Friday, November 30, 2012

I've Moved.  Please Visit Me at My Website.
See You There!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It's Time to Move On
After 7 months of playing around, 5,000+ visitors, great successes, heartbreaking failures and many lessons learned, I have decided to end this blog.
BUT, dry your eyes...I have decided to end this chapter and start a new one.
I'm excited to announce the launch of my own website:

My website has a little more focus with more direction and purpose behind it than my first internet-based endeavour.  It contains folders that include both a continuation of my blogging as well as a collection of my successful recipes.
The MANIC BLOG will read like this blog and will see the addition of a rating system to recipes that I have executed.  It will contain tips, anecdotes, outside stories and shared insights and will also chronicle the tweaks and cheats I employ along the way--all with with the same attitude, humor and snark as my blogspot pages.
The CrOOK BOOK is an aptly named collection of stolen recipes that have been tweaked to my liking and executed with successful results. These recipes are worthy of being shared with and followed by others.  This portion of the website will only house my own recipes that are derived from other sources and will not highlight any changes, tweaks or cheats as highlighted in the blog portion.  It will consist of my recipes that stand on their own.
Please always share your comments, suggestions, praise and criticism with me directly through the site.  And share it with people via Facebook,  Twitter and other social formats to help me expand my venture and as I grow my name, skill, and appreciation of tweaking in the kitchen.
Thanks for your help in my getting here.
   -Mark Patrick Spiecher (The Manic Cheater)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

100th POST!

Classic White Tier Cake
w/ Almond Decorator Icing

Verdict: Success
In honor of my 100th post I made myself a celebratory cake.  I love me some white cake but I didn't want to screw this post up so I didn't really tweak anything except for the fact that I made it a mini-tier cake!  I did however add some really cool flare to the cake in the form of color and piping to mark the occasion as well.

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 x 9 x 2 buttered and lined with parchment paper

1 stick butter
1/4 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk or water
+ 1/2 cup powdered sugar
+ blue food coloring

Preheat oven to 350°

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl for 5 minutes.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt.  In a third bowl, combine egg whites, milk and vanilla.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and ½ the milk mixture, then flour, then milk, then flour.  Mind the sides while you beat and scrape them down.  Pour your batter into your plined an, smooth the top with a spatula and throw in your oven for about 25-30 minutes.  Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

Remove your cooled cake from the pan and place on a platter and chill in your fridge for 20-30 minutes.  Remove chilled cake and trim the sides so you have cake with a sharp knife so you have flat even lines.  Measure out one large and one small square and slice the cake to make two different sized cakes. There will be scraps and, if you are anything like me, you will rip through those suckers and end up with a sore tummy.  With as much precision as you can muster, slice a sliver of the top of each piece to ensure you have a flat-top. 

In a bowl, beat butter and shortening with a hand mixer on Medium speed until fluffy.  Beat in almond and salt.  Lower your mixer speed to Low and beat in sugar, 1 cup at a time scraping down the sided as you go along.  Add half your milk and turn speed up to High until it is nice and fluffy.  Gradually add as much more milk as you need for the icing to be a spreadable consistency

Ice the larger cake with your icing, keeping it nice and smooth, especially on the top surface.  Lay your smaller cake upon your larger cake and ice smoothly.

**It is not necessary to use all of the icing here as I made extra to be a little fancy.  I separated 1/4 of the icing from the batch.  I added 1 drop of blue food coloring to the larger of the 2 batches to make a subtle blue hue and added 5 drops in the smaller plus your extra sugar for a thicker consistency.  I iced the cake with the lighter blue and put the darker, smaller batch in a pastry bag with a decorator tip and added piping.

This dessert was fun and meaningful and also a nice transition piece to something forthcoming...

(kinda) Tweaks:
I made it a tier cake!
I added piping.
I used my stand-by icing and made it almond flavored--was amazing.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Happy Holidays

It's Food Day!

YES, IT'S A REAL THING. Food Day is a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy,
affordable, and sustainable food.
How do you plan on celebrating?
Contact me at

Sunday, October 21, 2012

    w/ Sausage & Broccoli Rabe a la Joy of Cooking

Verdict: Success

Months back, my friend Layth gave me a most thoughtful gift.  After speaking at length about the love of cooking and recipes and such, he gave me a copy of "Joy of Cooking", which is like the Bible of cooking.  I say this without the slightest hint at hyperbole, it is one the top 5 most thoughtful gifts I've received to date. 

To call this book a "cook book" would be an insult. And not just because it is probably the first book I've ever read the introductory pages to (including notes from Julia Child, co-author Ethan Becker and Acknowledgments).  The book opens with some history of the authors, the book and how the recipes have been updated (for today's standards) and re-tested and goes much further to speak about things like nutrition (and it's slanted importance over time), safety, table setting and parties, just to name a few.  In short, it has everything...including my fleeting attention.  I have trouble putting this sucker down sometimes.

I struggled picking the first recipe out of here that I wanted to try for the blog and would end up reading and flagging, reading and flagging.  Over and over I would do this on multiple dates where I ended up not deciding and doing one of my stand-by recipes.  What am I an idiot? 

So here it was, Sunday and I didn't want to just make my sauce, so I cracked open the book and picked a pasta.  One of my favorites: Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

olive oil
1 lb orecchiette
1 lb Italian sausage hot/spicy turkey sausage removed from casings
3 4 or 5 large cloves garlic diced
1/4 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 large bunch broccoli rabe trimmed and chopped
romano for sprinkling
Boil water and cook pasta as directed.  While your pasta cooks, heat olive oil in a large skillet and add sausage.  Brown your sausage and carefully salt and pepper to taste* and add your garlic and red pepper.  Mix in your broccoli rabe and cover.  Allow to cook for 10 minutes or so.

Add your cooked pasted to your pan and mix it up some.  Plate and top with some romano cheese.
I have to admit, mine came out a little salty this first time.  I had never used the brand of turkey sausage I bought today and it was saltier to begin with then I had expected).  It wasn't the end of the world. 
I LOVE this dish and eat it all the time and am unsure why I have never made it as it is SO easy.

I added more garlic and more crushed red pepper.  I like it hot!

Healthy Tweak:
I used turkey sausage instead of "regular" sausage or, as it is wonderfully used at one of our fav places, Bottino, boar sausage.  It's a little less fattening and a little lower in cholesterol.

Any suggestions?  e-mail me:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fried Ravioli

Verdict: Success

I'm not feeling 100% today and I decided that I wanted to make some food that A) is easy to make and B) can be handled without passing any germs onto my bf.  Neither of us can be sick right now due to work (it's one of those crucial times for both of us) so I have to take precautions to contain anything even dancing on the precipice of illness.

So what better way to guarantee bacteria and germs are warded off?  Deep frying.  It kills everything. 

I chose to make a favorite dish that I have never made before: "Fried Ravs", as we used to say in our restaurants.  So easy that I should make these all the time.

oil (canola, vegetable, etc...NOT olive oil)
1 cup buttermilk *see my cheat
2 cups Italian-style breadcrumbs  **I don't have anby so I "made" some.
24 store-bought cheese ravioli
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 jar store bought marinara heated (no need for forgiveness, ma, I have some leftover home-made)

Either fill you deep fryer with new or reserved oil (I've mentioned before that I keep oils as long as they are re-usable: oil for fish for example should be used for fried chicken) or enough in a deep skillet to be 2" deep.  Heat it until it is 325°

While he oil heats, put the buttermilk mixture in one bowl and the breadcrumbs in another.  Dip each ravioli in the buttermilk and toss in the breadcrumbs to cover.  Make sure to allow your buttermilk to drip off, otherwise it will make your breadcrumbs clump and will make it harder to coat the ravioli as you go along.  Place your ravioli on a baking sheet.

When the oil is heated, fry the ravioli in batches (turning occasionally if using a pan) until they are golden.  Allow the oil to drip off when you remove your basket (for a deep fryer) or use a slotted spoon if using a pan and lie the ravioli on a paper towel to soak up excess oil.  Sprinkle with some grated cheese and serve with warm marinara and crunchy bread or my Prosciutto Bruschetta.

So easy and so good.
So unhealthy, even if I had used my home-made whole wheat breadcrumbs, but did I mention how good they are?
Does anyone else find it weird that I live in NYC and don;t have a cooling rack or room for a lot of pots but I have a deep fryer??
**I only had plain breadcrumbs from my clams francaise recipe, so I made them into Italian by adding 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp dried parsley, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp sugar and 2 pinches of oregano.

*1 cup whole milk + 1 tablespoon lemon yields buttermilk substitute after it has had a chance to curdle (about 15mins).
I am not feeling well and I still haven't bought a new grater, so I did not freshly grate the parmesan.

Have recipes for me?  Send to :

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Orange Soda Cupcakes

Verdict: Success

While joking around with neighbors about my brother's affinity for orange soda, I learned that my neighbor Grace is also a fan of flavored "pop", as my Rochester/Western NY readers would refer to it.  Referring to soda as "pop" not only annoys me to the core but it may be one of the top 10 reasons I moved to NYC.

In one of the many cook books I have bought in the last number of months, I came across a recipe for orange soda-flavored cupcakes and took that conversation as a sign of what my next kitchen endeavour should be.  The neighbors in question, GeFaan and Grace, are good buddies of mine and have been integral to my blog as recipients of many kitchen attempts.  They are 2 of neighbors who find little packages outside their doors when a recipe is deemed "neighbor-worthty".  This one ended up outside their door as one of the last treats they will get still warm from the oven as they are moving :(.  No worries, my kitchen will still send its love along with mine as we will be in touch.  Nonetheless, they will be missed and the floor will not be the same without them.  Enjoy guys.

2 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/3 cup butter softened
1 cup orange soda(pop)
2 eggs
powdered sugar

Pre-heat oven to 350°. Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper liners (or use the foil wrapped ones on a cookie sheet.)

Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix the ingredients with a hand mixer (Low speed for 30 seconds, then Medium for 2 minutes.  Divide your batter amongst your cups and throw in the oven for 20-23 minutes.  Cool and top with powdered sugar.  Eat or pack for friends.

Mmmm.  I hate orange soda but these are frickin' yummy.

Recipes?  Gimme.  Holiday recipes?  Halloween, Thanksgiving and Santa's Birthday are coming up...