Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tempura Batter (p. 658)

First things first--don't forget about my contest--it's almost over :) Win a copy of TJOC!

I've decided to EXTEND the end date of the contest (is it to early for another epiphany joke? Yes? Okay...) until midnight, January 12th!

In our household (or more accurately, my grandmother's household) Christmas Eve is totally meat-free. Usually it includes a giant bowl of pasta with some sort of fish sauce--usually with calamari or crab, both fried and stuffed calamari, both fried shrimp and shrimp scampi, and fried cauliflower, plus all of the other dishes. Yum!

I tend to be in charge of frying--in a terrifying retro fryer. This year I decided to use Tempura Batter (p. 658) for all of the fried food. I feel like I know tempura after my summer in Japan!

This recipe was very simple (I doubled it!).

First, mix two eggs and two cups of water...they didn't look like they were going to mix but they finally did.

In another bowl, mix flour, salt, and a bit of black pepper...

Combine them...

And then mix a few times (but leave lumps!). You don't want it to be overbeaten...

Dip the shrimp/calamari/cauliflower into the batter. I like to leave the tails unbattered so that they are easier to eat--but that's just my personal perference.

Dump the battered food into the (hot hot hot) oil and pray that you don't get splattered. My Fry Daddy at home has a cover so that you don't have to be QUITE so terrified but this's a bit old.

And finally...a giant platter of fried food!

(From left to right--cauliflower, calamari--bodies and tails, and shrimp)

How was the batter? AMAZING! So good that it was remarked upon by every guest (granted, only four people, but still--four calamari experts!). I really recommend this batter. It's really tasty and incredibly easy. And it tastes pretty similar to the tempura that I had in Japan!

In other news, one of the things I love most about Florida is the plethora of lizards (I think they are anoles). I have (and still do!) spend lots of happy time trying to catch them. This year I saw the smallest lizard I've ever seen!

The lizard:

My phone, to give you a size perspective (you can compare the crack in the flagstone):


Merry Christmas from Santa and Mrs. Gracie Claus!

And Duchess Claus!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

King Ranch Chicken Casserole (p. 96), Cream of Broccoli Soup (p. 144) , and Tomato Soup (p. 132)

I wanted to make a few recipes that would feed Josh and I for multiple meals, because I knew I wasn't going to want to cook this week (I have two doctor's appointments and two procedures this week before driving home to Iowa for the holidays). The first thing I decided to make was King Ranch Chicken Casserole (p. 96).

I wasn't sure about this recipe. Reading through the ingredients made me feel like Sandra Lee (it especially would have made me think of SL if I dumped a bottle of vodka into it and made some sort of "tablescape"). American cheese? Cream of mushroom soup? Cream of chicken soup? Canned tomatoes? All in the same recipe? Wow.

I had a decent amount of chicken from making a recipe of chicken stock and I needed a big, filling dish...and this recipe fit the bill.

First step, layer corn tortillas (cut into quarters) in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish (greased with butter!).

Next, sprinkle cooked chicken on the tortillas...

Then a layer of onions...I only put onions on one side because I don't really like them (a theory that didn't work because I've eaten from both sides)

And a layer of shredded American cheese. Good luck shredding the cheese--American cheese does not shred easily. It would be a lot easier to layer really thin slices.

A gloppy mixture of condensed cream soups (both chicken and mushroom), chicken broth, and tomatoes (there are also supposed to be green chiles but I didn't have any) are then mixed together. And it is not pretty...(we certainly won't mention that it looks like vomit)...

The liquid is poured over the top and then another layer of tortillas, chicken, onions, and cheese, plus the soup mix.

And it's ready to be popped in the oven:

I know it looks like there are a ton of steps but this is a really easy recipe. Lots of steps but no skill required!

So how was it? Suprisingly good! There is nothing attractive about this dish. It looks okay in the picture but as soon as you cut into it, it oozes. But it was satisfying in a very comfort food way and heated up perfectly. It's already produced four meals and has at least two left.

I also decided to make a couple soups. Soups are so fast and easy to make and I had a bunch of chicken stock to use (and I know that Josh won't use it once I leave for the holiday). So I made Tomato Soup (p. 132) and

The tomato soup was super super easy. Cook an onion in olive oil, then add two 28-oz cans of tomatoes.

Cook it down for about a half hour.

And then puree it (this is a great time to use that awesome immersion blender!):

Isn't that an amazingly easy recipe? Almost too easy...

What did it taste like? Tomato sauce. It was like eating a bowl of marinara sauce. Sadly (and this is how you know I'm not a real foodie) I would rather have tomato soup out of a can...or at least a less thick recipe.

I also made Cream of Broccoli Soup (p. 144). I figured this would have a 50/50 shot of working--the Cream of Asparagus was delicious while I thought the Cream of Carrot was WAY too sweet for me.

The recipe is exactly like the Cream of Asparagus recipe except for the vegetable.

Saute celery and onion in butter...

Add the broccoli, cook for five minutes, and then pour flour over the top...

Add chicken stock an then cook it for about a half hour, until tender.

It's time for the immersion blender again! Pour in the cream to make it a "cream of" soup...

Stir and it's ready:

Delicious! Make sure salt is added really brings out the flavor (I noticed the asparagus soup needed a lot of salt too). And it heats up extremely well.

I'll be heading back to Iowa at the end of the week which will give me some opportunities to make food that Josh and I don't like--but mom does (stuffed peppers, for example!).

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fettuccine with Salmon and Asparagus (p. 327)

Josh made salmon so I figured the logical recipe to use the leftover in was Fettuccine with Salmon and Asparagus (p. 327). I'm still in the midst of testing to find out what is wrong with me and don't feel like making anything complex.

The recipe was fairly simple. Chop up the asparagus and boil them in some water/salt. I like asparagus, so I would rather just eat it than use in the pasta, but I soldiered through...

The asparagus is then lifted out of the pot with a sieve and a pound of spinach fettuccine is supposed to be added...

Uh oh....

I don't like fettuccine....

And I especially don't like spinach fettuccine (I think it tastes strangely bitter sometimes)...

And we certainly don't have any...

So spaghetti got thrown into the pot instead (and you will have to imagine that it's green)...

Obviously, some of the asparagus missed getting lifted out of the boiling water--and the water was a strange and rather distasteful color of green.

The asparagus was then sauteed in a little (or quite a bit) of butter....yum!...and a little lemon zest (I used dehydrated lemon zest from Penzeys).

At this point, heavy cream, chives, parsley, and a little salt and pepper were added to the asparagus.

I was getting concerned at this point. That looks like WAY too much cream--and there was nothing at all to thicken it, so it was just asparagus swimming in cream...weird and not very tasty.

I was hoping a miracle would happen when I added the pasta...

Nope. Still strangely milky.

How was it? Okay but weird. I think the flavors were tasty, especially in combination, but the sauce was WAY too thin. This recipe goes into the "won't be made again" category. This is another recipe that I would love to know if others had better luck when they made it.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Creamy Pasta with Chard and Tomatoes (p. 328)

I decided that even though I feel horrible, not eating can't possibly be helping me, so I started searching TJOC for easy, fast recipes. The Pasta, Noodles, and Dumplings chapter is absolutely jam-packed with super-easy recipes. I decided to make Creamy Pasta with Chard and Tomatoes (p. 328)

Start by cooking onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes in olive oil. A cup of chopped tomatoes are then added and it's cooked down for about five minutes.

In the mean time, start the pasta cooking! It recommends fettuccine or egg noodles but I don't like I used rotini:

The red chard is then added and it's cooked until wilted. TJOC says two minutes, it really took about fifteen, like usual.

Heavy cream is mixed in...

Then the drained pasta and 3/4 cup of Parmesan are added in...

It was DELICIOUS! Josh doesn't like chard so it was all mine...and I ate it all over three meals. I fried it up in some olive oil the second two times because I don't like microwaved pasta (it gets soggy and gross). Yum! Creamy, cheesy, and the chard was very tasty. It was also very filling

My mother pointed out that all of the food pictures on my blog are ugly so I am going to really try to post at least one decent food picture on each blog. I'll let you guess which picture is the one I feel is artistic (it's the last one!).

I just posted a bunch of blogs--five--and I still have two more to go...make sure you read them all!

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Boiled Potatoes (Pommes Anglaise) (p. 295)

Sadly, I'm about four blogs behind again. I can only blame it on being sick and not being well enough to concentrate on posting. That same problem is to blame for my lack of cooking recently, which really makes me mad, since I was finally jetting through a ton of recipes.

I made one of the easiest recipe in the entire book--Boiled Potatoes (Pommes Anglaise) (p. 295). How do you make this?

Peel some potatoes and if "in haste", as I always am, cut the potatoes into chunks. Cook them in boiled water for about a half hour.

Drain the potatoes:

And there you go! That's the whole recipe. Again, this must be among the easiest recipes in TJOC--and I'm running out of potato recipes!

I just posted four recipes before this ones, so make sure to read them all...

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