Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'm still around!

I have been cooking like a maniac. I am spectacularly behind with posting but don't give up! Lots of posts will be coming soon.

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Popcorn (p. 71) and Savory additions to popcorn (p. 71)

I have re-written this post several times and it still doesn't flow well. Ah, the joys of blogging.

Popcorn. Almost everybody likes it. And, somehow, in about 25 years, everyone went from either making it on the stove or air-popping it to using the microwave. And they don't remember what they are missing.

I was born before microwaves were common in every house (I imagine that will sound similarly bizarre to future generations as my mother growing up without a color television). Growing up, my mom always used to make popcorn on the stove. Mom had a particular pot that she always used to make popcorn because it always made perfect popcorn--no burnt or unpopped kernels. She had misplaced it for years (we never made popcorn so it wasn't in high demand) but found it when I told her I needed to make non-microwaved popcorn (for popcorn balls--microwave popcorn is too fragile). In the years since I had almost completely forgotten how amazing stove-top (or air-popped) popcorn was compared to microwave. It has a completely different texture.

The method used in TJOC's Popcorn (p. 71) recipe really is amazing.

I placed three kernels of popcorn in some vegetable oil and waited for them to pop:

When they popped (right out of the pan and on to the floor, much to my dog's delight), I added the popcorn and covered the pot (the actual lid that fits the pot is apparently long gone):

In less than a minute, the popcorn was done!

Perfect for a night of watching "White Nights" (don't judge me, I love ballet movies). Because the popcorn oil is hot before you add the rest of the kernels, none of the popcorn burns. Perfect popcorn and done in less than a minute, which is even quicker than microwave popcorn. Because the popcorn is stronger, you can melt real butter and the popcorn doesn't get soggy! And if you just salt it (and don't add butter) it's tasty and extremely low-fat. Diet food! Assuming you aren't on the Adkin's Diet.

I decided to take TJOC's advice and add Savory additions to popcorn (p. 71). I sprinkled Parmesan cheese and a little ground red pepper on the top:

So delicious! The Parmesan cheese gave the popcorn a nice saltiness and the red pepper gave it a kick. I will have to experiment with other toppings--I like the idea of savory toppings.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sausage and pepper sub (p. 184), Twin sandwich (p. 180), and Club sandwich (p. 180)

Mom, Josh, and I are all dedicated Amazing Race watchers and I decided to whip something up for us to eat while watching it. I'm actually quite pleased with this season of TAR because it's one of the first seasons in which I like the majority of the teams.

As many regular readers know, I like to make my mom dishes that Josh and I don't want to eat. And Sausage and pepper sub (p. 184) fit the bill. I don't like peppers or onions, Josh doesn't like peppers, and mom loves both. Plus, mom is an expert on peppers and onions because she eats them frequently (horrifying to me as a child).

I cooked Italian sausages until they were done (there is no picture of this, use your imagination). I then cooked an onion, garlic, and bell peppers (all red because I didn't have any green) in a little olive oil and sausage grease with some oregano and salt and pepper:

I added the sausage back to the pan to heat through:

And popped it in a hero roll:

Mom said it was delicious! The perfect combination of peppers and onions. Because the peppers and onions are cooked for a long time at a low heat, they caramelize and sweeten, which is a nice complement to the hot Italian sausage.

I decided to make Josh a Twin sandwich (p. 180) using mom's delicious homemade bread.

I wrapped some cheese in ham, which seemed extremely strange (but who am I to question TJOC, right?):

I popped the cheese/meat in a skillet and cooked it for a minute on each side:

When the ham was sizzling, I popped it on toast and topped it with tomato:

Finished sandwich:

Josh said it was tasty! I have a strange aversion to heated sandwiches, so it wouldn't' be up my alley but it seemed like a nice ham and cheese sandwich. It was definitely improved by the homemade bread.

I made myself a Club sandwich (p. 180). I spread mayonnaise on toast, piled on lettuce and turkey, topped it with more toast, than lettuce, tomato, and bacon.

Delicious! I only wished I had some of those little toothpicks with colorful plastic ends. I have always liked club sandwiches, even though they are too big for my mouth and the toast scratches the roof of my mouth. All club sandwiches are essentially the same but I thought this one was particularly good--it's essentially a turkey sandwich layered with a BLT and who wouldn't like that?

I'm quite proud of my progress on the Sandwiches chapter! It's definitely in the running for first chapter finished.

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White pizza with fresh tomatoes, basil, and feta cheese (p. 191) and Calzone (p. 193)

Mom drove me back from Iowa to Colorado and stayed for a week. We had a 1:1 dog to people ratio which was about perfect for mom and I but a little high for Josh. I decided that a pizza night would be fun.

I made myself a pepperoni pizza, which I have previously blogged about. Mom chose a White pizza with fresh tomatoes, basil, and feta cheese (p. 191). The pizza was made similarly to the pizzas in the post I linked to in the previous sentence. It had no sauce because it was a white pizza, instead smeared with olive oil, thinly sliced tomatoes, and basil (this picture was taken pre-basil application):

It baked for about ten minutes and was done:

Homemade pizza takes almost no time at all, especially if you buy the dough at Whole Foods like I do. I like their dough, so there seems to be minimal point in making it myself. The pizza was very tasty! In fact, my mom makes a dish that includes sliced tomatoes topped with basil, pepper, and feta cheese, and then drenched with Balsamic vinegar and olive oil. We typically eat it on crusty bread, which is exactly what this pizza reminded me of. I recommend it if you like feta cheese!

Josh wasn't very interested in any of the pizza choices so I decided to make a Calzone (p. 193). I don't typically like calzones. In fact, Josh has to go with his friends to the calzone shop because I'm that bored with calzones. They tend to be way too big, soggy, and greasy.

I spread the pizza dough exactly like I do when I make a pizza. I cooked Italian sausage, drained it, and added it to the dough. I layered some mushrooms and cheese on top:

I closed the calzone and crimped the edges closed:

It was baked for about 25 minutes. I could actually knock on it when it was done:

Josh was surprised by the lack of sauce in the calzone:

Fortunately we had a big pot of mom's sauce for dipping:

AMAZING! This calzone would have the potential to convert me. Because the meat was cooked before being put in the calzone, it wasn't greasy. Because there was no sauce on the inside, it was not soggy. It was delicious pizza crust with great filling. Apparently, that's what a calzone should taste like.

Josh ate the calzone with a smile on his face--I'm not kidding, that's how great it was. He begs for calzones now, which is fine, because they are really easy to make. They are also huge--they could be halved easily and served for a casual movie or game night (plus they are self-contained and less messy than pizza).

I feel like I could now start my own calzone stand. Of course, I would need about a half hour for each calzone :) They are totally customizable because they can be filled with just about anything. What do you like calzones filled with?
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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Huevos rancheros (p. 196)

I'm not sure where Huevos rancheros (p. 196) have been my whole life. I know that I've meant to knock them off the list for at least a year and only now managed to get around to it.

I fried a couple eggs (I made them over-easy, just to see if I could do it--and I did!):

I fried a few corn tortillas, popped the egg on it, poured warm salsa over the top, and crumbled queso fresco on the top.

SO DELICIOUS! The creaminess of the egg, the tang of the salsa, and the cheese were absolutely perfect together. TJOC says you can substitute feta for the queso fresco, which I found hard to believe before tasting the queso--it really was similar to feta (actually, it was similar in both taste and consistency). Has everyone else been eating these the whole time and not telling me how great and easy they were?

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Whole wheat bread (p. 599)

Bread! I was just going to type that I don't know what my problem has been with the bread chapter (I've made minimal progress) but that isn't true. It's hard for me to want to bake bread when I'm pretty sure it won't turn out.

Short story: I had a rib removed right before I moved from Iowa to Colorado--almost immediately before the move, in fact. I had the rib removed on Thursday, got out of the hospital on Friday, and moved 660 miles on Sunday (We had to do so, everything was set up. Moving the move or the surgery would have been nearly impossible). We had a ton of help. My father and uncle came to help with the move, Josh's mom came for a couple days, and my mom came for a week. Mom essentially unpacked all the common areas of the house and cooked enough to fill up the fridge and freezer. She also tried to make bread (I love mom's bread). It failed to an extent it's never failed before. This bothered mom so much she couldn't sleep and tried first thing again the next morning. It worked but wasn't as good as it always was at lower altitude. Thus started my fear of baking bread at high altitude.

My solution to this is to make the breads when I go home to Iowa but that's been a slow-going process. Regardless, I thought it would be the perfect time to make Whole wheat bread (p. 599).

**Note: this is one of the recipes that has an error in it if you have an early version of the 2006 edition of TJOC. It makes two loaves, not three**

I don't like whole grains. People often think they can trick me--I assume they think they will give me some whole wheat without telling me, I will love it, and they can puff out their chest and be impressed with themselves while I'm ashamed of my formerly all-purpose flour eating ways. So far that has not happened--instead, I think "why does this pasta taste so strange" or "Why does my bread look like it has mouse feces in it?" It's one of my idiosyncrasies. That being said, I wasn't hopeful about the recipe.

I combined yeast and warm water. It gave off that delicious yeasty smell that always makes me hungry.

I mixed an egg, melted butter, water, salt, and sugar (if I was just making it for myself, I would have used honey because my best experiences with whole wheat bread have been sweet):

I added my yeast to it (which, on re-read, it seems like I should have added the other ingredients to the yeast rather than the other way around, although it didn't seem to matter):

I added four cups of whole wheat flour and four cups of all-purpose flour and kneaded the dough, shaping it on the baking sheet:

After first rise:

As I made my bread, mom made her bread. My bread is on the left--I decided to braid one loaf and leave the other loaf unbraided:

Second rise:

The bread was cooked for about 45 minutes:

It was quite good! I realized two things--first, I can tolerate whole wheat easier if it's only half the flour used in the recipe. I also realized that I don't like whole grains--I need my grains ground up so there are no small chunks in my bread. The bread had a nice sweetness but was not overly sweet--although I imagine it would be more sweet if you used honey rather than sugar. The consistency of the bread was great--soft without seeming like WonderBread.

Am I alone in my dislike of whole grains? Do you guys love them?

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Stewed okra (p. 295) and Kohlrabi I (p. 279)

My friend Rachel gave me a bunch of okra. I love okra. I even love slimy okra. I make stewed okra pretty awful but I've never "officially" make TJOC's version. Stewed okra (p. 295) is really easy. I cut the tops off the okra (I never do that normally) and popped them in a bit of water. I boiled them about five minutes:

They were tasty, although it was late in the season, so they weren't as tender as I like them. I don't recommend stewed okra if you don't like slimy okra--in my opinion, it's the most slimy method of okra cookery of all.

I found some extremely cheap kohlrabi at the farmer's market. I thought it would be perfect to make Kohlrabi I (p. 279). I don't think I had ever had kohlrabi before--I had no idea what to do with it. For those of you who like random trivia (I do!), kohlrabi means "cabbage turnip" in German.

For those of you who are wondering, this is kohlrabi:

It does sort of look like a turnip mixed with a cabbage. I tried to peel the kohlrabi with a vegetable peeler and it didn't work so I just cut the skin off (much easier).

I sliced it:

And boiled it for about ten minutes.

I topped the kohlrabi with a little butter and salt. It was okay. I think it was sort of bland and boring. It did have a nice crispiness to it and I think it would have been perfect in Spicy Chinese slaw. Do any of you eat kohlrabi? What do you do with it?

When I cook at mom's house I have my two constant companions--my dog Duchess and mom's dog Mugsy. They are like little twins, both interested in the exact same things (mainly, food), and are convinced I will eventually drop an entire dish of delicious food all over the floor. At least they are cute!

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