Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bean and rice cakes (p. 106)

I haven't had a major TJOC disaster for a while, so I suppose I was due. Believe it or not, Bean and rice cakes (p. 106) had been on my to-make list for a while. I like vegetarian food but I tend not to like non-meat burgers, so I was optimistic about the recipe.

I cooked onion and celery in butter until softened.

I then added a can of chickpeas that I smashed, a cup of cooked rice, two eggs, parsley, salt, and pepper. I think it's possible that one of these choices was a mistake--maybe I shouldn't have used leftover rice? Maybe only one egg? Maybe I didn't smash the beans enough?

My mixture did not form into patties well at all. They were soft and totally not cohesive.

I thought that maybe the crusting step would help--I dredged (or attempted to dredge) the cakes in flour, an egg, and then sesame seeds.

It did not work. They totally fell apart.

Even so, I tried to fry them up.

Lets just say this was not a success. The cakes barely held together and the two or three that I managed to make were bland and way too heavy on the sesame seeds.

Honestly, I think this was the worst TJOC recipe I've ever made. Honestly, something that had some flavor really needed to be added to this recipe--between the chickpeas, celery, onion, rice, and eggs, everything was bland and rather beige (the celery wasn't extensive enough to matter). The recipe was totally unsuccessful. It didn't even taste good! I have no idea why the patties wouldn't hold together. Plus it made a ton of dishes! A total fail.

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Baklava (p. 675)

I really like Baklava (p. 675) so I was happy to make the TJOC version. One of my main reasons I started this blog was to get over my fear of making dishes that greatly intimidate me--and baklava was top of the list.

The recipe was actually pretty simple. I buttered a dish, laid two pieces of phyllo out, buttered them, laid another two sheets, buttered, another two sheets, buttered, and done. TJOC recommends cutting the phyllo but they must be talking about phyllo sheets that are bigger than the ones I was working with--my phyllo sheets didn't need to be cut.

I sprinkled the phyllo with half of a sugar/lemon zest/cinnamon mixture that I had set aside and chopped toasted pecans. I think pistachios or almonds are a lot more traditional but I like pecans a lot more.

The whole operation was repeated another time and it was covered with a final six layers of phyllo dough. Honestly, buttering the phyllo was the most difficult part of the whole operation.

I cut the baklava into diamonds. It's supposed to be pre-cut so it doesn't get crushed but it still crushed slightly.

I made the sauce, which was a sugar, water, honey, and lemon juice mixture.

And poured it over the top. And into the oven it went!

When it came out, it was beautiful!

And delicious! It wasn't overwhelming with honey flavor but tasted pretty much like any baklava I've ever had. It was deliciously flaky. I would definitely make this again but not until I have more people around who like baklava--as the only person in this household who likes it, I got pretty sick of eating it after the first week.

I'm extending the contest until June 1st so make sure to enter! Win your own copy of TJOC! And fan me on Facebook.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

My favorite recipes and a CONTEST!

Contest! I'll get to that in a moment.

Jennifer asked me a question on my Random Questions with Jessica post that I've been thinking about--what recipe do I make the most often and what are my favorite TJOC recipes within certain categories. And I think I finally have my answer! I'm only going to speak on the categories where I've made significant progress on the chapter--I will update it in the future I hope! I would love to know if any of you have made any of these recipes! Please comment.

I LOVE tortilla chips. I make these all the time! They are so much better than store-bought and so amazingly easy. On the other end of the spectrum, the samosas were amazing but time-consuming and difficult.

I make chicken stock CONSTANTLY. I love making my own chicken stock. I like it better than canned because I can control the salt content and it's a heckava lot cheaper than buying it. I make tortilla soup CONSTANTLY and it's become my go-to comfort food.

Green beans, potatoes, and smoked meat seems like such a simple, obvious recipe--and it is--but the flavors are SO GOOD together. I can't recommend this recipe enough. I love fried eggplant--it's so crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. TJOC's hash brown recipe is one of the best things I've ever eaten--you pour cream on them! Wow are they good--they take a while though.

I make creamy pasta with tomatoes and Swiss chard constantly. It's so good and the leftovers fry up amazingly. It's honestly one of my favorite things to make.

I honestly think that the turkey meatballs are better than TJOCs real meatballs. They are absolute perfection.

The Italian pot roast is one of Josh's favorite recipes in TJOC and I've made it a number of times. On the other end of the spectrum, chicken-fried steak and meatloaf I are perfect examples of what they should be. There is nothing strange in either recipe--it must be the proportions that do it.

The blue cheese dressing is so good that people who don't normally like blue cheese love it (be sure to use Maytag blue cheese). Honestly, my mom doesn't normally like blue cheese and eats this dressing with a spoon. Curry mayonnaise is probably the thing I've made out of TJOC second only to tortilla soup--it's great with salmon. Also, make your own honey mustard and barbecue sauce--it's easy and will impress people.

Pancakes, etc--
Cornmeal waffles. OMG are they delicious. In fact, if I had a waffle iron I would make some right now. The tempura batter makes the best calamari I've ever had--and I've had a lot.

So those are my favorites within certain limits!

I recently reached 200 followers on Facebook (if you aren't a fan, join!) which blew my mind! I had promised to run another contest when I got to 200 FB followers or 100 blog followers and I will keep my promise! I'm giving away a copy of The Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary edition so you can cook along with me!

To enter: Leave a comment on this blog post, preferably a question (either about the blog, TJOC, myself, whatever). For another entry, leave a comment on another post. If you want to leave a comment and not enter the contest, just say so!

Deadline: June 15th, 2010. The book will be sent media mail because I'm just a poor college student. ***THE DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED!**


Now enter! Hooray!

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sweet potato and peanut stew (p. 302)

And I'm caught up on my blog posts again! I've posted about ten new posts so be sure to check them all out. On a whim, I thought that Sweet potato and peanut stew (p. 302) sounded good. The recipe looked time consuming but easy.

I sauteed an onion, a bell pepper, and a jalapeno in some peanut oil:

After about ten minutes I added some garlic cloves and fresh ginger, followed by chili powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes. I cooked it for another minute and added some tomato paste. I just added the whole small can of tomato paste because I hate having some left over--I always forget about it and it's such a waste. I need to start buying tomato paste in squeeze bottles.

I added two sliced up sweet potatoes.

Eventually I added some turkey (it asks for 12 oz but who has 12 oz of meat? I added a pound) and some zucchini:

(There are lots of long cooking steps that I'm not detailing because I think they are boring)

I measured out some smooth peanut butter and added a cup of the broth to it to melt down the peanut butter:

The peanut butter mixture was then mixed into the rest:

And done! I made some couscous to pour the stew on. Most of you know the trouble I have with rice--I just can't get it to work because of the altitude. Couscous, on the other hand, worked on the first try. I used to eat couscous all the time but really burned out on it--maybe it's time to start eating it again!

The stew was good but oddly bland. I really don't understand why it was bland--there were so many strong flavors involved! Maybe it needed more peanut butter? That being said, it's a really filling stew and if you left out the turkey, it would be vegan. Even though it had the jalapeno, chili powder, and red pepper flakes, it wasn't spicy at all. I would say the main thing I learned from this recipe was that peanut butter and sweet potatoes go really well together--something that should be explored by me further.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Fish baked in a covered dish (p. 399)

When I figured out how far I was in each chapter, I was thrilled to see that I was over 10% in almost every chapter and as high as 35% in some chapters. Unfortunately, there were some really low chapters and "fish" was definitely one of those. I bought some sea bass on sale and thought that Fish baked in a covered dish (p. 399) would be a great use of it.

I combined butter, black pepper, and a bit of nutmeg. I like when recipes start with all this butter!

I then spread the butter on the fish, which wasn't as easy as it sounds. The butter did NOT want to spread! I popped the lid on my Le Crueset and put it in the oven.

While the fish was cooking, I melted some butter in a small saucepan and added capers, parsley (dried), chives (freeze-dried), lemon juice, and some salt and pepper:

When the fish was done I poured the butter mixture over the top:

This was SOOOOOO good. Really easy and absolutely delicious. The fish was flaky and perfectly cooked and the briny capers cut through the super buttery taste perfectly. I think fish and capers go together so well! I like recipes where you essentially throw everything in a pot and call it a day so this recipe was right up my alley.

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Scalloped potatoes I (p. 296), Roasted asparagus (p. 250), Brown sugar glaze (p. 583), Parmesan vinaigrette (p. 574)

Easter is actually a little depressing when you live far away from your friends and family but I decided to cook a big Easter dinner even though it was just the two of us. I thought that Scalloped potatoes I (p. 296) would be a perfect side dish. I was optimistic because I loved the other scalloped potato recipe.

I parboiled some thinly sliced potatoes and drained them:

Then I layered the potatoes--1/3 of the potatoes (in a buttered dish) topped with some flour, butter, bacon, and cheese (the cheese wasn't called for but I thought would make the potatoes even better).

There were three layers of potatoes. I then heated some cream in a saucepan and added some salt, paprika, and dry mustard and poured the concoction over the top:

Popped the whole thing into the oven:

Cook it until you think it's done and then cook it five more minutes. Raw potatoes are not very delicious. The potatoes are good but they weren't nearly as good as Scalloped potatoes II--plus the other recipe is more simple because you don't have to parboil anything. These potatoes are RICH. Between all the butter and cream it is not fooling around. When you reheat the leftovers, there is about a inch of butter at the bottom of the dish which is a little distressing to even me. That being said, the potatoes are good and I would happily eat them again if someone else made them (I'll make the other recipe in the future).

I thought that Roasted asparagus (p. 250) would be a perfect vegetable for an Easter meal! Asparagus is such a delicious vegetable and is so briefly in season that I like to eat it as often as possible in the Spring.

I broke the stem ends off of the asparagus, spread it in a single layer, and drizzled olive oil over the top. That being said, I think my idea of drizzling (probably more of a pour) and TJOCs might not be the same.

I popped it in the oven for about 8 minutes and done!

It looked almost exactly the same! I thought the roasted asparagus was good but I like it steamed move (I have terrible taste and actually like my veggies a little mushy). The olive oil and salt really brought out the flavor and it was really simple.

What is more Easter-y than a ham? Nothing! And I decided to make one of TJOC's glazes for it--I thought the Brown sugar glaze (p. 583) looked tasty and simple (a plus when you are making a big meal).

I mixed brown sugar and some dry mustard:

And then slowly added some orange juice until it was spreadable:

And over the ham it went:

This glaze was amazing! It was simple and tasty. I was afraid it would burn because of the high sugar content but I poured it on for the last thirty minutes and it was fine. And the drippings became a great sauce. I like brown sugar glazes and this one was just as simple as using the one that came with the ham (but better).

I thought, for once, that maybe a salad would be a nice addition to the meal. My family is big on salads but I tend not to make them. I have recently came to the conclusion that you should never buy salad dressing--it's so fast to make and sooooo much better. My rule of thumb is that to make something homemade it should either be significantly better or cheaper than store-bought. Dressing always is better homemade. I thought that Parmesan vinaigrette (p. 574) looked delicious.

It was a simple recipe--I whisked balsamic vinegar, Parmesan, peppercorn, a shallot, and a garlic clove together:

Then I slowly added some olive oil in a steady stream:

And done! This vinaigrette was absolutely amazing--it was sooo good. It's strong and heavily spiced--between the vinegar, the shallot, the garlic, and the peppercorn there is a lot going on and it's strong but perfectly balanced. I can't recommend this vinaigrette enough and it was so simple. I need to remember to make salads more often--I like them and it makes me feel healthy (although my salads are more a vessel to get dressing to my mouth than a healthy option).

It seemed like a stupidly large amount of food for two people but that's what happens when you live 600 miles from all of your friends and family. I emailed my aunt about graduation the next day and told her what I made for Easter--and she had made almost the exact same meal! So it must have been a pretty traditional Easter meal.

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