11.12.09

Cranberry Nut Bread

picture taken moments before i burned my mouth on a too hot cranberry.
it must be the power of deliciousness.
oh, that you could smell this.
and yes. it was worth it.

Well, I hadn't gotten around to making this for Thanksgiving, but that didn't mean I suddenly didn't have the bag of cranberries in my fridge. Which meant that today, when I realized just how very cold it was and how toasty the kitchen was capable of being, I opted to bake this delicious treat.

My mother used to make very nearly this same recipe at Thanksgiving and Christmas when I was small. I remember the several foil throw-away loaf pans, sorting through the cranberries to make sure that they were all good, and thinking about how strangely hollow this fruit was. I had the same hollow-fruit-thought this afternoon, in my jeans and hoodie and knit boots, even while wondering just how hard it was to find a freakin' grater in my house.

Pretty hard, we don't have one.

Still. We have a loaf pan that I found at a nearby local thrift store for a dollar and we had all the ingredients that I'd planned on using. I was strangely nervous waiting for my bread to cook, but in the end it was even better than I'd hoped. We stood around the kitchen, eating thick pieces still hot from the oven, buttered and amazing. This was exactly what I'd needed.

Super Delicious Cranberry Nut Bread

- two cups flour
- one cup sugar
- one and a half teaspoon baking powder
- one teaspoon salt
- the juice of one tangerine (nothing says fantastic like fresh juice!) (you may wish to use two, if you'd like more of the flavor. you may not need the half and half then.)
- three to four tablespoons half and half (or milk or cream, what you have about is fine)
- one tablespoon grated tangerine peel (ooooh, I do adore zest)
- two tablespoons oil (I used canola)
- two blended eggs
- one and a half cups fresh cranberries (if using frozen, do not thaw them, I know that sounds odd)
- one half cup chopped walnuts (or other nut)

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Mix the dry ingredients and then, in a different dish (mine was a mug! oh, the shame I ought to feel...) mix the juice, the zest, the oil, and the egg. Add and blend with the dry mixture and then add the cranberries and nuts. Add three tablespoons half and half and then see if you need more. Your dough ought to be thick and sticky, but it shouldn't be too sticky and ought to have some give involved. It's bread dough!

Pour (place, move, dance, whichever) into a greased and floured bread pan and bake for about an hour. I'd start checking on it at fifty minutes. The top will be browned a bit and knife will come out clean. Or, you know, only marred by hot delicious cranberry.

Clearly, this recipe cane be changed. You can add chocolate or a different nut or a different juice, you could make it vegan probably pretty easily.

Enjoy!

10.12.09

Ice! Snow! Bluster!

Lyra, being precious and addicted to cat nip.
Taken last winter/spring (snow on the ground means nothing in Chicago) by a friend.


Given that right now, Chicago is ever so cold (I am on my computer on the couch, but with my hood up and a quilt draped over me), I figured a nice picture like that could be used to make everyone smile.

Plus, the photo for my cranberry nut bread hasn't arrived from my phone into my inbox yet and yes, as a matter of fact, I do think I am cursed as far as cameras go. Here's hoping the next one I get works out better. Here's hoping the next one I get becomes mine before summer. No, I have no particular one I am lusting after. Suggestions? Nothing that will make me weep over price.


-cricket chip-

Well. Thanks anyway. I shall figure something out.

At any rate, today was a successful cooking day! Tonight I made a variation on my own potato soup, though I can't recall which one I like better. I opted for veg stock instead of chicken, onion instead of leek, loads more garlic, and then a thinly sliced red bell pepper and some mushrooms chopped up.

I also blended it a little better than last time using my hand mixer. No bacon. (because I had no bacon)

But it was delicious. Wonderfully seasoned with salt, pepper, basil, Bridgeport seasoning, and a little dill and a little paprika.

Also, it's become clear that one of these days I am going to have to write something about The Spice House. Just sayin'.

3.12.09

Karo-who? Brown Sugar Syrup Pecan Pie.

By this point in the Feast, a nice set up and a clean stove were beyond me.
Still, I did try to take a good snap as best I could, considering it was a cell phone.


Well, I hope everyone had a delicious and fattening Thanksgiving because lord knows I did. My friend Dana and I had our Third Annual "We Trust No One Else To Cook" Thanksgiving. It involved a lot of Arrested Development, Diet Coke (esp for dana!), wine (esp for me!), cooking, and a prolonged fight with my oven which decided to be even more impossibly difficult than usual as this was a food holiday.

Also, I think the oven knew that we both worked the next day at our respective jobs.

Either way, it was unbelievably tasty. Dana made stuffing (featuring: pecans, cranberries, and sausage), mashed potatoes, a chicken, a turkey leg, gravy, and brought some tasty tasty cranberry sauce. She also steamed some green beans. I made crash sweet potatoes, whiskey glazed carrots (thanks, Pioneer Woman! don't be too sad that i used Seagram's 7 instead of Jack! it's just always around...), green bean casserole (yeah,yeah), and pecan pie.

Note: I did not make deviled eggs and, yes, I thought about it. I also did not get to make the cranberry nut bread I wanted (which I bought cranberries for! I'll get to it soon. maybe tomorrow?) or the cheesy muffins (which I actually AM planning on making tomorrow. we'll see how this day goes. always with the elaborate planning and rarely with the follow-throughing).

Double Note: Yes, I am allergic to corn syrup.

Which brings me to!

THIS IS A CORN SYRUP FREE PIE.

Yes, ladies and gents, this pie is made without Karo. Oh, they said it could be done but they swore it wouldn't be tasty. But they were wrong. This pie tastes exactly as delicious as I remember my wickedly tasty Karo-based pecan pie being. (I wasn't always as horridly allergic as I am now, but it's progressed, so I can't even cook the filing because it makes me die a little on the inside where no one can see)

My trick? Brown sugar syrup. I cooked brown sugar and water down to a thick syrup that, admittedly not as thick as Karo, was still preeeeeeeetty syrupy looking. And I chopped the walnuts nice and fine and I said a little prayer to my fourth glass of wine and I threw myself into the memory of my old pecan pie.

INGREDIENTS

- two eggs
- vanilla (a drizzle and a dash, which is probs about two teaspoons?)
- sugar, two thirds cup (about)
- brown sugar syrup, a cup (about, sorry!)
- cake spice, a teaspoon (this is made of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc. I buy mine at The Spice House)
- a knob of melted butter
- quick dash of cinnamon because, well, why not? but only just.
- pecans (mine were chopped), about two cups - or just under the bag you bought at Jewel when you thought it was on sale, but it wasn't, and you were pissed but you were making this damn pie so you got it anyway. (that's helpful, yes?)

NOTE: I used -gasp- salted butter. I know, I know, I know. But we reached a compromise here at my apartment and that involves the purchasing of salted butter. It's fine. I'm completely okay with this, even though it used to make me cringe a bit. If you don't use salted butter, I suggest adding a dash of salt.

Also. I doubt I've ever said "salted butter" that many times in a short span of time. Reminds me of how I spent actual time thinking about broken eggs in cartons at the store.

Do not get me started.

At any rate, by the time you've finished contemplating all of this, you have mixed together these things and poured it into a prepared pie dish. Really. Just chuck it all together and mix it up nicely. You can add the pecans last if it makes you feel better.

"Prepared", here, means - a lightly buttered/greased/sprayed pie pan with a crust inside. You can make your own or use frozen or the roll-out-pre-made stuff, it's all fine. I made my own. (softened butter, flour, sprinkle of water, some sugar but not much, voila!)

I do not pre-bake my crust.

Wrap some foil around the crust-edges of the pie, then pop it into the 350 degree (F) oven for a half hour. Remove the foil, bake another fifteen or twenty minutes. A knife should come out clean. Yes, it will be wobbly up until the point that it is suddenly done.

Please do not burn your mouth in the attempt to shove this pie in your face. Please. Be better than me.

At any rate, you can add whiskey or bourbon or what have you to this pie. I even suggest that. Nom.

I also suggest smallish slices and vanilla ice cream (or whipped cream) to melt on top a bit.

And I would like to apologize for the pictures. I took these with my cell phone. Um, after eating a piece. It was delicious and I have no regrets.

8.11.09

Delicous, fabulous spinach quiche!

Dainty, non?
Don't worry, I made loads of mini-ones in a muffin pan. Plenty for all!
Except, sadly, you lot.


As you may or may not recall or even know, we here in my ramshackle apartment of love had a tea party not too long ago! It was quite delightful, complete with tea cups and hats and whiskey and so on and so forth. We dressed to impress! We were beyond lovely. Among our feasting options, I included a quiche. A spinach quiche, in fact, and no mushrooms anywhere since some guests dislike them and I am nothing if not accommodating. Sometimes.

Other times, I inform the nay-sayers to shut their mouths and let me be with my delicious whatever-whatever that has some food ingredient they dislike. Or I encourage them to try a bite. Whichever.

At any rate. Using a muffin tray, I made small quiches but then I had this ramekin and, well, look at that photo! How could I not? I admit to being nervous, as I had just experienced a great failure with my french macaroons and was determined to not fail again.

And I did not!

Super-Easy, Super-Tasty Spinach Quiche

- pie crust (either pre-made or handmade, honestly, it more depends on the time you have)
- three egg yolks
- two egg whites
- one whole egg
(NOTE. you could also just, you know, use five eggs. we just had these things about from previous cooking and didn't want to waste it and I am a big believer in an extra egg for such things, which is a trick my boy-roommate lives by)
- plenty of munster cheese, pref grated but if you, say, have no idea where the grater went? just chop chop cut chop nice and small
- rinsed spinach, which you can chop roughly. (you may also use frozen spinach, thaw it, and drain it, although honestly this is just fine.)
- onion, chopped
- garlic cloves, chopped if you like, as many as you like
- salt, pepper, cake spice (or, lacking The Spice House, you may also blend cinnamon and nutmeg, though the mix also includes cloves and such).

Cook the onion, garlic, and any other veg you'd like to include together. When largely done, chuck in the spinach and let cook down. Then cool. Whisk the eggs together until blended, mix in with the cheese and the cooled veg, season as you like - pepper, the spices, and a dash of salt.

Butter the muffin tin, the pie pan, the quiche pan, etc etc etc - just butter whichever you are using. Line with pastry. Bake for a bit first, I did about ten/fifteen mins - just getting golden! Pour the eggy mixture in the prepared pan and then bake for about twenty-five, thirty minutes at 350 degrees. Or until the top is deliciously slightly golden and it's firmed up proper.

SO DELICIOUS.

I mean, let it cool and finish setting.

I then like to fret over it - did I cook it enough? Oh, heavens! Am I about to kill us all?
Then! I like to watch everyone love love love it.

Also, you do not have to have a tea party to enjoys this...but maybe you should think about it.


1.11.09

Daring French Fail! Oh, the shame.

Well, that's sort of right.
Inasmuch as it happens to be objects sitting on a baking sheet.


I'm going to keep it real, here, gentle readers. I am not always amazing, all of the time. And I could explain that it was the wee hours (the clock, were you able to see it, reveals that it is six in the morning and does not reveal that I had work mere hours later) but that's not really the problem. The problem was, I suspect, egg whites. And my inability to make a french macaroon properly.

This is largely sad because I was making them for the tea party we were having the next day and also because I didn't have enough time this month to try again, but just the same, I am posting the recipe and such that, in theory, would have revealed lovely macaroons.

Mine were meant to be lemony. They were meant to have a sweet basil filling. The filling, actually, turned out wonderfully and so we dipped fresh strawberries in it and just devoured it like were were beasts (beautifully attired in party dresses and hats and things, but beasts just the same). So that much was nice.

At any rate! I shall try again, in the future, but am wise enough to say when I've made a mistake. My macaroons were cakey and dense, not at all proper, and even didn't taste all that great so I'll review it and see what went wrong BUT everyone should try this because it's good to try new things.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Ingredients
Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Good luck guys! May your treats turn out better than mine!

22.10.09

Brownie Pudding: An Adventure Using Boiling Water

Unbaked, but seriously still delicious.

You know those times when you just absolutely have to eat something sweet and chocolatey? And how maybe, since you have a deep, profound love for all things bread pudding (which may or may not have once ended with you throwing allergy concerns to the wind and chowing down on a serving of bread pudding from Sweet Mandy B's that involved caramel?) that sometimes means what you want is something bready and puddingy?

Of course you have. Sometimes, even, you've had it at a late hour of the day. Sometimes, you've had this craving when there is precious little in the house to sate any of your desires.

Thank goodness for my 1950's edition of The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook. I know you've heard me sing it's praises before, but I intend to continue doing so for a while. I just forgot. Well, forget no more! I had just the day before read about Brownie Pudding. And, lo, we had all the ingredients.

Bonus: the recipe called for boiling water to be poured on top of the batter, which would make a chocolate sauce. I was enthralled, skeptical, and excited. Most of all, I wanted my freshly baked, sweet, chocolatey, puddingy dessert. After this, you probably will too.


So, boiling water goes ON the batter you say? Sure. I'll try that.

The Players:
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking powder

- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tbs cocoa (or, if you were me, a little more than this of hot chocolate mix. sorry, humble women of general foods kitchens. please, don't be me about this.)
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 tbs melted butter (mine was salted, oh sin of baking sins, but if you are doing it properly then just sprinkle in some salt.)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- chopped walnuts (optional or use whatever type of nuts you'd like or any other addition, actually)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (or, if you don't have any, granulated sugar will work as well but I used brown sugar)
- 2 tbs cocoa (again, see hot chocolate mix note)

- 3/4 cup boiling water

The Game:


Mix flour, baking powder, 1/3 cup (granulated) sugar, and one tablespoon cocoa. Then add the milk, butter, and vanilla. Mix until smooth, add nuts, and pour into the greased (mine was 6x9) baking dish. Mix the brown sugar and the other two tablespoons of cocoa together then sprinkle over the batter, also sprinkle a little bit of nuts over it, and then pour the boiling water over the top. This makes a chocolate sauce at the bottome when done cooking, which is
impressive to me.

Bake at 350F for thirty to forty minutes, then cool before serving (recipe suggests a half hour, I was not nearly so patient...).


It smells even better than it looks, trust.

We loved this hot, we loved this cold, and I particularly loved this with the fridge door partially open scarfing down a couple bites because maybe I had to bolt out the door to work in absolutely no time at all.

The point is, it was always delicious. And you will likely love it.



7.10.09

Patty Cake, Patty Cake...

Well, okay, patty pan squash rather...but you can imagine how the imagine takes off!


I found these beauties at the farmer's market a few weeks ago (back when I made this dish) and was so delighted that a) a stall was still open even after I got out of work and b) that they had this pile of these for about two dollars. I can't remember having ever actually cooked or eaten them before, but when my dad came to visit not too long ago he'd been telling me about this. So I was pretty pleased.

I decided that simple was the way to go, mostly because I wanted full on natural flavors. So I set about making a simple, baked squash dish and ended up making a bitchin', simple, baked squash dish.



INGREDIENTS

- patty pan squash (tops and bottoms cut off, then either chopped or sliced as you like) (i think i had six or seven?)
- onion, chopped
- one or two potatoes, chopped up
- plenty of garlic cloves, diced
- chopped up tomatoes (i had two small fresh ones, quite small, and then about half a can of diced)
- fresh basil
- olive oil, salt, pepper, seasonings in general

Throw all veg and basil in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, season, stir about, get a bit of a coating but don't drown it. Praise yourself in advance. Bake in a three-fifty degree oven for about forty minutes, until everything is cooked through and hot and delicious.

Die of joy when eating, while realizing how healthy this is!


Seriously, how delicious does that look? We ate it hot and loved it, I ate some cold at work and loved it, I even mixed the last leftovers with some pasta and maybe mushrooms (which, sadly, I'd not had any available the night before) and adored it. God, I love squash.

15.9.09

Lock It Down Red Curry

Matt's arm, holding his massive Boy Dish of Curry.

This is the first in, hopefully, a line of recipes that make someone want to "lock it down". As in, Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson (who, I confess, was the basis for this curry until I completely went off the road with it) would swoon a bit. Gordon Ramsay would say "Well done, my darling". Bourdain would tell me I didn't suck and, well, what else could any one else desire?

Seriously. I've finally gotten down the spicy level down to a T and think it's all swimmingly delicious.

CAST OF CHARACTERSplease ignore the two handles of whiskey in the background. and the ashtray.
and yes, there are missing items.
this picture is just too funny to NOT post.

- (i had white, but have also used yellow and come on, play with it!) onion, chopped up
- as many cloves of garlic as your little heart desires, diced

- basil
- chicken breast, sliced into long thin bits

- mushrooms, sliced
- sweet potatoes, chopped (i peeled mine, do as you like)

- potatoes, chopped (i mostly peeled them, again, do as you like)
- garbanzo beans, one can, drained
- coconut milk, one can

- fish sauce
- toasted sesame oil

- red curry paste (mine was made from a powder blend i purchased at the spice house, then made with the fish sauce and a little water) - a few tbs, as desired for spiciness.
- pepper
- Trinidad-style lemon-garlic marinade seasoning
(also from the spice house - it's a blend of lemon peel, garlic, cloves, ginger, and kosher salt according to the website. i am addicted to this and love love love it in just about everything, ever. god i love the spice house.)
- wide rice noodles
- about a cup of chicken broth

- the green bits of scallions, chopped roughly, for the top.

(note: you can also use mangoes, if desired, or replace the beans with butternut squash. rice instead of noodles or change out the broth, any of the veg, etc etc. who says it has to be chicken? i've made it with shrimp when i found some on sale frozen shrimps. do what you will.)


Throw the onion, garlic, and basil in a pan and stir with some oil and a bit of butter until softened a bit. Add chicken, season with pepper and the trinidad seasoning. Add a little sesame oil. Cook until tender and delicious, even if not totally cooked through. Add the curry paste and stir. I then add the broth, the coconut milk, and a few dashes of fish sauce. Stir, throw in veg, the beans, let cook.

Try not to eat the screen, but really, I understand if you forget and reach out to steal a bite.

When nearly done, cook your noodles as per the directions on the packet.

Clearly, taste and season as you desire. More garlic? Less pepper? More salt? Whichever! Fresh ginger, sliced or grated, is also an amazing addition - put it in the start, with the onion and garlic.


You can mix the noodles and the curry together at the start or pour the curry over, then mix them for leftovers. There is no wrong way. Sprinkle the dish with the scallions, if you are using it. Then watch your roommates profess their undying love and make demands.

Ali, sprinkiling her food with scallion bits.


It's hard to demand with your mouth full, though. So you can pretend to ignore it.

The whole thing, after prep, takes about half hour or so, it's terribly fast. And depending on h
ow much you are hanging out, drinking, doing by yourself...the prep could take no time at all!

ENJOY. And let me know if this nets you any action.


NOM NOM NOM

1.9.09

It's getting chilly!

I don't know about where you are, but here the fake summer (which did, truth be told, give us some crazy hot days) has turned into crisp chill and it's easy to see that fall is zooming in. It's typical Chicago in that it does what it wants, when it wants, and for all we know there are some more heated days coming.

At any rate, I'm excited for the chillier days - though not the winter, blargh. I'm also excited for when I am less broke although as far as that goes, I have no idea. So tonight (and, yes, last night as well) I made some crazy cheap dinner. Tuna Mac. But not just the standard Mac-n-Cheese plus can of tuna equals NOM kind. OH NO.

- box of mac-n-cheese (last night I had whole wheat! tonight was standard)
- the milk/butter or oil/soymilk or whatever-you-like things to make said mac-n-cheese
- can of tuna (in oil or water, either way is fine)
- some onion, chopped up
- a few cloves of garlic, diced up
- sliced mushrooms
- seasonings of your choice (basil, lemon pepper, a sprinkle of bridgeport seasoning)

While your mac-n-cheese is, you know, mac-n-cheesing it - cook the onions, garlic, and mushrooms in some butter or oil. Season. If you like, you can do what I did tonight and add in a little milk. Add with the tuna to the mac-n-cheese when it's finished. Devour!

I also added some salsa verde just for some light heat but that's me.

Honestly, it's so delicious. You can add whatever veg you like or even none at all, but I figure the more veg the better. All together, given my ability to sniff out values, this is like a two dollar dinner. Delicious!!

25.8.09

Bread Pudding? Or Baked Crack? Take your pick.


I am seriously addicted to bread pudding these days, it's insane. I've done a fair few different versions of it lately - including a croissant one from Nigella that started the madness. Now I am mostly just trying to perfect a basic one, but have been playing around with my own recipe plenty.

I did a bread pudding lately with some chocolate (and, had I not used unsweetened, maybe I would be willing to suggest it but no. though, you know, my friends still loved it). Luckily the flaws in it were only my thoughts and the fruit topping I made for it was sweet and delicious.

It's such a simple and homey dish, super comfy, and absolutely deliciou
s. I have eaten some it straight from the dish, fridge door still open, hoping no one catches me. I have witnessed people eat half a baking dish in one sitting. I have eaten it before it is even cooked, just bits of soaked bread, before finally submitting to the logic of cooking it.

I am so in love with bread pudding.

DELICIOUS CRACK BREAD PUDDING

- bread, torn up, ideally a bit stale but really this is negotiable. I have used french bread and rolls and things. I intend to try it soon with challah, among other things. Maybe cinnamon raisin?
- eggs (two or three, I'm of the more-is-better school of thought, but base this off the cream)
- heavy cream (one of the small cardboard containers, which is around a cup?)
- I often also throw in some milk, which is usually skim but that's just because that is what I have and anyway - all cream is awesome. Or whole milk. Don't constrain yourselves on my account.
- vanilla, a few tsps or to taste.
- sugar, not quite a cup - try a half cup and see

- knob of butter - not half a stick.

I have also added a little honey or some brown sugar. Cinnamon was an amazing addition.

What you do is you chuck the cream and butter together and stir until mixed over a low heat. Turn of
f burner and whisk the eggs in, one at a time, fast and well so as to not end up with cooked egg. You may want to let the cream-butter cool a bit first to do this. Or you may be on a crunch and just need to whip the hell out of this.

Add sugar, vanilla, and milk if you realize you need more. Any other flavors or any less flavors is fine, as far as additives go (you happen to not like vanilla or be, like my poor friend, allergic? move along - get a different flavor). Whisk whisk whisk. Taste it, die of delight. Try to not drink straight from the pot.

Seriously. Do try.


Now, your torn up bread ought to be hanging about in a baking dish. Pour this custard-y mix over it and move them around so that each bit gets some. Let this sit for a bit until soaked and then eat a piece. A small one. Go ahead, you want to.

Put this in an oven at 350 and then cook for around thirty-five minutes. Check on it, you may want the top more
or less browned. Let the dish chill out for a bit so as to a) let it really set (it gets a little bubbly straight from the oven) and b) not scald your mouth, you impatient thing.

ENJOY. Cold or warm, by itself or with a topping, however you like.



AMAZING FRUIT TOPPING

- fruit, fresh and sliced (I used pears and strawberries, respectively)
- butter (a little more than a tablespoon but you'll see)
- sugar, mostly to taste.

In a pot or even pan, on the stove, cook the fruit with the butter and then add sugar.This doesn't take terribly long and you'll know how soft you want your topping. I think I cooked mine for about fifteen minutes. It's insane.

To the pear, I added some mint.

To the strawberries, I ate it on everything ever.

Seriously, I am delighted with this. Hope you guys enjoy it!

13.8.09

Throw an egg on it!

Do you, my sweet friends, know what this is?

Yes. A delicious spinach pasta from the Asian Market (tm) that I go to (Thai Nam) up in the North Korean Area Of Chicago. And there is some chicken in it. Onion, garlic, perhaps - probably it's been a while - even some mushrooms. And that glorious thing on top? Is a fried egg. One where the yolk is still a bit runny.

AND I PUT THAT SHIT ON TOP.

The problem was, the flavor was not exactly awesome and I couldn't figure out where my misstep was. So I fried an egg and threw i on and lo and behold, a glorious mouth of food happened. What followed was my roommate and I putting eggs on everything to see how it went for a while.

We have no regrets.

27.7.09

Alive! And really hungry, actually.

OH MAN.

Okay, so, it has been an age since I've been here but I've managed to be insanely busy and largely computerless (and, for a time, gasless...oh god, those were dark times).

But I'm back! I am making a concrete plan to stay on top of things. Since I, you know, haven't. I haven't even had time to cook lately - with the exception of this caramel croissant pudding, a Nigella recipe that I altered ridiculously and was inhaled by my friends before it even could be photographed, and even that was about three weeks ago.

I'm actually exhausted even as I write this, but I assure you. I will return and shortly and with food.

15.6.09

June Daring Cooks - Delicious Pot stickers!


I've made pot stickers before, but was really excited to see that the Daring Cooks challenge was -drumroll- pot stickers! This month's challenge was hosted by Jen from use real butter had pretty flexible requirements - really, the main thing was to make your own dough to form the wrappers. In all the time that I've made potstickers, I've never done this - I would buy wrappers at the grocery store and just have at. It's the same way I make ravioli, generally, as well.

I'm sort of all about the filling.

This time, however, I settled myself into the idea and prepared to curse and then be delighted. I gathered up a soda bottle (switched, quickly, for a whiskey one) to use as a rolling pin and hopped to.


Given Recipe: (double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches - or just halve the filling recipe)
- 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (113g) warm water
- flour for work surface


Make the dough: In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.

And then: Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side.


-
Now. I had a pretty good time with the dough. I rolled it out in very small batches and then made a turkey filling.

- ground turkey
- brown sugar (a few spoons)
- diced onion
- diced garlic (a few cloves)
- sesame oil

- honey (a drizzle or two, really)
- soy sauce
- grated ginger
- cayenne pepper

- sweet basil seeds


I cooked the garlic, onion, ginger, and basil seeds in a little butter, then added the ground turkey. A little salt, a little pepper, a drizzle of honey and the sesame oil and soy sauce (to taste). Cook through, add cayenne (if using) and taste. I love sesame oil, so I generally add more and have found that I usually end up with a little more sweetness than spice. It's delicious!

I spooned the filling into my wrappers, closed them up, and - despite a deep deep love of steaming these babies - tossed them in with a little butter and pan fried them.


My dipping sauce is honey, sesame oil, and soy sauce - given circumstances, I would add sweet rice wine to mix in, but I was out. At any rate. It was delicious. I'm planning on trying it again soon with a different type of filling (one that will have actual measurements, etc, sorry guys!) but I was pretty pleased with myself.

7.5.09

Easy, easy, easy quesadillas. Belatedly Posted.

Yes, it was Cinco de Mayo and yes, that was sort of why I did it, but honestly? I love quesadillas. It's practically the only thing I order at any Mexican resturant, it's why I sometimes go to Qdoba, it's just delicious. Crisp tortilla, melty cheese, delicious fillings...oh, man, I want one right now just thinking about it. To be sure, part of the reason I order it so much is the ease of dealing with my allergies and the fact that so many different things can go in it. I recently had one that had shrimp, mushrooms, and green peppers. MELT.

So, bored and thrilled with how beautiful the day was and appreciative of the fact that a busy few days was about to kick off, I wandered off and gathered up some ingredients and then, somewhere around ten at night, got to cooking. No sooner did a tasty 'dilla come of the pan was it eaten, happily, with the guacomole I made (with help, sort of, as I got one of my roommates to smash up the avocado and mix in the tomato and onion, so I will give some props) and some sour cream. No photos! I will later post photos of hanging out and eating cake or something - so you can get the idea of fun, happy, delicious times.

The fun part of picking flour tortillas is a) there are less options, so I have to obsess over the ingredients less and b) the store sometimes has locally made ones so I can hunt for them! I'm so partial to Chicago produced things.

Clearly, you can do whatever you want to a quesadilla. I recommend getting the actual delicious quesadilla cheese, but I was pressed for time and ended up just getting the packet of cheese at Jewel that said "Mexican Cheese! Four-cheese-style!" (as opposed to the various other kinds. at least I tried.). More on cheese I like to get at the tienda later though. Another post later, not later on here. Sorry! Hopes dashed!

My cleverly prepared counter contained...

- tomato, chopped
- onion, diced
- garlic, minced
- orange bell pepper, sliced and then chopped
- chicken, cut into smallish pieces
- mushrooms, chopped
- butter, knob of
- oil
- dill, salt, pepper

- flour tortillas
- avocado, turned guacamole by being mashed with some more chopped tomato and some diced onion. then one or two dashes of salt.
- sour cream
- the aforementioned cheese

Now. Ordinarily, I would cook up the meat and veg and everything and then set about making the food. However. I have picky roommates. One is a vegetarian (which is cool) and one doesn't eat mushrooms (or courgettes, actually) and so since I like all these things (and so does the third roommate), I just opted to cook everything seperately and put them in their own dishes. So in the end, it was sort of a quesadilla bar.

At any rate, some garlic and onion and chicken go in with some oil and a bit of butter, seasoned happily and when pretty much still deliciously tender put in dish. Salt, pepper, dill. I then cooked up the yellow peppers with a little onion and garlic and pepper, salt. Follow with mushrooms! More butter, more pepper and salt, the last bit of the onion and garlic. (I just divided what I would want in the whole thing, so as to not have overpowering things. not that there is "too much" garlic)

Now, in a now-clean pan, I drop a tortilla and sprinkle cheese. Then I sprinkle some more cheese! Add whichever fillings that particular person wants, put in more cheese. This is a quesadilla, people! Cheese is key! And after topping it with another tortilla (my flour tortillas are smallish) and pressing for a second to help it stick, carefully flip it over. Continue waiting and flipping until satisfied with melty-state and crispy-state.

Serve with sour cream and guac, rejoice in deliciousness. Accept praise and presents, as surely one must follow the other?

I really, really, really love quesadillas.

5.5.09

A Gorgeous Day Calls for...



Potato Salad!

At least, it doesn't hurt to have potato salad involved in nice days and Saturday was, in fact, a cook-out-style
nice day. That said, we here in the halfway house of ill-repute did not have a cookout. We stayed in and ate pasta and potato salad and maybe they don't match up, but they were still delicious. And we were still happy.

This potato salad has been requested numerous times by people and these people? Are very specific in their memory of it. I learned it from one of my very close friends and while I do it a little different (I think. sometimes, anyway.), it's still a huge hit. I've watched this stuff be inhaled at a pig roast, vanish in a backyard soiree, and not linger on in an apartment. Oddly, I don't make it very much until the warm weather starts to hit and people remember this potato salad.

I'd like to learn other picnic/cook-out side dishes and stuff, but until I do - this is a stand-by that I, myself, happily eat myself to fat on.

Now, I have trouble giving exact amounts here or even real guidelines. This is all done to taste. I learned by being told "chop that up and throw that in" and that was that - we were both cooks, we could sort of get away with this. Well, guess what? You can get away with this too.

Ingredients
- red potatoes (or baking potatoes or yellow potatoes, I've used all of them.) T
his last time, I used five red potatoes of varying sizes. But none were quite small.
- apple cider vinegar
- fresh dill, chopped
- celery, about four or five stalks chopped up fine
- red onion - medium sized, diced

- mustard (dijon, though I used regular on Saturday as I completely forgot and, honestly, I think you can play with this)
- mayo
- a lemon, juiced. (I squeeze mine directly in. Watch for seeds!)
*I recall using a lime once. It was delicious! I like limes, though, so I am partial.
- salt, pepper.



- cut your potatoes into the sized chunks that you want to be eating. I like smallish ones largely, with a few outliers. boil these in some water until tender and, you know, you can eat them.
- drain the potatoes and let them cool. add in the onion and the celery.
- once they are cool, mix in the mayo and mustard. I like to do a few spoons of mayo first with a small spiral of mustard. You can decide from there how much mayo you want and mustard taste and all. Add the lemon, though check after half of the juice to see if you want more. Add a small amount of apple cider vinegar - a tablespoon or two. Mix mix mix, stir stir stir. Add the dill and salt and pepper, all to taste.

Honestly, you can add other things or take things out as you prefer, but this is what I do and people love it. It's got a light zing from the lemon juice and the whole taste sensation is fantastic. Very comforting and fresh - really nice for those days on a picnic. Or sitting around with your friends. Or even as lunch in a break room, wishing you were off work.

And a big Kitchenry thank you goes to Kelly, who taught me this over shots of tequila that summer we rocked it at the Bakery. Also, I think this is relatively cheap - the dill might be the only pricey thing, depending on what you do or do not have in your kitchen already.

2.5.09

Koulourakias or a cookie from my past.


Woosh, it has been insanely busy around my life lately. Getting a spare moment to myself has been nigh impossible - I traveled out of town, to Ohio, for a wedding and visited people, I moved, I wallowed in despair, I got a job, and I even worked a few days of it! But in the midst of all this, I still had time to make koulourakias - Greek butter cookies - for Pascha (Eastern Orthodox Easter).

I was raised Greek Orthodox (and Russian Orthodox, later) despite the fact that my family is neither Greek nor Russian. Depending on which church we went to, Christmas was either on, you know, Christmas or it was on Jan 7. But the one thing that both churches shared was the fact that Easter is (almost) always one week or one month after the Western Easter. This year, it was a week later.

Anyway. My godmother was from Greece - we met her when my family joined the church, I was young - somewhere around fourth grade - and while my brother had found a god-family relatively quickly, they didn't want a girl and so I was adrift. Georgia offered to be my godmother and lo! I had a godmother and a yiayia (her mother, who spoke absolutely no English at all and would pat my hand and say something to me and I would smile and say "yes, yiayia" but I have no idea what she said...). At any rate, Georgia would make koulouriakias for me each Pascha. I loved them.

I'm not religious, I haven't been for a long time, but each Pascha I get a little nostalgic. Georgia died when I was in high school, she had cancer. I'd never made these cookies and she didn't teach me how, but I am telling you that these taseted exactly how I remembered.

Koulourakia!

- one stick butter, softened
- half cup of sugar
- two eggs, beaten until light
- grated orange peel (original recipe suggested a teaspoon, but I did a little more)
- half tablespoon baking powder
- two cups flour

- combine flour and baking powder
- in a seperate bowl, cream the butter and sugar, then slowly add the beaten eggs and the orange zest. Add the flour/baking powder mixture slowly. You will get a soft dough.
- shape the cookies by taking sections and rolling them first into a ball (walnut sized) and then out into ropes that you can braid together or twist into a circle or spiral or, you know, really anything.
- I put mine on foil on a cookie sheet, then brushed the tops with some beaten egg and baked at 375 degrees for around twenty minutes - until the cookies were golden!

I did a few batches at different cook times, but was pleased with all of them. Twenty minutes gets a bit harder cookie, but you can play until you figure out what you like. This makes a fair few cookies.

And oh, how I loved them. Everyone loved them! I hope you love them too.

(yes, there are many different variations on this cookie - some have vanilla, some have sesame seeds, and I love sesame seeds! I've had them with sesame and I think they are delish. But this is how Georgia must have made them, cause this is how they tasted.)

12.4.09

Insanely Delicious Brownies

Okay, my camera is still awful and it's mostly my fault since I've done little to try and fix it. For shame, for shame!

Still. This hasn't stopped me from cooking and won't stop me from posting. I made lazy lazy fish sticks dinner the other night, which was basically sponsored by frozen food (but also included some homemade mac-and-cheese) and to top off the cuteness of the whole meal, I had these out of this world brownies that I had made that morning. You know those mornings where you wake up and realize that you've been wanting to try your hand at something for ages and get right to it?

Yes, you do. Easily done when you are unemployed (still! still!!) but the idea here is the same for anyone.

I had this experience. I had been gazing at a brownie recipe for ages in my much-beloved Jamie Oliver cookbook. I'd even gone so far as to pick up walnuts and dried dark sweet cherries for it, but it had been long enough that I never really thought about it and pretty much had eaten half of the dried cherries just as delicious snacking treats. So healthy! You wouldn't know it from this recipe, but I do put in a good effort in being healthy.

At any rate, rather than post a poorly done picture of my brownies, I didn't. You've seen brownies. You know how it goes.

Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Chocolate Brownies

- one cup plus two tablespoons unsalted butter
- seven oz dark chocolate, broken up (mine was part of a large bar of a semi-sweet chocolate)
- 2 1/2 oz dried sour cherries (optional) (I used dried dark sweet cherries)
- 1 1/3 oz chopped nuts (optional)
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder (mine was a dark cocoa)
- 1/2 cup flour
- one teaspoon baking powder
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- four large eggs

NOTE: In addition to the changes I mentioned, the original recipe suggests some great things such as superfine sugar and organic eggs. That sort of thing. I do not have these things, but i'm sure they would make things all the better. He also suggests orange zest mixed into a bit of creme fraiche for serving, which I also didn't do. Although I did involve some vanilla ice cream.

At any rate, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. I buttered my baking pan a little, but the original recipe suggests lining it with wax paper. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl over simmering water. You know the kind, the rigged up pot/pan double boiler way. Or if you are fancy, have at the double boiler. When they are melted, mix until smooth and then add the cherries and nuts if you are using them. Mix together.

In a seperate bowl, mix the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and sugar. Mix this together with the chocolate mixture, stirring together well, and then mix in beaten eggs until you have a silky consistency. You should eat some, just so can enjoy the deliciousness.

Pour the batter into the pan, then bake for about twenty-five minutes. Be careful not to overcook them - they should still be a little gooey in the middle although the brownies will be a little springy.

Now, I pulled out my brownies pretty much at the twenty-fine minute mark and they were maybe slightly too undercooked. This, however, did not stop me from eating them. The more-towards-the-middle brownies had a very gooey center. If this is your style, then have at because oh man was it awesome, but if you like them more cooked then I say go for it.

Seriously, these things were bangerang. (you know, bangerang! like in Hook!) Everyone pretty much ate the shit out of them. You know. Scarf, die of delight, scarf.

27.3.09

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna - DB March


I, for one, was very exited to make this month Daring Bakers challenge. Not only do I have far too much time on my hands (curse you, unemployment!) and not only was I thrilled to have a new pasta dish to make everyone eat, but there was the enjoyable fact that I've kind of always wanted to make my own pasta. My camera, on the other hand, apparently was a little over-excited because when I turned her on, she whirred to life and then flickered out.

Broken? No, not really. Just refusing to work. I wasn't even concerned because I knew it would be back in
order before all the lasagne was eaten.

Oh, what a fool I was. I'm glad I took a couple of cell phone pictures because, seriously, this did not stick around very long. And on that note, I would like to apologize for the fact that my pictures of this are so very, very bad.

It isn't a very good camera phone. But it is a very good recipe!


The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

This a delicious, amazing meal of multiple steps. I did a large chunk of it at about four or five in the morning, but I wouldn't suggest that. Unless you, like me, are having some insomnia issues and figure that hand-rolling some pasta out is the ultimate cure.
Step One: Make The Spinach Pasta

2 jumbo eggs
10 ounces fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped
3&1/2 cups all purpose flour

"Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump."

My pasta? Did not want to behave. I presume it was because my eggs were simply large, so I chucked in an extra one. And you know what? This really did help.


"With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours."

At first, I thought this would not work. At first, I thought I had done something wrong. At second, I cursed that extra egg. And finally, I held the green dough in my hands and said "oh! alive! I get it!" and giggled happily, wrapped my dough in foil, and watched a movie.

"If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag."

All I can say is I have no doubt, at all, that Enza's housekeeper has probably the best guns at the gun show because oh my goodness, this was intense. I don't own a rolling pin, but I do have wine bottles! So I used one of those. I sprinkled some flour on the counter and set to work using little bits at a time. Limited space and all.

I was actually really pleased with how this worked out, but was terribly concerned that I didn't have my pasta thin enough. I had a drying rack set up that that held all my pasta. It looked like real, honest to goodness pasta. And on some level, I thought this might be victory enough.

Thankfully, it also tasted like awesomeness in my mouth. So. I didn't have to settle.

Step Two: Make White Sauce

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all purpose unbleached flour
2 2/3 cups milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste*

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

* I didn't have nutmeg, but I did have this cinnamon/nutmeg/christmassy spice that I used instead. I also added a dash of dill. I like dill. And I like this sauce. And I like that this is the first time I didn't freak out over the roux and do it the "mix butter and flour together by itself and then sprinkle in towards the end" thing that I like to do. I like doing it that way, but doing it this way was exciting.

Step Three: Making the ragu.

I opted to use my own pasta sauce recipe, that is based off of (what else?) a Jamie Oliver recipe. Oh, be still my beating heart.

olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 can of whole tomatoes
1 can of diced tomatoes with basil and onions
courgettes, sliced and chopped
salt, pepper
balsamic

First I cooked some onion and garlic in the oil, then chucked in everything else. I let this simmer for about a half hour, drizzled a litle balsamic in, and later added:

chicken, mushrooms, a little more garlic - all cooked and delightfully seasoned

and allowed to reduce. Holy mother of pasta, this was amazing.

You can find the actual Jamie recipe here.
Step Four: Making the actual lasagne.

Cooking the Pasta:
"Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served."

This was sort of amazing.
I was concerned about my pasta being too thick, so I was very careful about the noodles and exactly which ones I used. As it turned out, it worked out wonderfully.

Also, I am now a hero to my people. (hero to my stomach?)

Also, I feel like I wrote this whole entry in a very odd way. I apologize. I am sick. I have some meds in my system and sort of feel like cotton. It really is entirely my bad. Still, I didn't want to be late.

24.3.09

Bacon Chocolate Cookies: Take One.

Oh, bacon. Is there anything you can't do?

I never tried the Vosges bacon bar or, really, any sweet taste with a crispy bacon undertone. It wasn't even that I missed the boat, I just never got around to meandering by the lake. I'm pretty sure if somehow bacon and sesame chips came into existence together, I would have shoved someone out of the way to get it in my hands like one of those desperate girls who will take your eye out if you get between her and the wedding boquet. But they didn't, so I didn't, and I went on just eating bacon in things like...a plate of bacon, a turkey burger, or an Elvis sandwhich.

This brings me to the point where I promise to make and document an Elvis sandwhich for your viewing pleasure soon. Ish. My camera is out of battery power and, well, I can't find my batteries and refuse to spend money on some when I *know* that I have them. Oh, it's so frustrating. Money! Unemployment! No time for batteries!

This is not the point and I apologize for getting so far off track. I promise, I will do it again. It's in my nature.

I decided today that I wanted to check out this new trend that isn't actually new anymore, as far as I can tell. Frying up my bacon, it was sort of a "one for the cookie dough, one for me..." game planned in advance. A good thing, seeing as how I ended up eating a good bit of the bacon when I was hacking it all up for the cookie. I was using a recipe from The Culinary Sherpas and I halved it, but did add some extra vanilla. (see link for the recipe)

I am not my poor, allergic friend. I love vanilla. I also love cinnamon! Just so you know, in case you ever want to get me something delicious.

At any rate, it went well. Which is good! Because I have a confession.

...when I make cookies? I usually somehow misstep and they, well, they melt.I get a mass of tasty cookie mess, not a bunch of cookies. My gingerbread men? Gingerbread puddle. People like it fine enough, but I don't usually make cookies. I'm hard on myself. Oldest Child Syndrome, maybe?

If I wanted to show you a picture, though, I would google search terms like "no, there are no nuts in here, how strange" and "people looking skeptical and then vowing to give me their first born".

I've also stashed some of the dough in a container (cleverly labeled YOGURT bwa ha ha!) in order to see if it is true. Does cookie dough that hangs out in my fridge taste better after some wait time?

The Great Bacon Cookie Experiment will continue. There may be pictures.

Even if they are just pictures of me and my friends, laughing, from older times.

PS: I suggest enjoying this decidedly not vegan snack with a glass of milk. I'm just saying. I'm out of milk, but imagine it would be awesome.

11.3.09

Being broke doesn't mean you don't eat.


Club Kitchen was well underway yesterday when I realized that I was going to need dinner, not just cupcakes. I'm not sure why I thought I would need something else, but I did and oh man, was it ever as delicious as I'd hoped it would be.

Since being unemployed, I've been finding ways to try and make every penny count. Now, I've always tried to live cheaply, but these days it isn't as easy as it used to be. Or maybe it is, but I'm just more stressed out about it. That tends to get in the way. Then I caught a lucky break.

Lentils. A delicious bean that was only a dollar per bag at the grocery store. A dollar! I swear, I was filled with a great joy when I saw the orange price tag. I can't even remember the last time I cooked lentils, but they were cheaper than the pinto beans I had originally gone to buy. So, I'm standing there in the grocery store and I realize - lentils! I have a carrot at home! I have some chicken! Mushrooms!

LENTIL SOUP! For under five dollars! (or maybe just over? the lady didn't charge me for the onions.)

- chopped onion
- sliced mushrooms
- thinly sliced carrot
- minced garlic cloves
- one and half chicken breasts, cut into bits
- chicken broth (rather, i chucked a bullion cube into the water)
- lentils, not quite a cup
- seasonings of my delicious choice
- drizzle of vanilla

I cooked the lentils according to the packet instructions, using the chicken broth instead of plain water. Towards the end of the beans cooking, I sauteed the onion and garlic with a little butter and oil - then cooked the chicken bits, then added the veg. Seasoned with salt, some dill, a quick dash of cayenne, and the barest hint of honey.

I added the veg/chicken to the lentils and let everything rest while I made very quick drop biscuits.

Super delicious. Super affordable. Super happy supper.

And since yesterday was a blustery, rainy, awfully grey Chicago day? It was exactly what was needed.

On being burned.


Oh, it started off innocently enough yesterday.

That may be incorrect. It started off early, though, and I was warm and dry while the outside was soaked and blustery. Around eight in the morning, I realized I really wanted to be baking. I just wanted to devote a whole day to being covered in flour and maybe make bread that didn't need yeast or something. (my plan? irish soda bread or maybe railway cake.)

Instead, I heard rumors that my roommate wanted there to be cupcakes in existence when she got home. So I set to work! I made essentially the same chocolate cupcakes that I posted about previously (click the tag that says "cupcakes" on the sidebar if you missed it) but I added chopped up chocolate. Also! I have stopped having cupcakes fall in on themselves. So, essentially, I am brilliant. (and stopped taking them out that little minute too early. sorry, cupcake gods!)

At any rate. While my delicious, full-of-chocolate-but-less-mocha-powder cupcakes were baking, I decided to wash the other cupcake pan that was sitting on the stove from a few days ago. I tapped it - not hot - and picked it up and set it in the sink. I then turned on the water, and touched a different part of the pan. Oh. Oh, that was hot. There was a lot of swearing and leaping back, turnng off water and continued cursing.

Yes. Turning off water. Why? Because I recently read on Chaos in the Kitchen that a fresh-cut onion can help with a burn. And you know what? It did. It really really did. So all was good in Club Kitchen.

...sometimes, when I cook, I like to have really clubby music playing. I can't be positive, but I am relatively certain that while I was whipping up a fresh batch of sour cream frosting there was some singing and rocking out to Justin Timberlake. (whereas right now, in a normal non-cooking moment, the music of choice is currently The Airborne Toxic Event. they sound a lot like The Arcade Fire, if you ask me, which is a good thing.)

Come for the cooking, stay for the music recommendation.

At any rate. I couldn't just stop there, yesterday, with the cupcakes and the frosting and my (stupid) burned hand. I made some cookie dough which tastes pretty good, but hasn't been baked yet. Ask me later.

9.3.09

March Mehness.

I feel like I should have some sort of list. A list of things I'd like to make so that sometimes, when I can't think of anything and realize I've made stir-fry fifty billion times (last time there were carrots and sometimes there are freshly made chow fan noodles from a local Chicago place. there is no end of joy when reading Halsted on the noodle label) or something like - everyone makes tuna salad or egg salad. Or when I realize I've been eating bread and butter or this pasta bake that my roommate and I love love love (but I keep not taking snaps of it, so I can't exactly post it).

The point here is. I need to branch out! Document better! Try new things!

Which is, of course, one good thing about being so very very poor (due to being so very very unemployed). Creativity is a must. Especially when I've got to keep a tight watch on my allergy and my nickles. So maybe I'll get on that.

Of course, I have been feeling like not doing anything at all (thus eating things like bread and butter as a meal) because my brain is not what you might call "happy" these days.

In other news, Top Chef. Really? Hosea? He's such a tool, much like Stefan, but so much more annoying and so much less talented and so much less of a decent human. Carla was the nicest of the three, though I kept waiting for her to snap suddenly and violently. Really I just wanted Jaime and Fabio to be there, being awesome. Winning. Making everyone else pay. So at least Fabio won Fan Favorite.

And at least Jamie was adorable.

Plus, isn't my new Daring Bakers badge adorable? The Daring Kitchen now hosts all your daring needs!

27.2.09

Flourless Chocolate Valentino Cake and Vanilla Ice Cream



The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.


Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped

½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.


I used a different pan (these really cute little bundt pans, actually, that my mother sent me for xmas) than a heart shaped pan. I'm also a little sure that I whipped the egg whites a bit too much but the cake was still tasty.

The ice cream was killer though. Oh man.

I don't have an ice cream maker, so I just used a bowl and my freezer. I briefly considered the old kick-the-can method of my Girl Scout days, but probably made the right choice as far as Chicago and weather goes. Also, since the challenge allowed us to choose our own ice cream recipe I used a Jamie Oliver custard recipe.

I love him. I really, really do.



- 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- six tablespoons sugar (Jamie suggests superfine, but I again ignored this)
- vanilla (honestly, I forget how much I used, but it was delicious. the book says to use a vanilla bean.)
- eight egg yolks

Mix the cream, milk, four tablespoons sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a pan. Bring to the boiling point and then remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Seperately, whisk the yolks with two tablespoons of sugar until pale. If you used the vanilla bean, take it out of the mixture. Slowly, you will pour the milk mixture into the egg yolk/sugar blend in bits. Whisk immediately, making sure that the first bit is mixed well before adding the next one. Pour the mixture back in the warm pan and cook gently for a few mins, constantly stirring. I used a wooden spoon and when the custard was thick and shiny, I made sure it could coat the back of my spoon.

I was really worried I was going to accidentally scramble it, but I snatched it off the heat and let it get cold. I then stuck it (in the bowl, not the pan) into the freezer. I mixed it every twenty minutes for a few hours, but mine started to set pretty quickly and from the living room, it was obvious how well I was doing as the more like ice cream it looked the more I cheered.

All in all, this was super fun and not too stressful. I love low stress levels.Delicious food for me, vanilla-less cake for my poor vanilla-challenged friend, and an excuse to do another Jamie Oliver recipe. (note: his ice cream/custard comes from Cook with Jamie and everyone. everyone. everyone. should buy this.)