Saturday, February 28, 2009

Baked ham II (p. 507), Scalloped cauliflower (p. 267), Broccoli cheese casserole (p. 261) and Mornay sauce (cheese sauce) II (p. 551)

Why I decided to make a ham in the middle of the week is anyone's guess. Josh picked up a spiral-sliced ham that was extravagantly on sale at the grocery store (I hope there are more hams on sale after Easter!) and it had been in the refrigerator for a while--it really needed to be cooked. It probably could have made it to the weekend but I was leaving town on Sunday and really wanted to eat some ham!

I'm going to count the ham I made as Baked ham II (p. 507) even though I didn't totally stick the recipe.

My ham:

I feel I can count this recipe because I made the glaze. Brown sugar, mustard, and cider vinegar--it seems like a really strange combination but my love of vinegar in food is steadily rising so I was on board.

The ham was taken out of the oven and glazed when it had about thirty minutes left on the time. By this point it smelled amazing.

It took a few hours but the ham was finally done. The time is where I differed from TJOC--I figured that the TJOC recipe wasn't spiral ham specific so I used the time recommendations on the ham wrapper (which required considerably less time). Either way, it's already cooked, all I was doing was (essentially) heating it up.

I drained the ham glaze from the bottom of the roasting pan to pour on the ham slices.

How was it? DELICIOUS! So good it required capital letters. And it fed both of us, on and off, for a week. The ham was great hot and cold and I ate it by itself and in sandwiches. I want another spiral sliced ham! I be honest, I'm getting hungry for ham as I write this....

The first side dish I decided to make was Scalloped cauliflower (p. 267), a recipe that has been on my "to make" list for quite a while. Josh and I both love cauliflower but I kept putting the recipe off because I didn't want to make the white sauce that the was required.

Simple start--steam cauliflower:

Another error occurred here--the recipe requires two cups of white sauce. 'No problem' I thought as I made a batch. After I was about half done I noticed that the white sauce recipe only produced ONE cup--not two, so I had to start again. Frustrating! When I finally finished the white sauce, I poured it on top of the casserole, and sprinkled breadcrumbs and Parmesan on the top.

Into the oven it went:

Tasty! The cheesy/cauliflower combo was delicious, the breadcrumbs were terrific on top, and it heated up well.

I thought that Broccoli cheese casserole (p. 261) would be another excellent side dish for the ham. A lot of people tell me that they don't like TJOC because they think it refers back to other recipes far too often. The newest edition doesn't do that frequently but the old editions certainly do. The broccoli cheese casserole recipe went back to the old days--it only had four "ingredients" but three of the four required you to find and make other recipes.

First, I steamed broccoli and added it to a greased casserole dish that had been sprinkled with bread crumbs.

The casserole requires Mornay sauce (cheese sauce) II (p. 551). Mornay sauce is a really simple cheese sauce that is in a ton of recipes. The mornay recipe says that Swiss, Cheddar, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, or Stilton could be used--well, Stilton would certainly make an impression on your guests but I'm not sure if it would be a good one. Cheddar was specified in the casserole recipe, so that's what I used.

To begin, I made a white sauce.

I wasn't sure if I was supposed to make the entire white sauce recipe through the seasoning or what exactly to do--since the mornay sauce was seasoned separately, I waited. Four ounces of grated cheese are mixed in and the sauce is seasoned. Then you stir, stir, stir until all the cheese melts--which took WAY longer than I expected. It was very frustrating.

When it was finished, I poured the sauce over the broccoli. The broccoli and sauce were supposed to be tossed together before going in the dish but I missed that line so they weren't

It was cooked until bubbling and browned.

It was tasty! Broccoli and cheese are such a delicious combination. If I was to make this recipe again I would add lemon juice to the steamed broccoli because it became a strange grayish/green color that wouldn't be impressive to dinner guests. Even so, it was good and heated up really well.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tortilla chips (p. 94)

I was hungry and needed a snack so I decided to make Tortilla chips (p. 94). I feel that if the recipe is something that I can easily (and cheaply) pick up at the grocery store, the homemade version needs to be either really easy or incredibly good or both, to be worth making.

The recipe was easy--cut corn tortillas into quarters (or eigths, if you like smaller chips like I do). Place them (gently) in hot oil. These would be even easier in a deep fat fryer, but I don't have mine set up currently.

Turn them once, cook a little more, and blot them on a paper towel.

Before I knew it I had a huge pile of nicely browned chips. They were really good--make sure to remember to salt them. This would be a terrific use of broken tortilla shells. The tortilla chips passed the test--they were easy and delicious, so I will definitely make them again. Has anyone else made chips from scratch before?

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Baked manicotti or jumbo shells (p. 339), Meat and spinach filling (p. 338), Cheese filling (p. 337), and Garlic bread (p. 641)

I am still absolutely amazingly behind in my blogs. I think I've made about thirty dishes since I last blogged so I need to catch up! Make sure to check back every day.

I like to make big meals on Sunday. It's relaxing to cook and great to have leftovers to eat all week. I decided to make one of the more complex recipes (as in, it has quite a few steps)--a double recipe of Baked manicotti or jumbo shells (p. 339) using two fillings. Although I grew up with an Italian mother, she never made manicotti (she did very very occasionally make jumbo shellos) but I do like them.

I boiled the manicotti and heated the tomato sauce (mom's delicious sauce). Two packages of manicotti give you more pasta than you need, which is great if half the shells are broken (which they often are).

The first filling I made was Meat and spinach filling (p. 338). The recipe is fairly close to my grandmother's secret ravioli filling (no, I won't tell you the differences), so I was feeling confident that it was going to be delicious. I was also really excited to use the herb shears that Josh got me for Christmas.

The first step of the recipe was to toast some breadcrumbs. Toasting the breadcrumbs adds a lot of flavor--and it's easy.

The mix is easy--pureed, cooked spinach (I used frozen), ground pork, a couple eggs, the bread crumbs, grated Parmesan, dried basil, some garlic, and parsley. The mixture was fairly easy to stuff into the manicotti--I used my fingers because the spoon kept splitting the sides of the shell.

I also made Cheese filling (p. 337). It's an easy recipe--beat some ricotta until fluffy, add some eggs, parsley and Parmesan, and done!

I tried to stuff the cheese filling in with a spoon--no luck, it kept splitting the shells. I tried my fingers--no long, it wasn't thick enough. Instead I decided to pipe the filling into the manicotti--perfect! I spooned all of the cheese into a Ziploc bag, cut off the corner, and filled the shells. Easy and neat!

The filled manicotti were then lined up in a baking dish. I poured a bunch of mom's sauce over the top, and then sprinkled mozzerella and Parmesan on the top. And into the oven it went!

It took about forty minutes and was ready.

How was it? Very very tasty. Both types were delicious. I really recommend making a double batch because they are a hassle to make and fill--might as well make a lot. They heated up terrifically. Make sure not to overcook the pasta or you would have absolute mush by the end.

And what is perfect with pasta? Garlic bread (p. 641)! And even better--the garlic bread was on the randomized list. This is one of those super easy recipe. I sliced a loaf of French bread--but not totally through, so it stayed in a loaf.

Butter (an entire stick of butter) and garlic (I used much more garlic than it recommended) were mixed together and brushed on the bread (and on top of the bread).

Into the oven for twenty minutes--

Incredibly delicious. Wow! I love garlic bread and this recipe reminded me why. I know there is nothing mind-blowing about the recipe but it sure was good and I will definitely make it again.

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Silver dollar pancakes (p. 644) and Pan-broiled grated potatoes (p. 298)

First off, there was a food disaster and I know that always makes my readers happy.

But first...

Pancakes! I wasn't particularly confident after my first pancake-making experience but my spirits were buoyed when I found out that the pancake recipe was wrong. I decided to climb back on the horse and make Silver dollar pancakes (p. 644).

The first step was to mix flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in one bowl and eggs and a container of sour cream in another bowl. The sour cream/egg mixture didn't really want to mix together.

The ingredients were quickly mixed together. Don't worry about lumps! It seemed like a lot of sour cream compared to the other ingredients.

I used too hot of a pan last time (I think). The recipe gives almost no instruction on the actual COOKING of the pancakes--they must assume that everyone knows how to make them. So this time I used more butter and a cooler pan. Even so, my pancakes looked too fat. I was worried that they weren't going to cook all the way through...

They were attractive pancakes.

That being said, the recipe says that it makes 30 two-inch pancakes. I think I made more like 15 four-inch pancakes--still small, but not as small. Two inches? That is an INCREDIBLY small pancake. I know they should be the size of silver dollars but why would you want to eat such tiny pancakes? Why wouldn't you just make blini?

I figured that I would follow through on the "dinner for breakfast" them and decided to make hash browns. Although I love the little squares type of hash browns (and TJOC's recipe for those is absolutely delicious), Josh likes the grated type of hash browns. He volunteered to grate the potatoes if I would make the hash browns. I choose Pan-broiled grated potatoes (p. 298).

Josh grated several potatoes and piled them on a plate as I finished up the pancakes.

Do you see the problem here? You should. This is where we made the huge mistake.

The potatoes turned black. Apparently, when exposed to oxygen for too long (you should submerge them in water), potatoes turn black. They are still safe to eat but don't look particularly appetizing. The potatoes and onions are then spread in a pan with vegetable oil and butter. The potatoes stayed black.

Eventually I flipped them.

They browned nicely and tasted okay but still had that black tinge. I was really glad that it was just Josh and I eating them because I would have been extremely embarrassed to serve them to other people. I think I would probably just shake these out of a freezer bag in the future. Has anyone else experienced black potatoes?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Leftover pasta casserole (p. 323)

Mom made a ton of extra pasta when she visited and had saved it in a baggie. I really really don't like leftover pasta because unless it's fried it gets soggy and gross. Even so, it seemed like a real waste to throw it away. And then it hit me! Leftover pasta casserole (p. 323)!

This is one of those perfect recipes because it's easy to throw together and great to make after work. First I mixed mom's delicious sauce with my leftover pasta.

The pasta mixture was poured into a buttered casserole dish and sprinkled with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese and then dotted with butter.

The casserole was then baked for a while.

And it's done! Easy and delicious. I like when casseroles get a hard crust on top and this dish totally had it. It heated up well and Josh was happy taking it for work. Definitely worth making again in the future.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nachos (p. 77) and Lentil soup with sausage and potato (p. 134)

Nachos (p. 77) fall into the category of "do you really need a recipe for THAT?". I have no idea how common worldwide nachos are--or if they are more an American thing (non-American TJOTJOCer's please comment!) but they aren't very complex. I like nachos when they have real cheese--I don't like nachos when they come with stale chips to dip in industrial orange cheese product.

To start I spread out tortilla chips (store brand because I actually like them better than name brand) on a round pan (I used a pizza pan). I then sprinkled cheese on the top.

Broiled for a few minutes and finished.

It was tasty but I didn't need a recipe--again, nachos are not very complex. The recipe gives options of sour cream, black beans, scallions, jalapeños, and/or cilantro but I decided against them all and just added some olives.

I have this theory that when I make one recipe, I might as well make two because the dishes have to be done one way or the other. I decided to make Lentil soup with sausage and potato (p. 134). I don't tend to like lentils. I think they are bland and boring and find it absolutely astounding when people tell me they love them.

The recipe started like almost every TJOC soup--carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and bacon sauteed in olive oil. TJOC refers to the bacon as "optional" but I would say it was a "necessity". Bacon is a necessity in most recipes! I always chop bacon with my kitchen shears because it's so hard to cut up with a knife.

Dried lentils, a can of diced tomatoes, a bit of thyme, and a whole lotta water was then added to the pot.

After about a half hour, a potato (or several potatoes, if you enjoy carbohydrates as much as I do) and some kielbasa (does anyone else have Tenacious D running through their head?) was added to the pot.

And then cook cook cook cook until it's done.

A little balsamic vinegar, salt, and black pepper were added and it was done! How was it? Really really good. Better than I would imagine lentils could taste. I think I'm beginning to finally understand about adding "acid"--the vinegar really brought out the flavors of the soup. The bacon and kielbasa gave the soup a terrific smoky flavor. The soup was good enough that Josh--who doesn't have the love of soup that I do and despises lentils--happily ate a couple bowls. And all that fiber--it must be good for you! I'm really happy the recipe turned out so tasty because I have two more lentil soups to make.

My favorite part of TJOTJOC? I always have a great answer for the question "Tell me something interesting about yourself". I usually really dislike that question because it's hard to answer unless you have a truly bizarre answer (I have twenty cats, I was born with 12 toes, I've given birth in an elevator, I have a phobia of clowns, etc.--none of which are true for me). Cooking my way through a giant cookbook has to qualify!

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Cucumber cream cheese spread (benedictine) (p. 179), Half moon hummus (p. 74), and Marinated mozzarella (p. 77)

First off, I have updated a couple blog posts to show the edits that the TJOC editors have published. Both the pancake and the white bread recipes have corrections that are rather important and could easily have led to the problems that I experienced (rather than my incompetent cooking).

This is the first of seven blogs that I need to post (I don't know how I let myself get COMPLETELY behind on the month of February). Make sure to keep checking if you don't have a blog reader!

I decided to stock the refrigerator with food for the week and decided that appetizers would be a great choice.

My stepmother makes a terrific cucumber/cream cheese spread. It is amazingly delicious and it's one of my favorite things that she makes. I was really hoping that Cucumber cream cheese spread (benedictine) (p. 179) was going to be similar (or the same!). You might ask why I don't ask her for the recipe--I have. And she's given it to me. It's just not as good when I make it myself.

The first step is to grate a seeded cucumber and part of an onion on the large holes of a box grater. Does anyone else hate grating? I always seem to catch my knuckles before I'm finished.

The grated cucumber is then wrapped in a cheesecloth. I had cheesecloth on hand but the recipe says you can use a kitchen towel. I never know what to do with cheesecloth after I use it--do you try to wash it? Do you throw it away? I threw it away but it seems like such a waste...

The cheesecloth was then squeezed to remove excess moisture. There is a lot of moisture in a cucumber!

The squeezed cucumber resembled a little glassy ball. A quarter cup is supposed to be measured out but that's about all I had.

The cucumber ball was then combined with cream cheese, a bit of red pepper, a little salt, and a few drops of green food coloring. The green food coloring turned it a strange grassy color.

I smeared the spread on some dark rye bread and hoped for the best.

How was it? Eh. It was okay. It wouldn't blow anyone away at a dinner party and I probably won't make it again but it was edible. Josh was confused on how it was that such a strange color (he didn't know about the food coloring).

I then decided to make Half moon hummus (p. 74). I really like hummus and thought it would be great to have around as a snack. The recipe seemed easy. Mix chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice (a LOT of lemon juice--3/4 of a cup), garlic, black olives, and salt. Unfortunately that filled up the tiny food processor.

Process until smooth--or mostly smooth (see why I said unfortunately it almost filled up the food processor? It was making a huge mess):

It was good but WAY too lemony--and I didn't include the entire amount of lemon juice. I think if I made it again I would use a lot more black olives and a lot less lemon juice. Or an entirely different recipe.

Finally, I made Marinated mozzarella (p. 77), which was on my randomly generated list. I like marinated mozzarella and I think it's particularly good in salads, but it's so expensive at the store.

The first step is to heat some olive oil, add garlic, peppercorn, rosemary, and salt to the pan, and remove it from the heat.

I don't have a rosemary bush so I used dry rather than fresh. Mozzarella was cubed and then the cooled olive oil mixture was poured over the top.

It was really good but every time it goes in the refrigerator it needs to be brought back to room temperature before you can eat it (not terrific if you are in a hurry). I used cheap mozzarella but it would be a much better recipe with better cheese.

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