Friday, December 9, 2011

I'm still around!

Don't worry, fans! I am still around! I have so many posts in the hopper you will all be amazed--I've had two HUGE cooking extravaganzas in the meantime.

I've been desperately trying to finish my dissertation, wish me luck!

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Asparagus I (p. 249)

I make asparagus all the time because both Josh and I love it. Even so, I haven't made most of the TJOC asparagus recipes (I usually just steam it). I decided to go ahead and make Asparagus I (p. 249).

I steamed the asparagus, like I normally do:

I always just snap off the ends. Josh always snaps off far more than I do (and my mom seems to throw away most of the asparagus!)--where do you guys consider the ends? Do you cut or snap?

I melted butter in a saucepan and added breadcrumbs. I cooked it for about a minute:

I sprinkled the breadcrumbs over the asparagus:

Believe it or not I loved it! The breadcrumbs were delicious on the asparagus! This is definately an extremely easy way to improve an already delicious veggie. The breadcrumbs were pretty much delicious on everything they were sprinkled on.

Story time! Growing up I absolutely hated asparagus. HATED it. This was very unfortuante for my mother because asparagus was her favorite vegetable but I would not eat it. Somehow in the following years my tastes must have changed because when I tried it again at about 21 or so, I love it, and have loved it ever since. Have you ever had a food that you hated as a child but love as an adult?

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Chicken breasts baked on a bed of mushrooms (p. 425)

Some of you are probably wondering why I was at my mother's house for so long (although you are far too polite to ask). I went home to Iowa for a few days to have a simple mechanical error looked at by a trusted mechanic, had my car dramatically break down, and spent well over a month trying to get it figured out. It was terribly stressful because I kept thinking I was going to leave within a week and then something else would go wrong on my car. It's one of the joys of owning an aging car. I also happened to have the puppy with me. You wouldn't think that a small dog like Lestat (who weighs less than 10 pounds) could bring down a screen door but you would be wrong. He's like a little whirling dervish of destruction. I think my mom was glad to see him go.

On the bright side, I was able to cook a whole bunch of things that Josh was not interested in eating or that I suspected I wouldn't like, which is why a lot of chicken recipes and bell pepper recipes have been cooked.

Chicken breasts baked on a bed of mushrooms (p. 425) doesn't fit in either of those categories but mom happened to have chicken. It looked easy but I haven't had great luck with TJOC's chicken recipes.

I cut up cremini and button mushrooms and spread them out on the bottom of a roasting pan. I added white wine, minced garlic, and salt and pepper to the pan:

I placed the chicken breasts (which had been seasoned with salt, pepper, and thyme) on top of the mushrooms:

And it was cooked for about twenty minutes:

I removed the chicken and poured the pan juices in to a pot, along with chicken stock and heavy cream, and boiled the sauce until there was only about one cup of juice. It went from this:

To this:

I should have taken a final picture of the whole dish. You will have to use your imagination.

I wasn't in love with this recipe. It was okay. The sauce was tasty but could have used a little more kick (more garlic, more pepper, a little cayenne, something more). The whole thing was a little boring. I think it would have been slightly better if it had been baked in a really tiny pan so the mushrooms could be infused with chicken-y flavor but the pan I used was actually quite small. I would recommend this recipe to people who don't like heavily seasoned food.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bacon cornmeal waffles (p. 647)

Bacon cornmeal waffles (p. 647). Mmmmm....even the name sounds delicious.

This recipe is essentially the same as the basic cornmeal waffle recipe but includes everyone's favorite meat product, BACON.

I'm not going to go into much detail in this post because it's already been covered in the previous post on cornmeal waffles.

I mixed buttermilk, butter, maple syrup, and egg yolks together in one bowl, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in another bowl, and I combined them (Don't overmix! Overmixing is your enemy!).

I whipped egg whites and folded them into the batter:

TJOC give a couple of options for how to incorporate the bacon. You can either place the bacon on top of the batter:

Or crumble it and mix it INTO the batter:

I do realize that not everyone can have a waffle iron as amazing as the one I got for my mother at a garage sale:

But hopefully you have a waffle iron that works just as well.

The waffles were good but they weren't as amazing as I wanted them to be. Granted, I wanted fireworks to explode, dogs to howl, and random strangers to break in to dance, so maybe my expectations should have been lower. Make sure to crisp your bacon as much as possible because floppy bacon is your enemy in this recipe. I thought the waffles with the bacon incorporated were better than the ones with the bacon just sitting on the top of the waffle.

There is something extra delicious about cornmeal waffles. Or maybe there is something extra delicious about cornmeal in general. These waffles are sweet enough that they don't need added maple syrup (which I don't like anyway) but not so sweet that they taste like a dessert. And they are certainly easy to make.

So, dearest readers, I have two questions for you:
1. Waffles or pancakes? Which do you prefer? There is an active debate going on the TJOTJOC Facebook page.

2. What is your favorite waffle topping? I just like butter on mine.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tomato and mozzarella salad (insalata Caprese) (p. 169) and Baked fish fillets in white wine (p. 397)

Both of my parents are huge proponents of Tomato and mozzarella salad (insalata Caprese) (p. 169). When my father and I went to Rome in 2003 he ordered Caprese at every restaurant we ate at (I ordered tiramisu everywhere, so it was really only the middle of the meal that differed). I consider myself well-versed in Caprese salad because it's a simple way to use tomatoes if you have an over-producing garden.

So when I noticed that my mother not only had a ball of mozzarella in the fridge but also a few nice tomatoes and some garden basil I know it would be the perfect dish to make.

I arranged slices of tomato and mozzarella on a plate. I sprinkled it with basil and drizzled olive oil over the top and it was finished:

It was every bit as simple and delicious as I expected it to be. The creaminess of the cheese, the tang of the tomato, and the spicy basil complemented each other perfectly. Caprese salad is summer on a plate.

Mom had defrosted fish so I decided to make Baked fish fillets in white wine (p. 397). I'll confess that I don't particularly like wine so I wasn't very excited about this recipe.

I took my fish fillets, laid them in a greased baking dish, and poured white wine over the top.

That's it.


That's the whole recipe.

I put the fish into the oven for a half hour, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and it was done:

Bland and boring (although very easy). The fish picked up strange floral notes from the wine, which I didn't like, and needed a lot more flavor. It wasn't bad enough not to eat but it certainly wasn't something I would make again.

Random trivia:
  • Insalata Caprese is traditionally made with buffalo mozzarella, which is made from the milk of the water buffalo (Wikipedia)
  • Caprese refers to the island of Capri, a place I really, really want to visit.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Barbecued spareribs II (p. 505)

Assuming you are reading this before September 9th, be sure to vote for TJOTJOC as Denver's Most Valuable Blog! You can vote daily!

Ribs are so much cheaper in Iowa than they are in Colorado. Incredibly cheaper. I stumbled upon spareribs for $1.99 a pound! So cheap. I thought they would be perfect for Barbecued spareribs II (p. 505).

The ribs were St. Louis-style spareribs, which means that the "rib tips" have been removed. You can always tell the difference between sparerib types because SLS spareribs always look squared off. Back ribs (or baby back ribs) are from the more dorsal part of the animal, closer to the spine, while the spareribs are from further down, closer to the belly. (And there in your meat science education for the day)

I rubbed the ribs with southern barbecue dry rub and refridgerated them for a few hours:

They went into a roasting pan:

I popped the ribs in the oven for about 35 minutes (less than TJOC asks for), flipped them, and baked them for another 40 minutes:

These ribs were DELICIOUS. They were fork tender, flavorful, and amazing. In the past, I never really understood eating ribs that were "dry" (cooked with just a rub) rather than "wet" (cooked with barbecue sauce) but these were absolutely amazing. In fact, they were so good that we ran right back out and got another rack of them for a future meal.

So what are your favorite type of ribs? Pork or beef? Spareribs or back ribs? Do you like rib tips or consider that a marketing ploy? Inquiring minds want to know!

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Denver's Most Valuable Blogger Nomination!

Dearest readers,
Big news! I have been nominated as "Denver's Most Valuable Blogger"! It's incredibly exciting! I really want to win. Please vote for me! It's a daily vote and I will love you forever if you vote every day (or, frankly, at all). And feel free, nay, feel encouraged, to forward this link to everyone you know!

I will reward you all by posting at least one new post every other day. I like to think that is a reward.

And follow/contact me on:
Twitter: @tjotjoc

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Spanish omelet (p. 201) and French omelet (rolled or folded) (p. 200)

When I'm at my mom's house I always try to make at least one recipe that I know mom would like but that Josh or I wouldn't like. Spanish omelet (p. 201) was definitely a recipe on that list because I don't like one of the main ingredients (bell peppers).

I sliced potatoes (straight out of my dad's garden) as thinly as I could manage. I submerged them in a half cup of olive oil (a HALF CUP? Is TJOC kidding?) and cooked them for about 20 minutes:

At the same time, I cooked onion and bell pepper (yellow and red, we didn't have green) in a little bit of olive oil for 5 minutes:

I then added garlic, tomato, and salt and pepper:

The whole thing was cooked for another 15 minutes. I added the potatoes:

It smelled amazing at this point--and I don't even like peppers! So it was on to the French omelet (rolled or folded) (p. 200). I melted butter in a pan. In a bowl, I beat eggs, salt, and pepper together until it was a uniform color. I poured the egg mixture into the hot pan:

This was all so stressful it was almost impossible to take pictures. I had to continuously shake the pan while swirling a fork around the eggs so it could cook through (you don't flip it). I then put the filling in the omelet, tilted the pan, folded one end over, and then tilted the pan more, and folded the omelet the rest of the way, resulting in a rolled omelet:

That was my first try, so it was a little overcooked. Okay, it was a lot overcooked. I know the omelet shouldn't be so brown (or brown at all). You have to move really fast while making these omelets and have everything ready from your utensils to your plate.

I have to say, learning to make an omelet has been on of the greatest things I've learned from TJOTJOC. Until this project, my omelets always looked like scrambled eggs with stuff in them. Now, they are obviously omelets. With a little more practice I think I could make impressive omelets and that thrills me! I filled my omelet with sauteed mushrooms and garlic and it was delicious, too. Mom said that the Spanish omelet was incredibly good--the flavors melded really well together and it was the perfect choice for summer, since it was so vegetable-y. My recommendation would be to use less oil, because there was way, way, way too much olive oil. The omelet filling was swimming in it.

Random facts:
  • An omelet cooks in less than a minute (On Food and Cooking, p. 91)
  • The word "omelette" comes from the Latin "lamella" meaning a thin plate (On Food and Cooking, p. 91)

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

FRIED BUTTER! At the Iowa State Fair

I have to preface this post by pointing out that I love the Iowa State Fair. I grew up in Iowa and have great memories of the state fair. I try to get back for it every year. The Iowa State Fair is over 150 years old and gets over a million visitors every year. It also features something like 60 foods available on sticks.

Every year, the state fair try to up the ante. And this year, a vendor at the Iowa State Fair started offering fried butter. Yes, fried butter.

I knew I had to try it.

I love trying strange food items, like the Mc1035.

There was only a small sign advertising the fried butter but a large line of people waiting for it when I showed up Thursday, the first day of the Iowa State Fair.

It appeared to be about a stick or so of butter, heavily battered in a cinnamon/sugar mixture, with frosting of some sort on the top:

Of course, since it was hot and fried, the butter melted and ran out. So it was like eating the fried outside of a food that was missing it's insides.

My friend Nicole got delicious cheese curds--for some reason she didn't feel like eating a stick of butter.

But I forced her to try the fried butter, too.

We only ate about four bites of it because it was really...odd. I can't say I'd get it again. But the shell was tasty and I do love butter. It wasn't nearly as buttery as you would expect, the sweet batter really overpowered the butter. But I'm glad I got it--now I can say I've eaten fried butter!

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Creamy cucumber salad (p. 167)

Summer is usually full of overproducing vegetable gardens for many people. Those people (often totally sick of most of the vegetables growing at such an alarming clip) are usually willing to share, often leading to me having a lot of vegetables (a great problem to have!). Mom had a bunch of cucumbers and was getting a little tired of them. I thought that Creamy cucumber salad (p. 167) might be a nice step off the beaten path.

I tossed sliced cucumbers and salt together in a colander and let it stand (and drain) for almost an hour:

I pressed the cucumber but didn't rinse the salt off (which seemed very strange). I added sour cream and lemon juice and tossed it:

At this point I sprinkled a little basil on the top and it was finished!

This was easy and surprisingly good. The saltiness cut the acidity in the sour cream nicely. It was different than my normal preparations for cucumbers. I really recommend this recipe when you are at the point of summer where you can't imagine eating even one more cucumber.

I have to say, I hate draining cucumbers. Does it really make that big of a difference if you don't? Does anyone know?

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Corn and tomato relish (p. 949)

Tart corn relish (p. 949) is perfect for people with a lot of fresh garden veggies. I blanched three ears of corn in boiling water and cut off the kernels (nothing is better than fresh Iowa sweet corn). I mixed the corn with tomatoes, red onion, sweet pickles, cider vinegar, sugar, celery seeds, salt and pepper:

Dad took one bite and proclaimed it the worst thing he had ever eaten.

I don't know how to describe the flavor--I didn't think it was nearly as bad as he did--but the sweet corn, tangy vinegar, acidic tomato, and sugar did mix in an odd way. Way too many flavors were competing for the spotlight.

Dad and I were splitting everything we made--he was keeping half and I was taking half back to mom's house (and, ultimately, all the way back to Colorado). As I was driving home he called me and pointed out that I had forgotten to take the hated corn relish (a point I thought was hilarious) which had been forgotten because it was in the fridge. Apparently the flavor mellowed, because dad said that the next day it was actually really good (why he kept eating something he hated is a mystery). So I recommend giving the flavors a day or two to meld.

This recipe is vegan, too, so it would be a good vegan side dish if you needed one.

Short post! So a question--what do you think of when you hear the word "relish"?

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German chocolate cake (p. 719) and Coconut pecan filling (p. 759)

Fans, I know a lot of you are a bit hard-hearted and particularly like stories of TJOTJOC related disaster. You will be in for a real treat with this post.

I went to my father's house with the express intent of learning how to can and to do some canning, since that is a portion of the book in which I'm spectacularly behind. Dad took the day off of work for this endeavor, since my puppy was used to being left alone for that time, my mom wouldn't have to watch him, and he wouldn't be hassling us or causing destruction in dad's house. Unfortunately, he had to pick up my stepmother around 5 pm, so we started the day with a deadline.

And dad surprised me with a request. Since it was my brother's birthday, we should make him a cake! Of course, the cake had to be made with stuff that he either had on hand or could be easily bought in the tiny grocery store of his town. We settled (rather hilariously without asking the birthday boy) on German chocolate cake (p. 719). The decision to make a cake stressed me out because it limited our timeline even more. I was trying to fly through making the cake.

Of course, the little store didn't have cake flour (mistake 1 or M1) so we just used all-purpose flour (which he refused to sift [M2]), which was combined with baking soda and salt. In another bowl, baking chocolate was finely chopped (chop it VERY finely since you aren't heating it) and mixed with boiling water, with vanilla added once the chocolate was melted. In a third bowl, dad was supposed to beat butter until creamy and slowly add in sugar and egg yolks, which were added one at a time:

As you can see, buttermilk was being held in a measuring cup, as TJOC specified. On low speed, the chocolate was added to the sugar/egg mixture until incorporated. The flour mixture was added in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, which was added in two parts (so it went flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour):

The batter was actually looking pretty good at this point.

In another bowl, with clean beaters, Dad beat the egg whites with cream of tartar until they were stiff.

A third of the egg whites were folded in to the batter:

And when that was incorporated, the rest of the egg whites were folded in:

He totally forgot to add sugar (M3), which was supposed to be mixed in to the egg whites. It had to be folded in at this point (which I don't think really worked).

Dad poured the batter into pans before I noticed what he was doing. Instead of using three pans, he used two (M4). I knew that was going to be a problem, because when the pans are the wrong size, the batter tends not to cook correctly:

Because the cakes were baked in the wrong size pan, they had a number of problems. By the time the middle was cooked, the edges were overcooked. They overflowed the pan, which caused a layering problem. And they didn't come neatly out of the pan:

I had made the frosting earlier. Obviously, we chose Coconut pecan filling (p. 759), the traditional filling of German chocolate cake.

I combined sugar, heavy cream, egg yolks, and butter in a saucepan:

I cooked it over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture was thickened:

I then mixed in coconut and chopped pecans. Dad didn't have enough pecans, so like is so common in my family, we used a mixture of pecans and walnuts (M5).

The frosting actually looked good and tasted delicious. It had the perfect combination of caramelized sugar, coconut, and pecan flavors...perfection. I will use this recipe again. Of course, it was here another problem occurred (M6). I left the pot on a burner since it was finished but not needed yet. While heating up some water, dad flipped on the wrong burner. Guess which burner got flipped on? Of course, it was the burner with the frosting. We figured it out once the overwhelming stench of burning sugar came wafting through the air. Thankfully, just the bottom was burned and the rest of the frosting was salvageable (there wasn't enough coconut for another batch).

Honestly, tell me this isn't the ugliest cake you've ever seen?

I decided not to embarrass my brother by taking a picture of him with this monstrosity.

Apparently, the sides of German chocolate cake are supposed to be left unfrosted. Believe it or not, it was actually pretty good! The cake was dry (to be expected by the mishandling of the ingredients and the cake pan problem) but had a nice flavor and the frosting was actually pretty tasty (miraculously, not burnt tasting). Frankly, if the cake could make it through all those mistakes and not be absolutely terrible, I recommend the recipe, because if you make it correctly it should be awesome! My brother was a good sport about the whole thing.

Even the candles were sad:

They melted wax all over the cake so you had to pick around the wax while eating (final mistake). You can see how crumbly it was--that's from overbaking the cake due to the wrong pan size.

I hope some of you can add stories of cakes gone wrong.

Random facts:
German chocolate cake has absolutely nothing to do with Germany. Apparently Sam German, who was an American, worked for Baker's Chocolate and developed a type of dark baking chocolate. Baker's named their sweet chocolate after him. So it was Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate. A baker developed the cake in the 50's, calling it German's Chocolate Cake. Somewhere along the line the possessive got dropped (Wikipedia). So German chocolate cake has nothing to do with Germany. A new fact for you to share at your next dinner party!

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