Monday, December 6, 2010

Weeeeee are the champions my frieeeeeeends........

I'm not going to list this as a project, because I'm not really going to walk you through the process.  In fact, I am going to link you the recipe, and just tell you that I made this for KP and KP's parents, and it was delicious. :)

Slow cooker Beef & Mushroom Stew

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Project 4: Cranberry upside-down cake

So somewhere along the line, I decided that KP and I shouldn't show up at his family's Thanksgiving empty handed.  Surely I can find something yummy to bake for dessert, right?  I've got baking down!

I picked this.  I'm on a bit of a cranberry kick recently, and it just sounded delicious.  So tonight after work, I stopped by Kroger to grab my ingredients (that was my first mistake, going to the grocery the night before freaking Thanksgiving) so I could get back to the house and get my bake on.  I ran into issues, even at the store.  The recipe calls for buttermilk, and there is none.  A quick google search on my phone shows that there is a way to make a buttermilk substitute, but my phone sucks and I can't actually see what that solution is.  I cross my fingers and hope that whatever I need, it's at the house already.  You know what else I couldn't find?  Cranberries.  You know the things that are really important to making "Cranberry" upside-down cake?  Yeah.  Apparently we don't sell those here.  At least Kroger doesn't.  There's no fresh cranberries, there's no frozen cranberries, and there's no cranberries in a can (like pie filling) or anything.  There's cranberry sauce, but I'm pretty sure that would have been a bad idea.  I finally find these packets of dried berries, which have cranberries, cherries, and blueberries in them.  I grab two packets and hope that along with the buttermilk, I can figure out a way to make my not ideal berries work for my recipe.  Oy.
These count as "fresh or frozen cranberries", right?

At home, I find out that buttermilk substitute can be made by adding lemon juice to milk.  This sounds gross, but several baking sites claim this is the way to go, and I'm desperate.  The berries, I put in a quarter cup of the cran-grape juice we have in the fridge, put saran-wrap over the container, and put it into the microwave for a minute to kick-start the rehydration process.  When it's time to put the berries in the pan, they're not really all that hydrated, but it looks like maybe they've soaked up a little of the juice, and I don't want to still be baking this at two in the morning, so into the pan it goes!

The dry ingredients go into the wet ingredients, and there's an awful lot of stirring.  While stirring, I consider how life would be so much easier if I would use boxed cake mix.  Let's face it, this recipe probably isn't any healthier than the boxed mix, so really it just comes down to bragging rights.  "I made the cake from scratch!" But flour is such a pain in the ass.  (At least it isn't confectioner's sugar.)

The cake goes in the oven at 350.  I taste the spoon to see if it kills me.  Maybe that whole buttermilk thing will work our afterall!

The cake is out now, and I'm slightly terrified.  It smells good, and looks good, but what if it sucks?  I cannot show up at Thanksgiving dinner with an awful cake.  I have no idea what the berry top tastes like, or whether it goes well with the cake (which may taste differently now that it's baked).

...I think I'm going to go curl up in bed and pretend I'm not taking an untested cake to dinner in twelve hours.

P.S: I had a little nibble of a piece that stuck to the pan when I flipped the cake.  It's not bad!  Unfortunately, the dark color of the berries and the juice make it look totally overdone.   It's not like a pineapple upside-down cake where everything is a golden color.  Ah well. You can't judge a cake by it's color?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Project 3: Avocado Tuna Salad

I love tuna salad.   But KP doesn't keep mayo in the house, and in my own fridge at home it tends to sit there long after the expiration date because I just don't use it fast enough.  So what about a no-mayo alternative?  A quick google search brought up this recipe, and I couldn't resist.  I love avocados, and I never eat them because I never remember to buy them.  What if I had a reason to buy them?

But I worried.  This is the first time I have ever used avocados myself.  So I cut it in half like a youtube video showed me, and BAM! The pit came out before I even had to do anything silly like embed the knife in it. Dude.  I scraped out the flesh with a spoon.  Jeez, this is easier than cleaning out a pumpkin!  While that was going on, one cup of walnuts went in the oven for 5 minutes.  They smelled amazing when they came out!

Then we got to the seasoning.  There was no premixed fish seasoning at Kroger, so I bought some of the stuff mentioned in the recipe.  If I die, it's because I used the parsley flakes KP had in his kitchen.  Given parsley doesn't really have a taste (right?) I couldn't see what could be wrong with it. Famous last words.  (Also, possibly the lemon juice.  There is lemon juice that KP uses in his tea, and then there is the stuff in the fridge, which might have a crust around the lid.  I took off the lid, and crossed my fingers.)

Also, green onions are so much easier to cut than round onions.  As I swiftly cut them up like I was Alton freaking Brown, I thought to myself "Self, this may be our new favorite no way to screw it up recipe."

Then comes the tuna!  I used one of the big cans of tuna so I wouldn't have to open and drain several.  Then a taste.  Oh, wow.  This is pretty good just like this! I throw the rest of the stuff in, because if I'm going to try it, then I am going to try it as the recipe states.

The taste now?  Well, it's very bitter.  I don't know if it's the onion, or the dill (every time I bite into a dill seed it suddenly becomes all I taste) or something else entirely. (Upon further research, it looks like I should have picked up dill weed for this instead.  Ah well.  Lesson learned.)  With a cracker, the bitter taste is much milder, and salvages the tuna salad for me.  I think next time, I think I will just go with the tuna and avocado, and leave out much of the extra stuff.  It was far better before I started adding other things to it. (The seasoning was in there, but I don't think I got a big bite of it the first taste.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Project 2: Crockpot Chicken Bog

Two projects in one week?  What madness is this?  Has our intrepid heroine abandoned frozen foods for good?  Well, no.  But I really wanted some chicken bog

Chicken who?  When I lived in South Carolina, they made this stuff called chicken bog.  It was chicken, smoked sausage and rice all thrown in a big pot.  I loved it.  I loved it so much I would buy my lunch at school on chicken bog days.  I'm in middle school, and the only cafeteria I deign suitable for consumption is their chicken bog.  Go figure.  Anyway, it was delicious. 

And then we moved.  And nobody seemed to know what chicken bog was anymore (in fact, when I posted about she-crab soup and chicken bog on my facebook, KP thought I was speaking in code), which made me sad.  I could go through life without blue crab anything.  I would miss she-crab soup, but really, I'd live.  But chicken bog?  You think someone would mail me a big pot once a month or so?  Can you put that in the mail?  With my luck somebody at the post office would have lunch, and I would have no chicken bog. :(

*insert angel song here*
So I looked up the recipe, which calls for things like a whole freaking chicken, and well, I couldn't make it past "1 whole freaking chicken".  Then about a month ago, I bought a crockpot.  Surely there was a recipe that boils the labor down into throwing a couple of things into the crockpot and letting it simmer all day, right?  Last night, I found it.  The holy grail of recipes: The Crockpot Chicken Bog.  I ran to the store to gather ingredients, and set everything up this morning to cook while I was at work.

So this morning, chicken broth, an entire package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a package of smoked sausage, and various other things for flavor went into the pot.  I mostly followed the recipe, substituting a couple of bay leaves where I had no thyme, and later on using a box of Uncle Ben's Wild Rice as one of the commenters on the recipe suggested.  I'll buy two boxes next time, because I had to throw in some regular rice to soak up more of the juices in the pot. (Luckily I did not have to resort to throwing sushi rice in the pot.)  I seem to remember chicken bog having more rice than chicken/sausage too, so I'd probably put in less chicken next time.

How does it taste?  Well, to be honest, the more I think about it, the more I don't really remember how chicken bog tasted when I was younger, I just remember that it was awesome.  So I have no idea if my recipe tastes like like the chicken bog of my childhood, or not.  However, what I do have is pretty damn tasty if I do say so myself.  In fact, I think it tastes like another spoonful.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Project 1: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I carved a pumpkin yesterday, which left me with all the stringy, sticky insides of a pumpkin sitting on a trashbag on the dining room table.  I asked Kitchen Pirate (furthermore to be known as KP) if he wanted to do anything with them, and he mentioned roasting the seeds.  Now, I've never roasted pumpkin seeds before, but I do enjoy making KP happy.  Plus, it's a challenge, right?

So we put the seeds in a container overnight, and I decided to roast them.   There's recipes all over the place on the internet, so I found two that sounded interesting.  Butter and salt seems to be traditional, and I'm curious to try the cinnamon-sugar ones.

So since I'm reading that the seeds need to be reasonably dry, I put a batch in between two paper towels to dry them out.  Sort of like pressing flowers. :)  They stick a bit, but everything come off with a little flick of my finger, so no big deal.  I shake them around in a little bit of olive oil (better for you than butter, and I'm already coating these with salt) and spread them out on the baking sheet.

Into the oven they went, and everything goes fairly smoothly until I realize that while the cinnamon sugar goes on last, the salt in the other recipe goes on much earlier.  Crap.  I put the salt on, and hope it sticks, continuing to stir every five minutes so KP's Oven of Mt. Doom won't burn everything. (It's super finicky, and doesn't seem to like me very much, so I've learned to not trust directions when using the OoMD. I watch, and flip, and tweak temperatures.)

Once they're nearly done, I realize I don't have any idea what these are supposed to look like done, let alone taste like.  The picture with my recipe shows seeds straight from the pumpkin, so totally unhelpful.  It says "cook until golden brown", but that seems subjective.  Mine are splotchy "golden brown", does that count?  Finally, I decide they have to be done because I'm tired of stirring every five minutes.  (See?  I can be subjective too.) The salt doesn't really stick, and they sort of taste like sunflower seeds with the shell still on.  KP assures me they are good, and that's what they're supposed to taste like.

Would you use either of these?
Then there's the cinnamon sugar one.  I go to take the rest of the seeds off the paper towels, and they ALL STICK.  Like puling them off takes bits of paper towel with it.  Great.  I wet the paper towel to get them off, and put them on another dry paper towel for a bit to dry them out a bit.  *headdesk*  They go into the oven like the others.

But what about the cinnamon?  KP doesn't bake, so while I know there's sugar in the pantry, I don't have any idea about the cinnamon.  I check, and there's two possibly sketchy bottles of cinnamon.  One may be older than I am.  I'm not sure.  We toss that one out.  The other looks a little better.  At least it still smells like cinnamon.

When I go to stir the seeds, I very nearly use the salt covered spoon I used with the last batch.  Oops.  I rinse it off, and the near crisis is averted.  Half an hour later, they come out of the oven and the cinnamon-sugar mix is sprinkled over them.  I try one.  It tastes like... sunflower seeds with the shell still on sprinkled in sugar.   Oh.

KP still assures me this is what they're supposed to taste like.  Maybe I need to try a few more.