Friday, March 20, 2009

Baking/Cooking Jag

I took a week off work last week, just because, and have been home this week sick. In the meantime, I've been on quite the jag in my kitchen.

During my timeoff, armed with print-outs of Good Eats transcripts (from Good Eats Fan Page), I made Blueberry Muffins, Very Basic Bread (2 loaves), Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto, and Premium Mint Chip Ice Cream.

The Blueberry Muffins were really good. A bit denser than I expected, but I think that might be from the yogurt. The Very Basic Bread was excellent. The second time I made it, I forgot to glaze it with water and cornstarch and slash it, but it came out better--still had a nice crust, but nothing requiring gnawing to get through.

The Mint Chip Ice Cream is sublime! I had two quarts worth after churning, and it's better than anything I've bought at the store! I used 2t of peppermint extract instead of peppermint oil and got exactly the mint taste I wanted, without the chemical/alcohol aftertaste. This recipe sounds scarier than it is, with the scalding of the dairy and tempering with eggs for a custard, but it wasn't that hard. I did use my mixer to beat the eggs and sugar and temper the custard. The only difference was that I had a foam develop that went away on the second heating to 170 degrees.

A tip on the Risotto--scale this recipe way down. 2 cups of rice is a ton after cooking, and it was hard to ensure a even finish with that much rice. I'm going to try it again, but scaled for 1/2 cup of rice to better control the product. Also, the leftovers heated nicely in the microwave. I also found the mushroom and asparagus paired with leftover roast very well, making me wish I had used beef broth instead of chicken broth.

I tried Pate a Choux to make eclairs and cream puffs. This recipe is easy to put together, but very fussy. I blew out my Ziploc pastry bag on my first try piping, and the dough was very sticky. I didn't get much of a rise, so my eclairs came out the size of circus peanuts. I whipped up a quick whipped cream and stuffed them, then threw them in a Ziploc bag and into the freezer. The frozen "cream puffs" are not bad, but nothing near what I was going for. I think if I try this again, I might use a disher (#20) to get the rough size I want for the eclairs.

After reading the recent news about traces of mercury in high-fructose corn syrup, I bought popsicle molds to make CJ's favorite snack on my own. I made cranberry-grape popsicles that he loves--3 cups Cranberry-Grape Juice (100%), 3/4 cup sugar, and 2 T of lime juice. Stir till dissolved, then pour into molds, assemble sticks, and freeze. They came out very well, and CJ likes them very much. I have a Good Eats fudgsicle recipe to try next.

Monday, I made ham and lentil soup, loosely based on Alton's recipe, and paired it with a fresh loaf of Very Basic Bread. Yummy! Too bad I forgot to add the swiss chard I had intended. Tuesday, as the cold was overtaking me, I was able to make a fresh Chicken Noodle Soup--Chopped half a sweet onion, 3 carrots, and a stalk of celery, a couple cloves of garlic, sweated that in olive oil, then added two chicken leg quarters and 3 qts of water. Add salt, two bay leaves, pepper, a bit of curry powder, a bit of sage, and a bit of turmeric. Bring to boil, then simmer two hours. Pull out the leg quarters to cool, remove the bay leaves, add an 8oz bag of egg noodles and let boil till noodles are done. Meanwhile, remove chicken meat from bones and fat, roughly chop, and add back to pot. Another success, and also very yummy with the leftovers of that loaf of bread.

Right now, I have dough from Suze's recipe for bread rising in the oven, and should be ready to bake it in a few hours. It's coming along nicely--I realized after I got it together I had forgotten to add oil, and I added 2t of honey, so we'll see. I used my mixer to assemble it, per the Very Basic Bread recipe, and that seemed to work.

This weekend, provided I feel better, I plan to make another batch of muffins, the Premium Chocolate Ice Creams, more cranberry popsicles, fudgsicles, and maybe try the risotto again. No pressure.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A week for creativity

Woo, seems like it's been years since I posted on here! This week I had a couple of occasions to make new (to me) dishes. Tuesday, I fixed a corn casserole for a friend's family. It was pretty much the standard corn casserole recipe, so I shan't post it. If you would like to see it, let me know in the comment section, and I'll put it up. When I took the casserole to the house, there was no one there, so I had to leave it on the back stoop. I asked another friend later if they had found the casserole I left (as well as the dish of green beans and salad that someone else left). I was assured that they had, and that they thought the corn casserole was very good.

Wednesday, I made my first veggie appetizer pizza. Again, this was a standard recipe, so I'll omit posting it with the same suggestion: if you want the recipe, let me know. I took that to our Friendship program in Lexington, for the mothers of the babies we babysit every Thursday as well as all the other international wives who show up. It disappeared, so I guess it was okay, too.

After I finished the pizza, I baked a cake. (Thursday was my birthday.) It was an extremely simple recipe--a box of spice cake mix and a 16-oz can of pumpkin puree. That's it. Mix those two ingredients, put in a greased 9x13 pan, and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 23-25 minutes. That recipe can also be baked in muffin pans, for a baking time of 20 minutes. It looked pretty messy, but it tastes pretty good.

Now, for my best recipe of the week (in my opinion). Today David and I are watching the SEC conference on TV, and lunchtime sneaked up on us. I knew I had an extra bag of raw mixed vegetables left from the pizza on Wednesday, and I needed to use them up. I also knew I had ramen noodles. The result of combining those two ingredients was terrific.

bag of mixed veggies from the produce department (broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots)
2 pkgs of beef-flavored ramen noodles

Rinse the veggies in a colander. Place them in some sort of microwave safe dish that has a lid (or a way to cover). Add a scant 1/4 cup of water. Cover and microwave for two minutes. Drain.

Bring a quart of water to boil in a 4-quart saucepan or small dutch oven. When the water is boiling, add the seasoning packets from the ramen noodles and stir. Then add the noodles; stir to separate. Finally, add the vegetables. Stir again. When the pot starts to boil again, cover and cook for two minutes.

That's it, folks! Easy, cheap, and with the vegetables, reasonably nutritious. David says we could always add meat if we wanted to do so--that would be a good use for the leftover chicken or ham or whatever you might have in the ice box.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Haven't Cooked Much Lately

Been too busy with trying to do midterms, assignments and wade through legal crap to cook much, but I did cook last night. You may already know from my blog that I cooked shrimp scampi again last night. I noticed the lack of vegetables, and it got me wondering what shrimp scampi would taste like on a bed of grilled squash and zuccini, or nested on top of a pile of spagetti squash. I'll have to try it soon (if I can figure out how to COOK spagetti squash) and let you know how it turns out.