Sunday, September 30, 2007

Becker Gyro (p. 188), Becker Lamb Patties (p. 511), Tzatziki sauce (p. 567), Roasted Whole Eggplants (p. 274), Baked Artichoke dip (p. 74), etc

What an exciting day this was! I got a ton of work done today and A TON OF COOKING done! The downside? TJOC is occupying a large amount of my thoughts...I read it a lot, think about it a lot, figure out what I'm cooking, and on and on. Oh well, better than other hobbies, I suppose. I think I can easily make it through this book in a year. I suppose those are famous last words... Even so, it is helping me learn to cook. I learned several things today...

So what did I cook, you ask?

Remember, I told you that TJOC is like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel--one recipe might require that you do three other recipes. I figure those are the most convenient way to cook through the book...more bang for your buck!

I made the Becker Gyro (p. 188) with Becker Lamb Patties (p. 511) and Tzatziki sauce (p. 567). I don't know, apparently I don't like lamb very much, because I couldn't stomach the lamb patties. Josh liked them, ate two gyros, and packed the rest up to put in the freezer for a future lunch. I didn't make the pitas, just bought them at Whole Foods, which is also where I bought my feta--WF makes the BEST feta of all feta! The Tzatziki, on the other hand--terrific! It was really easy to make and really good. I think the best part of this so far is learning what some of the flavors in these food products--I never knew that mint was in tzatziki.

Other things I did for the first time today? Roasted eggplant--I was always afraid of doing that. I also seeded a cucumber, which I was wasn't sure about...but I did it!

These patties were TINY. They kept saying that the recipe would make 12 patties but it was only 1 pound of meat...that's because they wanted tiny 2 inch patties...

After cooking...


My finished was strange not to be eating it drunk at 2 am outside a bar--probably 90% of the gyro's I've eaten have been eaten while I was intoxicated. I made it the way I always order them--extra sauce, no onions.

Now, on to the more exciting food...

Josh didn't want me to cook a main dish tonight because he had picked up some "gourmet" burgers at Whole Foods and wanted to eat them on the potato buns we had. So I decided to make Baba Ghanoush (p. 74) using roasted whole eggplants (p. 274).

BG is one of my favorite things to eat. Rachel, one of my very best friends, as well as my roommate during three years in college, and I used to frequent a particular restaurant once a week to eat their BG and rum cake (and ogle our favorite hot waiter). But it isn't on very many menus (make that zero, that I've found) in Fort Collins and I miss it. I had never tried to make it...partially because I was intimidated by roasting the eggplant.

How can that be, you ask? I'm Italian and afraid of eggplants? Sure am, my family never made them. But I was going to pass this fear today....and I had bought a bunch of tahini out of a vat at Whole Foods. I bought unroasted because I have no idea what tahini is or why you would want it roasted. I know it involves sesame, but that's the whole of my knowledge on it.

Another problem I have? The only food processor we own is the world's smallest Cuisinart. It works well--as long as I'm only making three cups of food. Here it is, reading to blend up some BG...

The finished product, pre-olive oil application.

Oh my God! It was so good. I could weep just thinking about it....
TJOC never recommends enough garlic and the next time I make this, I will triple the garlic. Other than that, it was spectacular...and my roasted eggplants were excellent! Nothing to be scared of...

While I was making the BG, I joked to Josh that I should make the Baked Artichoke dip (p. 74) on the same page. He replied that I should make it. We always have plenty of artichokes on hand because I have an unnatural love for them. Now THIS was easy to make--and the first two ingredients? Mayo and Parmesan cheese--nothing low-fat about this dish. It was TERRIFIC! The ultimate comfort food and WAY better than anything that you order at a chain restaurant...not that that's difficult... always know somethings healthy when it's completely beige...

After baking--

I suppose now is the time to lay down the bets on how much weight I will gain while I'm doing this...

Tomorrow I'm making French Beef Stew (p. 479). I already have the beef, onion, and carrot marinating in the wine, olive oil, and spice sauce....

I think I'm going to admit to people that I am doing this now--I've already made a good start. Tell me what you think....

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hamburger Pie (p. 101), Western Egg Sandwich (p. 184), and Chipped Beef and Gravy (p. 112)

So...I wasn't going to cook tonight. I have way to much to do and should be studying. But I have had a terrible day. Because I missed the month that my mom was sick, I need to drop one class and add three hours of dissertation credits, because I just can't catch up. I thought, no big deal, probably just a ton of paperwork and $50, just like the other three university's I've worked at.

Ha! No, here the add costs about a grand. I'm fighting this, but will have to wait until after my stat test to do anything...

That being said, I'm so stressed about this all that I really, really was having trouble studying and decided to cook instead. So...first I made Hamburger Pie (p. 101). I thought this was easy and I had pork that had to be used. I've decided that for every recipe I can have up to two deletions or changes--after two changes, I really wouldn't be cooking from TJOC, I would be making up my own recipes. Obviously pork was one of those changes.

Before and after cooking:

Hamburger pie was extremely easy to make, although there must be an easier way to cut buttered bread than what I did, because it took for freakin' ever. The bread toasted a really pretty gold and tasted great--frankly the toast was the best part. I think it was a little too bland. I think some hot pepper flakes or something would really make it better. I REALLY recommend the garlic, I can't imagine what it would be like without it...I hope it doesn't get soggy, because Josh is taking it to work tomorrow. I think this is the type of food you can make for people who like bland food.

So the hamburger pie was mostly made to use up the pork and to give Josh something to bring to work tomorrow. We actually both ate sandwich type food for dinner. I ate the Western Egg Sandwich (p. 184). This was delicious! Oh was it good...another recipe that will be made again. I made it with ham, rather than bacon (the other option in the recipe), and I cut the peppers from the dish (because I despise them). I ate it on toast. It was rich and creamy and really hit the spot--plus it was extremely filling. That being said, I had trouble flipping it. Rather than being like an omelet on some toast...well, it was more like scrambled eggs on toast.

Before I attempted to flip it, still pretty (although showing my woeful skill at dicing):

After my flip attempt. Damn.

Lastly, Josh's favorite food, Chipped Beef and Gravy (p. 112). I don't know if this grosses anyone else out, I know it's comfort food, but just the idea makes me ill. There is just something gross about all that white sauce on buttered white bread. Even so, I thought it has to be less gross made from scratch than the frozen stuff that he usually buys...and, hey, he likes it.

First off, if you are looking for dried beef, don't look in the meat section. It isn't there. It's in a glass jar next to the Vienna sausages and Spam (I found this out from the meat manager). And it comes in 4 oz jars, not the 8 oz called for in the recipe. But there was no way that I was buying two jars of the overpriced meat, so I chopped the recipe in half. It took me more than 10 minutes to get it to thicken, which could be because of the evil that is high altitude. But watch you--the sauce thickens all at once...not thick, not thick, BAM! Thick. It reminded me of making a cream pie (not that I usually include beef in my pies). Josh loved it. He said it was perfect, salty, and tasty (I made him describe it to me in 3 words). I thought it was attractive at least.

Don't make fun of my hideous plates. I'm a college student!

The recipe for chipped beef is online.

I'm excited about this weekend when I can make something big--and a dessert! So far, it's going well...but obviously, there are hundreds of recipes to go...

Thank god I have a supportive boyfriend!

I don't know if I'm going to make anything tonight--our refrigerator is so jam-packed with leftovers that it doesn't seem like a good idea to make any more food until I clear it out. I also have a major statistics test tomorrow after having been gone from class for a month to take care of my mom. And, of course, America's Next Top Model, Criminal Minds, and (most importantly) TOP CHEF is on tonight...just wait, one day, I will be sous vide'ing right along with you, Hung! And whipping up a delicious foam, Marcel!

I promised Josh homemade chipped beef on toast this weekend for breakfast or lunch--I thought he was going to have a heart attack, he was so happy. And I have to say--I am lucky that he is so supportive. I was complaining to my mother about my burned breadcrumb fish and how Josh pretended to like it, when he shouted "I did like it and it was tasty again when I took the rest for lunch" he's either delusional or easy to please, but either way, it works for me.

I wasn't going to tell anyone about this blog for a few weeks but I am really excited about, so I slipped today. If you are reading this, please stick with TJOTJOC because I'm sure it will be at least moderately amusing--and inspirational, because, let's be honest--if I can do it, you can certainly do it!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Broiled Fish Filets (p.404), hard-boiled eggs (p. 194), and tarter sauce (p. 581)

First off, nonreaders, don't get excited, this totally isn't going to be an everyday thing. But I was so pumped about yesterdays success that I wanted to try again today...but first:
1. I know I should include pictures but I forgot to take them again, so maybe later...
2. I am even less original than I thought--I found another blog with a similar theme. Oh well--at least I (easily) only found one!

So tonight I decided to make Broiled Fish Filets (p.404)

The fish, the fish. I can't say I recommend it. Not only did I manage to spill the olive oil IN the oven so that it almost started on fire, the breadcrumbs started to burn almost immediately. Now, if you like half burned bread crumbs, you will LOVE this dish. I made it with cod, which I can't say is my favorite fish, but it happened to be in our refrigerator--maybe it would suck less with a different fish. I will admit that the dimming effect of the smoke that filled our house was romantic, but the smell was not.

I chose to hard-boil the eggs (p. 194) using TJOC recipe. This may have worked well, except my eggs were getting old, which causes a bigger air pocket and my eggs refused to sit on the bottom of the pot. Then I decided that I needed Dijon mustard and capers for the tarter sauce and went to the store while the eggs were still in their cooking phase (hey, at least they weren't on heat anymore!) and--well--lets just say the egg overcooked. But it was still usable in the tarter sauce.

On the bright side, homemade tarter sauce (p. 581)--awesome! I totally recommend making this. It takes next to no time and has a brighter, fresher flavor than the jarred stuff. The capers give it a salty, briny taste that the store bought stuff doesn't really have. I didn't include the olives or red pepper but it wasn't really needed. Impressive though--and incredibly easy. I will make this recipe again. And it was nice to get a success after two failures.

Let me briefly touch on a subject that you will hear again and again...I live at about 5,000 feet above sea level. Why does this matter? Because high altitude, which effects typically start at around 3,000 feet, screws up EVERYTHING and there are not cut and dry rules. It's dependant on your exact level and the recipe. It can screw up everything from cakes and baked goods, to anything boiled (because water boils at a lower temperature so food needs to be boiled longer), to anything deep fried. It drives me nuts! And I'm sure will come up when I decide to bake anything...

Becker Brussels Sprouts--the opening recipe!

Okay, so this is probably the very least original thing I've ever done. I really enjoyed reading Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. I really recommend the book, Julie cooks her way through Julia Child's cookbook. That being said, I've decided that I need a hobby. I've been randomly casting around for one for a while--it needs to not be terribly time consuming because I'm a grad student and I would like it to actually give me something practical. This is problematic--even though I love crafts and such, they don't love me. I'm amazingly untalented at crafts ::sigh:: Add on to that the fact that I have decided that I need to cook more--I am stuck in a rut, which I realized when I was taking care of my mother for the last month. Also, I watch a lot of Top Chef and such, and want to be able to scoff when they incorrectly make a semifreddo or that means that I need to know what they are!

So--how do these things go together? I have decided to cook my way through the The Joy of Cooking. I suspect this will take forever as I am only guaranteeing the cooking of twenty recipes a month. I should be able to do more but everyone who has ever cooked from TJOC knows that it reads like a Choose your own Adventure novel and every recipe refers back to other recipes. I can't guarantee more recipes because I do have a job--and, more importantly, a limited income. On the bright side, I have a boyfriend who loves to eat, which should help.

I'm using the 75th anniversary edition of TJOC--and I hope you read a long. If at ANY time you want to send me which recipes you are working on, and reviews, I would be ecstatic to post it.

And on the topic of my readers...I don't have a great track record of posting on blogs. Because of that, I'm not telling anyone that I'm writing it for a few weeks. I imagine that means I won't get any hits at all. If I'm wrong and you are reading this--let me know!

So the first recipe--Becker Brussels Sprouts, pg 262. My father gave me a ton of Brussels sprouts from his garden and BS's are Josh's favorite food. Pretty much, this is BS's sauteed in garlic butter. They were really good. Brussels sprouts are really good when they are fresh and everybody loves garlic butter...and the recipe was extremely easy. I managed to make it while I was also making a Bolognase sauce and Meatballs, neither of which were TJOC recipes--although they were great anyway!