Friday, November 27, 2009

Hot Fudge Monday

Sorry, no direct recipe link for this one. I borrowed the Looneyspoons cookbook from my best friend Sue. If you have your own copy, it's on page 145.

I had feared this recipe for a little while because my brain made it seem more complicated than it was. That, and the fearful "DO NOT STIR!" warning in the last paragraph...Really though, my fears were unfounded. Yes, adding boiling water to a perfectly nice-looking chocolate ensemble was a little odd, but the end result was fine.

Pretty simple list of ingredients for this recipe and I didn't substitute any. Heck, they even wanted me to use the skim milk I already had in the fridge! I had to put this recipe off by a day, however, when I realized I didn't have enough brown sugar to complete things. By the time I returned from the store yesterday, I was too tired to start baking. It's amazing how much more quickly ingredients need replacing when you actually start to use them more than once every three years....

The texture of this recipe is a little odd. It's kind of like a soft, slightly-jelly-ish chocolate cake with chocolate pudding sauce. It's nice and chocolatey, but the texture takes a little getting used to. Overall impression: pretty good for a low-fat chocolate dessert option. Try it yourself and let me know how yours turns out.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tortellini Soup

It's back-to-Kraft day. After yesterday's marathon in the kitchen, I wanted a quick, simple recipe for tonight. Luckily for me, I usually get what I want.

Minor substitutions with my version, but nothing to make you gasp. I sort of measured the chicken stock -which was actually beef stock already opened and in a tetrapak - and sort of measured the water.....but not really. I finished the beef stock and opened a tetrapak of chicken stock, then added some water to about 900mL total....I think. Later, when I was serving myself some soup, I dumped in the rest of the chicken stock tetra so now I really don't know how much liquid I added. I just wanted to be rid of tetrapaks clogging up my wee fridge.

I didn't have dried basil so I used 1/2 teaspoon of squeeze tube basil. I also added 1 tsp of dried Italian seasoning because tortellini is Italian and I felt like adding some pizazz to my soup. My tortellini was frozen, not fresh, and it was chicken/proscuitto, not cheese. I cooked it for about 6 minutes. I also forgot the parmesan cheese at the end.

End result: Healthy, hot, and delicious!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Photocopier Corn Chowder with Buttermilk Biscuits

Recipe #32 a) Photocopier Corn Chowder - Recipe courtesy of Ellie @ work.
and b) Buttermilk Biscuits - Recipe courtesy of my friend Catherine Kilmer Taylor.
Email me for the exact recipes if you're interested:

You might be wondering why I used "Photocopier" in the title of this combination of recipes. Simply enough, Ellie dictated the recipe to me today at work while she was photocopying something. That's how I'll remember why I have it half-legibly scrawled on the back of my notes about something completely unrelated that happened to be in my pocket when she hailed me.

From start to finish, this dinner took nearly 4 hours to get finished. Can you say "exhausted"? Neither one had any indication of how long the prep should be expected to take (I always double the suggested time for myself), just the cooking times which can be somewhat deceptive. I did field a few phone calls while chopping celery which took some time away from that tedious task. I also ran into a time-consuming issue with the butter in the biscuit recipe. Thankfully, neither recipe came with a photo so I'm convinced my versions are correct.

The chowder, or "chowda" if you're from Bahstahn, recipe was pretty straightforward. I was a little skittish about making yet another creamy sauce, or roux, after last night's cauliflower disaster, but I decided to use evaporated milk (2%) instead of my usual skim milk to see if that made a difference. On the good advice of my friend Amanda, I whisked my dairy ingredients into the vegetables so much that my arm was ready to fall off, but it seems to have been worth it. No separation this time, hooray! Ellie suggested using chicken broth but I used beef since it was already in the fridge. I didn't add any salt, and used two "pinches" of red pepper flakes. I even got to use up my last 3 potatoes. You'll know what I mean if you email me for the recipe.

The only "oops" part of the chowder recipe was the fact that my pot was VERY full. As in slopping-over-the-edges-if-I-didn't-stir-carefully-full. The stove looks like I dropped a full pot from a height because there's soup splatter all around. The other thing was when I was making the biscuits while the soup simmered, and I suddenly remembered that I hadn't stirred the chowder for a long time only to discover that all the vegetables were slumbering soundly on the bottom of the pot, proving rather difficult to raise with my spatula. I also wasn't fond of the skin that formed a few times on the top of the chowder.

The biscuit recipe was a bit more challenging in different ways. First of all, I forgot to thaw some butter ahead of time so my "cold butter" was actually frozen butter. Quick, to the Bat Phone! "Hello? How do I make frozen butter into cold butter in, say, the next 5 minutes? Cut it smaller with a knife run (repeatedly) under hot water? Ok, thanks." And so I did, but it took more than 5 minutes because I was trying to be careful. Weird for me, being careful, but I'm trying to learn.

There were two variations mentioned at the bottom of the recipe: one to add cheese (I added it to the dry ingredients but didn't sprinkle it on top of the biscuits), another herb version where I added 1/2 tsp of thyme to the dry ingredients. It suggested 1 tsp each of "savoury" -whatever the hell that is! - and thyme. Once again, I opted not to sprinkle on top, primarily because I completely forgot.

The buttermilk is a little scary. I've never bought it before and now I have 3/4 of a litre sitting in the fridge. Can I use it in my tea tomorrow morning? I did notice a recipe for buttermilk bran muffins on the side of the carton so that will be a good use for both the buttermilk and the 3 million cups of bran I still have on hand. This ain't no low fat recipe, that's for sure!

I'm warning you now: biscuit dough is damn sticky, nearly as bad as the shortbread cookies I made so be prepared to douse yourself in flour again to handle it. I had to go find a ruler to see if I had flattened the dough to 1" (stop laughing), then it was time for the cookie cutters. First, I made a heart (photo above), a star, a Christmas tree and a gingerbread man that Jenny gave me, but after fighting with the cutters to release the dough, I just used the heart because it had the simplest shape. As I was to learn in 12 minutes, it didn't matter too much which cutters I used since all of my biscuits are severely deformed. Tasty but demented.

Now that it's nearly bedtime, I'm finally chowing down (pun intended) on my delicious marathon dinner. I seem to have made enough food for a family of 64 so I've lots of leftovers to look forward to this week!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cauliflower Casserole

Recipe #31:

Bah. I don't think this one turned out the way it was supposed to. I seem to have ongoing cheese sauce thickening issues. I don't know where I went wrong with this recipe. Was it using half an onion instead of a whole onion? Was it using skim milk although they don't specify what kind of milk to use? Surely it can't have been using dried parsley instead of fresh. I have no idea...

Yes, I did a few minor modifications to this recipe. Skim milk, half an onion because it was left over from Thursday's recipe, dried parsley because fresh herbs don't live here (yet). I also used a full tsp of dried mustard to try and give a little more "zip" to the sauce. I don't think my cheese was old but it was definitely cheddar.

The cauliflower steamed well while I burnt the flour/onion/milk mixture into the bottom of the saucepan. Is that why it didn't thicken? I didn't even know about the burnt until I emptied the sauce onto the broccoli. Maybe I didn't simmer the mixture long enough? But I did wait until it coated the back of a spoon as directed. And we all know how hard waiting is for me...

In the end, while the sauce is fairly soupy and a teeny bit separated (don't look closely when you eat it), the final product is somewhat healthy and tasty so I guess I'll be eating it for the rest of the week. I think I'd better go back to making soups for a while to restock my freezer. I haven't messed up any soups too badly...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunflower Seed Granola Bars

I thought I'd branch out a little today and finally make a non-soup recipe that I've been meaning to get around to for a while. While it's not quite baking and dessert-esque, I figured learning to make my own granola bars would be a welcome change from making dinner after dinner....

I only made one slight modification to this recipe. I used dried cranberries instead of the dried apricots or raisins suggested. I don't have anything against raisins or apricots; I just happen to have an excess of dried cranberries this week for some reason. Whenever I go food shopping, I seem to forget that I already have cranberries at home. Oh well, at least they're good for me.

Overall, this recipe is pretty darn simple to make. It also gave me a chance to use my new metal baking pan. I think that's why I held out so long before making this one: I didn't have the baking pan although I could have used my glass one if I shortened the cooking time or lowered the oven temp. Too much fussing...

The only thing I found didn't quite work for me the way the recipe said it should was letting the oil/corn syrup/honey combination simmer to thicken. I let it simmer all right, but it didn't really thicken that I could tell. Maybe it was my mental block against the thought that I used 1/3 cup of oil as prescribed? Regardless, I gave it a chance to thicken, and when it didn't really thicken, I used it anyway.

A word to the wise: when you get near the bottom of the recipe and you've removed your pan from the oven to cool on a rack, DON'T do as I did and believe this to mean you should invert the contents of the pan onto the rack. Turns out this is NOT what is meant! You'll end up with 3/4 of your granola "bars" scattered all over the counter, stove and floor, even as you suddenly realize mid-inversion that maybe you shouldn't be doing that... too late.

If you and I make the same mistake, quickly grab a spatula and scoop your scattered granola back into the pan. Smoosh it down smoothly again so that it doesn't look like you accidently dumped it out and chuck it back in the oven for a couple of minutes. When you take it out again, LEAVE IT IN THE PAN and put the pan on the rack to cool. Then go for a 5k run in the park and your granola bars should be cool upon your return.

Be a little careful when eating your granola bars if your version had to cook a little longer for repairs like mine did. My bars are pretty solid, essentially just one 9x13 bar right now, but tasty nonetheless. I'll smash them apart a little later tonight so that I can take one for lunch tomorrow.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Penne with Broccoli, Mushrooms and Wilted Spinach

Recipe #29:

I can't give you the recipe exactly because I got it from the above book that my grandmother gave me years ago. In mine, the recipe is on page 147 in the Vegetarian section. You should buy a copy. Then, when you read it for yourself, you'll see that the recipe really does say "wilted" spinach in it.

Overall impression before having tasted it? Meh, not so sure about this one. I don't have anything against vegetarian recipes; I'm just not sure if this one will have much flavour. I guess I'm used to pasta recipes having a proper sauce. Maybe I should spend more time in Italy, hmmm....

I dabbled a bit with this recipe. I ended up using whole wheat (omega 3, if it matters) rotini instead of penne because I didn't have enough penne and none of my other pasta choices on hand had the same cooking time as penne to make up the difference. I also didn't have crushed red pepper flakes. What am I, a pizzeria? I used about 3/4 of a 1/2 teaspoon of paprika instead. They're both red and I don't get to use paprika often and I have a lot of it. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. No red onion in my version. I hesitated in the onion dept. at the grocery, but in the end, I used half of a small regular onion. I cried less this time. Grated lemon zest turned into dig-the-nearly-dead-dried-up-skinless-lemon-out-of-the-fridge-and-squeeze-the-juice-into-the-half-teaspoon. I also spontaneously added a wee bit of squeeze-tube cilantro and squeeze-tube basil, along with a shake-shake-shake of dried Italian seasoning. Having just tasted the dinner, you might want even more seasoning as I found it a bit bland.

Well, dinner was certainly healthy and filling if it didn't quite make my tastebuds explode. As someone more famous than I once said, "Two out of three ain't bad".

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Whole Wheat Honey Oat Loaf

I don't know what possessed me to think I wanted to make bread from scratch without a breadmaker. I must have been hallucinating or something. What a lot of work!

I've been avoiding this recipe for a week or so now, primarily because of how much work and time I was convinced it would take. Let's just say I wasn't completely without reason when I finally got around to the recipe today. It's rather labour intensive, especially if it's your first time.

The first problem I encountered was the milk/yeast combination. Good thing those yeasties come in packs of 3. I now have but 1 left. I went and bought the homo milk as specified, but must not have had it sufficiently warm the first time I tried to make it "frothy". I waited the prescribed 10 minutes....nothing. I waited another 35 minutes....nothing, even after putting the bowl on the heat register while the furnace was on. Argh. Start over.

In the meantime, my oat/water/honey/butter combination was soaking nicely. I only drained a tiny bit of extra water out of it, otherwise no problems unless you count trying to get the honey out of the measuring spoon. That got a bit messy.

Second time around with the yeast and we're finally frothing. Add everything else and stir. Good grief, this dough is incredibly sticky! Baker beware, it will stick to freakin' everything, even if you coat your house and self in flour like I nearly did. When you manage to get it out of the bowl onto your floured surface, keep your bag of flour handy. You'll need it, trust me. I don't even know how much I had to use to keep that dough off the counter and my hands. Eventually, I kneaded it enough that it mostly behaved, and I managed to wrestle it into my (second) greased bowl. I used a glass bowl for this section where the evil dough is to rise in a warm place, and I put the covered bowl on the back burner of the stove with the oven on low for 1.5 hours.

90 minutes later, my dough looks monstrous, like a sea monkey left in water too long. I read the next step. Oh good! I get to punch the dough that made such a mess for me earlier. Darn, this crap is still so sticky. Now it's everywhere again, argh! I probably manhandled it a little more than I should have, but then again, I've never wrestled octopuses before and this felt quite similar.

Divide and conquer time. More like rip in half and attempt to reshape into lopsided, not-to-scale rectangles. Where's the damn flour? I think I have dough stuck to my entire upper body. Roll into bizarre-looking cylinders, seams naturally won't stick together, quickly flip seam-side down into pans and close my eyes. Now the plastic wrap won't stick to my new loaf pans and they keep fighting over which one gets which half of the warm burner where they've been sent to rise again.

Time's up, into the oven with you after your dressing with egg and oats. That's got to be good for the skin. I should try it sometime. I accidently smashed one loaf pan into the oven rack which probably explains why one loaf is smaller than the other. The dough sank like a rock in water after impact when my hand slipped. Oopsie.

Out of the oven now. How am I going to know if the bottom sounds hollow when they're in metal pans? Hmmm, dump them out onto the cooling racks and tap. Yep, hollow, but I doubt there's any candy in there if I whack them with a stick while blindfolded.

I tried a piece of the deformed, smaller loaf and it's good. It smells faintly of beer, probably the yeast since I made non-alcoholic bread products. Tasty, hard crust, slightly sweet. Still not sure if it was worth all the work, but at least I won't have to buy bread at the store this week...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Energy Soup Bowl

Yep, soup again. But only because I'm replenishing all the frozen soup that I've eaten from past recipes. Besides, I need some energy and this recipe is all about that.

This recipe was pretty easy, save for the mounds of chopping in the boring prep part that always takes me longer than they say it will. I skipped out on the rutabaga because they don't come in 1/4 cup sizes and I don't really like them anyway. I used a potato instead because it was on the verge of kitchen death and looks the same colour as a rutabaga when you cut them both up. I was going to use frozen beans instead of the green beans called for, but figured I'd have enough vegetables without them and chucked them back in the freezer. Maybe next time. I also deleted the red pepper (blech) and dillweed which I don't own. However, I finally bought cumin today, even if I didn't use it for this recipe. I got tired of seeing it listed in other ones.

I ended up using 1 cup of potato, about 1 cup of broccoli, and 6 tbsp of the barley in lieu of the rice that I didn't have and wasn't going to buy 3 tbsp worth. I also ran out of chicken stock at the 4 3/4 cup mark so I made up the difference with beef stock. I have to go replenish my stock of stock soon, ha ha ha. I had a can of white kidney beans on hand so I used them instead of red ones, and I substituted 1 tsp of squeeze tube basil for the dried stuff. I also substituted 1/2 tsp of thyme for the dillweed. No idea if they taste similar but I think they're both green.

Aside from my soup forgetting how to simmer after the addition of the celery, cauliflower, etc., there weren't really any issues with it. It smells quite good although I haven't yet tasted it. I was too busy choking down the Cinnamon Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding for dinner.

Cinnamon Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding

Ok, in theory, this recipe sounded good. In the real life tasting department, it's kind of bland and gross with a rather disgusting aftertaste. Don't say I didn't warn you...

I realize that I've made a lot of soups recently, in part because I can freeze them in servings and have an easy meal. I thought I'd try a "real" breakfast recipe this time because I'm tired of eating soup for breakfast this week. There's a girl on the night shift at work who cringes when I come out of the lunch room at 6:30am toting my tortellini/casserole/soup for breakfast.

I had all the ingredients on hand for this recipe and I found it on the Healthy Living website (see above) so I thought I'd give it a go. Good way to use up eggs and oats too. Simple to make. I made it while waiting for my soup to finish simmering which it seems to have forgotten how to do. That'll be the next blogged recipe, btw.

I was a little leery about adding the egg mixture to boiling water (eggs will cook and I don't want to know about that in what I'm eating), but that's what it said to do so that's what I did. Sure enough, there were some suspiciously white pieces floating around in the water almost instantly. I quickly measured and stirred in the oats to cover them up. Yuck, looks kind of vile.

Finished product resembles oatmeal for the most part. I added a handful of dried cranberries at the end because I'm trying to use them up and they're probably good for me. I happen to have used homo milk because I had it on hand for a recipe coming up. I tasted the mixture while spooning it into a bowl and quickly added sugar which I almost never do to oatmeal. That might explain why I had to hunt down the sugar and couldn't find the Splenda. Then I added milk to my gloppy bowl of fun to further dilute the odd taste. I know this is a healthy breakfast, but I'm still trying not to think about the itty bitty white strings of egg that I can see. I'll think twice before making this one again.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tex Mex Stovetop Casserole

Well, I'm not really sure I would consider my version of this recipe to be a "casserole" so much as a hearty pasta soup maybe? Good thing there's no photo on the website with the recipe. It's easier to pretend mine turned out perfectly that way.

As usual, a few substitutions and deletions in my version. Lacking the motivation to hit the grocery store again, I chopped up 1 1/3 carrots malingering in the fridge in lieu of celery. I ate the remainder of the second carrot raw. I used an entire can of black beans so as not to have a container of rinsed black beans sitting in the fridge with no purpose. I have no idea if my sausage was the appropriate mild. It was in the freezer and I cooked it. End of story.

My macaroni was that "smart" kind that looks white but is better for you than white. I think at some point I must have mixed in the remainder of a box of whole wheat macaroni as there were some suspiciously dark pieces in the box, but I have no actual memory of having done so. I used 2 cups of the chicken broth still in the fridge in lieu of the water. Frozen corn got translated to frozen-peas-and-carrots-already-in-the-freezer while hot sauce became something-close-to-1-tsp-of-paprika-but-I-didn't-measure-it-exactly-because-it-wouldn't-shake-well. The cumin got deleted altogether because I didn't own any, and the salt was omitted because I said so.

Pretty easy to make as long as you read the recipe carefully like me and realize that the sausages are supposed to go in the pot already cooked and my package said they're not cooked. Simple to fix. Just don't get distracted on Facebook or they'll be a little charred. Fret not, the rest of the ingredients will cover that smoky flavour and you'll end up with a delicious hot bowl of yum!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Santa Fe Shepherd's Pie

Another two-recipes-in-one dish. How about that? I'm starting to realize they are a LOT more work than just one.

I ran in to a bit of a mashed potato crisis with this recipe. First of all, the shepherd's pie recipe calls for 3 cups of freshly mashed potatoes. Putting yourself in my shoes, as in little experience in the kitchen and no recent experience eating shepherd's pie, you too would be wondering how to make mashed potatoes. Truthfully, you're probably laughing, but I really didn't know. Yes, I figured I could just cook some potatoes and smash them up, or as was later suggested to me, buy instant mashed potatoes, but I wanted to "make" mashed potatoes, something a little nicer that would use up the real potatoes at home which is how I ended up with the Kraft version.

After choosing the Kraft recipe and figuring I would only need to buy the parmesan cheese and chicken broth, I had a calculation problem. You see, the mashed potato recipe yields 10 of some unknown measurement, but a) I didn't have cute little red potatoes, just big, ugly, aging regular ones, and b) I had no idea what the quantity correlation would be between 3 cups for Campbell's shepherd's pie and this bloody "10" cited by Kraft. Can't these companies talk to one another? In the end, I made the mashed potato recipe as a half quantity, using only 1lb of my old, ugly potatoes. Unbeknownst to me, this would create another problem down the line.

The only ingredient I had to buy for the Campbell's shepherd's pie recipe was the cilantro. I don't own any and don't feel like growing any so what's a girl to do? I could do what I did the last time my recipe called for cilatro: just chuck in a variety of dried spices already on hand and hope for the best. But I decided it was time to invest in another herb so now I am the proud owner of a tube of cilantro. How did I never use this stuff before? I bought a tube of basil a couple of weeks ago to start my collection and it's great! No chopping, no picking herbs off the floor, no stuffing chopped herbs into a measuring spoon, no throwing out dead herbs that you forgot to water for weeks. Instead, I just squeeze the amount required into the measuring spoon and presto!

I dislike peppers of any kind: red, yellow, orange, green, purple, whatever. If I'm making the recipe, you're not eating peppers, so for this one, I substituted a cup of frozen peas and carrots occupying valuable real estate in the freezer. I also didn't use the low-fat soup because when you buy a flat of the soup at Costco at a very good price, it is what it is and that's what you have on hand. I've no idea whether the meat was uber-low-fat as requested. I simply dug enough out of the freezer and cooked it. I usually buy the extra lean or lean so I think I've still done Campbell's proud.

A word of advice here: after mixing the cooked meat with the spices and veggies, don't absentmindedly lick some of the mixture off your arm. The combination of cilatro and chili powder is really very unpleasant. Oh, and if, like me, you scrape the minced garlic into the pan from the squisher-thing with your fingers, don't forget to wash your hand quickly before you answer the phone, or we will both have a phone that smells like garlic.

All went pretty well until I added the potato slop to the meat mixture. Suddenly, I realized I probably didn't have 3 cups worth of potato, having conveniently neglected to actually measure my yield after finishing the mashed potato recipe. Crap. Well, I could "whip up" another batch of mashed potato, seeing as I still have some potatoes kicking around, or better yet, call up the dinner guest and casually ask if they could buy me some instant mashed potatoes on their way over. I chose the latter. However, when the guest arrived, we poked at the dinner (not yet in the oven) and estimated (semi-incorrectly) that there was already sufficient potato coverage.

I was aiming for 2/3 meat, 1/3 potato topping and fell slightly short on the latter, but overall the food was good. I didn't end up making any further potato, instant or "real", so I guess that's a vote for the carb-phobic side. I also had to request a new package of parmesan cheese from my shopping guest as the one I bought earlier today was green and fuzzy inside when I opened it. Guess where I'm going back to tomorrow? I'm also going to buy a potato masher while I'm at it...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Soup

I picked this recipe originally because I thought the cheddar cheese was cooked into the soup. That way, I could use up some of the cheese in my fridge. After I went grocery shopping and actually read the recipe to the end, I realized the cheese stands alone...on top of the soup.

I made a few mods to this recipe. I hacked up the hapless wiggly celery hiding at the back of the fridge, and added a carrot for good measure. Soups are a good way to hide vegetables, especially soups that you blend. I used a 900mL tetra of chicken stock in lieu of the stock/water combination those tricky Kraft people list. You want me to drag out the can opener, dump out the can, then fill it up and dump it out again - twice? No. Not so much when I can shake, snap open, and pour. Nice try, Krafties, but you forgot about my lazy streak. Oh, and the first onion I tried to chop was disintegrating so I chucked it. I also cut back a bit on the milk due to 284mL of broth/water x 3 not quite equalling the 900 mL of broth I used.

My version turned out darker than the Kraft-photographed one but I didn't use photo shop. It was probably the extra veggies in mine that changed the colour. I also started compiling a list of things that can get done while waiting for stupid vegetables to cook or for soup to boil. I'm taking multi-tasking to a whole new day.

By this, my 23rd recipe, I've also learned that I can chop vegetables in time to my iPod if I have the right bpm playing. How cool is that? I could take my show on the road! And I was even using the semi-scary knife, not my cute little yellow paring knife. The only tricky part is when I run out of veggies and have to slow down so that I don't mangle a finger. I could probably work that into the song if I practiced enough. I'll put it on my to-do list, right after: "Open my own soup kitchen".