The cleaver

Posted in Uncategorized on July 23rd, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

So Michael wins again, assuming the game involves keeping me from eating cheesy rice. (Just one bowl. I can stop anytime, I swear!)

Friday nights at the coffee shop are usually followed by a shopping trip at the pathetic Safeway (so called because, well they are), a tradition started back when I wanted to atone for using their parking lot. I go home with thoughts of dinner, real food to balance out the bagels and Italian sodas. Then I walk in the door and suddenly The Tired hits. I don’t want to cook anything that takes more effort than boiling water, and I don’t want to wait for the water to boil in the first place!

After debating with myself over whether I wanted chili from the freezer stash (it’s a fact that debating whether to make something or not will always kill more time than just making it in the first place) I pulled out a frozen block:

Chili makes the perfect freezer food. It reheats from frozen on the spot, or thaws in the fridge overnight if you’re planning ahead. “Too bad I can’t cut this in half somehow,” I said.

“Well there’s the cleaver,” Andrew said.

“Which I’ve always wanted to use!”

The cleaver is the only unused knife in our block. Andrew says it’s for cutting through bones, but I choose to live in the naive supermarket world where meat doesn’t have real bones. My pork chops and chicken breasts come from pig and chicken blobs that ooze around their free-range farms.

I took a swing and… made a small dent completely off center. Another swing made another dent, on center, not the same place I hit the first time like I was aiming for. Andrew took a couple tries with similar results.

The aftermath…

Best first use for a cleaver I can think of myself. And then I ate some chili.

Cheesy Rice

Posted in Rice on July 22nd, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

After one of our writing nights, where I was told I had to get a post up before leaving even if it meant sitting on the sidewalk after the coffee shop closed, Michael was giving unsolicited diet advice and said something about cheesy rice. I think the words “don’t” and “eat” were in there but what I heard was “cheesy rice”, eat cheesy rice!

So I went home with cheesy rice in my head. The problem was the idea I had in my head wasn’t clear enough to figure it out myself, but none of the recipes I was finding matched what I wanted either. I ultimately went to bed cheesy-rice-less (sad) but saved a cheddar risotto recipe for a couple days later when I felt like putting some real effort into satisfying my craving.

Ingredients:

  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 10 oz. risotto rice
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 c. chicken stock, heated
  • 6 oz. cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 3 T chopped chives

Risotto is Italian and I believe translates roughly to ‘more trouble than it’s worth’.

It also has a subtext of ‘really expensive rice’. Arborio is the recommended but she said sushi rice can be used as well. The kitchen’s always stocked with Niko Niko.

In my cheesy defense, I cut the recipe in half and only used this much rice:

It’s annoying when a recipe can’t just give amounts in cups and makes me break out the scale. On the plus side, It justifies owning the scale.

Directions:

  • Melt the butter in an oven proof pan, add oil and onions. Cook, stirring, until onions are translucent.

Andrew and I got permission from a Real Chef to replace onions with shallots (recommended in fact) so I replaced what would have been a quarter onion with a small shallot.

  • Add rice, stir thoroughly so that each grain of rice is coated in butter and oil.

    Now that I’m on the defensive about my cheesy rice, ‘coated in butter and oil’ sounds much worse than it is.

    • Then add wine and mustard, and cook until wine has been absorbed by rice. Add stock, 1/2 c. at a time, stirring until the stock is absorbed by rice.

    Michael nearly had his way because of one simple fact – I. fail. at. rice.

    I have never in recorded history successfully made rice on the stove, whether it’s the simmer and ignore it method or the stir nonstop for 20 minutes. I had reverted to eating Minute Rice until my old roommate showed me the wonders of the rice cooker. The rice cooker doesn’t make crunchy rice. You have to pretty much go out of your way to mess up rice in the rice cooker. The rice cooker is the god of rice.

    In fact you should skip the rest of this post and go to rice cooker rissotto recipes. (That’s just a Google link – keep reading my post.)

    I went through the two cups (halved) of broth, and another two cups. Stir, stir, stir, taste.

    This beautiful closeup… still crunchy in the middle.

    I finally just put the lid on and let it simmer, I guess the “regular” way, while I went to shower. Then continued with the recipe hoping the oven would finish cooking for me.

    • Add 4 oz. cheddar, stir until the cheddar is melted.
    • Top with bread crumbs and remaining cheese and bake at 400 degrees until the cheese is bubbly

    At this point I forgot the bread crumbs, forgot the chives. I just wanted some cheesy rice that wasn’t crunchy!

    I also forgot that pans right out of the oven are hot. The thing is habits will overrule common sense when you’re used to grabbing the handle of a pot on the stove. After some screaming I felt better.

    It doesn’t look like much but it was pretty decent, however nowhere near worth the effort put into it. The wine flavor definitely came through – that could be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective.

    Next time I think rice cooker, some broth, and a handful of cheddar cheese. That might even be dinner this coffee shop writing night. (And before Michael comments, we did say Fridays don’t count.)

    Mini raspberry (tidbit) muffins

    Posted in Uncategorized on July 15th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    I had to order two bags of the raspberry tidbits to make the shipping costs worthwhile so I have to find ways to use up a whole lot of raspberry. Michael says, “I don’t know why you wouldn’t use fresh raspberries,” and the raspberry muffin recipe does use fresh, but as I said, I have a lot of tidbits to use up.

    I also like that it’s a simple one-bowl (in my case, a one Kitchenaid mixing bowl) recipe that my addled mind can handle right now.

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup fresh raspberries
    • Some powdered sugar (for sprinkling)

    I think I actually wrote myself a note to take the butter out of the fridge when I got home this time. I’m the worst at planning ahead on these things.

    Directions:

    • In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electronic hand mixer.

    I rarely dig out the hand mixer because something is bent inside and it makes a lot of clacking noise. I did a lot of old fashioned mixing with a bowl and wooden spoon before we got the Kitchenaid… now I feel lazy using something that lets me walk away during the process.

    From here an easy add one ingredient and then the next until,

    • Gently fold in the raspberries.

    I wasn’t sure if the tidbits would need more or less than the amount of fresh raspberries so I added them little by little until it looked right (I think 3/4 of a cup in the end.)

    • Lay out a mini muffin pan and arrange mini baking cups.

    Ohhh, I already learned my lesson about making mini things, but this recipe was explicitly for mini muffins. Besides having to make three times as many, I only have one mini muffin(/cupcake) pan.

    So I had to do this three times, with a half hour wait between each.

    • Sprinkle the tops with a little powdered sugar. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned

    I cooked each batch for a shorter time than the last and they seemed to come out progressively better. 25-30 minutes was too long – maybe I have mini-er mini pans than she does.

    This is practically a side-by-side comparison.

    They were complimented as usual but the true test is in the leftovers. There was a pretty good-sized Ziplock bag full of them left at work after the potluck, which I threw out after the three-day weekend. Next time fresh raspberries, and next time forget the mini thing and let it be somebody else’s obsession.

    Why Andrew should guest blog: Part 2

    Posted in Fish, Uncategorized on June 24th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    Because while I spent another evening sleeping, barely functional while adjusting to new medications, he cooked me this Ginger Steamed Halibut with Hana Style Sauce (another Hawaii-inspired recipe!)

    He also has the presentation part down better than I do.

    This is why Andrew should guest blog:

    Posted in Uncategorized on June 13th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

    Besides the fact that I’m barely keeping up with the writing to go with my cooking lately… and yet I can’t seem to stop cooking in the meantime. It’s like an addiction, plus that having to eat every day problem. What happened to the days I was content eating the same box of macaroni and cheese after class every day? (Oh yeah, that was called college…)

    This is not a box of macaroni of cheese. When I asked Andrew if we happened to have any macaroni and cheese on hand he offered me couscous. When I explained why, he suggested that some college kids in India must eat couscous every day.

    So while I was busy not writing blog posts, he was looking at a yummy ono fish recipe, remembered from our honeymoon in Hawaii. Reading the ingredients out loud he says, “A mild fish rub or paprika… I have ‘or paprika’.”

    To be sure I grabbed our jar of paprika, and a sharpie, and….

    Or paprika

    On the other hand… maybe guest blogging wouldn’t be such a good idea until Andrew is not so stressed with school. I did overhear him ask “how many cloves of butter” he needed.

    My First Chutney

    Posted in Fish, Mango, Tuna on May 23rd, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

    It’s really difficult to find a recipe for mango that doesn’t follow ‘mango’ with either ‘salsa’ or ‘chutney’. Since I’m not a salsa person I gave in to the chutney side tonight to make dinner, Seared Tuna with Mango Chutney.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 3/4 pounds center-cut tuna fillets, 1-inch thick
    • 3 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
    • Coarse kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
    • 2 tablespoons finely minced ginger root
    • 1 to 2 mangoes, flesh cut into large dice (about 2 cups)
    • 1/4 cup orange juice
    • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
    • 1/4 cup (1-ounce box) golden raisins
    • 1/4 cup sugar

    I had to quarter this a little awkwardly for my one piece of fish, using half a mango (the other half will be a snack at work or mixed in yogurt) and ignoring the raisins outright.

    Oh and there they go with the “good quality” again – where do I find out if my olive oil is up to standard? I’d post a picture but I would be too embarrassed if it’s not.

    Directions:

    • Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Using 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, rub it on both sides of the tuna fillets and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

    Actually it makes more sense to just leave the fish in the fridge until it’s being cooked at the end, but rearranging the order would have made the original recipe read awkwardly.

    • In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion and ginger and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the diced mango. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    • Add the orange juice, cider vinegar, raisins, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, stirring until combined. Increase the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced.

    With the cutting back on the recipe there wasn’t really much in the way of liquid to reduce in the first place, but I let it simmer while preparing my side-spinach since I wanted to use the same pan to cook the tuna.

    • While the chutney is cooking, prepare the tuna:

    Or after the chutney has cooked if you’re trying to save on dishes. Now skip back to step one and take that tuna out of the fridge and cook it like all previous seared tuna. There seems to be only two methods – oil the pan and put the tuna in, or oil the tuna and put it in the pan.

    • Transfer to a cutting board and cut the fillets into thick slices, across the grain. Divide the slices of tuna among individual plates and spoon some of the mango chutney alongside.

    A plate I can be proud of – the spinach was sauteed in a bit of sesame oil with soy sauce and sesame seeds.

    However I’m not sure if what I made, despite the name, can be considered a true chutney. At the least it seems to be a very westernized version of an Indian condiment, especially considering there weren’t even any spicy ingredients for me to intentionally leave out.

    Rapturedoodles

    Posted in Cookies, Dessert on May 21st, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

    I was about ready for today to be over just for the endless rapture jokes to finally end (although the raptor jokes are still funny) but I couldn’t help sneaking one in myself at the last minute. Andrew wanted snickerdoodles, the best cookie ever, which turned into rapturedoodles, the best pre-apocalypse cookie ever.

    My “secret” snickerdoodle recipe is allrecipes.com’s Snickerdoodles V. Forget I – IV, V is where it’s at. The secret is how easy these are to make in comparison to how good they are. I am arrogant enough to say that I cannot buy a snickerdoodle, in a box or fresh, that is better than one I can make myself.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup shortening
    • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 tablespoons white sugar
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

    This is a really easy one to cut in half as well, for a quick cookie fix, which I usually do.

    Directions:

    • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
    • In a medium bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar.

    This is really the hardest part. The next time I make a full rather than half batch I’ll see if the Kitchenaid mixer can take over but usually I just bring the mixing bowl to my desk while distracted by something on my computer.

    • Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each.
    • Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until well blended.

      Here I admit I usually cheat and don’t waste a second bowl sifting – just throw the dry ingredients on top and stir them together a bit before mixing all the way in.

      • In a small shallow bowl, stir together the 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls and roll the balls in the sugar mixture.

      I’ve always found that I have too much cinnamon-sugar left over so I cut this in half a second time, since you can always make more if you run out. But leftovers can’t be saved since the dough it’s been touching has raw egg.

      My snickerdoodles also tend to come out more as cookie-balls than the cookies you’d normally buy, which are great as they are, but I wanted to make sure I know how to make a proper looking cookie if necessary so I rolled these a little larger than usual and flattened them a bit on the cookie sheet.

      • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Cookies should be slightly golden at the edges.

      Now the next hardest part was waiting for these to cool before turning them into rapturedoodles.

      As you can see, a hole appeared by the time I was able to start decorating.

      All in all it was an excuse to pick up some red sparkle gel. I tested one with the black I used on the Portal cupcakes and still no sparkle, despite being able to see it in the package. Disappointing.

      Andrew’s vision was more something like a cross, which I didn’t think read as well on a cookie.

      I had imagined a fancy-font ‘R’ for rapture, like this one which I tried to imitate. He said that an “R” would just make him think “Rebecca cookie”, which sounds like something my parents would have made for me as a kid, but I think I’m okay with that.

      This is my cookie.

      Mango Pudding

      Posted in Dessert, Mango on May 15th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

      It’s still happy mango season going by the sales – 4 for $5, 5 for $5! I can tell I’m starting to get a little mangoed out when I find myself having to rush to use them up before they go bad, but I can’t pass up prices like that while they’re available.

      I had a couple false starts with this recipe – I explicitly bought the coconut milk for it one day and totally forgot the gelatin. In the meantime I’m sure I had to cycle through mangoes.

      Ingredients:

      • 2 medium to large ripe mangoes
      • 1 packet gelatine (3 tsp.)
      • 1/2 cup hot water
      • 1/3 cup white sugar
      • 1 cup good-quality coconut milk

      Like with the garlic cloves, I wish they gave more of a measurement than number of mangoes since they comes in so many varieties. I don’t know how my yellow mangoes compare to the “normal” mangoes I expect they’re using. They seem like they’re smaller but they could be like the Small Beer vs Large Beer and actually be the same amount of flesh.

      As for the good quality coconut milk, I’ve yet to have an opportunity to go on my rant about recipes that insist you use “good” ingredients, implying my choice of olive oil or soy sauce is inferior, or that I keep the good quality coconut milk on the back of the shelf for special occasions.

      Directions:

      • Do this:

      • And then do this:

      • In a saucepan, heat up the water until it reaches a rolling bowl. Remove from heat. While stirring the water with a whisk or fork, sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of the water and stir briskly in order not to have any lumps.

      You have to be really quick on the whisking because once those little lumps form they’re reluctant beyond my patience to go away. But I tend to follow a ‘when in doubt, go to the next step’ philosophy.

      • Add the sugar to the hot water/gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve.
      • Add this mixture to the mango in the food processor/blender. Also add the coconut milk. Blitz briefly until ingredients are combined.

      Then the waiting… it’s the same whether you’re making pudding out of a box or out of a… mango. Into bowls and into the fridge for 2+ hours.

      The weird thing is while being aware that I was eating a pretty exotic dessert, I was also kind of bored. It tasted pretty much like the mango part of the mango tapioca pudding I made recently enough, and I actually wondered if I should just add some tapioca to round it out. A few days later though, giving my taste buds a chance to calm down from the mango overload I’ve been experiencing, definitely good stuff.

      Broccoli Leek Quiche with Garlic Crust

      Posted in Eggs, Vegetables on May 13th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

      It feels pretty good to get a comment, “you know you are a good cook when you can put random things together and make a meal”, even if it’s “just” from your mom. Of course it’s easy to look good when you only show off the meals that worked out. I hadn’t yet found a good opportunity to show off why dill and Swiss sandwiches aren’t a good idea.

      Or more recently, my attempt to make Andrew’s yummy yellow rice (cooked with turmeric and butter) which came out nearly more orange than the spice itself.

      Turns out a tablespoon is more than overkill… I should have asked first.

      So I did it again (the good way, not the dill-and-cheese way). I’ve been wanting to make a quiche so I can have some freezable food to leave at work as backup lunches. I don’t know where leeks came into my head from but I’m guessing from the same place that made me spontaneously say out loud, “I wonder if you can put garlic in pie crust.”

      I was a little nervous trying to figure out how much garlic to use. While I normally believe you can never have too much garlic in practically anything, I didn’t want to ruin an entire quiche if pie crust turned out to be the exception to ‘practically’. I used four cloves, blended in the food processor with the flour and butter. Well I don’t like it when recipes list garlic by number of cloves, because if you buy your garlic in bulbs the cloves vary drastically in size from the outside in, so I used this many:

      I became much more confident while rolling out the dough when I kept thinking, ‘where is that wonderful garlic smell coming from?’ and then realizing it was my crust. Garlic and butter is already the ultimate combination – how could I have expected this to go wrong? Then I hit up Google expecting to find out that my unique idea was not so unique after all, but there was nothing on a search for “garlic pie crust” that didn’t just happen to have garlic and pie in the same vicinity. Let it be known that garlic pie crust is MINE!

      After learning about vodka pie crust (now vodka-garlic?) I was looking forward to that easy to work with, stretchy dough I remembered from before. The thing with pie crust is that you can’t get cocky with it, it knows. My dough still tore, but until I start trying to win beauty contests all I care about is getting the crust in the pan in something resembling one piece.

      I learned from the mini-quiche experiment why you are supposed to pre-bake the crust, so that it’s solid enough to hold in the liquid you’re going to pour in next. 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

      Now the tear is much more obvious.

      For the filling, first I knew I wanted broccoli. With fresh broccoli and no measurement to go by, I was kind of proud of this idea I came up with – I just took out the second pie pan and filled it with chopped broccoli until it looked right.

      I felt like it needed more but had to remember that there was going to be other stuff going into this too.

      Then I chopped up the white and greenish-white part of two small leeks, and the other half onion from the previous day’s “omelet”.

      The broccoli I steamed for 10-ish minutes. Luckily I wasn’t in a hurry for it yet, since the steamer is still a functional timer when it’s not plugged in. That ‘ding’ does not tell you that anything has cooked, only that time has passed without you noticing the lack of steam! The onions and leeks I sauteed in some olive oil.

      I’m pretty sure there’s a rule against sauteeing in too small of a pan, even if it’s because your bigger pan is in the dishwasher. I’ve tended to find that the world does not explode, or the kitchen implode, when you break some rules as long as you can say you had a good reason. (And even laziness is a good reason if you’re willing to admit to it.)

      For the eggy part I’m still going off my original recipe, which looks like:

      • 3 eggs
      • 1 cup of milk
      • 1 tablespoon flour
      • 2 tablespoons margarine

      I wanted to leave out the margarine but I wasn’t sure how much, if any, affect it has on the taste so I cut it back to one tablespoon. I also nearly learned through experience that margarine has the same exploding tendency in the microwave as butter

      • A sprinkle of kosher salt (I’ve been converted away from table salt as much as possible for cooking.)
      • A sprinkle of black pepper
      • A sprinkle of white pepper

      And oops… too much pepper. The white pepper “sprinkled’ harder than I expected out of its container. Well you can’t un-pepper a quiche but you can add more – another egg and 1/3 cup of milk – perfectly peppered.

      Everything except the broccoli, which I layered on the pie crust, on top of a layer of shredded cheese, went into the quiche mix bowl, including the rest of the diced ham from the previously mentioned “omelet” and more shredded cheese. I didn’t measure the cheese since I never end up following the amount given in the recipe to begin with. Then I poured it all on top of the broccoli.

      Obligatory naked quiche picture.

      I baked at 350 for way longer than any recipe says – around an hour by the end. I have trouble getting my middle to solidify and I think it may be too much milk. Next time four eggs and forget the extra milk.


      This was a huge success as far as great tasting quiche… and a total failure as far as having backup food for work. The whole thing was gone in two days, ultimately feeding three people.

      One-egg omelet

      Posted in Eggs, Vegetables on May 8th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

      My cupcakes and frosting combo left only one sad little egg in the carton for me to use.

      Technically I don’t think anything made with one egg could be called an omelet (unless it was an extremely tiny one) but given my skill with omelets, I’m just jumping ahead to the final result. I didn’t want to call it a “scramble” because that sounds like something off the menu at Denny’s but perhaps a “kitchen scavenge” would be an appropriate name.

      Scavenged:

      • 1 egg
      • Shredded potato
      • Cubed ham
      • Chopped onion
      • Chopped garlic
      • Chopped green onions
      • Baby spinach, stems picked off and hand-torn
      • Sprouts
      • Parmesan cheese

      The potato I shredded with a cheese grater, and patted dry with a paper towel out of instinct. Turns out my instinct was right and the starch should be rinsed off and potatoes as dry as possible to make good hash browns – which this wasn’t exactly but a good place to start – so I went back and did a full rinse and dry.

      Next I heated some olive oil in a pan began the guessing game of order to cook ingredients.

      First the potatoes, then the onions, garlic, and then a handful of diced ham. Technically the ham doesn’t need to be cooked, just heated, but I love how ham tastes after it’s been re-cooked.

      Spinach and green onions, just long enough to cook the spinach.

      Then to justify the “omelet” title, I pushed everything to one side and let the egg solidify a bit before mixing it all together.

      The sprouts went on last, and a handful of Parmesan cheese.

      The only thing missing… cheeeese. I know I put Parmesan on but I couldn’t taste it, and I’ve too long associated scrambled eggs and omelets with melty cheddar cheese that I had to sneak back and shred some cheese and microwave for a few seconds. I know that kills the calorie count but look at all those good veggies in there to make up for it!