Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chocolate-Orange Pancakes

My flipping skills need work. Like, a lot of work. As in there is batter flung all over the stove and me....

Well, if you are an enjoyer of Terry's Chocolate Oranges and other such treats, you'll probably enjoy these pancakes one heck of a lot. They have chocolate and orange too.... kind of what it sounds like.

I only ran into one major issue with this recipe, besides my newly discovered ability to create a big mess by slinging batter around. I melted the butter as directed for this recipe, but when I added it to the bowl with the rest of the wet ingredients, I was horrified to discover lumps of weird stuff when I began to stir. The butter unmelted itself when it hit the cold eggs and buttermilk. I fished out most of the lumps and remelted them, but this time I didn't add them back to the mixture until it was already half-mixed with the dry ingredients. Next time, I'll either let the buttermilk and eggs warm to room temperature, or hold off on adding any butter until almost the end of the mixing. Also, I really don't think 1/4 cup of butter is completely necessary. One could probably get by fine using slightly less butter.

Beware also how much batter you put in the pan. I made one pancake at a time and it's a good thing I did! I didn't measure them out to the suggested 1/4 cup which could have been part of the problem. Instead, I used a ladle that I found in my drawer although I used slightly less than a whole ladleful for each pancake. Problem is, the batter spreads across the hot pan so that by the time you're ready to flip the pancake, it's larger than your flipper spatula thing in my case. I felt as though I was flipping the world's biggest pancakes, and I had to do so in a hurry since the sides of it were hanging precariously off the flipper. My haste is how I ended up with batter splatter so keep that in mind for your versions...

Well, I'm done cooking now. I was a little worried about the pancakes tasting too "orange-y", but if anything, they're quite chocolately so that's all good. I cooked a few of them a little longer than I should have, mostly because I was distracted by having my laptop in the kitchen with me. Note to self: Don't play Bejeweled Blitz when I'm supposed to be watching for bubbles in the batter. The only part I'm not 100% fond of is the buttery-ness of the pancakes. Again, I think the 1/4 cup is a little excessive. It makes them tasty but kind of greasy. Since I'm a little horrified at the nutritional value of 3 pancakes, I'm only eating two tonight and I'll freeze the rest for instant dinners/breakfast-on-the-go at some future point.

This'll be my last recipe for the next little while. I'm off to the No PST Province on Thursday for a mini snowboarding vacation, hooray! Happy Holidays to all my loyal readers. See you when I'm back :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gin Gin Soup

WARNING: This recipe (see link above) is flawed as of time of writing this. It lists chickpeas in the ingredients, but fails to make any mention of them under "Method". As in when to add stuff to the pot. You may notice my comment on the web page asking about when to add the chickpeas. I only noticed they weren't accounted for as I was adding the broth so that's when I added the chickpeas to mine. I also rinsed and drained them prior to chucking them in the pot. No idea if that's correct or not.

My poor R index finger has another blister from chopping, chopping, chopping. My blister on my L ring finger from a cupcake pan burn is healed so maybe my destiny is for my hands to alternate blisters from various causes? Can't say I'm very impressed by the idea.

Aside from the endless chopping, this recipe seems fairly simple if you also disregard the lack of information in it (see warning at beginning). I chose it because it doesn't have peppers in it and because I wanted a chicken soup recipe for the impending-winter-potential-illness months ahead. If I get sick, I'm sure as anything not going to feel like cooking myself some chicken soup. Knock on wood that my preventative cooking pays off!

And may I suggest buying a cabbage on the smaller size for more reasons than just less to chop. I have a HUGE mound of cabbage on the counter. There's lots on the floor too but I'm too tired to go looking for it all. It blends too well with the lino here in the kitchen so my feet keep finding it before my eyes do. When I added it to the pot, it rose above the line of my liquid and threatened to overtake the entire stovetop. Be careful that yours doesn't fall under the stove burners like mine did because the smell is kind of gross. I had to really stir to find any other ingredients. I will not be using my soup as a "cabbage soup diet": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabbage_soup_diet

I used my new good-enough-for-government-work method of mincing garlic where I smash it flat with the side of the big, scary metal knife, then chop it into tiny pieces. I'm so pleased I figured this out. I really hate digging garlic mash out of the garlic press. When I added the garlic to the vegetable/chicken mixture, I even got a nice garlic facial out of the deal.

According to my calculations, the 2 quarts of chicken stock called for equals 8 cups. Don't pour part of yours on the counter and stove without noticing like I did while you add it to the pot. If you use as much bloody cabbage as I did, and your stock comes in 900mL tetra paks like mine does (currently on sale at Sobey's, fyi), you'll need a good 2 boxes and I used maybe 1/5-1/4 of a beef broth one I had already opened. Still, my cabbage is mostly overwhelming the pot so keep that in mind if you wonder where all your liquid went.

This soup is tasty if you don't mind cabbage in large quantities. I'm feeling rather eastern European as I eat. According to Wikipedia, cabbage is a good source of riboflavin, dietary fibre, vitamin C, and glutamine which is an amino acide with anti-inflammatory properties. Dig in!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Spaghetti Sauce Italiano

It's freeze it and forget it night. Two recipes, made mostly concurrently, that can both be hauled out of the freezer on a night when I'm too tired to cook.

Well, my spaghetti sauce in the slow cooker just finished bubbling away for the last 4 hours. I'm still full from the Garbanzo Bean Stew to sample much of the spaghetti sauce, but the bit that I did burn my mouth on was nice and flavourful, mostly tomato-y.

I could have made this recipe easier for myself if I hadn't suddenly decided to make it today, and subsequently had to work with minimally thawed ground beef. I also had to run to the grocery store for more tomato paste so now I've got an extra on hand for the future. I had everything else on hand save for the gross green pepper which will never live here if I have a say in the matter. We're not friends. By using the ground beef that I already had on hand, I've now got a little extra room in the deep freeze for my just-cooked recipes. Either them or sprinkle donuts, hmmm....

I didn't do much to this recipe if you don't count not technically mincing the garlic because I was too lazy to scrape it out of the mincer thing and then wash it. Instead, I smashed the garlic with the flat side of the big metal knife, then chopped it up really small. Same effect, if you ask me. Makes a sticky garlic mess either way. I didn't have the two cans of diced tomatoes on hand so I used a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes. I figure a 1 or 2 oz difference will not matter. Luckily, as I was draining the first can of mushrooms, I happened to look at the size of it (8oz) which saved me having to open the second one. These recipe people must shop in the teeniest grocery store. All their can sizes seem really small. I used a jazzy tomato paste that had garlic and herbs in it because I do like garlic, especially in Italian food recipes.

Other than having to wildly hack apart the mostly frozen meat as it cooked, the rest of the recipe was easy. Just throw it in the slow cooker and check it in 4 hours. That is, if you're not trying to make another recipe at the same time while talking on the phone and trying to answer the door...

Now I have something yummy to look forward to for dinner tomorrow. I love spaghetti!

Garbanzo Bean Stew

Oh, I have hit the stew recipe jackpot! Exactly what I need on a extraordinarily frustrating day like today where my internet connection and land line have both gone bananas for hours.

You've got to try this recipe. No whining about not liking beans or, in my case, strongly disliking hummus. This stew is thick, tasty, and filling. It probably has some degree of nutritional value too. Granted, the beef broth and the use of kielbasa sausage might not mesh well with a vegetarian lifestyle, but I'm sure there's a way around that. You'll have to come up with that on your own.

An easy recipe to make but a word of caution before you start: if you plan to follow the slow cookier method, know or measure to know the volume that your slow cooker holds before you start. Ah, fool me once, potato soup recipe, but not this time. I've long lost the papers that came with my slow cooker, but it's not big enough for what's suggested for this recipe, according to Google. So I followed the stovetop method way down at the bottom. In the end, it worked out well because I've got another recipe currently bubbling away in my slow cooker. I'll post it when it's done in a few hours.

As usual, I left out the gross peppers from this recipe. I may have convinced myself to use onion at last, but I still hate peppers so they're a no go. I used 1/4 tsp of squeeze-tube basil instead of the dried amount, I left out the salt at the bottom because things like broth are salty enough, and my tomato paste was a "herb and spice" version. I found it at the grocery store next to the plain, boring kind that I already had (I needed more for my other recipe) so I figured I'd try the jazzy kind to add a little more flavour.

I was a little nervous about adding the hummus at the end. First of all, although I love chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and garlic, I dislike hummus. Weird, because it's basically those two ingredients smashed up together, but I stand by my palate. I wasn't really sure how it would taste in a stew recipe because my only experience with hummus so far has been as a vegetable dip that I skip past. But I trusted the recipe gods enough to add it (I bought regular hummus although there were some pretty fancy versions available), and although the stew smells a bit strange, it's quite flavourful and the hummus is barely noticeable. So go ahead and chuck yours in. Just make sure to stir it in well so the flavour can be absorbed while it simmers.

With all those high-in-fibre beans in there, your GI tract is sure to thank you later although your friends and family may disappear for a while. Dig in but don't say I didn't warn you....

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Oh, these cupcakes are SO not low-fat, low-cholesterol, Atkins-friendly, or anything remotely good for you. I have 17 left, and if I eat them all myself, I will need to run for the next 16 years straight. Can someone take them off my hands please?

I have my friend Mandy to thank for suggesting these yummy cupcakes. I'm not sure why it never occurred to me before that the Food Network would have recipes online. Now I fear I might eventually make them all.

Well, this recipe was a good way to use up some of the buttermilk I had left over from the biscuits. I had to google conversions to figure out how much 1 lb of cream cheese equals in packages, and to translate 2 sticks of butter to a non-stick pound of butter. They are 2 packages of cream cheese and 1/2 cup of butter, respectively. I was a bit afraid of putting vinegar in my batter, but I ripped open one of the packets of vinegar I had from a Harvey's excursion and measured away. Turned out fine in the end although I'm still puzzled as to why it was required in the first place.

The oil was a bit of a problem. You see, I meant to make this recipe about a week ago when I bought the 3 packages of cream cheese on sale. Got busy, cooked other stuff, and by the time I got around to these cupcakes today, I didn't have enough oil anymore. That is, I didn't have enough canola oil, and I didn't realize it until I was midway through the recipe. That being said, I had to make up the remaining 1/2 cup of outstanding oil with some really nice olive oil that my Italian chef friend gave me. The man knows his olive oils. It's not exactly what the Food Network suggested but it's probably got good fats in it or something.

There weren't too many issues with these cupcakes, aside from the fact that I need new oven mitts badly. I was taking out the first batch of cupcakes with the oven mitts on, and managed to give my poor left ring finger a nice second degree burn through the mitt, nearly dropping the cupcake tray in the process. All this at about 8 in the morning on a Saturday :( Luckily, I have some new bandaids so later on, I slapped on a cupcake bandaid and some polysporin.

Funny enough, I was staring at my giant bowl of red batter and looking at my cupcake papers all neatly filling the pan, wondering how on earth I ended up with so much batter for just 12 cups, when something made me squint up at the recipe again where I suddenly realized I was making 24 cupcakes, not a dozen. Whew! In my overzealous filling, I ended up with only 21 cupcakes, the last 3 being rather large when they absorbed the batter from 3 pitiful ones before going in the oven.

Warning: when you make the icing, it makes A LOT! I iced my cupcakes rather heavy-handedly and still had a ton of icing left over which is now in the freezer. Even if I'd had 24 cupcakes to ice as generously as I did, I would still have a lot of leftover icing. That being said, you might want to reduce your icing recipe somewhat. Don't ask me by how much. Ask the lady who made the recipe why she wants so much!

In conclusion, I'm still somewhat of a baking menace in the kitchen, this time with crappy oven mitts to blame. The cupcake shop people here in town don't need to fear about me putting them out of business yet. I'm also going to be very fat soon unless I can find some people to regularly take my baking off my hands. I do suggest making this tasty recipe for yourselves (not with olive oil if you can help it), but not if you're home alone. They are very hard to resist.


Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie

It would seem these last few days have been spent doing everything but blogging. I actually made this recipe back then, but am only just now getting around to the writing part.

Anyone want to hazard a guess as to how tricky it can be to make chicken pot pie when you don't actually have any chicken in the freezer like you were convinced you did? Good thing I've learned some improv skills in the kitchen over the last few months. You can rename this recipe "Deep Dish Steak Pot Pie" if you're going to emulate my version.

I have a kitchen scale now but was in too much of a hurry to whip it out to weigh the steaks that I was using to replace the chicken. Instead, I did some fancy math using the following formula: Two chicken breasts usually equals roughly a pound of chicken. Therefore, 2 flattish steaks will probably equal roughly a pound of meat. Voila! Instant substitution.

Since I was making the dead cow version of this recipe, I used beef broth instead of chicken broth. Personally, I don't favour one over the other; rather, I was trying to be consistent. I figured the kitchen gods might look more favourably upon me if I didn't get too carried away. Some days, I can use all the help I can get...

With the peas/carrots as well as the frozen bland bean mixture, I JUST had 3 cups of vegetables so I chucked in a drained can of mushrooms as well. I did make sure the frozen veggies were thawed as directed because I didn't want my mixture getting too soupy. I had read a review on the Kraft site where one person complained that their version was really runny although they conveniently didn't mention if they'd followed the recipe precisely or not. I also drained off a lot of the liquid that came after cooking the meat, but I don't know if the same amount would be generated had I used chicken.

The rest of the recipe was pretty uneventful, aside from trying to convince the thawed pie shell that it was no longer necessary to cling to the pie plate as it was so strongly trying to do. I manhandled it very gently and eventually it gave up the ghost. I tried to flute the edges of it in my Corelle dish, but yeah, not so much. It looks a little mangled.

Result: Well received by my taster even though I thought the sauce was a wee bit thin for my liking. I guess one could always increase the cream cheese to thicken it up. This recipe is also good for breakfast, fyi :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cajun Lemon Chicken Strips

Recipe #36: http://www.dietcoke.com/cooking-entertaining/#/recipes

I love the fact that I got this recipe (you'll have to search for it on the site above) from the Diet Coke site. Fear not to those who abhor aspartame: there's no Diet Coke in the recipe. In fact, I have no idea why they have it on their site. I love random internet surfing.

Compared to the horrible day of gingerbread cookies, this recipe was much easier. Maybe I'm meant to be a cook, not a baker? Anyway, not much to this one, aside from realizing halfway through it that I did not, in fact and since corrected, own garlic powder as I was convinced I did.

Thus, a couple of tweaks: no garlic powder (turns out I'm not always right), I used 1 tsp of squeeze-tube basil in lieu of dried, I got a little excited with the paprika by accident, and I randomly threw in a few shakes of cumin so I could finally use the spice that I bought after I had a previous recipe that required it.

I was afraid my zest with the paprika would turn out too spicy for my delicate self, but I'm still alive to say that I was wrong. Again. But this time it's a good thing. Mild wings make my nose run; I'm not a spice girl. I quickly threw the chicken and marinade together in a bag, massaged it for a bit, stuffed it in the fridge, and ran to meet Cat at the gym. The length of time for the marinating was as long as it took me to get there, do the class that was neither power nor barbell, and struggle home in traffic.

I didn't grill my chicken because it was in strips. I'm afraid of the BBQ on good days and you think I'm going to try to figure out a way to grill strips of chicken when I'm tired, hungry, and it's cold out? Ha, fat chance. I baked it a bit longer than 20 minutes to make sure it bubbled as I instructed it to, but that length of time might be why my chicken was a tad dry. That, and the lack of lengthy marinade. Next time, I'll try using tinfoil as a cover in the oven. I served the chicken with a pasta Sidekick and yellow wax beans. Yum!

Crisp Gingerbread with Pecans

This was the first of the "12 Days of Cookies" series of recipes that I somehow signed myself up for. Let's just say that so far it's been the only damn day of cookies although they keep sending me a new recipe every day since.

I must have missed something vital with this recipe. I got the "gingerbread" and "pecans" part of it right, but it was about as crisp as rice pudding. As in, not so much the crisp as bendy. If bendy cookies were the goal, then I would have aced this recipe. I have no idea what happened.

With the exception of not bothering to make sure all my stupid pecan pieces were perfect halves, I didn't alter any ingredients for this one. I even went and bought fancy molasses and allspice that I will probably never use again. Then, one day, similar to my mother, I will discover 30-year old molasses in my cupboard and worry people by threatening to bake with it. In her case, it was corn syrup as old as her firstborn, but you get my point.

Another thing that rubbed salt in the wound of these cookies was the dough. Now I know what wrestling with gingerbread-scented super glue feels like. I even chilled the dough overnight, figuring more is better than less as directed. Thank goodness for the wax paper. Without it, I'd probably still be scraping horridly-adherent gingerbread dough off my kitchen counter, floor, stove, cookie cutters, and self.

Maybe I let it stand at room temperature too long? Granted, I was updating my status and packing to spend the day in the GTA, but I didn't let the time get completely out of hand. I had to keep throwing it back in the fridge while rotating through the three sections, and eventually I was putting it in the freezer to try and keep it cold enough to work with. It could have been the fact that I was wrestling with the dough next to the oven which was preheating. Could that have done me in? I just don't know.

Also to annoy me with this recipe, the darn cookies spread out while baking to become unrecognizable in their roles as gingerbread persons and bloody Christmas trees. Here's my chance to use my new holiday cookie cutters from Jenny, and the stupid cookies go all transformer on me! They look like seriously bloated people and arrowheads. Grrrr. I had to explain to my friends later that day that the thin, weird-looking treats I had made for them were, in fact, edible, just misshapen. I daren't ask as to whether anybody actually ate theirs.

I know I rolled the dough no more than 1/4" thick. I know this because I got a ruler and measured it so I'm eliminating that as a source for my disaster. The cookies cutters were not the 3.5 cm square as suggested, nor were they floured after more than one attempt, but I seriously doubt they're the trouble makers. They're just cute.

The first batch of gingerbread people and trees each got a non-perfect pecan gently pressed into them, but after they fell apart when I tried to transfer their baked selves to the racks to continue cooling, I chucked the pecans and just left the cookies plain. Did I mention I started baking at 8am, and was just wrapping up two hours later as I was supposed to be leaving for Toronto? So much for a stress-free start to the festive season.

So, long story short, if you try this recipe, please let me know how your version turns out. Also, if you have any ideas - based on my notes in this blog entry - where I went wrong, constructive criticism is always welcome. Leave me a comment or drop me a line: truehockeygirl@yahoo.com