Sunday, December 2, 2012

Invention

Note to self:  I am not allowed to cook without a recipe.

The past two nights, I had no real plan with what I was going to make:  I just had a meat and a starch, and I knew I wanted to combine it into something edible.  I ended up starting both components and then pondering what would taste good with it, throwing things in at random, and finally - somehow - ended up with dinner.

Friday night, I had hot Italian sausage and Ditalini.  I decided to try and make a cream sauce, so I threw some half-and-half in with the sausage.  Needed some seasoning, so rosemary, oregano and cinnamon went in - because everything needs cinnamon.  I also added a generous plop of sundried tomato pesto.  At this point, I tasted it and realized it needed some acid.  I went for apple cider vinegar, but I couldn't get the bottle open (no, really - blame the carpal tunnel surgery), so ended up with malt vinegar.  Too much.  Countered with honey.

Surprisingly, the result was quite good.  I wouldn't necessarily serve it to anyone, but it worked.

Saturday night, I had taco meat and arborio rice and decided to make a casserole.  I looked up a generic rice and hamburger casserole to get some ideas on cooking times, then proceeded to ignore it, adding cranberries, peas, almonds and yogurt - the latter so it would have some moisture and not dry up completely.  I picked yogurt for the tartness to complement the cranberries; the cranberries also got a bit of sugar in an attempt to sweet the deal (and them).  Also cinnamon (yes, there's always cinnamon), cumin and chili powder.

I think I'd go with dried cherries next time, but this is actually worth attempting again, with some modifications.

Still - goodness only knows what will end up in the pot next time.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Our Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is quite a production in my house, and we've already begun with:

Buttermilk Cupcakes with Chocolate Icing

However, not since I really was craving a particular kind of buttercream, they were frosted with this:

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Excellent on both counts.  The cupcakes are moist without being soggy, and the addition of milk / cream (in this case, used half and half) makes a huge difference in the buttercream.

This is the full menu plan for Thanksgiving:

Honeybaked Ham Turkey (none of us are huge turkey fans, so this delicious purchased option is fine)
Hines Gravy (ditto)
Cranberry Fruit Conserve
Campbell's Green Bean Casserole
Sweet Potatoes With Blue Cheese and Walnuts
Perfect Golden Mashers
Sage, Sausage and Apple Dressing
Maggie Mahoney's Turnips
Ginger Carrots
Maple Pecan Bread
Cranberry Harvest Muffins
Pumpkin Pie (purchased, because only my Mom really likes it)
Cinnamon Ice Cream
Cinnamon-Cornbread Blueberry Cobbler

The last two recipes have already featured on this blog at some point ... and it's me, aaaall me.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Butter butter butter butter ...

So first of all:

A pound of butter.  Diced.

I knew from previous experience that if I tried to dice that much butter at once, it would melt before I finished.  So I cut the butter into slices, then put all but the group I was working with into the freezer.  Once finished, the diced bits went into the freezer.  This worked perfectly.  Having the butter in the freezer for those few moments made it infinitely easier to work with without having it turn into a glacial slab.

It took longer for the butter to incorporate than I had expected, but I wasn't sure whether this was due to the quantity or the fact that the diced pieces had been in the fridge.  As usual, I went a bit generous with the vanilla.  I ended up with a lot more dough than I had expected, but found that I didn't need a rolling pin:  it was much easier to smooth the dough out with my (floured) hands.

On the other hand, I had to flour the cutter I used multiple times, wiping it down and then sprinkling it fresh.  I tried to fit eleven on the bar pan and managed such, but they expanded during cooking to the point that they almost (but not quite) formed one amorphous mass of scone-iness.  I then managed another six - so I might suggest eight or nine per batch for integrity purposes.

The perfect cook-through seemed to be until significant golden-brown shows up on the higher points of the scone.  I waited eight minutes before applying the glaze, so it was slighter thicker than suggested.

Final verdict (scones):  These are excellent, hearty and filling with a perfect scone texture.  My only complaint is (despite the half cup in the batter) you don't taste the maple in the scone itself; it only comes out in the glaze.  Might as well have not wasted that half cup.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Breakfast Treats

Family coming in for Thanksgiving, so I decided to make treats for Sunday morning:  maple scones.  Now, I printed this recipe without even the title, so I can't swear to where it came from, but if anyone is really interested, I'll be happy to pass it along.  Once I confirm they're any good, that is.  They use a pound of butter.  I am vaguely terrified.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Do-It-Yourself Flour

I love a good crockpot meal - throw it together and forget about it.  The chicken enchilada soup recipe truly could not have been simpler.  The ingredient list may look extensive, but it's all quite common and there's very little chopping or prep involved.  I will note that when combined the ingredients, I used an extra teaspoon of chipotle chili and a generous scoop of cumin, which - when directed to season to taste at the end - increased significantly.

Verdict (soup):  Spicy (though keep in mind my adjusted proportions) and satisfying, a soup rather than a stew without being watery or overpowering on the tomato front.  Recommended.

I admit:  I don't hold with buying all these specialty flours when you can make them.  The muffin recipe calls for self rising cake flour; well, you can make self rising flour and cake flour, so I just combined the proportions of extra ingredients for each.  Presto!

"I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" does not live up to its name.  I could immediately tell it wasn't butter.

I also overdosed on the vanilla.  Big surprise.  Moving on. 

Nine tablespoons of mini-morsels is a looot of mini-morsels, folks.  Don't be surprised when mixing them in.

The only small snag I ran into was the cooking time.  It says 15-16 minutes - it took a bit longer than that for me.  The tops will brown slightly before they're done.  A toothpick will not come out clean due to the prevalence of chocolate, but you can tell they're done because it will come out with nothing else but chocolate on it.

Verdict (muffins):  Moist, just sweet enough to satisfy, but not so sweet that they aren't appropriate for dinner or breakfastVery good!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Menu Plan: Week of 11/10

Howdy, all!

Well, since I was at the WFC for a week (see my other blog for more details than you could ever possibly want), I'm in desperate need of shedding a few more pounds, so back to Skinnytaste for just a couple recipes this time:

Crock Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup
Ricotta Cheese Chocolate Chip Muffins

I have a rehearsal tomorrow, so the goal is to get the soup going before I leave.

And hey, blogger spellchecker - as far as I'm concerned, crockpot is one word.

Monday, October 22, 2012

To The Cloud!

I really was going to make the scones last night, but it was past 10pm by the time I got home from the zombie walk (yes, you did read that correctly), so I did these in the morning instead ... eventually.  It's not that they were difficult, it's just that it took me a while to wobble into motion.  In fact, this recipe is very straightforward.  Again, I found using the food processor to cut in the butter was the easiest method.  Since there's a lot less butter, it takes less time than it would for regular scones.  Probably the hardest part was cutting all the way through the scones.  They appear to fuse back up during baking, but still break apart easily.

Point of order:  I used (sort of by accident) semi-sweet chocolate chips here.  I like my chocolate a little darker, so I was quite satisfied.  Your mileage may vary.

Final verdict (scones):  These, to me, were not quite as scone-like as the previous batch, perhaps the whole wheat flour.  However, they're still very satisfying with a lot of chocolate chip for the portion.

Next, I started on the biscuits.  As an aside, I was unable to find Heart Smart Bisquick at the story, so I used Heart Healthy Krusteaz Buttermilk instead.  I had to eyeball the amount of parmesan because the battery in my scale is out.  The recipe warns not to overmix the milk; by contrast, I would offer the warning to make sure that the ingredients are fully wet / combined.  Heaping tablespoons produces exactly the right number of biscuits, and there is a perfect amount of the topping to go along with it.

Final verdict (biscuits):  And, just to top it off - they're good!  Cheesy without being overwhelming and with the wonderful tang of rosemary.  I used unsalted butter and noticed no problem with the taste on the topping; I think it was only written that way to confirm that you can use the sort of butter most normal people have on hand.  (Do I need to elaborate?)

Next up, I did mise en place for the pasta fagioli and the stuffed peppers.  By now, my wary relationship with onions is known fact, so it should come as no surprise that I cut down on the amount in both recipes.  All told, there should have been an onion and a half; I chopped a single onion and ended up throwing a small part of it away.  This is actually less onion reduce than usual, because I didn't want to mess with the intended bulk too much.

The pasta fagioli does not specify whether the parsley is supposed to be dried or fresh, but given the quantity, the position in the ingredient list - alongside basil and oregano, both of which are definitely dried - and the fact that I'd used cilantro for the other recipe, I decided to go with dried.  This is a lot of dried herbs.  In fact, it ends up in a thick film on the top of the pot, which I found rather alarming, but it all worked out in the cooking.  Again, I had to eyeball the ditalini.

The peppers truly could not be easier, though I found that the liquid didn't reduce significantly, even after ten full minutes of simmering-near-to-boil.  Still, the mixture was reduced enough to fill the peppers.  1/3rd of a cup is very close to the amount one needs for each pepper half - I chose red.  However, I found that five peppers didn't fit in a 13x9 baking dish, so I ended up having to use two pans to bake.

Final verdict (fagioli):  I thought this would be too watery, but it turned out just right - very flavorful, with a bit of texture from the dried herbs without being unpleasant.  There's just enough mouth-feel with this to be filling.

Final verdict (stuffed peppers): I loved these, thought the filling was tasty and the peppers a good vessel - but I wished the peppers had perhaps cooked a trifle more, and I could have used more cheese.  Also, the liquid of the mixture made for messy eating.

After Once Upon A Time and The Walking Dead (now we know what I do with my Sunday evening), I started on the chocolate chip clouds.  I found measuring tablespoons of egg whites to be nigh impossible:  the whites clumped together, and every time I scooped, they'd slide out of the tablespoon.  I can only assume I got about the right about, as all the quantities seemed to turn out, though I ended up with 21 cookies instead of 30 while attempting to do a tablespoon size.  I think I had "heaping tablespoons."  These were done for at about 30 mins - might have been slightly underdone, but I decided I'd rather have them a bit under than a bit over.

(Recipe note - equal parts milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips used.)

Final verdict (clouds):  These are crazy-good - light, chocolatey and addictive.  I haven't had a cooled one yet because I couldn't stop eating the blasted things when they were still warm, but I'm pretty sure of them.