightning bolt got a little lost after baking). Use the chopped olives to outline Mjolnir (rectangular head, long handle). Fill the head with shredded chicken and the handle with the sausage crumbles.
This last step is purely optional, but I put pepperoni around the outer edge of the pizza. I had so much pepperoni left since I bought a 16 oz. bag, and it's the color of his cloak, so I could get away with it. Plus it tickled me to make Thor's pizza a kind of meat lover's pizza. I can just imagine him being all YES MORTAL, I TOO AM A LOVER OF MEAT. LET US FEAST ON THIS STRANGE, FLAT PIE YOU CALL 'PIZZA.'

One last look before they go into the oven. Bake according to the directions for whatever crust recipe you're using. The pre-baked ones I used suggested baking at 450 (F) about 8 minutes for the mini pies and 10 minutes for the large.

While your pies are baking, you can work on Cap's fruit pizza. Since this is a dessert pizza, the crust is a giant cookie. I used sugar cookie dough. Any roll out recipe would probably be best (I can recommend these from LilaLoa). I actually just bought a thing of slice and bake dough from the store since roll out dough and I aren't friends. Spread your dough into a pizza pan (I used a foil one) and bake at 350 (F) until it's a light golden brown. I baked mine about 16 minutes, but keep your eye on it. Let it cool completely. I actually baked mine before I started assembling the pizzas, so it could cool while I was working on them.
Most fruit pizzas I've seen use cream cheese frosting as a base, to which I say ick. We've been over my feelings about sweetened cream cheese before, but honestly, when you're putting all of this fresh fruit on a dessert, why would you use anything except fresh whipped cream? Seriously.

So for this fruit pizza, we're using whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups after whipping), halved strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, sliced bananas (2 were more than enough for me), and mini marshmallows. Start by spreading your whipped cream evenly on your cookie base. Then work from the outside in on the design: start with a ring of strawberries around the outer edge of the cookie, then do a ring of sliced bananas. My bananas were small, so I doubled them up. If you're worried about browning, you can skip them or use large marshmallows in their place. I made a quick glaze out of apricot jelly, and they only looked slightly brown the next day

Inside the bananas, do a ring of raspberries (I meant to do a double ring, but I made the banana layer too wide, so there wasn't room). In the middle, use the mini marshmallows to make a star, then fill in the rest with blueberries. Use more raspberries to fill in any spaces between the strawberries.
It won't stop bullets, but it's perfect for any 4th of July barbecues

I kind of totally love how they all turned out. Especially when they're all together, you can totally tell who they're supposed to represent.
Black Widow's is my favorite. It's just so simple and clean and immediately recognizable. Plus it was the easiest to make. Bonus.
If the lightning had come out better, though, I think Thor's would beat Black Widow. I love the design of it (is that narcissistic to say when you designed it? Maybe I shouldn't have had Iron Man pizza for lunch), and I love thinking about how much he would enjoy it, that great big Norse labradoodle that he is.
I put the most thought into Hawkeye's, but unfortunately, I don't think most people would get it presented on its own. It fits right in with the other PizzAvengers, though.
In my head, the Avengers have 4th of July picnics together and Tony always makes sure they have a dessert like this. Steve stopped being embarrassed when he tasted it.
Billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. Pizza.
Hulk was my one disappointment, since he looks too generic, but like Hawkeye, when he's around the other PizzAvengers, you know immediately know who he is.
My Age of Ultron excitement level is officially 6 pizzas high. How about you?

April 18, 2015

Orphan Black Forest Cupcakes

Who's excited for the season premiere of Orphan Black tonight?


If you guys haven't heard of Orphan Black before-- do you live under a rock or something? It's the sci fi thriller about the clones, starring the absolutely redonk acting talent of Tatiana Maslany. Seriously, every time I see that woman, I always have this brief moment of wondering which one she is, and then I remember she's not actually cloned. There's only one of her. Or so they tell me. I'm not completely sure I believe it.

Clone dance party!

And there are boy clones now, which means double the clone-y goodness.

I've had the idea of doing Black Forest cupcakes for Orphan Black for a while now, because the name just works (Orphan Black, Black Forest, Orphan Black Forest), and because cupcakes are kind of like clones of each other.

I totally just blew your mind, right?
Cosima and Delphine think it's a scientific breakthrough.

Just making Black Forest cupcakes wasn't enough, though. I needed to decorate the cupcakes somehow, but I couldn't think of any sort of recognizable symbol from the show, except for Tatiana's face and that's not something I felt I could put on a cupcake.

So I went a bit... deeper.
Cloned DNA. Obvi. (I've decided the pink ones are the Leda clones and the orange ones are the Castor clones)

Putting DNA on the cupcakes was really simple. (Excuse me while I giggle to myself) (Shut up, that was totally funny) You just take two strands from Pull 'n Peel Twizzlers (I used fruit punch flavored, which is why they're different colors, but any kind works), and weave them into a double helix shape. Then take a tube of decorating icing from the grocery store and use it to draw the base pairs.

I was originally going to create base pairs out of Mike 'n Ikes, but they were too fat, so I raided my supplies to find a tube of writing icing. I only had purple, but it worked. Helena's probably disappointed there's not more candy though.
She's a fan of sugar.

The cupcakes themselves are super simple, just chocolate cupcakes filled with cherry pie filling and topped with whipped cream. I decorated a few a little more traditionally with a maraschino cherry and the crumbled up cake middles mostly because I ran out of writing icing.
Don't forget to share with your sestras

Black Forest Cupcakes
Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

8 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
1 cup usalted butter
3 eggs
1½ cups sugar
¾ cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
Cherry pie filling (I used about half of a 20 oz. can)
1½ cups whipping cream
3 tbsp. powdered sugar
Maraschino cherries, to decorate
Optional decorations: Pull 'n Peel Twizzlers, writing icing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate and the butter. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until the sugar is completely dissolved. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Add the cooled chocolate and mix until completely combined. Fold in the dry ingredients

Line a cupcake tin with paper liners, and fill about 2/3 of the way full with batter. Bake about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on wire racks.

Use a cupcake corer or a sharp paring knife to core the cupcakes and fill them with cherry pie filling.

In a large bowl with electric beaters, beat the cream and the powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Use to frost the cooled cupcake. Top with a maraschino cherries and crumbs from the discarded middles, if desired.

Recipe by Kim

Things you may need (affiliate links):

April 12, 2015

Spinach and Artichoke Bites

Did you guys know that it's Camp NaNoWriMo time? Because it is. And I always forget about April sessions, because April was always Script Frenzy month, except now Screnzy has been absorbed into Camp NaNo.

Have I lost you yet? I'm sorry. I forget sometimes that not everyone is fluent in WriMo-ese.

Anyway, April came before I remembered to have a "I don't have a plot" freak out, which ended up being a good thing, since I only had one plot idea rattling around inside my head. And that was originally meant to be the plot to a video game, but since I have no idea how to develop a video game, it's now been turned into interactive fiction. (Think Choose Your Own Adventure novels meet text based gaming. A great example are Choice of Games)

A while back, this idea for a game hit me, out of the blue, sort of a dystopian twist on the stereotypical dating sim. I actually love dating sims (also known as otome games or visual novels)(It's one of the few ways I'm totally girly. When I'm not summoning eidolons or restoring the Balance, obvi), but the biggest problem is that the grand majority of them follow the exact same format. I wanted to put my own twist on it and actually use the generic format to my advantage.

If I finish, you guys will totally play it, right?
If you're in the middle of writing an interactive fiction novel and still need to make an appetizer, these Spinach and Artichoke Bites are so quick and easy that you won't have to spend too much time away from your keyboard.

I am the segue master!

Seriously though, these bites were a last minute thing I decided to make for Easter since I had an extra sheet of puff pastry in the freezer from making my Mac 'n Cheese Pie, and an extra block of cream cheese from making my brother's Cheesecake Stuffed Portal Cake, and since my parents were having people over, I decided to put them together with spinach and artichokes to make a fancy appetizer.

And I guess they really were super fancy, because my aunt thought they were the frozen appetizers you get from the store. Then she ate one and was surprised at how good they were.
Everybody was all, "Kim made these?" and they were impressed and that confused me. I tried to explain that it was a simple matter of putting spinach and artichoke dip into puff pastry and baking it. I guess if you're not the type of person that has random sheets of puff pastry lying around, these just seem a lot more labor intensive than they are.

Trust me though, these are beyond easy to make. The filling takes little more than a bowl and a spoon to bring together. Then you cut the puff pastry into squares and put it in a mini muffin tin. Put a spoonful of filling into the pastry and bake. That's it.

Added bonus, these are perfect make ahead appetizers. I made them the day before, brought them over in a foil pan, and my dad stuck them in the oven alongside the ham for 10 minutes. Easy peasy.

Spinach and Artichoke Bites
Yield: 32 bites

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup mayo
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry, thawed according to package directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese and mayo together until smooth. Add the cheese, artichokes, spinach, and garlic, and mix until well incorporated. Season as desired with salt and pepper.

Spray a mini muffin tin with non stick cooking spray. Cut the puff pastry into even squares (16 per sheet) and press the squares into the muffin tin. Fill with the spinach artichoke mixture and bake 10-15 minutes until the edges start to turn golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Recipe adapted slightly from Park House Love

Things you may need:

So, you probably don't need No Plot? No Problem!, but if my various, effusive ramblings about NaNoWriMo have ever interested you, I totally recommend it. It was written by NaNo founder Chris Baty, who is funny and cool and awesome and signed my copy. :P

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links*