Thursday, March 31, 2011

Slow-cooker vegetarian chili (p. 101)

Ah, Slow-cooker vegetarian chili (p. 101). I was not looking forward to this recipe. Josh hates beans and I hate bell peppers, plus we both like meat in our chili, so this was not going to be a winner by anyone's count.

Backing up a little, a month ago I joined a co-working space, in hopes that having an office again would motivate me to finish my dissertation and keep my blog updated (both of which are actually occurring, so it was a good choice). While on my free day pass to see if coworking would work for me, everybody was discussing a chili cook-off. Not only did I instantly know a chili cook-off would be the perfect place to pass off the vegetarian chili, I also knew that Cohere would be the perfect match for me.

The chili was easy and would have been even easier if I didn't have the irrational fear that the slow cooker wants to burn my house down (yes, I assign it intent).

I soaked pinto beans overnight:

They didn't seem tender at all. Josh had just told me that he had recently listened to some program on NPR that said beans need to be soaked longer, so, with that in mind but no extra time, I used the quick-soak method on them, too (I'm pretty sure that sentence has an extra comma in it, I apologize to the grammar police in advance).

Finally, the beans were muddy and soaked thoroughly:

While that was happening, I cooked an onion, a green pepper, a red pepper, celery, carrots, jalapenos, and garlic in some olive oil. Since I knew I was serving this to a judging panel I took care in my vegetable cutting for once:

I added chili powder:

I added water and tomato paste and brought it to a boil:

The vegetable mixture, the beans, salt, and more water went in to the slow cooker:

And it cooked for hours. About a half an hour before it was finished I added corn:

It then had to ride with me across town and I had to carry it up a flight of stairs. A slow-cooker full of chili is surprisingly heavy and unwieldy.

So how was it?

I am going to have to steal what one of the judges, Kristin from Feasting Fort Collins, wrote about my chili on the her blog post about the event:

Jessica’s “Hopefully Not Spectacularly Boring” vegetarian chili was a sweet, sweet reprieve. It was spotted with colorful chunky vegetables swimming in a healing mellow broth. It was runny like soup, and in fact, a bit on the boring side, but you can’t blame her for The Joy Of Cookings’ recipe and their neglect to using spices.

I have to admit, I didn't try it. I really hate bell peppers. But I will say that although it was underseasoned it was popular with the vegetarians and almost-vegetarians in the crowd and I got a number of compliments on it.

The coworking space has also been invaluable as a place to unload all the baked goods I need to make for TJOTJOC.

So, instead of random facts, I'm going to close this post with a haiku:

In my opinion
Vegetarian chili
Could really use meat

Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pecan puff (p.769)

I was sort of excited about the Pecan puff (p.769) recipe because they looked the nut balls that we make in my family for Christmas. I like those nut balls and would be happy to have a lot of them to eat.

The recipe was really simple. I beat my butter until soft and added sugar, which I beat until creamy:

I used my old-fashioned but awesome nut grinder to grind up a cup of pecans:

I stirred the pecans and some cake flour into the butter mixture:

I rolled the dough in to balls and popped them in the oven:

Uh oh:

Can't say I know what went wrong with this recipe but the balls flattened out, which they aren't supposed to do. I was supposed to roll them in powdered sugar and pop them back in the oven but that didn't happen because they were too flat. They tasted good--not very sweet but crumbly and full of nutty deliciousness. I'm sure they would be even better had they retained their ball shape.

Random facts:
  • "Pecans are the soft, fatty seeds of a very large tree..." (On Food and Cooking, p. 511). Does that make them sound appetizing to anyone?
  • Pecans and walnuts have some of the highest oil and unsaturated fatty acid contents among nuts, which means they oxidize and stale faster than other nuts (OFaC, p. 511)
  • The pecan tree is the state tree of Texas (Wikipedia)
  • Cake flour is finely milled wheat flour, which has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour (Wikipedia)

Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chicken or turkey pot pie (p. 103) , Poached chicken or turkey (p. 423), Creamed chicken or turkey I (p. 445),& Deluxe butter pie or pastry dough (665

I've been in a cooking rut lately and wanted to do something new. So I stole Carol Porter's idea and I let my readers pick what I should make out of three categories with five choices each. Chicken or turkey pot pie (p. 103) won the savory category. I'm rather glad because it allowed a lot of other recipes to be knocked out. I will admit right now that I'm no pot pie aficionado and most of my pot pie experience comes from the cheap frozen ones that cost a dollar.

I started by making Poached chicken or turkey (p. 423). I put my chicken parts (I cut up a whole chicken--much cheaper that way), carrots, celery, chicken stock, an onion, and bouquet garni into a stockpot and covered it with water. I simmered it all until the chicken was tender:

The chicken peeled right off the bone:

The poached chicken was deliciously tender. I poach chicken constantly when I make stock and it's great in recipes because it's tender and moist. The recipe was certainly easy and I used the broth for stock but I think I will stick with my chicken stock recipe which yields the same results.

I needed the poached chicken for Creamed chicken or turkey I (p. 445). I melted butter in a saucepan and then added flour, whisking until smooth.

I removed the pan from the heat and whisked in two cups of the cooking broth from the poached chicken:

When that was smooth, I added half-and-half and whisked some more:

I whisked and whisked. The cream mixture got thick:

I must have been tired of taking pictures at this point! I heated butter, added onion, carrots, and celery, and cooked. I then added peas and parsley, along with the cooked chicken.

I realized that TJOC wanted the pot pie to go in to a 9x13 pan. Wait a minute--a 9x13 pan???? I thought they went in pie dishes? That is going to make a TON of pot pie! I only have one 9x13 pan and it was still in use by the strata so I had to divide and conquer. The pies went in to two smaller pans:

I've actually never tried my hand at a pie crust before. This is particularly strange because I come from a family that is full of amazing pie bakers. I've watched crusts get made tons of times but I've never made a crust that had to be rolled out, likely due to my fear of recipes that require me to use a rolling pin. I decided to start with the Deluxe butter pie or pastry dough (pate brisee) (p. 665). I sifted together flour and salt:

I added butter and vegetable shortening:

I started working it over with my pastry blender:

I eventually incorporated ice water and kept pastry blending it.

But when I tried to roll it out, it did not work! The dough stuck to everything, it wouldn't stay in one piece, it was a disaster. I'm sure there is a simple explanation for this.

I tried Frankensteining my crust on the top of the pot pie. Isn't it the most pathetic thing?

I brushed an egg on the top:

And baked my pot pies:

Absolutely shockingly, my pot pie was delicious! The crust was flaky (although I'm sure it would have been flakier had I made it correctly) and the center was creamy and full of tender chicken and perfectly cooked vegetables. I loved it. Unfortunately, it made a massive, massive amount. The recipe says 6-8 servings. Are they kidding? For who? Growing teens? Yes, maybe it would feed 6-8 kids on their high school basketball team. We ended up having to throw quite a bit away because it was a neverending amount! I'm sure I will make this recipe again because I have to make another type of creamed chicken and I have no idea what to do with creamed chicken except make pot pie.

I always thought pot pies had a crust on each side. Is that not true?

Random facts:
  • Because this crust doesn't include any leavening agents, it doesn't puff up.
  • While reading Wikipedia, I figured out that I don't think I blended my crust enough, so my flour and fat didn't get properly incorporated. I will have to work on that.

Add to <span class=Technorati Favorites">

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Country-style ribs baked in barbecue sauce (p. 505)

I found country-style pork ribs at the grocery store that were perfect for Country-style ribs baked in barbecue sauce (p. 505). I only had two pounds of them, though, so I made a half recipe.

I combined homemade barbecue sauce and orange juice:

Placed my ribs in an ovenproof baking dish (these awesome things are from Tupperwear and have lids!):

And poured the sauce over the top:

They were baked for three hours:

Then turned and baked for one more hour:

The picture is dark but they weren't burned. These were absolutely delicious! They were tender enough to fall off the bone and infused with a perfect barbecue flavor. Of course, after I finished the ribs, I found another set of them in the refrigerator, which meant I could have made a full version of the recipe. If you are intimidated about making ribs at home, start with this incredibly easy recipe.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ham cakes with pineapple and sweet potatoes (p. 106)

Ham cakes with pineapple and sweet potatoes (p. 106) was a recipe that seemed very exciting to me but probably seems disgusting to most of the general population. I will have to check my old TJOCs because this seems like a holdover from old editions.

I made the ham mixture from ham loaf but instead of pressing it in to a loaf pan I formed little balls (teehee!):

I sauteed pineapple rings in vegetable oil until they were lightly browned:

This was about as brown as they got:

It was the ham cakes turn to get browned:

I am so intrigued by these ham cakes, it's amazing. I want to eat them instead of hamburgers!

I placed my cakes in the baking dish:

I heated up vegetable oil and cooked two cans worth of sweet potatoes (indication number 100 that this is a 1950's recipe--recipes from the 50's are typically jammed with canned foods), brown sugar, and ground cloves:

I cooked it for a few minutes, then layered the potatoes on and around my ham cakes:

The whole thing was cooked for about a half hour:

I loved these ham cakes. I thought they were absolutely delicious. All the sweetness from the pineapple and the sweet potatoes complimented the ham perfectly. They heated up amazingly. I LOVED the ham cakes and I want to eat them instead of hamburgers. I would make these again in a heartbeat. I WILL make them again.

Josh found them absolutely repulsive in everything from taste to looks. I was happy about that, I mean, more for me! But I think most people would fall on one side or the other. They were definitely different.

I'm thinking ham cakes are from a different era, when people made ham loaves and such. My father says that in his town, hamballs (meatballs made from ham) are a big deal, so I'm thinking that those are from the same time.

So what do you think? Would you eat these ham cakes or does the idea gross you out?

In other news, I'm thinking of putting together a set of menus for different themed parties. Is anyone interested in this idea? I'm definitely doing a Mad Men themed menu.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Ham and vegetable strata (p. 98)

I knew what to expect, sort of, from Ham and vegetable strata (p. 98). For example, from the sausage and mushroom strata, I know it would make a TON of food. I asked Josh if he would rather have asparagus or broccoli in the strata and he chose asparagus. Frozen asparagus is not easy to find. Out of the 300 types of frozen vegetables there was only one (comparatively expensive) choice for frozen asparagus.

I sauteed chopped onions in vegetable oil. I added chopped ham and asparagus and browned it all:

I cut a loaf of French bread into cubes and layered half of the bread cubes in the casserole dish:

Doesn't seem like enough, right? I then covered the bread with the ham mixture:

Sprinkled cheese over the whole thing:

I topped it with the remaining bread and the rest of the cheese.

I mixed milk, eggs, salt, and pepper:

The egg mixture was poured over the top:

The whole thing was baked (no picture, use your imagination, make it beautiful).

Josh loved it, I thought it was disgusting. I finally figured out my problem with stratas. First off, I believe bread pudding should be sweet, not savory. Secondly, I hate hot sandwiches (excluding grilled cheese and French dips). Something about the heated meat grosses me out. And a strata is just a giant hot sandwich. I'm guessing most people would like this (although I didn't) and it certainly made a lot at a relatively low price. I'm just glad I don't have to make any more stratas.

Add to Technorati Favorites