Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tomato Juice I (p. 37) and Bloody Mary (p. 57)

I am blogs and blogs and blogs behind! Hopefully I can get caught up asap. First things first--if anyone knows how to make an index page or is willing to make one for me (I have no idea what they cost) please let me know. I would like to link each recipe to my post on it and have little progress bars for each chapter.

Also, don't forget about the contest! It's super easy to enter!

I was trying to decide whether to include the "Beverages", "Wine and Beer", and "Cocktails and Mixed Drinks" chapters in my cook-through. I finally decided that I had no good reason not to include them and there was no time like the present to get started on them. So what did I choose for my first drink recipe? Tomato Juice (p. 37). First things first--this is a TERRIFIC recipe if you have a garden of tomato plants that are overproducing and you are throwing away boatloads of tomatoes. As for me? No tomato plants, so I had to use canned tomatoes, which is not as cost effective.

The recipe required a lot of tomatoes. Reading the recipe again, I can't figure out how I came up with the amount of tomatoes needed...but apparently, I decided that one big can and two little cans was the correct amount.

It's a pretty easy combination of ingredients--celery, onion, parsley, some water, and a bay leaf. Ohhh...looking healthy!

The concoction cooks for about thirty minutes...going from this:

To this:

So how do you get from soup to juice? A strainer! I think more juice could have been squeezed out but I was getting tired.

Mmmm....tomato juice!

Salt, paprika, and sugar were then mixed in and voila! Juice. At this point I poured myself a glass and drank it. It was really great--nice and tangy. I poured Josh a glass and he was absolutely horrified--I forgot it was still warm. Apparently, warm tomato juice is not loved by everyone (I LOVE hot drinks and can drink just about ANYTHING warm). But over ice he agreed that it was quite tasty. Quite a bit of work for tomato juice, but quite tasty.

Looking at all that tomato juice, I started thinking about making a Bloody Mary. I love Bloody Mary's. I think they are one of those drinks that goes perfect with food (ie I could never drink them at a party because they get a bit cloying--but I like them virgin as well), like daiquiris and mimosas (well, a virgin mimosa wouldn't make any sense).

I looked up the Bloody Mary (p. 57) recipe. Seemed easy enough--vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce...Tabasco sauce...celery pepper...COME ON! HOW MANY INGREDIENTS ARE THERE??? I do want to point out that if you make this recipe with tequila, which sounds absolutely nauseating, it's a Bloody Maria. If you replace the tomato juice with beef consommé, it becomes a bullshot. Why would anyone drink that?? Has anyone HAD a bullshot or a bloody Maria? Please tell me what it tastes like!

I quickly realized that I didn't have a martini shaker. Hmm...what to do...

I decided to use a Ziploc container to shake the drink. I figured that the top screwed on, it should work. And it did! It worked EXTREMELY well and really held up to vigorous shaking! Josh and I use these containers ALL the time--they are excellent for homemade ice cream and I like them for chicken stock.

I stuck a stalk of celery in each of cup and brought one to Josh, keeping one for myself. Don't they look good?

Josh took a sip and this is when I ran into trouble...

Josh--So what type of alcohol is in this?
Josh--Where did you get the vodka?
Me--The refrigerator.
Josh--We don't have any vodka.
Me--Sure we do. In the refrigerator.
Josh--No--we don't have any vodka.
Me--Yes we do! The bottle of Absolut in the refrigerator.

And then he said it...
Josh--Well, we have a bottle of VANILLA Vodka in the refrigerator, but not regular Vodka.

CRAP! I had accidentally used Vanilla vodka in the Bloody Mary's. Let's just say, not as great match. I love B'Mary's made with pepper vodka...but not vanilla. That being said, it wasn't near as disgusting as I would have expected.
That being said, that was a long list of ingredients! (Oh, and we were out of lemon juice so I used lime juice--the lime and vanilla don't go well together either--unlike lime and coconut).

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Enchiladas Verdes (p. 104), Roasted Tomatillo Spinach Sauce (p. 568), and Spanish Rice (p. 357)

I knew that I was going to have to dive right back into TJOC after a summer of being away! I decided to make Enchiladas Verdes (p. 104). The first step of EV is to make a half recipe of Roasted Tomatillo Spinach Sauce (p. 568). Not the best idea in August, considering the roasting, but I'm ready for fall...

The first step--to take a pound of tomatillos and rinse, husk, and core them. I've always been very intimidated by tomatillos...I had no idea what to do with them. I know they are more or less tomatoes but I had never used them before. They were really cheap though--only a couple of dollars a pound.

The mighty tomatillo:

You have to peel the husk off. The vegetable (fruit?) is then bizarrely sticky, so it needs to be rinsed off. The book says to "core" the tomatillos so I just kind of cut out part of the middle--pretty sure that isn't what I was supposed to do but close enough.

The recipe also required a poblano or Anaheim pepper. I only had one pepper (another item from dad's garden). It was this pepper:

I don't know my peppers very well and have absolutely no idea what kind of pepper that is. I decided that it was close enough. I also quartered an onion and some garlic and set it to roasting.

It roasted for about forty minutes--a fairly long time on a hot day! At this point, the vegetables were pretty soft and starting to blacken.

The recipe said to transfer everything to a blender or food processor. The world's smallest food processor was certainly not up to the task and I didn't want to haul out the blender, so I decided to use the immersion blender with it's little plastic cup. I transfered everything into the cup, along with fresh spinach, cilantro, some homemade chicken stock, and some salt and pepper.

It was a perfect fit! Which was a good thing because I really didn't want to transfer it to a pot.

It blended down pretty quickly, leaving me with about two and a half cups of sauce exactly like it was supposed to. The immersion blender is godsend--it makes the cleanup so easy.

Once the sauce was made, it was on to the enchiladas. This was easy enough--pretty much just combining cooked chicken (I used a store bought cooked chicken), sour cream, scallions, cilantro, and salt in a big bowl (sorry for the sideways picture). This recipe is a GREAT use for leftover chicken and sour cream--we are NEVER able to use all the sour cream before it goes bad.

The tortillas then are supposed to be laid out and brushed with vegetable oil. My cookie sheet only held ten tortillas, but I figured that was okay.

Then you fill the tortillas with some filling, and roll them up. I always do it when they are still pretty hot and burn my fingers but I hate waiting for the tortillas to cool down! It would have been no problem to add two more enchiladas (which is what the recipe calls for) to the pan.

Add the sauce to the top (this is certainly not the most attractive sauce in the world):

Mmm....the sauce gets even less attractive....

The enchiladas were delicious! WOW were they good. I really really can't recommend this recipe enough. The enchiladas themselves were creamy and the sauce was tangy--they were absolutely great. And the recipe looks complex but it really didn't take very long in actual work time (all the time was in roasting or baking time).

I was categorizing how far I was in TJOC and I noticed that I had not done much of the grains recipes.

I decided that Spanish Rice (p. 357) would be perfect with the enchiladas and we would actually be eating a meal that went together!

This recipe was extraordinarily easy. First, you heat up some oil, bacon, onion, and garlic--great start! Anything with bacon in it is a definite hit in this household! The recipe also included green peppers but I DESPISE bell peppers so those always get cut. The only foods I hate: peppers and tuna. Josh hates chickpeas. Fortunately the list isn't that long or it could be a big problem!

At this point, you mix rice in, and then chicken broth, canned tomatoes, paprika, salt, and pepper. Pour it into a bowl....

And bake it for a while--easy! How was it?

Rice is one of the items that I have the most trouble with at altitude. Usually the rice is too soupy AND manages to not be cooked enough--but cooking it more doesn't seem to solve the problem. Maybe a higher temperature would help?

Even though the rice wasn't quite cooked enough, the flavor of spanish rice was incredible. It was tasted heavily spiced even though there wasn't much in the way of spices and the bacon was a great touch. I can't wait to try this recipe again (preferably at sea-level).

Steak Wraps (p. 187), Roasted Garlic (p. 277), Horseradish Cream (p. 565), Grilled or Broiled Steak (p. 473)

I decided to make Steak Wraps (p. 187). The recipe seemed easy enough--not a very long ingredient list and we had a T-bone steak that had been purchased on sale at the grocery store (Josh and I are loyal customers of the sale section of the meat department). Easy enough, that is, until I actually read the recipe.

Before making the steak wraps, you have grill or broil a steak (easy enough), roast a head of garlic (damn it! I'll have to turn the oven on), and make horseradish cream...wait...what's that? Horseradish flavored whipped cream?? Hmmm.....

I laid out the tortillas and got ready...

My first step was roasting the garlic (Roasted Garlic, p. 277). I'm ashamed to say that I've never roasted garlic. I LOVE garlic and have probably used it in every other imaginable way--but roasting seemed difficult and scary (plus mom never did it, so I didn't have a roasted garlic background). It's a skill that I definitely wanted though--I love roasted garlic as an ingredient.

Easy enough start--cut the top of a large bulb of garlic. Isn't the garlic beautiful?

The garlic is drizzled with olive oil and wrapped in foil:

Almost an hour later, you have a bulb of roasted garlic! I waited until it was cool enough not to burn my fingers and squeezed the garlic onto the tortillas.

When the garlic is extracted, you are left with a garlic husk. Garlic corpse? Empty garlic...

There was quite a bit of garlic per wrap...a great start!

Look at this picture--now that is a HUGE amount of garlic. That being said, roasted garlic is milder than non-roasted garlic. Looks delicious!

Onto the steak....I figured we would just grill the steak. When I asked Josh to go take care of it, he reminded me that we were out of propane (side note--I have a hard time not thinking of Hank Hill when I say the word "propane"). I decided to broil the steak (I know, great idea on a hot summer day) and used the T-bone in Grilled or Broiled Steak (p. 473).

The steak was attractive:

It only took about four minutes on each side (while turning the kitchen into an inferno--broiling in the summer=not smart). The steak was then sliced and placed on the wraps.

The final part of this recipe: Horseradish Cream (p. 565). Horseradish cream seems like a bizarre recipe to me--it's pretty much whipped cream with horseradish mixed in. Honestly.

I decided that I should be using my Kitchenaid to whip the cream. Not my smartest decision--the beater has a hard time with such small amounts of cream (only a half cup). If you make this recipe, only make a half recipe of HC, unless you really, really adore spicy whipped cream (it makes quite a bit).

You then beat in some acid (I used lime juice because I was out of lemon juice), horseradish, salt, and some red pepper. The concoction is chilled for a while.

Compiling the wraps was easy enough. Add some chopped tomato (out of dad's garden!) and some lettuce to the wrap, drizzle it with horseradish cream, roll up, and eat!

So how was it? Really good. The horseradish cream and the roasted garlic were really strong, but I adore both flavors. The lettuce and the tomato were tasty. And the steak was delicious--although I would have liked to have more meat in the wraps.

This recipe made the perfect amount--two wraps each, for the two of us. After that we were full but not overfull. I really recommend this recipe--although it's more of a fall-winter recipe since it requires a lot of oven use (I really need to stop using my oven because it really heats up the house!).

In other, non-TJOC news, I found a couple of interesting articles online this weekend:

1. Japanese Treats. The caramel corn--I never ate the caramel corn from Tohato, but the soda flavored "treats" were horrid. They tasted like cheetos that had been soaked in 7-up. The mayo they speak of is not as tasty as the mayo in the US and the bottles collapse on themselves. Onigiri is delicious as long as you are sure of what's in the middle--there is nothing worse than thinking you are just eating rice and biting into "sweet" red beans. Ramune drink--AWESOME! So much fun. You have to smash the bottle down, a little ball falls into it, and then you drink it. Fun and tasty. Mochi--don't even get me started.

2. The Top 100 American Foods. I have bolded the foods that are included in TJOC. All parenthetical statements are mine! I may have missed a few but I didn't really feel like looking each one of them up...How many of these have you eaten?

  1. New York pizza
  2. Hoppin' John
  3. New Mexico green chile
  4. Homemade buttermilk biscuits
  5. Tasso
  6. Whole Maine lobster (well, whole lobster, at least)
  7. Calabash-style shrimp and hushpuppies
  8. Kansas City barbecue ribs
  9. Hot glazed Krispy Kreme
  10. San Diego fish tacos
  11. Cheese curds
  12. Key lime pie
  13. Philly cheese steak
  14. Memphis pork barbecue sandwich
  15. Lowcountry boil
  16. Huckleberry pie
  17. New England clam chowder
  18. Boiled peanuts
  19. Buffalo burger
  20. Eggs Benedict
  21. Pastrami on rye
  22. Corned beef and cabbage
  23. Pancakes with maple syrup
  24. Everything bagel with cream cheese and tomato
  25. Thin Mints (preferably frozen)
  26. Frito pie
  27. Potato knish with mustard
  28. Silver Queen corn on the cob
  29. Soft pretzel from a street cart
  30. Fresh-picked blueberries
  31. Sourwood honey
  32. State fair funnel cake
  33. Chesapeake crab cakes
  34. Candied yams
  35. Oyster dressing
  36. Snow cone or snowball
  37. Wild Alaskan salmon
  38. Sautéed morels
  39. Persimmon pudding
  40. General Tso's Chicken
  41. Frozen custard
  42. Italian sausage with peppers and onions on a hoagie bun
  43. Chili dog
  44. Buffalo wings with blue cheese
  45. Spam musubi
  46. Saltwater taffy
  47. Fluffernutter sandwich on Wonder Bread
  48. Black and white cookie
  49. Frybread
  50. BLT with thick-cut applewood bacon
  51. Baked beans
  52. Pumpkin pie
  53. Collards with vinegar and Tabasco
  54. Tex-Mex fajitas with skirt steak and sautéed peppers
  55. Fried green tomatoes
  56. Succotash
  57. Shrimp and grits
  58. Hot water cornbread
  59. Barbecue chicken pizza with red onions
  60. Chicken fried steak
  61. Carnitas burrito
  62. Apple butter
  63. Geoduck
  64. Soft-serve ice cream cone dipped in chocolate shell (especially Dairy Queen)
  65. Pecan pie
  66. Catfish supper at a church or fire station
  67. Oysters Rockefeller
  68. Homemade cranberry sauce
  69. Pimiento cheese
  70. MoonPie washed down with R.C. Cola
  71. Pickled watermelon rind
  72. Cracker Jacks at the ball game
  73. Smithfield ham
  74. Meatloaf and mashed potato blue plate special at diner
  75. Chicken and waffles
  76. Po'Boy
  77. Green bean casserole with French's fried onions
  78. Stuffed sopaipillas
  79. Turducken
  80. Shad roe on toast
  81. Sweet potato casserole with or without marshmallows
  82. Cioppino
  83. New York cheesecake
  84. Pan-fried river trout
  85. Jambalaya
  86. North Carolina pig pickin'
  87. California rolls
  88. Burgoo
  89. Penuche fudge
  90. Fried peanut butter and banana sandwich (the Elvis)
  91. Scrapple or livermush
  92. Elk medallions in red wine reduction
  93. Muscadine grapes
  94. Cheeseburger at backyard barbecue
  95. Open-face turkey sandwich
  96. Chicago deep dish pizza
  97. Cobb salad
  98. Peach pie a la mode
  99. Macaroni and cheese with Tillamook sharp cheddar
  100. Root beer float

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vegetable Stew (p. 131), High Altitude Peach-Pecan Upside-Down Cake (p. 751), and Sweetened Whipped Cream (p. 754)

Again, don't forget to enter the contest! There will very possibly be several posts in the next day, so make sure to read them all :)

First off, I know I mentioned that I made Vegetable Stew (p. 131) earlier in the week but I hadn't actually eaten it yet--so I didn't think it was fair to blog about it yet.

Dad had given me a bunch of vegetables from his garden and I needed to use them: okra, onions, a couple hot peppers, and a few tomatoes. Vegetable stew seemed like the perfect dish because it used almost all of the vegetables.

It was an easy start. I always like when a recipe starts with melting a half stick of butter. Yum!

Next step--chopping up a bunch of okra, celery, and an onion. At this point I ran into a problem--I only had two cups of okra, not four cups. No problem, I just halved the recipe. I know a lot of people HATE okra, but I personally like it quite a bit. Yum! Everything is ready to go!

The vegetables are then added to the butter...I had high hopes for this stew, since okra is a great thickener (it is the ingredient that makes gumbo thick).

At this point, tomato, brown sugar, paprika, and water are added. The tomato I decided to add was a orange tomato, which made the stew a strange orange-y color.

Then onto the best part of the recipe--3 slices of fried bacon! Any recipe with bacon in it is a winner in my book! I didn't add any meat to the stew, but ham would have been DELICIOUS in it.

So how was it? Really really good. If you hate okra, don't make this recipe, because it definitely is okra-heavy. If you like okra, have I got a stew for you!! I made some rice and poured the stew over it--delicious. I think it would be really good on couscous too. I hope you all enjoy my awesome 70's style bowls--I can't wait to get new dishware at some point.

I listed out all of the recipes that I've made--and I've been sadly deficient in cakes and cupcakes. I know why--it's because I am terrified of making baked goods because of the altitude. I swear I used to be a great baker--friends, back me up!! But now I'm I decided to make High Altitude Peach-Pecan Upside-Down Cake (p. 751). This has actually been on my to-make list several times, so I had the pecans on hand. I also had some peaches. I started to peel, half, pit, and slice them when I noticed that they were really mealy. I HATE mealy fruit. The peaches were organic (I don't tend to buy organic but they were on sale for a dollar a pound) which don't seem to keep as well. Fortunately, I had some nectarines (conventional) on hand, which were in perfect condition. I HATE peeling fruit, and the nectarine's pits did NOT want to come out. I probably should have blanched them first....

I started by making the batter. First step, the dry mixture. The dry mix had a TON of spices...cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The wet mixture was more typical except for honey and buttermilk....uh oh....


I don't keep buttermilk on hand and hadn't planned on this recipe, so I hadn't bought any. Thank you google! Apparently, pretty much a tablespoon of acid mixed with a cup of milk is a substitute for buttermilk. I used lemon juice and let it sit for ten minutes.

The wet mixture:

Mixing the dry into the wet--I decided to mix it by hand since cakes seem to be more fluffy when they are hand mixed.

I don't have an ovenproof skillet (definitely going on the wedding registry) so I placed a cake pan on the burner (I was very skeptical of how this was going to work) for the cake. Butter and brown sugar were stirred right on top of the stove.

Honey, cardamom, and nutmeg were then mixed in. Honey, honey, I have any honey? Oh yeah! I have TONS of honey. I bought a vat of it at the farmer's market in Des Moines last winter (it was an indoor market). The real reason I bought it was for dog treats but I haven't used it yet.

I wasn't confident at all that Josh was going to like this cake considering he don't like cardamom....and this recipe has a LOT of cardamom in it. Josh also doesn't like fruit mixed with cake or cookie--and, thus, isn't a fan of upside-down cakes. I ADORE upside-down cake and really like fruit mixed into desserts (raisins in cookies, etc.).

At this point, the peaches/nectarines need to be arranged in the syrup. The recipe says to "pinwheel" the fruit. How exactly do you create multiple pinwheels? Or was I supposed to make one huge pinwheel? I couldn't figure it out, so mine was more abstract.

The pecans were then tucked in around the fruit (rather willy-nilly):

The batter was then poured over the top of the mixture. The recipe said not to worry if the batter seemed skimpy, but I thought it looked fine.

After cooking:

It looked great! I couldn't wait to flip it over! Unfortunately, I had to wait ten minutes.

So what did it look like?

Awesome! Perfect! Wonderful! It popped right out and was complete--no sticking at all :) I was thrilled. And it smelled delicious. But what is the last line of the recipe?

(Whipped Cream, 754)

Now those of you who are familiar with TJOC, you know that parenthetical statements mean that the ingredient or step is not required. But what a great idea! I love whipped cream. I made Sweetened Whipped Cream (p. 754), one of seven whipped cream recipes in TJOC.

First step, whip the cream in a cold bowl (I popped the bowl and the beaters in the freezer for about a half hour) until thicken.

Great, so far, so good. Next step, add sugar and vanilla to the cream. No problem--and I used the good vanilla too. I don't know why I even buy imitation vanilla--I hate using it.

Next step, back to beating. I was nervous--the whipped cream section makes it clear you can over-beat the cream and ruin it. But I think I did a good job--it looked (and tasted) wonderful.

So how was it?

AWESOME! This is a spicy, strong cake--almost a spicecake. It was TERRIFIC. I would highly recommend it to everyone--not just those at high altitude (and this is totally the cake I'm making if Pieknits and Mr. Pieknits ever come to visit me). The whipped cream was a great addition and ice cream would be great on the top too.

That being said, the cake didn't keep that well. The fruit got really strange looking--so make it when you plan on gorging yourself on it in a day or two.

Oddly, the whipped cream kept quite well!

I'm behind in posting and I did a rather lot of cooking this week, so keep your eyes open for more posts!