Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cauliflower and Potato Curry (p. 267)

Where have my comments gone? I think people are still reading because they mention items from my blog but they aren't commenting--I want more!

Sorry that I haven't been blogging so much recently--but I haven't been cooking! I was sick at the end of last week (didn't feel like working!!) and my blowout trip to Kansas City is coming on Thursday--awesome awesome awesome! When I get back I'm going to do some serious cooking.

So what did I cook yesterday? Aloo Gobi--or as white bread TJOC says, Cauliflower and Potato Curry (p. 267). Pretty easy to make. Chop some stuff up, brown it. Chop more stuff up, brown it. Add broth and coconut milk. Cook it down. Pretty easy! This recipe could easily be vegan (although mine wasn't).

Again, it's white bread, so it doesn't have NEAR enough curry in it. Even so, it was awesome and Josh said it was great the next day--plus it was easy!

I'm always so nervous cooking Indian food but DAMN--both dishes I've made so far have really turned out well...


And it was made with frozen spinach instead of fresh...worked fine!

Josh felt strongly that the chili he made tonight deserved to be pictured in the blog :) It was very tasty, but not from TJOC

I'm going to Mexico in a couple weeks, so I think I may dedicate the next few week to Mexican foods!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Chicken fingers (p. 430) with Barbeque sauce (p. 586) and Honey mustard dipping sauce (p. 566)

I was totally unmotivated to cook Monday night and we barely have any food in the house. That being said, we did have some boneless, skinless, (tasteless?), chicken breast segments that we accidental paid a fortune for and I had managed to thaw. So what to do with them....

Chicken fingers (p. 430)! I love chicken fingers! And I imagined I would like homemade chicken fingers better homemade then the chicken selects at McDonald's that I have been over-eating (I WILL win Monopoly!). There are two recipes in TJOC for chicken fingers in different sections of the book. One of them requires a deep fryer. I have a deep fryer...but I'm not ready for that mess yet. So, p. 430 has a recipe that just requires stovetop frying! Perfect!

Hmm...there one egg yolk was twice the size of the other! One of my eggs was obviously from a mutant chicken.

Breading was kind of fun. You dip the chicken in an eggy mixture,than in a breadcrumb mixture. After about two of them your fingers get coated in a chicken-y, egg-y, breadcrumb-y, nast-y mix. Even so, it's fun, like playing in a sandbox. I think I paid more to have the chicken precut, which is incredibly stupid--I'm not THAT lazy! I'll pay more attention next time.

Breaded chicken fingers, pre-frying...

After is possible that these fingers had a titch too much frying, although they didn't taste burned at all!

I decided to make homemade Barbeque sauce (p. 586). Awesome! So easy that I was talking on the phone with my mother for most of it...Now I warn you, this is Carolina-style BBQ sauce so it's pretty vinegar-y and tangy. If that isn't your style, then you won't like it. Josh and I use a lot of BBQ sauce and this made a lot of it, so I think we will be making this again. We also had to simmer it for way longer than 5 minutes to thicken it BUT that may because of the evil that is elevation.

As I started to boil the sauce, it was pretty red and chunky...

After being boiled, it was lighter....mmmm....and tasty....

Josh wanted to help, so I told him to stir the sauce for a while!

And then Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce (p. 566). This was awesome! It's pretty much mixing dijon mustard (pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?) and honey (local Colorado honey, of course), but it's amazing how tasty that combo is! And here is a secret, non-TJOC hint that Josh gave me--if you mix a little mayo in, it's like the honey-mustard in fast food joints!

Honey mustard sauce--it's even good if you dip Brussels Spouts in it!

I'm not afraid to say it, I gorged myself on chicken fingers and sauce. I managed to pack away well over half of them. Oh my god they were great! I'm salivating just thinking about them....

My helpful cleaning crew....

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sweet Crepes (p. 679), Crepe Cake (p. 651), and Pancakes (p. 644)

You would think that I would want to cook a lot this weekend because it was rainy and gross. But I didn't. Why not?

1. It's rainy and gross and I find it hard to be motivated when the weather is dreary (I suppose I should never live in the Pacific Northwest!).

2. I had a hella lot of work to get done this weekend, both for school and housework.

3. Josh and I are, umm....way over budget in groceries this month so I wanted to hold off a bit.

4. Our refrigerator is jammed with uneaten leftovers.

That being said, there has been minimal cooking in the last few days. Although I did post, but you probably didn't see it--it was actually earlier than my last post, so I backdated it. So go check it out!

Sweet Crepes (p. 679) and Crepe Cake (p. 651). The sweet crepes were awesome, although I think deep down the savory crepes were better. Really, the get easier each bunch you do. Have any of you tried to make them yet? I really think everyone should try. The crepe cake is really interesting. To make it, you make a crepe, spread jam on it, put another crepe on, spread more jam, keep layering. Then you put it in the oven--and if you are far more exciting then me--you flambe it! How exciting!

Make crepes, spread jam...
The finished product:
A crepe cake is really something that would be incredibly impressive for a dinner party. Esp. if you light it on fire. It was simple and can sit for up to 8 hours, so you wouldn't have to be in the kitchen while everyone else was eating. Since you can vary the jam or jelly you use (I used black raspberry from Trader Joe's), it could feel like you were making dozens of different cakes.
A slice of crepe cake.
This will be the last you see of crepes or blintzes for a while. Josh is incredibly sick of them! I don't understand why, I think they are awesome!

Now, on a completely different note, Pancakes (p. 644). Josh was shocked that I have never made pancakes from scratch before, but I hadn't. I think you'd be better off making these from scratch then from a box--they were super easy and there can't be that many more ingredients just starting from scratch.

Josh made fun of my pancakes because they had pockets of flour, but the recipe says very clearly not to mix it very much. They were very tasty!

The mix--the recipe says that lumps don't matter:
The pancakes love each other--maybe they will make little pancakes!

A huge pile of pancakes--

EDIT! I am happy to say, the blame for the ugly pancakes can be laid at the door of the TJOC editors. The edit page shows that although the recipe calls for 1.75 TABLEspoons baking powder, it should ACTUALLY say 1.75 TEAspoons baking powder. Make sure to make the change to your version of TJOC!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mulligatawny (p. 136), High altitude classic 1-2-3-4 cake (p. 747), and Quick white icing (p. 793)

I am a few days behind and I have to blog about yesterday soon...

I love soup and I'm happy it's fall so that I can make fall-y things!

I made Mulligatawny (MGT) (p. 136) today. I don't know how many of you eat MGT, but it's one of my favorite Indian dishes, along with Kheer. But I've never made any Indian food, even though Jennifer (one of my great friends from high school who is married to an Indian man) tells me it's easy.

This was super easy. It only took about an hour from start to finish and made a hearty two servings as a main course. It was just creamy enough and the curry was awesome (I made it with yellow curry). The oddest part? There are apples in MGT. I had no idea about that, although they did give it a crisp taste.

A vague and blurry picture of the yellow, tasty soup:

I know that I have stated (numerous times) that I am doing this because I can't cook. That's true. But I am an excellent baker. In high school, friends used to ask for my cookies (specifically, my big cookie) for gifts. I send dozens and dozens of cookies out every Christmas. I bake and I bake well. That being said, I haven't mastered the high altitude yet and I'm sick of not baking...

I started this cake several days ago before noticing that I was out of eggs. It turns out that TJOC uses a TON of eggs so I ran out for the first time ever (I usually have plenty on hand). So I already had the flour mixture taken care of and the sugar measured, so I figured, this will be a breeze, I'll make cupcakes.

Where the hell are my cupcake tins? Oh! I have no idea. So I guess it will be a cake I'm making.

Let me remind you, I live at approximately 5,000 ft above sea level. Why does that matter? Because it screws up almost all cooking and I have had ZERO luck with baking so far. But, hey, TJOC has high altitude recipes, so how could I screw it up?

I have no idea, but I managed to screw up 1 of the 2 cakes. I would love to know how that happened considering they were both poured out of the same bowl and in the oven next to each other on the same shelf!

The good cake:

The bad cake (see the indentation in the middle?):

AAGGGHHH! Why does this happen? I'm just going to have to keep trying until I get it right.

I decide to ice my cake with quick white icing because I don't feel like digging out my candy thermometer.

This is where it starts to go downhill...Frankly, I think this is the funniest thing to happen to me so far in my journey of TJOC. I sifted and sifted--but for some reason, after about twenty minutes, I had 1/2 cup--and I needed 4 I just fluffed the powdered sugar and moved on. This wasn't a problem. What was the problem?

It looks good, doesn't it?

Well, TJOC calls for 4-6 TBSP of milk, sherry, rum, or coffee. I don't drink coffee, so that was a no go. I figured that milk would require me to refrigerate the cake, and I don't feel like doing that. So what do I use? I invited the Captain to the party. Yes, I put 6 TBSP of Captain Morgan rum in the frosting.

"So, do you want to taste the frosting" I asked Josh. Of course he did. " has a strange taste" was all he said..."does it taste like rum?" I asked. It did. I tasted it. I'm not confident I can take this to work...I'll smell like I have a flask in the desk. It tastes like someone poured rum into the cake, and of course, it isn't cooked off so there is plenty of alcohol still in it...

I'm not sure how much I want to eat my rum cake. I mean, I like rum cake normally, but this is a little much...

So I iced the cake and they are pretty...I guess we'll see...

I was going to give some of it to a co-worker because he gave me a whole bunch of garden tomatoes from his garden, but he doesn't drink, so I think this cake might be a no-no...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Mashed Cauliflower (p. 267), Baked Eggplant Slices (p. 273), and Filled Savory Crepes (p. 649)

Now this was a strange day where I cooked a bizarre mixture of foods...and found my first error in TJOC. Now, I am inclined to believe that it was my problem in cooking, not the problem of the book but I truly don't know what I could have done wrong...

What was this recipe? Mashed Cauliflower (p. 267). My problem? How in the world is a cauliflower, even one cut into florets, to cook in about 1 inch of broth with no cover? It was never going to cook! So I placed a cover over it. I didn't want to add more liquid because you never drain the cauliflower and I was afraid that it would get goopy (yes, that's a technical term). Has anyone else made this or does anyone else have any recommendations?

It was good. I think in a certain way, that mashed cauliflower is better than mashed potatoes because the cauliflower has a stronger flavor than potatoes. I doubt I'll make it again, but it was okay.

Here is a picture of the mashed cauliflower after it went through the world's smallest food processor. In real life, it doesn't look like a mixture of scrambled eggs and rice pudding.

Oh eggplant. How I fear you. I just found out, after making Baked Eggplant Slices (p. 273) that apparently I'm supposed to be "sweating" the eggplant. TJOC talks about sweating the eggplant like it's a option, not a necessity, so I have not done it so far. Does everyone else do this?

The baked eggplant was decent, but strange. The first bite wasn't good at all. The second bite was better. By the time that I finished a couple slices, I liked the flavor. Now you could ask why I kept eating the slices and I couldn't tell you the answer to that. I am guessing that it is the same reason that people like Napoleon Dynamite (everyone says that they didn't like it the first time, it took a couple watchings. I've always wondered why you would watch it more than once if you didn't like it...).

I suppose that I will have to learn more about eggplant, I have 5 more eggplant recipes to make...

Well, they look tasty. But zucchini is ::gasp:: better...

The main dish of the night was Savory Crepes (p. 649) that were filled with ham and cheese (p. 649). Delicious! Josh's mom makes crepes all the time and they are terrific. She always seems to whip them up in about ten minutes, which was a skill that I wanted to gain.

What can I tell you about crepe-making? It takes practice but it isn't difficult. If you've been scared in the past of making crepes because you think it will be hard, just open up your copy of TJOC and try it. They are delicious--even with nothing in them. I can tell that crepes are going to become a common part of our meals...

To sum it up, you make the crepe batter, full the crepe, roll it up, and bake it again. I used store-bought ham and sharp Cheddar cheese and they were awesome! Josh also said that they heated up really well when he took a couple for lunch, which is always important in our household. TJOC says that crepes can be frozen, so I should make a whole bunch of them and keep them in the freezer (sounds like a good weekend task).

A crepe in the pan is worth two in the bush?

Unlike blintzes, which you don't need to flip, you do have to flip crepes. I'm not great at it, but I'm getting better.

3 happy crepes, nestled up against each other.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Hot and Sour Soup (p. 131), Blintzes (p. 651), and Blueberry Blintzes (p. 651)

Josh and I went to the grocery store yesterday and I spent some quality time going through TJOC to make a list so I that I had plenty of ingredients for anything I might want to make.

One of soups I instantly spotted as wanting to try was TJOC's Hot and Sour Soup (p. 131). I LOVE hot and sour soup (hss) and have never managed to find a recipe that was similar to what you get at Chinese restaurants. I have a recipe that was getting close--from the Everyday Food cookbook--but it still wasn't quite right.

So TJOC's hss...

1. I don't know what cloud ear, wood ear, or tiger lily bud mushrooms are or where you find them so we had to go with the generic shiitakes. The recipe calls for dried shiitakes that are reconstituted. Why is this important? Because it is this reconstitution that gives the mushroom that slightly chewy texture that they are supposed to have. Mystery 1: solved.

2. The recipe has raw pork going into the soup but it seems like it is barely on the stovetop. I was CONVINCED I was going to have to eat raw pork. I didn't. Apparently, the huge amount of cornstarch in the recipe causes the soup to take FOREVER to simmer, which cooks the pork. Mystery 2 (how does the soup get that strange texture): solved (TONS of cornstarch).

3. You marinate the pork in a cornstarchy, soy sauce, rice vinegar mix. When you add the meat to the soup are you supposed to pour in the marinate? I assumed yes--and I think I'm right. It's the rice vinegar that makes the soup "sour". Mystery 3 (what makes the soup sour): solved.

4. Hmmm...and what makes it hot? Mystery 4: solved (lots of black pepper).

Yum! It was SOOOO good. It makes enough for 2 people...or just me, if I'm in a soupy mood.

Another angle...

Blintzes. I've always liked them. For those of you who don't know what a blintz is, it's like a crepe but it isn't cooked on both sides (that seems to be the main difference). I've always been disappointed when I've bought them at the grocery might as well try to make them myself.

Problem--I have the world's smallest food processor. And it isn't airtight so it leaked batter all over...oh well, it got the job done. Give yourself plenty of time on this one--the batter is supposed to sit for at least 30 minutes, and if you are using frozen blueberries, they have to thaw.

The blueberries managed to stain my bamboo mixing spoons...oh well! I hate vague instructions like "cook until it's the consistency of jam"--what exactly does that mean?

Yum! Blintzes! These are really easy to make and incredibly tasty...look how attractive they are!

The finished product--wonderful! You put the blueberry mixture in, roll them up, and fry them again. I think the one of the right is the most attractive by far...

I really recommend making these--they were awesome! Apparently the freeze well too, which is always a nice option.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Firm Omelet (p.201)

On Thursday, I decided to use the stuff we had in our pantry to make dinner. That being said, I really wanted to knock out another recipe from TJOC. So what to do...

I decided to make the firm omelet (p. 201) with ham and cheese. Why did I decide to start with this omelet?

1. I have never actually managed to produce an omelet that looked like an omelet. My omelets always look like scrambled eggs with stuff in it.

2. I am terrified of the French Omelets that precede the firm omelet--those are the fancy rolled ones that I'm fairly sure I can't make.

3. I conveniently have cheese and ham in my refrigerator and really like ham and cheese omelets.

So...I nervously started cooking. I mixed the eggs and cream (TJOC--always healthy!), and poured it in the buttered pan... looks okay. Big sigh of relief. It seems that the trick to omelets, which might seem obvious to everyone else but I never knew, is that you have to cook it for quite a while on low heat. This way the bottom doesn't burn but the top cooks through. And it's smart to make it in one of these saute pans that you can ssslllliiidddeee the omelet right out of instead of the straight sided saute pans that you have to lift the omelet out of.

So what happened?

It worked! It looked (and tasted) like an omelet should! Hooray!

And it is a HUGE omelet. 4 eggs--plenty of food for a dinner.

So are the rest of you competent at omelets?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Beef Bourguignonne (p. 479), Sausage Gravy for biscuits (p. 547)

Sorry this is so late! I have no excuses. And there was no TJOC cooking yesterday...Monopoly started at McDonalds and I was sure this was my chance to win the million by eating chicken selects. Alas, it was not.

Well, I was definitely going to refer to the stew by it's fancy name in the title :) I suppose I could have just called it "French beef stew" but that doesn't sound near as impressive. Only make this stew if you really like wine because it is strong. But tasty! And be brief with your browning because if you brown the meat too long, it will be tough (learned this the hard way...)

This was an interesting one to cook. If you want to make it, give yourself plenty of time because it requires a marination step of up to 24 hours. During the marination, because of the red wine, the meat turns a disturbing (but pretty!) shade of purple.

Oddities in this recipe (and oddities with the person cooking it):

1. The recipe is complicated. You dice bacon, fry it in a dutch broiler, take it out. Brown the meat in batches in the bacon grease, take them out. Add the vegetables, add flour. Add everything back in. After getting splattered one to many times, I decided that I should be wearing an apron while cooking....

2. Dicing bacon. TJOC just loves you to cut difficult things...Plus it always wants you to measure in ounces. Now maybe the rest of you have little scales to know how much an ounce is. I just guess. One slice of bacon seems about an ounce. And my kitchen shears were used for the dicing...

3. It helps to know ANYTHING at all about wine. Unfortunately, I don't. And alcohol isn't sold on Sundays in Colorado. When do I typically need alcohol for cooking? Sundays, of course. The liquor stores here are gigantic to make up for this shortfall. Josh and I know absolutely zero about wine. Perhaps less than zero. I had to ask what wines fall in the "dry red" category...

4. Another one of my favorite parts of this particular says to drain the marinade off the meat (no problem) but then it says that the vegetables and the marinade should be kept separate.

Now, that isn't a problem. The problem is that the vegetables are carrots and onions...they don't exactly fall through the colander. So what was I supposed to do? I picked them out of the meat...but that was a pain in the ass. I'm sure there is a better way to do that...

Here is my picture of the real life it looked far less like a mixture of garlic beef from a take-out Chinese restaurant.

On Monday I couldn't figure out what to make. I don't want to blow our entire grocery budget in the first week of the month and I was quickly running through our food. I also wanted to be done cooking in plenty of time to watch Heroes. So what to make....Biscuits and Gravy!

Unlike chipped beef, I do have a love of biscuits and gravy. And I knew this recipe could knock out two things in the book. Gravy--and biscuits. My fear of the altitude kicked in though--I don't think I'm ready for biscuits.

The sausage gravy. First off, I'm pretty damn sure that I'm not supposed to be using Italian sausage in this, but TJOC was not specific, and Italian sausage was what I had. The recipe also said to use 8 oz of sausage. I had a pound. What was I supposed to do with the extra? So I threw it all in there.

The gravy was good, if a little overly meaty. I recommend actually following the directions on the amount of meat to also needed some cracked pepper on the top (but, hey, what doesn't??).

Coming this week:
I have no idea. I think we need to eat through some of our leftovers tonight. Any ideas?