Monday, December 31, 2007

Waffles (p. 646) and Raspberry

So the relatives wanted waffles. Never mind that we are low (or empty) on milk, eggs, and butter, three of the main ingredients of waffles.

There are JUST enough eggs, slightly under a stick of butter (but I can't use it all because I need some for the top of the waffles) and no milk. The relatives want me to use creamer in the waffles. I don't know about you guys, but that seems like something that you would do if you were in wartime, and seems gross. So I looked in the back of the book and figured out how to use evaporated milk. I don't like evaporated milk. I think it tastes tinny and metallic. But my mom and aunt like it more than real milk. They were convinced it was a 1:1 substitution. That doesn't make any sense. The evaporated has to mean SOMETHING. You don't have to look very far--even wikipedia -- to know that you have to mix it with an equal amount of water to use it in place of milk.

The waffle mix--in a bowl that is probably twice as old as I am:

So we get out the waffle iron. It's filthy dirty. Whoever used it last didn't clean it. It doesn't take an aerospace engineer to know that you should clean kitchen equipment before putting it away, but apparently that's beyond my grandmother's caretaker's abilities. So we cleaned it (well) and sprayed it with plenty of oil. The waffles worked, but I think they tasted way too much like evaporated milk...

This is my first time making waffles. I don't even like waffles. Why would you bother with a specialty iron when you can just make waffle's more delicious cousin, the pancake? And I have a moratorium on equipment in my house that is only for one purpose. We have a few pieces that have snuck through the cracks--an ice cream maker, namely, but our kitchen isn't big enough for pieces that one do one job. We need multitaskers. I'm sure I'll inherit the pizzelle maker eventually.

The waffles being cooked:

The finished product. I think waffles pretty much require someone to be in the kitchen, making them, while everyone else eats. And I'm not into that.

My g'mother's caretaker had organic maple syrup for the waffles. I have two main problems with this. First, isn't all plain maple syrup organic? I mean, really, I doubt they spray the maple trees. So you are paying a premium for nothing. I understand if you don't want the syrup with all the preservatives and such, but I'm guessing all plain maple syrup is the same. Second, the syrup was Grade B. Josh assures me that the highest grade of maple syrup is AA (apparently his parent's collected sap one year), so this super expensive syrup is third-tier. And people pay a premium for it! Amazing.

This blog is dedicated to our dear Rottweiler, Raspberry. Raspberry lived a hard life. She was used as breeding stock (which was no surprise--she was a gorgeous dog) until she could no longer whelp, and then was set "free". When the shelter found her, they found a microchip, but when they called the owners, they were told that she was no longer wanted.

Her teeth were broken and worn from chewing on her cage. Her nose had a scar across it from pushing it through the bars. She didn't walk upright for the first year Josh had her. But she was a loving dog (almost TOO loving at times--she was definitely needy). When she moved to Colorado and adopted Duchess, she blossomed.

She was a great dog. She and Duchess were my constant cooking companions, always looking for food I may have dropped (accidentally or on purpose).

Josh noticed that she didn't look so good on 12/30. By 1/2 she had to be put to sleep. She had gotten a clot in her stomach, which punctured it and rotted her stomach away. She lost twenty pounds in three days.

May she rest in peace and get all the attention that she deserves until we meet her at the Rainbow Bridge.

The rainbow bridge poem (collected from
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Leftover Potato Cakes (p. 301)

So it's the day after Christmas and we have a bunch of leftovers. I made the mashed potatoes for Christmas dinner and they were delicious--but there are some left over, of course. I spot the recipe for Leftover Potato Cakes (p.301). I giggle about the name for a while. It sounds like the potato cakes are leftover, not that leftover potatoes are made into cakes. I'm such a dork.

For this recipe, you pretty much take mashed potatoes, mix in some of whatever you want, fashion them into cakes, dip them into flour, and panfry them. I mixed together some garlic and a few eggs, which when mixed into the potatoes was gross and mucous-y. Even when dipped into flour they were sticky.

This picture shows the garlic egg mixture in the upper left hand corner, plain mashed potatoes on the left, and the mucous-y mixture on the left. TJOC is visible in the far left of the picture. Isn't the marble counter nice? I really should have made candy while I was there and utilized the table...

The little cakes frying. Flour did not stick to them as well as you would have expected...although they did fry up an attractive golden color:

They were fairly pretty when cooked but fairly bland. I smeared butter onto them and they were still on the bland side. I think that maple syrup or something would be better on them...

Even so, they were really easy. And the recipe has a LOT of room for interpretation so you could really get creative. It's nice to use leftovers in a new way...

They apparently didn't excite me enough to make me take a picture of the finished product!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Viennese Crescents (p. 773), Roll Cookies (p. 772), Sugar Drop Cookies (p. 766), Pecan or Angel Slices (p. 764), Filled Cookies III (p. 777), etc

I'm in Florida for the holidays. I decided that I could certainly do most of the dessert cooking, and I brought my camera, but of course, I forgot to load the camera's installation disk on my laptop, so I had to wait until I get home for the pictures...

First off, it was extremely exciting to not worry about modifying recipes or cooking times because I'm at sea level...that is wonderful! I am literally right next to a major water body (the Halifax River)--in fact, I can see it from the chair I'm sitting in.

I felt right at home because I still had a dog that was begging for food--my g'mother's beagle, Casey. I agree with my aunt, Bandit would have been a cuter and more appropriate name. She's a strange dog, however--she begs and begs but doesn't ACTUALLY want anything. If you drop food on the floor, she won't eat it.

The first cookies I made were Pecan or Angel Slices (p. 764). I chose to make them out of nuts, not angels--I suppose you'd have to get those in a specialty store :)

This required me to toast coconut (p. 972) and toast walnuts (p. 1001). That was fairly easy, although toasting the coconut was always seemed a quarter step from burning. At least it changes in taste. I hate when I do these extra steps and they don't seem to actually accomplish anything. Toasting the nuts was easy enough, although I don't think I toasted them enough.

Coconut pre- and post- toasting:

The toasted walnuts:

The slices were strange. It seems that you make the crust (extremely gooey and REALLY hard to work with, even after some refrigeration), pat it down on foil (never did figure out why I needed foil--I recommend not using it), bake that, make the nut mixture, and put that on top.

The crust has to be baked first:

The whole concoction:

Very tasty! But very strange. And almost impossible to get out of the pan. The "bars" were tiny and bite size, because they were that hard to get out of the pan. It was for the best, however, because they were SOOOO rich that one whole bar would have thrown the eater into automatic diabetic shock.

Viennese Crescents (p. 773). My aunt Charlotte is a big fan of those butter cookies with the ground nuts that everybody seems to have at Christmas. I think the actual cookies she likes are called "Mexican wedding cookies" or something like that. I figured these were fairly close. Well, they are. They are rich and nutty. But I made them way to big. Why is it that cookie recipes always say you can make 48 cookies but I always seem to only be able to make about 20? That's really annoying. Do they make doll-sized cookies? Because I'm not typically making GIANT cookies...

These were slightly less than attractive. I didn't notice that I wasn't photographing them but this is the only picture I least they TASTED good...

Sugar Drop Cookies (p. 766). These were pretty good and allowed my mother to use the sprinkles that she desperately wanted to use (they are quite pretty!). I made the cookies, found out that I had 20 cookies and the recipes says that I will have I broke them up further.

Hmm...these cookies must be WAY too big. But they don't look THAT big...this cookie sheet isn't very large:

So I break them up and get twelve instead of eight:

I still didn't have 60! Apparently, they needed to be TINY! These were good--but dry. Kind of boring actually. And I don't really like cookies that don't use butter or shortening...only vegetable oil...and I think that is kind of gross...So again, the dough was REALLY sticky, even after I put it in the refrigerator. And my g'mother doesn't have one of those awesome cookie ballers that I love so much (thank you Rachel!).

I called mom over and let her decorate. Apparently, she wanted to live out all her six-year old fantasies... But I must admit that they are attractive and festive:

So I had a bunch of toasted coconut left over. I hate extra stuff like that--you put in a baggie, put it away, it rots, and eventually, you throw it out. What's the point? So I found a recipe that would use the rest of it. Filled Cookies III (p. 777) using Roll Cookies (p. 772) and the third option, the coconut filling. This is the worst, most obnoxious recipe in TJOC I've came across so far. I made little turnovers. The problem with this is that the recipe has no instructions for cooking. In the little review of filled cookies, it says "since there is so much variety in the shaping, handling, and baking of filled cookings, not many general rules apply." So, apparently, that means that they don't give you any direction. I cooked them at 375 degrees for ten minutes and it totally worked.

You make the filling first. There is a lot of room for creativity in this recipe:

The roll cookie part needs to sit in the refridgerator for a while. So don't plan on making these cookies if you don't think you'll be interested in finishing them a few hours later:

You make them like ravioli:

A closeup:

Some of the turnovers were beautiful...and others, well, the others have great personalities.

The whole plate of cookies were pretty. Of course, while I was getting my camera to take this picture, my g'mother snagged TWO cookies. I knew this because I had counted them before leaving. My g'mother is on a strict diet. Six cookies after dinner do not fit in it. So I had to hide the rest of the cookies...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Baked Beans (p. 255) and Chicken Curry (p. 434)

I have been super busy lately so I decided to make some good food for the future days. What would freeze well?

I decided to make Baked Beans (p. 255). I like baked beans and all the previous homemade beans I've eaten I've thought were damn good. So why not make my own? I forgot to put the white beans soaking the night before, so I used TJOC's quick soak method. It totally worked, and it is quicker than overnight, but it isn't what I would call "quick". It still takes well over an hour.

I used salt pork for the top, which was tasty. I think I might be the only person who buys salt pork at our grocery store, because it was clearanced this week. I put curry in it, because curry makes everything better (and it was an optional ingredient). I cooked them for the full 4.5 hours. What were they like? I think they were bland. I won't be making this recipe again! Even so, I ate them for three meals...

For dinner Monday night I made Chicken Curry (p. 434). This may be the most challenging thing I've made from TJOC. First, the spices and onions look about burned by the time that you put yogurt in.

As it thickened it looked really tasty. And it smelled great! I used a jalapeno in it and it didn't make the curry too hot. I also diced the onion instead of slicing it, mostly because I didn't read through the recipe before starting.

The sauce pre-chicken:

The chicken, finished, without sauce:

With sauce--YUM!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Pineapple Upside Down Cake (p. 691) and Cornbread Tamale Pie (p. 102)

Now this is how I'm a tricky minx...I forgot to post this blog when I cooked the food, so it's getting posted now, even though it is going to be hidden behind other posts...

This was a bizarre mix of recipes. First, you have the Cornbread Tamale Pie (p. 102). Absolutely bizarre. To make this, you brown some meat. Then you add beans, corn, tomato sauce, broth, some spices. After that, you mix some cornmeal and other stuff together and put it on top of the meat mix.

Heating the meat and veggie mixture...

This was made more exciting by the fact that I opened the cabinet to get some spices out, had condiments kamikaze me which tipped over the cornmeal mix, spewing cornmeal all over the kitchen. I took some mediation-type deep breaths and started over. Josh hurried over--I think he was afraid that I was going to explode--and cleaned the mess up. Fortunately it was all dry ingredients so it wasn't that bad.

The evil cornmeal, pre-explosion:

The cornbread mix (2.0) layered (messily) over the meat mixture:

The casserole was very very strange. Fairly good, even though I put about twice the spices in it, although it really could have used more cornmeal on the top. Now I've made a couple TJOC casseroles and I think that TJOC is a little too bland. I really recommend that you "spice them up". It won't hurt you to double everything.

I will admit that the cornmeal did settle into a top layer, like it was supposed to:

I LOVE LOVE LOVE pineapple upside down cake. So I thought that Pineapple Upside Down Cake (p. 691) would be a cakewalk (HA! I'm so funny!). My mom makes a great PUDC, her secret is that she replaces all the liquid in her recipe (well, not oil, but water type liquids) with pineapple juice.

This recipe was really good. All of you know that I have this overwhelming fear of baking. I consider myself an excellent baker but the altitude really screws me up. So I've been using the rule of thumb of decreasing the baking powder or baking soda a little. And it seems to be working! Even so, I don't enjoy baking as much here as I do in the midwest. It's hard to work so hard knowing that half of everything I make doesn't seem to turn out...

This recipe has a HUGE amount of butter in it which makes me happy! And I placed all the pineapple in the pan and the maraschino cherries...ate the rest of them...and continued on in the recipe.

The cake was BEAUTIFUL and tasty! I didn't make it in cast iron, because I'm scared of cast iron, but a cake pan worked fine. You HAVE to use a lot of butter or the cake will stick and it won't be beautiful. The buttermilk was good but I think next time I'll try mom's method--half buttermilk, half pineapple juice.

Cool PUDC fact--the cake was originally developed to popularize canned pineapple. So the recipe isn't very old--although it is delicious. And you can make a lot of different UDC's--different combos of fruit and spices are awesome. Peaches are especially tasty.

The first step is to place the pineapple slices down on a ton of butter, and then place the cherries (or pecans, if you prefer) and sprinkle the whole thing with brown sugar.

The cake batter is poured on top of the art that you just created:

How pretty! I think PUDC makes everyone feel like a 1950's housewife--in the best way :)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Lasagne (p. 340), Tomato Sauce with Meatballs (p. 564), Tomato Sauce (p. 562), Italian Meatballs (p. 513)

Today was a huge moment in my journey through TJOC. Cooking something that I was pretty damn sure my family had much better recipes for. Today I cooked Lasagna (p. 340). Now, my family has a pretty damn awesome lasagna recipe. The filling is the same as in my beloved Noni's ravioli and is a meat, spinach, ricotta mixture with a few special ingredients. TJOC's recipe? Sauce, cheese, ricotta. That doesn't sound that tempting. Where is the meat? Where is the spinach? To make up for that, I decided to make Tomato Sauce with Meatballs (p. 564), probably my favorite recipe in TJOC so far--it's only four lines long and refers entirely to two other recipes--Tomato Sauce (p. 562) and Italian Meatballs (p. 513).

The sauce recipe was simple enough, although why TJOC wants me to make all sauces in a skillet is beyond me. I didn't send it through a food mill because I kind of like it lumpy.

I then made the meatballs. It's kind of fun to play with raw meat and, again, these were fairly easy. That being said, I think they were heavy on onions and the recipe from Cook's Illustrated is a lot more tasty. Plus, real Italian meatballs aren't all ground beef. I didn't want to waste veal on this recipe--plus it wasn't called for. Even so, they looked extremely tasty!

How could the altitude (my mortal enemy) affect the lasagna? Hmm...water boiling at a lower temp...that couldn't possibly affect...NOODLES! My noodles took FOREVER to cook and were more chewy than my liking. Even so, I wasn't really willing to start over.

One of the many things I don't like about this recipe is the extremely low amount of ricotta cheese. Now, at least it doesn't ask for cottage cheese (disgusting!) but 15 oz is not near enough. I smeared that on the first level! Josh had to go for a second, larger container to finish the meal off.

So, TJOC's lasagna recipe says that it takes 5 cups of the tomato sauce from 562. That lead me to believe that the tomato sauce recipe made 5 cups, so I didn't worry about it. This was incorrect. The tomato sauce recipe makes about two and a half cups--uh oh. I didn't have enough tomatoes to make a second I improvised. I had a Tupperware of sauce from last month in the freezer. I dumped that into the other sauce, and away I went! But even that wasn't enough sauce! I had to get a container of the sauce my mother made me when she was here this summer. How much sauce does this take???

Assembling the lasagna was fairly easy. The whole thing weighed about forty thousand pounds. It said I was supposed to have three layers of filling but that was NOT going to happen...mine only had two layers.

The lasagna pre-cook and post-cook:

So how did it taste? Frankly, I think it was too heavy and sweet with not enough spinach or meat. Just not my taste in lasagna. And way too much of it for two people! So some of it might end up in the trash can...

In other news, some might see this as a shot glass but it may be one of my favorite things in the kitchen--so easy to measure liquid!!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thanksgiving!!! Candied sweet potatoes (p. 302), Bread and mushroom stuffing (p. 533), Mashed potatoes (p.295), etc

Thanksgiving!! Hooray! A holiday where the main focus is where it should be--on food!!

My mom, who usually does the cooking, is experiencing neuropathy with her chemo, which makes her really sensitive to hot and especially cold. Even though we have a little thanksgiving each year (this year it was me, my mom, Josh, and his brother), it still requires a lot of cooking. So I decided to do what I could to help (and knock out some Joy recipes along the way).

First things first. What oven-cooked item could I make early so it wouldn't crowd the turkey? Candied sweet potatoes (p. 302) seemed like a good choice--and a serving size of 4! Perfect. We wouldn't have ten years worth of leftovers (and I only had 5 sweet potatoes--exactly what the recipe calls for). These were good. Not overly sweet and without marshmallows, two things I like in sweet potatoes. They also heated up really well. They were only made with four potatoes though--the last one had some gross black thing in the middle--it had to be culled from the herd. I made the recipe without lemon zest because I DESPISE zesting--well, at least until I get a microplane...

So why is there only one picture of this? And it's AFTER cooking? I forgot! No good reason--well, and the camera wasn't charged. But they do look tasty.

The only other thing I needed the oven for was toasting the breadcrumbs for the stuffing. My mother was absolutely horrified that I didn't need her to buy me ready made breadcrumbs. TJOC is big on toasting your own breadcrumbs, so I just needed her to buy white bread. That sounds easy--but getting you 100% Italian mother to buy pre-sliced white sandwich bread is not a simple task. She eventually did it, but not without a lot of complaints.

I decided to make Basic bread stuffing (p. 532), modified to Bread and mushroom stuffing (p. 533). Toasting the breadcrumbs wasn't difficult at all and they were beautiful and golden brown...

The bread pre-toast:

The bread post-toast--look how pretty it is!:

Mom was convinced this recipe was going to amount to--how did she so eloquently put it??--oh yes, stuffing a loaf of white bread up the turkey's ass. (As you can see, she's a back-seat cooker). She didn't need to worry--the stuffing was heavily spiced. I would never have thought to put nutmeg or cloves in there--although they were really good. You could definitely taste both flavors, but they were good. I mixed cremini and button mushrooms for the mushroom mix--I would have mixed more but Iowa has a pretty sad mushroom selection. I baked the stuffing in a casserole dish rather than inside the bird, so I added more broth so it wouldn't dry out. I also added two eggs which made a more firm stuffing.

Mixing the breadcrumbs and spices:

Pre-cooking--with tasty bits of butter on the top:

The tasty stuffing, after being shoveled onto everyone's plate:

I LOVE Yukon Gold potatoes. They are soooo good. So obviously, Mashed potatoes (p.295) were among the first things on my list of items to make. I was suspicious that TJOC wouldn't be able to live up to the wonderful Cook's Illustrated recipe that I made last year. And they weren't. The potatoes were good, but not great. Josh always enjoys the mashing process, I think it allows him to get out his frustrations in a healthy way. These cooked WAY faster than I expected, so they were done too early, which made me angry.

They tasted better than they looked:

At this point I was done with everything I had planned on making. But there were a lot of button mushrooms left over. So I decided, on a whim, to make Broiled stuffed mushroom caps (p. 284) stuffed with Basic flavored butter (p. 558) flavored to Garlic butter (p. 559). Oh were these great!! They were the hit of the holiday and gone in about thirty seconds. I can't recommend these enough--they were really easy and good. And the garlic butter was easy to make once I decided to mince the garlic in the world's smallest food processor. They would have been great on toast--sort of like snail-free escargot.

The butter--it makes quite a bit, I recommend having more than one use for it or halving the recipe--

The mushrooms pre- and post- broil. Thy tumbled all around! But were still nice and buttery:

So why didn't I make the cranberries? I said on the last blog I was going to...well, I specifically told my mother not to mince them and she did anyway. Unfortunately, that knocked my recipe out. And what about the pie? I'm not sure why that one didn't happen--I'm guessing lack of time.

Two more quick pictures--the turkey, although I only washed it, deserves it's day in the sun. It was very pretty. And Josh tried his hand at the electric slicer :) is a really cool "charity". It isn't really a charity--it's a micro-lender, so you make little loans (right now you can only donate $25 to each one) to needy people and they pay you back. Most of the lenders have a 0% default rate, so you will get your money back, but your helping someone who needs it. I just made four loans--all to people trying to get started in agriculture, three to pig farmers (I have a soft spot for pigs!). It's a good deed, especially around the holidays. And you're helping people get on their feet so they won't need charity any more--how great is that? If you decide to do it, use me (email me for my username!) as a referral--I don't get anything but I would like to know if I influence anyone to make a loan :) As fellow food-lovers, I implore you to get involved :)