Saturday, September 27, 2008

German Potato Salad (p. 168) and French Toast (p. 648)

I finally got Duchess to the pet expo that we were trying to go to last week. The pet expo was fun, I won two tickets to mini golf in the raffle, and Duchess enjoyed sniffing at other dogs and getting tons and tons of treats.

They had biscuits, hot dogs, and carrots frozen into big chucks of ice for the dogs to gnaw at--it was a BIG hit with Duchie.

The next day we took her to the Doggie Olympics where she competed in various contests. She did pretty good considering she had never competed in anything before. I was particularly impressed by how she did on the jumps on the agility course!

Since starting TJOTJOC I've noticed there is a whole set of foods that I should already know how to cook, but I have never made for myself. I say "for myself" because the vast majority of these foods are things my mom cooked, so why should I bother? French Toast (p. 648) is one of these things. When I told my mom I didn't know how to make French toast, she pointed out that I don't LIKE French toast, which, while true, wasn't helpful :)

Easy enough start--half and half, eggs, sugar, vanilla (after the drunken frosting, I stay away from rum in recipes), and salt. Some whisking later, this is what I had:

Bread is added to the egg mixture:

And the eggy bread is placed gently (or in my case, slopped) into the pan.

This is where I ran into problems. The recipe just says to "brown the bread on each side in a hot well-buttered skillet". So I had the heat on my pan fairly high. Unfortunately, this was burning the bread while not cooking it through (so it was still grossly soggy). Josh came into the kitchen and pointed out the problem--the heat was too high. I lowered the heat and it seemed to mostly solve the problem. I eventually ended up with this:

I hate these clear plates but I do like this picture because it looks like the French toast is levitating! How was it? Okay I suppose. I still don't like French toast, but at least I know how to make it. Josh insists that he can make it better so I seriously doubt that I will make this recipe again.

Onto food...I wanted something quick to eat while watching The Amazing Race and German Potato Salad (p. 168) seemed just perfect. Josh dislikes potato salad, so I knew this one would be all me (even though I tend not to like them either).

Easy enough start...boil potatoes, while at the same time frying up some minced bacon (I really recommend mincing the bacon with kitchen shears--otherwise they are pretty difficult to cut). Remove the bacon.

Onion and celery are then added to the bacon grease.

Chopped dill pickles are added (how could Josh not like this recipe? Bacon, potatoes, pickles? What could be better?!?). In a another pot (this recipe is not afraid to make a ton of dishes) the dressing is made (broth, vinegar, sugar, salt, paprika, and dry mustard).

I noticed after I had dumped the potatoes in the water that I was supposed to leave the skins on...whoops! My potatoes were yukons and they didn't keep their shape very well when sliced. The potatoes are added to the onion mix.

The bacon was added and the dressing was poured on top.

I didn't take an "after" picture but the potato salad was really really good (if you like vinegar). I really enjoyed the bacon and pickles and I like vinegar, so it was a great combination.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

CONTEST WINNERS and final Japan blog :)

Contest winners!!
The contest winners were randomly chosen! The winners are Melissa, Lisset, and Vanessa--packages will be sent soon! Everybody who sent me their addresses should watch their mailboxes though :)

If the winners (and anyone else who gets a prize!) would send me your thoughts on the snacks, that would be awesome--I would love to include someone else's opinion on these foods!

Blog about Japan

My camera was found and the pictures that were on it were saved!! So what were my final photographic thoughts about Japan?

I think it's really funny that enough people randomly come to the park to do karaoke that a sign has to tell them not to do it.

What does this sign even mean? I totally don't get it. I like to think it's about swimming through the air, which I try to avoid. I mean, that hasn't been a popular dance since about the 1950's and who wants to look that out of fashion?

An exhibit at the Tokyo zoo incuded:

What do bison, wild pigs, prairie dogs, and a turkey have in common? All are native to the US...could this be an America exhibit? And it was! I thought that was a hilarious mixture of animals. A couple of squirrels and a few rabbits would have really added to it, I thought.

What are these flowers that my mom is standing around? They were growing in water. Are they lotuses?

Rachel and I watched a movie about killer sheep not too long ago (just before I left for Japan, actually) and that is exactly what I was thinking about as I posed for this picture!

My last night in Japan with a couple of my co-workers in a very Japanese pose :)

Some of the final foods that I tried (most of which were sitting around the apartment for about a month):

1. Caramel corn/cream soda puffs. Horrible. I will give you that they tasted like cream soda but they also had a weird carbonated flavor. How do puffs taste carbonated? Don't know.

2. Caesar salad Pringles. Uck. Let's just say I don't expect to see these on our shelves any time soon...that being said, they did taste exactly like a Caesar salad...

3. Mitsuya Cider, grape flavored. I hate fake grape flavoring (I won this one) and it was SUPER sweet. One drink and in the recycling bin.

4. Cake soda. First drink--wow this tastes like a cake! Second taste--boy, this is pretty sweet. Third taste--why am I drinking this?

Curry Pringles--really good! Odd but really delicious. I ate the whole tube of them. i love curry.

Duchess and her sushi toy:

The sushi toy is easily one of Duchess's favorite toys. Mom's dog Gracie also enjoyed it:

Until next time!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Becker Pork Hash (p. 108)

I had leftover pork from the roasted pork I made a few days before, so I browsed TJOC for leftover pork recipes and I found Becker Pork Hash (p. 108). I actually meant to make this recipe for a few days before it actually got made--the recipe requires pork or Marsala, neither of which I had, and both of which a thorough googling taught me are substitute-free. I kept forgetting to pick the alcohol up! I eventually made it to the liquor store (and I picked up some mead while I was there--super cool!), bought some Marsala, and was able to make the hash.

Easy start (and TJOC's typical beginning), chopped carrots and onions are sauteed in butter. Chicken broth (homemade--I use it constantly!), the precious Marsala, and soy sauce are then added. Wow! This looks really good!

The next step made me feel like Sandra Lee--I added two cans of cream of mushroom soup.

Uh oh, it's starting to look more like mud (dog food?)...that's not an appetizing sign...

The glop is reduced until it's thick and then pork and peas are added:

The recipe says to serve over egg noodles or toast. I was out of egg noodles and the idea of this over toast was horrifying to me. So I went through my cupboards for an acceptable alternative...for a while I thought it might be elbow macaroni but then I saw it....

Spaetzle! That has to be better than elbow macaroni, right? My mom bought the spaetzle for me at World Market quite a while ago and this would be the perfect time to use it!

So how was my hash on spaetzle? Eh. Josh liked it, which was good, and it made a good lunch dish, but I thought it was spectacularly bland--and I'm not sure what I would have done differently or added to make it less bland. Is hash always bland? I've never had it before. The spaetzle was pretty good though.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Stuffed Baked Summer Squash (p. 308), Green Beans, Potatoes, and Smoked Meat (p. 251), Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing (p. 576), and Au Gratin (p. 961)

I was super-excited this weekend! There was going to be a pet expo at one of the local humane societies (Animal House--it's a great rescue group), although there was also going to be a home football game (the stadium is right next to our house and our road gets shut down--it's absolutely nightmarish and we have a hard time getting in and out of our home). I love bringing Duchess to pet expos so I was really excited.

We managed to get out of the house and drive to Animal House--and it doesn't look like anything is going on. Why? Because the pet expo is the NEXT weekend. Whoops! Josh wasn't real thrilled with me but we did decide to hit up the farm stand in the parking lot. I picked up a few summer squash (both yellow and zucchini), as well as garlic, radishes, corn, etc. I love farm stands!

Looking through TJOC, I decided to make Stuff Baked Summer Squash (p. 308).

The first step was to hollow out 4 small summer squash. How big is a "small" summer squash?

Next, I melted some mutter, softened some onion, and then added the hollowed out squash pulp (hope you kept it and didn't hollow them out into the trash! I read through the whole recipe so I knew not to), as well as salt, paprika, and cloves, and cooked it until it's "hot". I have a hard time working past my view that cloves and nutmeg=dessert and I'm apparently not through my issues yet, because this smelled like a pie to me.

After the mixture was "hot" it was removed from the stove and egg, bread crumbs, and cheese (I used Monterrey jack) were added.

The mixture was then spooned into the shells. I didn't think there was quite enough stuffing...I would really like more stuffing, I love stuffing. And yes, there is an odd number of shells because I didn't think there was near enough stuffing for seven squash (squashes? squashi?), much less eight. I placed them in my roasting pan with chicken stock on the bottom.

I used Au Gratin III (p. 961) for the topping. The au gratin was easy--I sprinkled bread crumbs all over the stuffing, then some shredded cheese, and then I "dotted" it with butter. Squash and cheese go well together so I used plenty.

So how were they? Really good although the shell was strangely bitter--I blame that on the actual squash though, not the recipe. They heated up deliciously. The stuffing was great--nice and creamy. They are an attractive side dish and I think they would be really great for a summer dinner party.

I've been very interested in TJOC's salad dressing recipes but I haven't actually made any yet. Why not? The main problem has been that most of the vinaigrette require a running a food processor while olive oil is slowly poured in (to make the emulsion, I assume)--but my tiny food processor doesn't have a hole in the top to pour through. I'm hoping we get a food processor at some point, though, so I've put them off. Even so, a few of the recipes don't have that step--one of them being Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing (p. 576), which I decided to make.

It's an easy recipe--combine mayo, sour cream, parsley (I used dry!), red wine vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper, ground red pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Uh oh--no Worcestershire sauce....I used soy sauce instead (it's only 6 dashes and I figure the main flavor that the Worcestershire is giving is a salty taste). I had purchased some beautiful Maytag blue cheese (IOWA PRODUCTS! HOORAY!) at Whole Foods, and that got added to the mix.

How was it? AWESOME! I can't recommend it enough. It was delicious on salads and wonderful to dip vegetables into (I used carrots, Josh used radishes). The garlic gives the dressing a great bite. I don't think I'll ever by blue cheese dressing again!

I also picked up some green beans at the farm stand and couldn't decide exactly what I wanted to do with them...I knew I wanted to make a TJOC recipe and there are several GB recipes in TJOC (ranging from various salads and casseroles to stir fry). I made Green Beans, Potatoes, and Smoked Meat (p. 251). This is one of the easiest recipes I've ever seen. First, you simmer some smoked meat (I used Canadian bacon) in water (I used chicken broth because I needed to use it up) for thirty minutes. I assume this is to make a tasty, smoky broth.

Next, I added green beans and potatoes (Yukon Golds of course!).

The pot is covered and the mix is simmered for about twenty minutes (less for those of you who don't battle altitude!). They are then drained, the meat is chopped up, and it's ready to go!

How was it? Wow was it good. (Full discloser, I wrote this entry a couple weeks after I made the recipe and I've made it again since!) It's smoky and salty and the mixture of flavors is amazing. I actually ate this and thought of my father--he would LOVE this recipe and his would be even better because he could use garden-fresh potatoes and green beans (I don't think he has any bacon-plants, Canadian or otherwise). If you like these three items you MUST make this recipe--it's great.

I also made some beautiful chocolate chip cookies, I thought they should be admired :) They were from my own recipe, not from TJOC.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Boneless Roast Pork Florentine (p. 499)

Occasionally, TJOC has recipes for items that I make on a regular basis and usually I really like my own version. One such recipe is for pork roast. I love roasting pork. I adore pork (grew up eating a ton of it!) and love the leftovers that making a roast gives. Plus, roasting really puts me in the mood for fall. King Soopers was having a buy one, get one free sale on pork loin roasts, so I picked a couple pork loin roast up and made Boneless Roast Pork Florentine (p. 499).

The first step is to combine garlic, rosemary, salt, and black pepper. I used my adorable zebra prep bowls and I crushed the rosemary using our tiny morter and pestle (why do we have so many miniaturized apparatuses in our kitchen?). I have no idea how crushed the rosemary was supposed to be, so I just smashed it for a while and then called it good. My mom ADORES rosemary so I grew up eating a LOT of it!

Incisions are made in the pork roast and the spice mixture is shoved in the holes. I actually enjoy this part and it's a common step in TJOC roasts (remember Stracotto? I actually make that recipe fairly often because Josh and I bth love it). It made just about the perfect amount of seasoning for three pounds of pork. You then smear (rub) some olive oil on the top.

I then flipped the roast over and put it in my beautiful roasting pan (thank you Judy and Terry!). You should always roast meat fat-side up, although that is not pointed out in the recipe.

My meat thermometer was MIA so I opened the roast up to check the color. I pulled it when there was still pink in the middle (you should be careful not to overcook pork!) and covered it loosely with foil. I was hoping the pan would have plenty of juices so I could make a tasty gravy but no luck :( It was a really attractive roast though.

I also made some roasted potatoes (although not from TJOC--from my secret recipe!). This is a picture of the plate before greenery got added (I swear it did!). The pork was delicious--tender and juicy, and well-flavored.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chicken or Turkey Curry (p. 105)

Hmm...I still managed to have some leftover boiled chicken from making stock. HOW MUCH MEAT DOES ONE CHICKEN HAVE? (My grandmother would say that it was so big, it would be considered a turkey...I'm pretty sure that's not how it works).

I searched TJOC and found Chicken or Turkey Curry (p. 105). I've chosen against this recipe in the past because although I love curry, I don't really like pineapple in savory dishes. But it was ::sigh:: time. And if I only make the recipes that ring my bell, I'm going to have months of food that I think looks horrifying (timbales, for it), which doesn't seem like a good idea.

The recipe is easy enough--you heat up butter, add onion, and then mix in flour, curry, ginger, and cinnamon. These are pie spices...not meat spices! And watch's easy to burn the flour...

Coconut milk, chicken broth (homemade of course!), and pineapple are then added. Coconut milk and pineapple? A tasty tropical cocktail...not a meat concoction....

The cooked chicken is then added....

And the whole mix is served over rice...

So how was it? I have to say, this is one of the most unattractive recipes I've made in a long time. My version looks like dog food...I think it's because my curry is one of the ugliest colors in the world. It was pretty good (if you closed your eyes) but a little bland...I'm not sure how, it has a TON of spices in's totally possible that it's my low quality curry that is the problem. Has anyone else made this? Did it turn out?