Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fried Eggs

I fried my first egg the other day. I had one bite and Ian finished it. Apparently some of my food conditioning has worn off; it's still tough for me to swallow eggs that are cooked with the whites and yolks separate. Plus that goop underneath it is a very rich cheese sauce that just made the whole thing too rich; I ended up eating the bread and sauce while Ian ate the egg. I'll try this again. I will. Drat you eggs.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brown Sugar

Have you ever made your own brown sugar? It's as easy as adding molasses to white granulated sugar and whizzing it up in the food processor. It's great in a pinch--I'm making cinnamon rolls and so I added the cinnamon (and a little nutmeg) right into the mix. Should be yummy!


So, I'm kind of addicted to blogging, and not only is this project nearing its close, but I've been itching to have a little more freedom in what I blog about, and this site is a little restrictive in subject, huh? So I created a new blog, just for fun. Check it out:

Pattypan Potato Soup

I recently bought a ten-pound bag of potatoes, which is twice what I normally buy, but the grocery store employees were having a nice, leisurely chat while "restocking" the five-pounders, and I wasn't in the mood to interrupt them. So I figured I ought to make potato soup, which used up about a pound of them (only nine more to go!). I'd also bought a few pattypan squash at last week's farmer's market and needed to find a use for them (they're so cute, I couldn't resist). So I chopped them up and threw them into my pot. Once everything had gotten nice and soft, I ran the whole mess (potatoes, onion, thyme, squash, garlic, chicken stock) through the food mill, and boy was it a satisfying dinner, and healthy to boot. I added a little low-fat sour cream to our bowls before serving, but other than that there really wasn't much fat (I maybe used a quarter cup of oil to saute the onion). It was hearty and sort of sweet and nutty; all the great things about potato soup and squash combined. Hurray for last minute inventions.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Everybody Can Can!

Obviously, I haven't been posting much. I've made a few new things, though I'll admit I haven't been sticking to my 7 recipes a week model. Funny how that happened. I got to this part of my resolution and suddenly I didn't feel so excited to learn new methods of cooking. But then, this weekend, I got to try canning for the first time with a friend I rarely get to see, and it sort of reminded me why I got into cooking in the first place.

You see, I'm usually in my kitchen cooking alone. I'm usually staving off boredom, or trying to convince myself that one day I'll have people to cook for besides my husband, people to cook with besides my husband. Not that I don't love cooking for and with my husband; it's just that we live here, with these pots and pans, every day. There isn't much special about making chili for the millionth time, even my special pumpkin chipotle turkey chili. It's practical. It's normal. At one point, cooking together was super romantic and it bonded us together, but at this point I don't know that there's any bonding left to do. It's like saying you'll bond with your own organs.

But this weekend, I was able to cook with someone I've never cooked with before. On top of that, she taught me something: she taught me the basics of canning. We made blueberry syrup and blueberry butter (no part of the blueberry was wasted). It was a cool fall morning with a bit of a bluster outside, but we cooked the fruit on the deck, on this super cool gas stove, and we put screens on top of the pots to keep the pine needles out. While we waited for the juice to drain for the syrup, we talked about Cary Grant and how we really prefer him in comedic roles, like in Arsenic and Old Lace (which Ian and I watched when we got home, later that evening). And when we were done, we had lovely sealed jars of some really fantastic product, good for keeping for at least a year. My friend also sent me home with several other jams and such that she'd canned earlier this year, several of which are experiments in a special kind of pectin that allows jams and jellies to set with less sugar. I can't wait to try them all. I'm going to have to bake some bread.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lentils and Brown Rice and Kale, Oh My!

Last night I set out to make a variation on Giada DeLaurentiis' goat cheese, lentil, and brown rice rolls, which involve rolling a hearty vegetarian mixture into swiss chard leaves, but alas and alack! The kale leaves I planned to use weren't big enough. So instead, I chopped it, blanched it, and stirred it in with my mixture, which contained brown rice, lentils, ricotta, mozzarella, tomato sauce, and onions. Baked it all together with a crust of Grana Padano (purchased in lieu of Parmesan because it's cheaper... not bad, but definitely not Parm), and boy was it satisfying. A perfect hearty dinner that didn't weigh us down... we had yoga class at seven.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beer and Pretzel... Caramel!

I have discovered the world's most addictive caramel. If you're going to make this, be sure you have a lot of people to share it with, or you will end up consuming a pound of sugar and fat in only a few days. This caramel is sweet, but not too sweet, with a dark depth to it. It's salty, especially on the finish, because it is full of pretzel pieces, which also give it a fantastic texture. It's a wonderful fall dish, perfect for any event where you'd normally serve beer and pretzels; my husband actually had a poker game on Friday and it was only after he got back that we realized we should have sent the caramels with him as his snack contribution. Next time.

Of course, next time, my caramel might taste more like beer. You see, I got this recipe from Food Network Magazine, and it called for me to reduce a certain amount of beer (I used Sam Adams Oktoberfest) down to two teaspoons, which I tried to do--but when it was at maybe a quarter cup, I went and checked my email, and by the time I got back, it was just a sticky film inside my pot. So, lesson learned. A neglected pot over-reduces. Anyway, this syrup was supposed to be stirred in at the end of the caramel's cooking process, along with the pretzels, and this would give it a little more beery kick. Which would be good, but I have to say, it was wonderful without it.

If you want to try this recipe, click here.

A Strange Little Snack

A while ago, we bought butter crackers for out beet green gratin, which is something we never do--having crackers in the house is like an invitation for me to binge. But this time, I was pretty good about rationing them, and along the way, I created my new favorite breakfast/lunch/snack.

You see, I went through this phase a couple weeks ago where I was craving eggs. I don't know why--other proteins just didn't seem to cut it. So one day I scrambled up a few, and it occurred to me that I had this wonderful havarti cheese in the fridge, and the crackers in the cupboard, and... voila. Topped it with a little ketchup (I know this makes the whole thing sound silly but it needs a little acidity to cut the richness of the eggs, cheese, and crackers--it's also delicious with green chili sauce). Oh my goodness. Silly, but good.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wilton Flower

Last night I went to my very first cake decorating class and made my very first frosting stars on some sugar cookies (I realized later that I should have tried a new recipe for this, since I had the opportunity, but I have found that very few recipes provide truly flat cookies to decorate and so I went with my tried and true unleavened holiday sugar cookies). It was an interesting experience, one designed to get me out of the house and among other living, breathing human beings (the people in my TV set apparently don't count). It was also designed to teach me a few things about decorating cakes, which I did, though I also had to sit through a lot of babble about things I already knew and resist the urge to snark about the decorating frosting being called "buttercream" when it contained no butter (except the Wilton butter flavoring) and choke when the instructor said things like "I don't put salt in any of my food" and "I'm not an icing person, even if it's really good icing."

Needless to say, this class was not at Le Cordon Bleu. It was in the break room at Michael's. I had five classmates, none of whom would speak (except the two college girls who whispered incessantly to each other), forcing me to be the nerdy kid who reads the instructions as the teacher demonstrates. But, like I said, I did learn to make little frosting stars. I also learned a couple of interesting things, some of which I have to take the teacher's word for (until I get a chance to test them) and some I saw in action.

1. Many off-brand powdered sugars are made with beet sugar (I believe that), which changes the consistency of frosting (needs testing).
2. When filling cakes, make a dam out of frosting to keep the filling in. (So simple, but a lightbulb clicked on!) This means you should pipe a thick line of frosting around the bottom layer of the cake, then fill inside that, then add the top layer.
3. Shortening used to contain Trans Fat, but it doesn't anymore. This means older shortening-based recipes might need adjusting with the new product.
4. When filling a piping bag, here's a very handy technique: make a "sausage" by putting the frosting in plastic wrap and twisting the ends. Cut off one of the ends and place that end toward the tip of the bag. This makes for super easy clean-up and no frosting on your hands!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Heirloom Tomato on Toast

I had my first ever heirloom tomato today (no, I don't remember which variety... I was so excited to find them at the farmer's market that I forgot to write it down). This isn't really a new recipe, exactly, as I kind of made it up based on what I had in the fridge, but it was a yummy and satisfying lunch. Even my tomato-hating husband liked it (or pretended he did). Here's what it was:

Toasted bread (I used my homemade sourdough that isn't really very sour) rubbed with a cut clove of garlic, spread with neufchatel cheese (the low-fat cream cheese), sprinkled with balsamic vinegar, topped with a hefty slice of tomato, sprinkled with salt.

Yum, yum, yum.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Beet Green Gratin

When I buy beets, I often tell myself I'm going to use the greens, but inevitably they end up in the trash. Which is a shame, really, because they're a viable food--chard is actually a form of beet stem, according to Alton Brown (I tend to believe him). But like celery tops or fennel fronds, I often save them until they wilt or take up too much refrigerator real estate, and then, since I haven't thought what to do with them, they get tossed out with the trash.

But not last night. Oh no--this time, I had more use for the greens than the beets themselves. In fact, I have two beets leftover, waiting to be roasted some night this week. This time I found a recipe in my Good Eats cookbook--a beet green gratin. I had to modify it a bit--I didn't have a full pound of beet greens so I rounded out the filling with some finely diced potatoes and the flesh of two beets (which, of course, turned the mixture pink, even after several rinsings--I am convinced that beets' pinkiness could be parlayed into enticement for little girls to eat their vegetables--pink potato puree!). Together with some sauteed mushrooms and garlic and a ricotta cheese mixture to bind it, this was a delicious and hearty vegetarian dinner. Good eats, indeed.


Day before yesterday, I had my first kohlrabi--I also prepped it, though Ian did the actual cooking on the grill. I had read that it tasted like broccoli stems, but I didn't expect it to taste EXACTLY LIKE BROCCOLI STEMS. Strange to buy a spiky reddish purple thing at the farmer's market and discover you could have simply bought broccoli.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Tonight, I made my first real spaghetti carbonara. I've made pasta dishes that call themselves carbonara before, but they've involved bechamel type white sauces instead of the saucy eggs the traditional recipe calls for. I have to say, I was nervous about that part. I expected the eggs to scramble or curdle on me and make a big old mess. But, magically, the pan was the right temperature as I swirled in the eggs and it created this lovely creamy sauce, just as planned. Of course, my dish wasn't perfect... I used turkey bacon instead of pig bacon, so it wasn't really crispy and there wasn't that real bacony flavor, which, for a recipe with so few ingredients, is pretty important. But it was still tasty in a slightly less fattening way, and super quick. This will definitely grace my table again.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Kettle Corn Innovation

I have this recipe in a low-cal cookbook for maple kettle corn, and today I decided to try it. Except I didn't have the maple sugar the recipe called for. I did have maple syrup and white sugar, so I used a combination of the two. I don't think this is the only reason for my kettle corn failure, but I think it's a big one.

The biggest reason I think my kettle corn didn't turn out is that I didn't heat the oil before throwing in the corn kernels and sugary stuff, which meant it all blended into a caramel far too soon. The second reason is that I used a liquid sugar which, again, formed a premature caramel. This caramel trapped the corn kernels, keeping most of them from popping. The kernels that did pop were trapped within the unpopped kernels, and by the time a few handfuls have popped, the caramel was burned.

So there was that.

But that's how you learn, right? You make a mistake, you learn from it. Next time I try kettle corn, I will not make these mistakes.