Sunday, January 24, 2010

Breakfast Casserole

Today was crockpot day. I had some leftover veggies, cheese, sausage, and bread to use up, and bought some new veggies to add to it. I cooked off the sausage and then sauteed most of the veggies in the same pan afterwards.
I did everything you'd normally do for a breakfast casserole but I put it in the crockpot instead of a pan. I cooked it on low for about 3 hours and then turned it onto high for another half hour to make sure it was all cooked through. It gathered some liquid at the top so I skimmed it off.
It was really tasty and the good thing is, the leftovers freeze and thaw out again really well.

Yummy Enchiladas

We had some cooked chicken left over from a rotisserie chicken from the store, so I found this recipe for enchiladas. The only other enchiladas I've made had a red sauce, and this one was a cream sauce. I thought the filling was rather pretty, with the green and red together. Sort of festive.
The sauce has chicken broth, sour cream, cumin, chili powder and a roux to thicken it all. And it's a very messy recipe, and definitely a group project. One to portion the filling, one to dip the tortillas and ideally one to spread the filling and roll the tortilla. We were only two people so we made due. And got very messy in the process!
The recipe said to put the cheese on the top at the start and bake for 25 minutes, but I saved it for the last 10 minutes and I think it was better because it didn't get too dried out and crispy. These turned out to be not spicy but really flavorful and so delicious! We made Mexican rice to accompany it, and even though it turned out to be a really late dinner, it was well worth the wait!

Sad Sad Cookies...

I borrowed my mom's copy of the "Cooky Book", this old Betty Crocker spiral-bound book from the 70'. I've looked at it over the years and always wondered what some of the cookies would taste like. A lot of them are pretty unique in today's tastes, so they always seemed foreign and crazy to me. My sister and I settled on "Chocolate logs" which sounded easy enough to make. She doesn't like nuts so we substituted mini chocolate chips instead. I also refused to use the full two teaspoons of my super expensive organic vanilla on them as well and only put in one. I can't imagine that being down one teaspoon of liquid would have made them as dry as they ended up being. The batter, if you can even call it that, was dry like a shortbread, but even more so. I feel like it needed a quarter or third cup of water or something added to the batter to fix it, but I didn't want to stray from the recipe too much, just see what happened as is.
What happened was this...A big rock hard clumpy mess. Actually they weren't rock hard at first and we managed to eat a few of them. They were good and chocolatey. But alas, by morning they had hardened and had to be tossed. I definitely won't be making this recipe again! It was fun to try it though...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Reine de Saba Cake

This weekend I made Julia Child's Reine de Saba, or Queen of Sheba cake from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It's the first recipe I tried from that book and I made it because we ended up watching Julie and Julia last night where the cake is featured. I thought it would be fun to actually eat the cake we were seeing in the movie while watching it. This is the first cake I've ever made from scratch and while it was a bit of work, I think it was well worth it. It was moist and unbelievably delicious. I don't think I'll be able to bring myself to make a cake from a mix ever again.
I also made the icing for the cake. I've never made homemade icing before either, and this turned out smooth and chocolatey and amazing! The only problem I had was that the rum I put in it didn't burn off the alcohol before finishing, so it had that bitter alcohol taste to it. It's not my thing, so I'd definitely let the alcohol cook off before adding the chocolate the next time I make it.
You're supposed to put the sliced almonds on the side like this, but I had left over ground almonds from the batter so I scattered them on top to use them up and add more flavor and color. I am really happy with how this turned out. Definitely will make it again.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chicken and Shrimp Creole

One of my New Year's resolutions was to use my crock pot at least once every other week and I decided to do it this weekend. One of my other problems is not liking to cook on the weekends, which leads me to eat out too much. So, the solution? Crock pot on the weekend!

Today I made Chicken and Shrimp Creole. Chicken, skinless, dark meat, with stewed tomatoes, celery, red bell pepper, and onion. Seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic, Cajun seasoning, and a bit of sugar to balance it out. An hour before eating you throw in the shrimp and add some lemon juice. I think it was the best tasting thing ever to come out of my Crock pot. And I served it over steamed brown rice that you make in the microwave that I got from Trader Joe's. It was really good, and I think it would go well with pasta too.

I didn't really do any other official cooking or baking, but I'm still happy with how it all turned out!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Catching Up-5

Last weekend was baking weekend. I already talked about the turkey, but I did even more than that. This year I am trying to do as much as I possibly can with making things from scratch.

I made homemade brownies for the first time in my life and they were delicious! They turned out just like a boxed mix and took about as much time, and really the only difference I could tell was that it didn't make me want to keep eating them like a boxed kind does with all those chemicals. I found one piece of the homemade brownie was chocolatey and rich enough to actually satisfy my chocolate and sweet craving. That alone makes it worth making from scratch.

I bought some puff pastry from the store. The package comes with two sheets of puff pastry divided into thirds. So I thawed one sheet out and divided it up and tested out three recipes. I made "Aussie sausage rolls" which I made homemade sausage for. They should be called "Awesome sausage rolls" because that's what they were. And homemade sausage is easy and tasty to make! I made too much and froze the rest for another time. I also made these apple pastries and elephant ears. The apple pastries were good, the elephant ears were not.

Also not good were the homemade potstickers I attempted to make. It turns out that you need to really wrap potsticker wrappers well before freezing them because mine were all dried out when I thawed them out. And the bottle of Sherry I have is a million years old and I could finally taste that fact. They were thrown out along with the Sherry.

Oh, but one good thing I did: I bought new vanilla. I tossed the old bottle well beyond it's pull date, and got a small bottle of pure organic vanilla extract. No more of this imitation garbage for me!

And last but not least, fruitcake bread. It was completely vegan and I thought it tasted pretty good. I took it to work but not many people tried it. I guess fighting the fruitcake fight will take a little bit longer. Maybe for next year...!

Catching Up-4

New Year's!

Because over the last several years we have not done turkey for Christmas, my sister and I have done a turkey dinner for New Year's. We never had a traditional meal in our family for this holiday anyway, so it's been a great way to make it more festive and get in that second turkey meal. My sister and family were gone this year so it was just me. I bought one of those turkey breasts you can roast. It would have been totally fine if it hadn't had those salt injections in it. It alters the texture of the meat where the injection sites are and really makes it less appealing, at least those parts. The rest of it was fine. In the future I will look for non-injected turkey, though that seems to be the wave of the future unless you want to spend a million dollars for an organic turkey...

Anyway, I made a turkey that had a soy sauce, lemon juice, and herb glaze on it. It kept drying out on the bottom but I'd add more water which fixed it just fine. I used that liquid and some chicken stock to make a gravy which was so delicious. I used the last of my cranberries to make a dressing with cranberries in it, and instead of traditional mashed potatoes I did Yukon golds mashed with garlic and olive oil. They were ok, but I decided I don't really like garlicky flavored stuff with a turkey dinner. I'll stick with traditional mashed potatoes.

The turkey made a lot of leftover meat which I froze most of until I can think of what to do with it. I did make one recipe over the last weekend though: turkey tetrazzini. I'd never had it before and I thought it was a bit of work for something that ended up tasting basically like tuna noodle casserole. But I used whole grain pasta to up the health factor, and it freezes and thaws well and will work well as work lunches for some time to come. It's always good when one turkey meal can become so many different turkey meals. It's the best way to stretch out one's budget.

Catching Up-3

All right, on to Christmas. For some reasons I didn't take pictures of the cookies as I made them, but make them I did. Four types. A lot of leftover cookies this year...We made traditional shortbread, orange cardamom cookies, fruit cake cookie bars, and Whole wheat ginger cookies. The traditional shortbread is a recipe from my grandmother, who still makes it better than I do, but are still delish nonetheless. The orange cardamom cookies were from a Bon Appetit recipe and I don't think they turned out very good as half of them burned and the other half had an odd texture. The fruit cake cookie bars were an adventure that my sister ended up dealing with. We didn't learn till way too late in the process that the bar recipe, which was one of those "make this basic recipe into 5 different cookies" types of recipes, was one you had to alter a bunch of stuff to. So we just went with what we had and made it work. My sister loved the dough so I gave her the recipe to keep. The whole wheat ginger cookies had non pareils on the outside to make them look cool. The recipe was from a Good Housekeeping magazine.

We gave them to our family for Christmas and then the leftovers got taken over to the Shoreline branch of Watermark and to my work on Monday after Christmas. They were quickly devoured.

Other Christmas stuff I did: made biscuits for the Christmas dinner. For some reason they were flavorless even though the texture was awesome. Maybe it just needed more salt. I also made an almond pound cake with cranberry sauce on the side. That was really tasty and pretty simple too. Christmas this year was really relaxed and so was the food. It was a great day.

The pictures at the top of this post are the roasted pumpkin and pumpkin rolls from the last post that I almost ended up doing for Christmas.

Catching Up-2

Part Two: Thanksgiving

I bought a sugar pumpkin for Halloween this year with the intention of baking it and using it for something. I toasted the seeds, which are always delicious, and cut up and roasted the pumpkin. It roasted easily and then I scooped out the flesh and pureed it. I made pumpkin rolls with it. I don't normally do yeast breads, because they take so long and I'm not the best at them, which I suppose is all the more reason to do them more, but anyway, they turned out huge but really tasty. My original intention was to do them again for Christmas but I ultimately didn't because of how much time it would have taken. Maybe another year...

I made homemade cranberry sauce that turned out really good. I used lime juice and zest, currant jelly, and dried cherries as well as fresh cranberries. Oh, which brings me to this: I bought a four pound bag of cranberries from Sam's Club this year with the intention of using them all on recipe testing, and I did! It was well worth the money and lasted until after the New Year. So, if you want to do something like this yourself, I highly recommend it. Just make sure not to wash them until each use, or they'll start to go bad sooner.

I also had a major pre-Thanksgiving meltdown over the homemade pumpkin pies I was assigned to make. I was going to use store-bought crusts like always but when I told my mom this, she sounded so disappointed that I didn't have the heart to do store bought. So, homemade it was. My sister and I tested out three crust recipes before settling on and all-shortening one. I thought the one that had shortening and butter would taste better and was shocked to taste them and realize the texture and flavor were better with the all-shortening recipe. Who knew?! So, fast forward a couple weeks to the day before Thanksgiving. My sister had tested the recipes, but it was my turn now. I freaked out at work and on Facebook, but it all turned out just fine. The crust was a bit on the dry side and difficult to move over to the pans, but they baked up just fine. The filling turned out pretty good too. I used the recipe I did last year, only I used rice milk instead of soy milk. The texture was fine, but a bit too sweet for me. I had forgotten that even though the recipe calls for white sugar, I used brown sugar last year. I made note of that on the recipe card for next year and it should be perfect!

I also made a cranberry upside-down cake at my parents' house after the meal on Thanksgiving. I brought the cranberries and some of the other ingredients already portioned out to make it all there. I saw the recipe in my Cooking Light magazine, and there was a picture that looked so delicious I had to try it. It turned out great!

All in all, Thanksgiving turned out to be great for cooking. I made vegetarian gravy and a bit of a vegetable pot-pie for my cousin who is a vegetarian. She told me she hadn't had gravy in 15 years and loved it, so that was fun. No pictures of that though...! It seems it will only let me upload five pictures, so the rolls will go onto another post.

Catching Up-1

Now that the holidays are over I can get caught up with this blog, which I have not written for in far too long...Most of these will be pictures with descriptions of what they were, as opposed to actual descriptions of the cooking process. My goal, in fact it's one of my New Year's resolutions, is to set aside one day a week to play catch-up with what I've cooked over the past week. That way it'll be less massive and easier to remember what I've actually done. So, here we go, round one: Things I cooked since the last post that weren't holiday-related.

I made German food. Pork chops with sauerkraut, onions, and apples, very tasty, as well as a side dish of roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and bacon. Also very tasty, though I have learned that Brussels sprouts really do not reheat well...

Also experimented with homemade fried chicken. I found a simple recipe online and tested it. I think it was very good, however the chicken was underseasoned. Definitely needs to be marinated first. Next time I'll use buttermilk flavored with spices and lemon juice. Should be very delicious. The crust was very crispy which is what you want. I browned it on the stove first and then put it on a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and finished cooking it off in the oven. The cooling rack allowed all sides to continue cooking and not get wet on the bottom side. It also allowed a lot of the oil to drip off onto the pan below.

And just last night I tried out homemade macaroni and cheese on the stovetop. I made a simple roux out of butter and flour, then thickened it with milk. To that I added a bunch of different kinds of shredded cheese, though cheddar was the main one. I didn't finish it off in the oven because I think that just dries it out and takes too much time. I didn't use a recipe for this one, I just made it up as I went along. My sister helped by cooking the pasta, which I used up the ends of about 4 different types of pasta. It was actually fun to eat something that had so many different shapes and textures to it.

Ok, there might be more explanations here than I thought there would be at first. Apparently I am remembering it better than I thought I would...!