Archive for December, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Malt

Posted in Dessert on December 31st, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

When I go grocery shopping these days I like to look a lot closer at the items on the shelves to get an idea of what’s available out there. That way if I run across a recipe that calls for something like mung bean sprouts (which turn out to be your everyday bean sprouts) or tapioca starch, I won’t throw it out for lack of ingredients.

I finally hunted down some malt powder at Whole Foods which I wanted because Andrew is a big fan of malted milk shakes.

For my first homemade malt I bought one of the little single serving Ben & Jerry’s so I wouldn’t be tempted by leftover ice cream in the freezer. (I bought a mini Cherry Garcia for Andrew’s as well but it seems to have mysteriously disappeared.)

Who am I kidding? These are in our freezer too.

Yes, that is snickerdoodle ice cream!!

Ingredients:

  • Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream
  • Milk
  • Malt powder

I used two heaping teaspoons of malt powder to get the right taste, but this was also a pretty small shake. The other ingredients I’ve always done by sight so I don’t have measurements. Just keep adding more of one or the other until the consistency is right, as long as you didn’t limit yourself on ice cream at the start like I did.

I used to have an old-fashioned looking milkshake maker which would have made for much better pictures. I can only assume it was a casualty of moving at some point so I’m using my smoothie maker for milkshakes now.

Directions:

  • Blend
  • Drink

With the smoothie maker you don’t even have to pour it in a glass since it’s made to blend-‘n’-go!

Lime Butter Salmon

Posted in Fish, Salmon on December 29th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

I’ve read a bit about compound butter. It’s an interesting idea but seems like a lot of work for something you can neither use right away or keep around for an extended period of time. I found this amazing Lime Butter Sauce (to be used on this Grilled Salmon with Lime Butter Sauce) which seems to be taking the good parts of compound butter – being butter with stuff in it to make it better – without all of the… (dare I say “smooshing”?) effort and time.

Really really amazing.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted

The first time I made this I actually thought it was supposed to be compound butter so I used softened butter in the mini food processor and wondered how you’re supposed to get the liquid to blend in. Then I read closer and saw that it’s melted butter. So much easier! In fact you can be lazy and skip the food processor altogether if you chop the garlic well enough.

Directions:
Purée garlic with lime juice, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. With motor running, add melted butter and blend until emulsified, about 30 seconds.

Well they say blender, not food processor, but I’d feel silly making butter in my smoothie maker…

Then for the salmon:

Ingredients:

  • 6 (6-oz) pieces center-cut salmon fillet (about 1 inch thick) with skin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lime zest
  • 6 tablespoons lime butter sauce

I always wonder who these recipes are written for. Who cooks six pieces of salmon at a time? If I had that many people to feed I don’t think I could afford to feed them all salmon. At least it divides easily.

First thing I skip the zest. You have to be really convincing to get me to mutilate a poor piece of citrus fruit so that I can… eat it’s skin. Is that weird or what?

Actually the real reason is because I keep bottles of (good) lemon and lime juice in the fridge at all times, but I’d have to plan ahead to need fresh fruit to zest otherwise it would go bad on my counter waiting for its day. Then once you’ve zested it’s definitely going bad unless you have a use for the rest of the fruit right then and there.

Directions:
Season salmon all over with salt and pepper, then grill…

I use the George Forman grill so all the instructions on flipping aren’t relevant. I’ve always had trouble with my fish sticking to the grill (fine for the skin because it peels it off but bad for the top) but I found if I keep the fish well olive-oiled and keep watch it will brown nicely without sticking.

Sprinkle fillets with zest and top each with 1 tablespoon lime butter sauce.

Sockeye salmon is supposed to be the most flavorful on its own and works really well in this recipe. This is served with some red mashed potatoes, skins on, with sour cream. Even if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like the foods on your plate to touch, you’ll want to let the lime butter run into the mashed potatoes while you eat them… or just go all the way and poor the leftover butter on the potatoes themselves.

Midnight Turkey Barley Soup

Posted in Soup on December 27th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

The problem with cooking large holiday dinners is dealing with leftovers.

The problem with going to someone else’s for large holiday dinners is not having leftovers.

On my way home from work Thursday I stopped at Lect’s Soup, what I usually refer to as “the really good soup place“, for lunch and got some chicken/bleu cheese/barley soup. Amazing soup. I wanted to find a recipe but the bleu cheese addition seems to be their own specialty. Instead I found Turkey Barley Soup with good timing, knowing there were leftovers coming up.

Thanks to Andrew’s Christmas turkey, for the first time I was able to use a recipe with a bird carcass in the ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 meaty turkey carcass from a 16-pound bird
  • 9 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
  • 2 medium-sized onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 6 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 2 cups chopped dill
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoons ground pepper
  • 10 quarts water
  • 1 cup barley

We had a 12 pound turkey and my large soup pot only holds 8 quarts so it got cut back a bit. In the spirit of using leftovers, some things like celery and carrots I just used up what we had left in the fridge.

Parsnips I’ve never used before, but I expected to like them since I’m generally a fan of root vegetables. I had them confused with turnips in my head so I was surprised to see they look like big white carrots.

Dill I only see fresh in those expensive little packets of fresh herbs in the store. Since I’m not a huge dill fan I just poured in half a jar of freeze-dried I already had on hand.

I didn’t chop the parsley, instead just picking the leaves off the stems and tore them with my fingers. If the rest of the soup is chunky I don’t see anything wrong with big pieces of parsley either.

Directions:
Place turkey carcass, vegetables, 1 cup dill, seasonings, and water in a large stockpot.

It all fits, barely.

Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 3 hours.
Skim foam, as it cooks.

I wondered if I was doing something wrong because there was never any foam to skim.

Remove carcass; cool and shred meat.

I realized a problem at this point – how do you get out a now falling apart carcass while keeping the vegetables? I made a soup from scratch once that started with a pot full of vegetables that were supposed to all be thrown out once the broth was done. Such a waste, and this recipe doesn’t say anything about getting rid of the vegetables. I ended up pulling out what I could of the carcass, and then scooping out all of the vegetables into a separate bowl, first with a large spoon and then with my skimmer, until I was satisfied that there were no “icky bits” left floating in the soup. Normally I would strain the broth to be sure but I didn’t have another container large enough to hold it all.

Return meat to stockpot; add barley.

I’m amazed at how much meat came off of what was otherwise going to be thrown out. Now I see why people began making soup with leftovers.

Simmer 40 minutes.

Add remaining dill, stir, and serve hot.

Instead of dill I added the rest of our parsley.

I started cooking (chopping vegetables) around 7pm but because of the time involved in cooking it wasn’t ready until after midnight. Just time to taste it and put it away.

I’m really, really happy with how this turned out. My first successful broth-based soup! I’ve never been able to make a chicken/turkey broth that had flavor, and using a box feels like cheating. Neither have that restaurant quality flavor I’m looking for. It’s good enough on its own that I forgot I was going to try adding bleu cheese to a bowl to see how that turns out.

Baking soda vs baking powder

Posted in Uncategorized on December 23rd, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

I finally got the end of the brownies in the mail and delivered this week. I wish I had kept track for curiosity’s sake, but a rough estimate says I used:

4-5 dozen eggs
4-5 boxes of butter
1 1/2 pounds of sugar
6 bars of Ghirardelli chocolate
2 boxes of Baker’s chocolate
1 can of cocoa powder
2 boxes of Andes mints
1 jar of peanut butter

And a surprisingly small amount of flour. I didn’t realize before that brownies were basically all egg, sugar and butter with just enough flour to hold it all together.

Well while making the second batch of peanut butter brownies I pulled out the can of baking powder and thought, ‘This isn’t what I used last time…’ Yes, I had mixed up the two, and realized it after they were already in the mail. I tasted the leftovers and they seemed fine so I’m not telling anyone who got the ‘mistakes’.

This prompted me to look up what exactly baking powder is though. It turns out baking powder is baking soda (not surprisingly), with an additive. Cream of tartar, to be specific, the stuff that makes a snickerdoodle a snickerdoodle. Both are used as leavening agents, making carbon dioxide when the baking soda hits an acid, but baking powder has the acid built in. Soda for already acidic ingredients and powder for non-acidic. I learned about food science!

Yay science!

I also got a crazy little seed of an idea stuck in my head this week. While I never thought of cooking or baking as my “thing”… and even after it became my thing, I’ve not had any interest in culinary school or see myself cooking in a large scale or in a restaurant. I don’t want to turn a hobby into a chore, but I started realizing that if I was to take one of those career tests that asks what you like to do for the sake of turning it into a job – I like baking for people. I would like to make brownies and cookies and somehow make a living at it.

It’s still a crazy little idea, but I started doing some research. I had forgotten about Etsy which would make it possible to sell things right now if I was set up to. I know I would need access to a licensed kitchen and I found one that sounds both affordable and in a perfect location for me. This is either too good to be true, or fate is telling me to go for it.

Super Simple Hummus

Posted in Spreads/Dips on December 14th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

Between Andrew’s recent interest in The Mediterranean diet, and our anniversary dinner where we were served hummus with olive oil and fancy bread, I’ve had a renewed interest in hummus lately. However instead of buying those overpriced little tubs, I remember hearing that it’s absurdly easy to make.

Of course there’s a million additions and variations, but I’m starting at the very beginning with… “Hummus“.

Ingredients:

  • 1 16 oz can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
  • 3-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on taste)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • tablespoons olive oil

Directions:
Drain chickpeas and set aside liquid from can. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor.

First put the blade into the food processor… I always forget that step. Or when I remember, it pops up because I don’t have the bowl locked into place. Why do these things thwart me so?

That garlic isn’t crushed either… this is why you’re supposed to read the recipe through before starting.

Add 1/4 cup of liquid from chickpeas. Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.

This used to be a can of garbanzo beans… amazing!

I used the lower amount, three tablespoons, of lemon juice and Andrew still thought it was way too lemony. Me, I ate it all up. The reason mine may have come out so strong is I’m not yet using tahini. I read somewhere that the tahini is not substitutable but it is omitable. I’m not ready to commit to a $11 jar of sesame seed paste until I check out Uwajimaya for a smaller/cheaper option.

Instructions say to serve fresh with olive oil but my hummus has been going straight into a container to bring to work, along with a box of Kavli crispy thins for a (sorry for the cliche) guilt-free snack.

“Eat me”

Posted in Uncategorized on December 12th, 2010 by admin – 1 Comment

I started my massive Christmas baking today. Unfortunately for the blog, this means lots and lots of time spent in the kitchen, and nothing new to write about since I’ve already covered all of this all in my test runs:

Test run #1 – Peanut butter brownies (not so good but my coworkers loved them)
Test run #2 – Chocolate brownies (Winner)
Test run #3 – Peanut butter brownies (Winner)
Test run #4 – Andes Mint brownies (Big winner)

Four batches made tonight – the peanut butter ones use a smaller pan so I have to make twice as many to keep up. I’m exhausted and not even halfway done by my count.


I did think I would hate for someone to get a box, and knowing that it was a Christmas present, hold onto it unopened until Christmas day. So to make sure people knew there were treats inside, I came up with these adorable Alice In Wonderland inspired stickers.

I promise that while my brownies will eventually make you larger if you eat enough of them, it will take more than a pan-full before you’ll need a new house.

Salmon Pad Thai

Posted in Noodles, Salmon on December 11th, 2010 by admin – 2 Comments

A late night dinner… Pad Thai recipes (I ultimately based mine on this Eating Well recipe) kept mentioning shrimp for some reason. I don’t like shrimp but did have salmon that needed to be used tonight.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces dried rice noodles
  • 2 teaspoons peanut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 8 ounces small shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallion greens
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dry-roasted peanuts

As you can see I’m not a fan of bean sprouts either. It always seems silly when I see something sold in the store that I always thought the sole purpose was to be picked out of food.

After chopping half a bunch of green onions, which only came out to a quarter cup, it looked like the recipe was going overboard on that part. So I filled in the rest with chopped cilantro.

Directions:
Soak rice noodles in warm water to cover in a large bowl until they are limp and white, about 20 minutes.

This makes me realize I’ve been cooking my (rice) noodles wrong in the past, wanting to boil them like pasta. I had to dig out my largest mixing bowl to be wide enough to hold the stiff noodles.

The noodle package itself said to soak for 30 minutes. There were warnings not to over-soften if they’re going to be stir-fried next, so this was kind of a leap of faith. They still didn’t feel close to “cooked” after 30 minutes.

Heat oil over high heat in a wok until very hot. Add the garlic and stir-fry until golden, about 10 seconds.

The reason peanut oil is used for this kind of thing is it has a higher burning point so you can get to the “very hot” point without it starting to smoke. Cooking at this high of a heat also means that your garlic is going to start browning in the time it takes you to reach for the next ingredient.

Add the egg and cook, stirring, until scrambled, about 30 seconds.

Next I added the salmon I had cut into pieces in place of the shrimp and stir-fried until the salmon was mostly cooked.

Drain the noodles and add to the wok, tossing with tongs until they soften and curl, about 1 minute. Add bean sprouts, scallion greens, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar and chile-garlic sauce

 


The noodles did cook perfectly as intended.

Sprinkle with peanuts and serve immediately.

 

I admit I’ve been intimidated by making pad Thai myself but now I see it’s as easy and versatile as… stir-fry that I’ll actually want to eat.

No longer Scott’s Chili

Posted in Uncategorized on December 9th, 2010 by admin – 1 Comment

The chili recipe I inherited from my mom, I always knew as “Scott’s chili”. Even as I changed it, adding my own ingredients, as long as it kept the key ingredient – French’s chili seasoning (it had to be French’s according to my mom) – it was still “Scott’s chili”. Then one day I decided to make chili from scratch, seasoning and all, and realized I had my own recipe.

“Rebecca’s chili”?

I have no brand loyalty when it comes to canned food.

Ingredients:

  • A package of some kind of ground meat or meat substitute. The original was ground beef. I’ve used turkey, buffalo, and Quorn.
  • 1 can of kidney beans
  • 1 can of chili beans, any flavor
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • 1 can of water
  • 1 package of chopped onions – you could chop your own but do you really want to?
  • Chili seasoning

For the seasoning I used an Allrecipies recipe Chili Seasoning Mix I as the start and made some additions and subtractions. Of course every time I can never quite remember how I did it and I’m always trying to recreate the perfect seasoning I made my first try.

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • a sprinkle of cayenne pepper

Note that this recipe isn’t spicy at all… The allrecipies original had a teaspoon of cayenne so I just throw a little in trying to feel authentic. The original also had no chili powder, of all things, or cumin.

Directions

  1. Brown the meat in your chili pot and drain. In the case of turkey it’s more like “whitening” the meat. For fake meat you can just continue on to throwing everything together.
  2. Throw everything together in the pot – kidney beans drained, chili beans not drained, tomato sauce, a can of water using the same can, onions and seasoning. Mix it well and bring to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, covered.

One great thing about chili is that it’s totally customizable. Don’t like onions? Leave them out. They were my addition to begin with. More tomato? More peppers? Go for it. Then give it your own name because I won’t be eating it.

The other great thing about chili is it freezes, and reheats, very well. Put meal-sized portions into either a Ziploc freezer bag, or plastic container in the freezer. If you’re planning ahead, take it out the night before and it’ll be thawed for dinner. If you’re not planning ahead and need a mealdinner, run the container under hot water for a minute so the frozen block of chili will pop out, and then thaw and heat in the microwave or on the stove top.

Something Resembling Stir-fry

Posted in Beef, Vegetables on December 6th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

My problem with stir-fry is that it always sounds like a such a great idea in the grocery store, and I never want to eat it when I get home. A pre-seasoned teriyaki flank steak is what made it sound like a great idea this time. I’ve heard that flank steak is supposed to be the “good” stuff, or at least the expensive stuff, but it always looks too weird to me. The teriyaki sauce seemed to make it look more normal, giving me the opportunity to try it out.

This might as well be a game of “Guess how many of my own cooking rules I’m (nearly) breaking!”. That’s pre-marinated beef, a package of pre-cut stir-fry vegetables, and a package of yakisoba “stir fry noodles” with teriyaki seasoning.

With the sell-by date on my meat approach and my ‘but I don’t feel like stir-fry tonight’ syndrome not improving, I started thinking of ways to trick myself into eating it, by making something that wasn’t actually stir-fry but used the same ingredients.

 

First I broiled the meat…

There that looks done…

Another problem I have with cooking beef is that by the time it “looks done”, it’s already overcooked.

 

For the vegetables I used this Ginger Broccoli recipe, using the mixed bag in place of just broccoli.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 pound broccoli crowns, trimmed and chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar

I nearly went all the way with my “cheating” and used Andrew’s minced garlic from a jar, but he was nearly out. I always use minced ginger from a jar though.

 

I was going to try to stir-fry the noodles into the same pan but there wasn’t enough room. I gave the seasoning packet a sniff and my nose was assaulted by powdered salt. I do mean I felt salty powder physically go up my nose, painfully!

I fried the noodles with some of my own soy sauce instead. The noodles themselves were good and I don’t think that’s something I should be expected to make from scratch quite yet.

The vegetables were good but.. dare I say it… almost too gingery. But I can’t blame a recipe that calls itself ginger broccoli for being gingery, I think I just wasn’t in the mood.

The meat was good but unmemorable.

Looking at the recopies I bookmarked this weekend, I don’t think I’ve managed to convince myself yet that stir-fry isn’t actually a good idea for me, so I look forward to convincing myself to eat things like Pork & Bok Choy Stir-Fry after I’ve brought the ingredients home in the future.

Pork Rub

Posted in Pork on December 5th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

I need to learn to smell my meat more.

Yes I said “smell my meat”.

My problem is whenever I’m trying to smell test some meat that’s pushing the sell-by date, I realize I don’t know what it’s supposed to smell like to begin with. I know the line ‘when it doubt throw it out’ but raw meat in general never smells pleasant to me. I need a better reference point to know when to be in doubt.

Besides, When-In-Doubt-Throw-It-Out comes from a pretty privileged background. When-In-Doubt always has a backup for dinner. When-In-Doubt doesn’t live on a budget and doesn’t mind wasting food. When-In-Doubt is contradicted by it’s rival ‘I’ll eat anything and I’ve never gotten sick.’

This isn’t anything special – just some pre-seasoned pork chops from QFC right at their sell-by date.


Back when buying pre-seasoned meat from QFC was the closest to real cooking I did, my favorite thing to find was the pork loin sirloin chop – a piece that seems to contain nearly every word used to describe cuts of pork making it impossible to search for a recipe to recreate what I used to eat.

From my past experiences I’ve found that that a marinade doesn’t work out for me so what I needed was a dry rub.

Some research, a few experiments, and waste of spices later, I came up with a variation on a pork chop seasoning, leaving out the salt.

  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 3/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. rubbed sage
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
  •  

    Luckily in my research I learned that a dry rub works the same as a marinade, in that you have to leave it to sit for a few hours, otherwise I would have thrown this together and right into the oven once I got hungry.

    I know this still isn’t right… there should be some green herbs but I can’t place them. This went into the fridge until dinnertime and then I broiled.

    My whole plate looks like it could use some color-correcting. The pork was overcooked and the broccoli has seen better days. This is why there’s always backup pasta in the kitchen.