Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

Question: How to use up two cans of evaporated milk in the cupboard?
Answer: this recipe!

Don't mind the photo of what looks like browny-orange sludge. Terrible light in the kitchen tonight....

I didn't have to buy a thing for this recipe. I do enjoy ones like that. The only modification (very slight) that I made was to use one can of skim evaporated milk while the other was 2%. I had no choice; those were all I had on hand.

This recipe is very simple to make, thankfully. I did end up having to cook mine an extra 13 minutes to get (most of) the milk to be absorbed. Maybe it's because my evaporated milks weren't the same, or maybe it was from the really juicy apple I used (Royal Gala, if you care), or maybe it was because today is Tuesday. Who knows?

Considering I just ate dinner and have now burned my mouth while destroying my taste buds by eating Flaming Hot Cheetos (thank you, cross-border shopping), I *think* this recipe tastes pretty good. Truthfully, I can't really taste anything right now and the heat of the Cheetos is making my nose run. I'll have to do a proper sampling in the morning when I sit down to some homemade apple cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Quick Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche

If the previous recipe (Mini Chip Butter Crisps) was about using up butter, this recipe aims to plow through my dozen eggs and giant bar of cheese.

I didn't alter this recipe terribly. I used whole wheat flour and marble cheese because they were already on hand. I smashed some whole wheat crackers that I found in the cupboard and skipped adding the salt. I didn't have any mustard on hand so I shook in "some" mustard powder. I couldn't find my measuring spoons so that's as precise as you'll get. My tomatoes were grape ones, and by using brown eggs, it was easier to find the egg shells in the bowl to fish them out.

When I printed this recipe to have as a reference while cooking, it added a segment that I don't see on the website. It gave me suggestions on how to best arrive at the smashed crackers so I chucked them in a bag and gave them a good beating with my rolling pin. A fun way to make breakfast!

Well, my version of this crust-less quiche is quite good! As a bonus, it's also healthy. I can't really taste any mustard as a stand out flavour so that went well. In fact, I might add more of it next time since there isn't a whole lot of flavour to the whole thing. The only drawback that I should mention is that steeping your tea while the quiche cooks for 30 minutes (because you forgot your tea was steeping) makes for some VERY strong tea. Add a lot of milk...

Mini Chip Butter Crisps

Erm, well, my version doesn't look exactly like the photo in the recipe, but mine are still yummy. If you like shortbread or shortbread-esque cookies, you might want to try this one with the whole wheat flour like I did. I don't know what the all-purpose flour version tastes like, but mine is strongly reminiscent of shortbread.

So yes, I used whole wheat flour for my cookies because I don't have any white flour on hand. That's the only substitution I made which is a good thing since there aren't many ingredients! The only drawback to the whole wheat flour is that it's somewhat difficult to discern when the cookies have baked enough. It's all very well to wait until they're golden brown, but if they start out brown, well... I ended up baking all of mine for about 14 minutes per batch.

This recipe is a great way to start using up the 2 lbs of butter that you discovered in the deep freeze while spring cleaning. I recommend the cookies and the cleaning!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lemon Squares

I don't normally eat a lot of dessert, but I've got an awful lot of baking ingredients lying around, begging me to use them up. I found this recipe under the "Healthy" section so I thought I'd give it a try.

I think next time, mostly for esthetic reasons, I'll use regular white flour for this recipe. I only had whole wheat flour on hand and wasn't going to go buy more just for this recipe. It does make the crust a little difficult to discern when it has baked to a golden brown, and the lemon topping looks a little weird with whole wheat flour in it, but overall, it doesn't seem to affect the taste and might even enhance the "healthy" factor. I didn't substitute any other ingredients and actually added the salt which I don't normally do when cooking.

I went and bought a pasty blender to try with this recipe, but it didn't really work all that well. It eventually got the job done, but seemed to clog very easily with the ingredients it was supposed to be blending. First time for everything. I managed to separate the egg without incident, but spilled flour and sugar all over the counter when they surged unexpectedly quickly out of their respective bags. I squeezed the lemon into a separate little dish before adding to the big bowl of ingredients which turned out to be a stroke of brilliance on my part. It's easier to pick out the seeds from the smaller bowl.

You might want to read ahead as I failed to do, and notice that you're supposed to pour the filling onto the cooled, baked base. The operative word here is cool because when my filling was ready, my base was still blazing hot, having just recently been snatched from the oven. A trip downstairs to the "cold cellar", and an eventual stay in the freezer finally chilled the temperature enough for my impatient self.

You might notice from my photo that my light dusting of confectioner's sugar is rather heavy-handed. Once again, the sugar threw itself out of the tipped bag in a giant pile before I could correct the angle at which I was pouring it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Besides, the white top helps to disguise the strange appearance of the filling.

The ratio of filling to crust seems a little low to me. While the filling has a nice lemon flavour, there just isn't very much of it and most of my mouthfuls consist of salty-ish crust and excessive amounts of sickeningly sweet icing sugar, the latter being my own fault. I also don't seem to have prepared my pan well enough as I have to fight with my squares to remove them which results in a lot of messy lemon square destruction. Oh well, at least they're tasty.

Rice Krispie "Squares"

Haha, we're kicking it old school this morning. I needed a way to use up a box of Rice Krispies, and since I don't really like them as cereal because they go soggy about 1.26 seconds after milk makes contact, I decided to make some squares. It was also a good way to use up the remainder of a bag of marshmallows that I found.

I had a bit of a bad experience the last time I tried this recipe. Back then, I used stale marshmallows and semi-stale cereal which resulted in a discovery that not all marshmallows will melt, no matter how much heat is applied to them. I tried melting mine (last time) in the traditional stove method, but when I ended up with a gooey blob of butter-coated marshmallows, I resorted to the microwave method. That netted me an overflowing bowl of mostly unmelted, butter-coated marshmallow goo, and a big, sticky mess to clean later. When I finally threw it back in the pot with a thunk, the cereal refused to stick to it no matter how much I stirred. It was damn ugly. I threw it out and started again. My cousin Jenny told me later that she once melted a spatula into her marshmallow mix so at least there are two of us who've messed up such a basic recipe.

This time around, having learned from my past mistakes, I had fresh ingredients. Once again, I started with the stovetop method for no particular reason other than the fact that I like cooking with my big camping pot. It's kind of ghetto in a fun way. Only problem is, the bottom of the pot is rather concave so it doesn't all touch the burner. Not only does this result in uneven heat distribution, but all the butter ran to the outside edges of the bottom as it melted. Meh, who cares?

I used exactly 41 big marshmallows because that's how many were left in the bag. They melted in a satisfactory manner, but glued themselves quite strongly to the pot in the process. I told you: ghetto. This glue-like property of my marshmallow mess made things rather difficult when it came time to stir in the cereal. The marshmallows seemed to prefer to stick to the pot, but eventually, with the help of a spatula and a wooden spoon, I convinced most of the marshmallow mess to adhere to the cereal.

I put the finished product downstairs in my front entryway which serves as a cold cellar this time of year. It cooled pretty quickly and nicely, resulting in a most delicious giant dessert. Yum!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Baked Chicken with Brown Rice and Veggies

Recipe #51: http://recipes.runnersworld.com/Recipe/baked-chicken-with-brown-rice-and-veggies.aspx

Well, I lucked out on this recipe in terms of groceries. I didn't need to buy any. The best kind of recipe!

I didn't have the precise chicken bits that they called for so I used my last two chicken breasts. My soup wasn't the no-fat, no-fun version, just the regular version. I used my newly discovered no-salt-added chicken broth, and since I had an extra 3/4 of a cup to finish off the container, I threw it in the dish and added an extra 1/3 cup of brown rice to compensate. No scallions here. Don't like them and didn't have any. I didn't bother with the pepper and added the paprika after uncovering the chicken. The veggies I used are a peculiar mixed batch that I probably won't buy again, containing such things as yellow zucchini and lima beans. I also used an 8x8 glass pan instead of the recommended 9x13 size.

I had an epiphany the other day when I discovered that I could use the 1/2 tsp twice to fit into a spice container when the 1 tsp spoon wouldn't fit. Genius! Saved me shaking the bloody spice all over the counter as has happened before.

After the chicken finished cooking, there was a bit of rice stuck to the edges of the dish, but overall, the soupiness that I had seen earlier was gone. Stir in some veggies, cover, and chuck back in the oven for a few more minutes.

End result? Tasty! LOTS of rice in my version, but hopefully you will abide by the suggestions laid forth in the actual recipe. I just realized I was so hungry and my food was so good that I forgot to take a picture for the blog...bon appetit!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spice-Rubbed Steak with White Beans and Cherry Tomatoes

Wow, my blog just turned 50. Weird... and yet, I'm proud at the same time.

This recipe is a pretty easy, quick one if you're in the mood for such a thing. Not particularly vegetarian-friendly, but tasty for the meat-eaters out there. It's also high in fibre and low in calories since much of the flavour comes from the spices. As usual, I omitted the added salt and plumb forgot to add the pepper.

I wasn't quite sure what this recipe meant by "white beans" since there are a few different types of beans which are white: navy, kidney, chick peas are kind of white. I went with white kidney beans since they looked similar to the picture. The cans I bought were 19 oz each since they don't come in 15 oz size. Beans are good for me anyway. I couldn't find cherry tomatoes so I got a pint of grape tomatoes.

I'm not terribly well-versed in cooking meat yet so I called in the meat-a-tarian for some expert advice on the steak. I spread a little olive oil on one side, then sprinkled on the spices, and gave the chunk of dead cow a nice little massage. After it was carefully added to the heated pan, I did the same for the other side. The meat-a-tarian provided some good advice so I fed him some deceased animal as a thanks.

My beans ended up a little mushy, accidently headed toward refried, because I kept stirring them in the pan, afraid they would burn otherwise. I did add 1 tbsp of water after adding the beans since the pan was hissing in a rather menacing way. Next time, I'll add the beans, stir them in a bit with the tbsp of water, then let it all sit and warm itself instead of stirring them to death. I might add more garlic next time for a bit more kick. It's good for me too.

All in all, the meat was tender and flavourful, and the bean/tomato combination was tasty too. I also heated some peas and canned mushrooms so the dinner was heavy on the vegetables. My stomach is happy with both new recipes today.

Kale, Lentil & Chicken Soup

This recipe has a few firsts in it for me: first time buying and using kale, same applies to lentils, and it was the first time I would discover a no-salt-added chicken broth (PC Blue Menu brand, found at Real Canadian Superstore).

A suggestion about kale, if I might: I bought mine on Thursday after work, kept it in the fridge as I thought it might need, but by the time I went to use it on Saturday morning, about half of it was already limp. I used it anyway because when it gets cooked into soup, no one is any the wiser about how it looked before it entered the pot, especially if you don't tell them.... You might want to wait until the day you plan to use it before buying kale. Also, the bunch that I bought (only way it was sold) is more than what's required for the recipe, so either use it all in the soup or have an alternate plan for the leftovers. I'm still working on the latter...

The making of this recipe was fairly uneventful, even after having been out of cooking practice for a while recently. The only mishap was when I added the red lentils to the pot, but failed to notice that the bag was not entirely over the pot. Now I have lentils in the pot, on the stove, under the burner, on the counter, and under my bare feet on the floor. I managed to salvage most of what was on the stove and counter, but accidently added a lot more to the floor in the process. Grrrr!

I ended up with more than 1 cup of onion because I just chopped up one onion. I also had 9.35 oz of kale instead of the suggested 8 oz. I used baby carrots and just chopped them as I always do, and used 2 large cloves of garlic because garlic is good for me. I had fresh basil but it wasn't snipped; I just squeezed 1 tbsp worth out of the tube that I keep in the fridge. As usual, I didn't add any salt and just ground a bunch of black pepper into the pot. I gave up measuring black pepper ages ago after my friend laughed hysterically while watching me attempt to grind pepper into a 1/4 tsp measuring spoon. If you're really anal about it, I've seen ground pepper in the spice racks at the grocery store.

The simmer-and-wait intervals for this recipe provide the cook with time to do some dishes, tidy up, or if you're me, surf the internet on your laptop that you brought into the kitchen with you because the recipe is online. The end result (lentil disaster notwithstanding) is hot and tasty. The kale feels a little strange in the mouth at first because it has very ruffled edges, but the overall result has me heading to the pot for a second helping.