Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Citrus Meltaways

I made another batch of cookies. I started with this recipe, though obviously there were some adjustments made. I ran out of vanilla the other day. Though actually I just realized I have another bottle. Oh well, the dough is already in the freezer for later.

I had a few limes that I bought as an impulse purchase because everywhere else I looked the limes were like $1 a piece and this was actually reasonable, I forget what. Then they sat in my produce drawer, making them less of a savings. But I used one tonight! The outside wasn't looking so good because it had been sitting in my produce drawer for a few weeks. I had some lemon zest in the freezer so I decided to use that, making them Citrus Meltaways rather than Lime Meltaways.

These posts might be more interesting if I had actually made them and tasted them but the dough tasted good! Quite bright and citrus-y. Hopefully it will keep its acidity after it bakes.

1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lime juice
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
a pinch of salt
2/3 cup powdered sugar

Cream the butter and 1/3 cup powdered sugar until light and fluffy.
Add zest and juice and cream until well combined and light.
Mix in flour and salt.
Roll into a 1.5" diameter log and chill for at least 1 hour.
Slice into 1/8" rounds.
Bake at 350 for about 15 mins or until just barely brown.
Place the remaining powdered sugar in a bowl. When the cookies come out of the oven, toss them in the powdered sugar so that it sticks all over the cookies.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Daring Bakers: French Yule Log

This is a pretty intense recipe. I didn't even know what a yule log was, let along a French yule log. There are all sorts of layers and stuff. But it didn't actually take all that long. And a fair amount of it was just put it in the freezer and wait. And I could leave it in the freezer for after all the Christmas nonsense is over.

Now apparently someone caught that the cream was supposed to be whipped in the mousse. But I had printed my recipe earlier. And although I had looked at a lot of comments, I hadn't actually looked at the first page with the recipe corrections. When I was mixing in the cream I thought it was kinda strange but I figured oh well. After I mixed in the last bit of cream I looked at the recipe and saw the correction. Oh well. Still tasted good. Though it probably would have been lighter and fluffier if it had been whipped.

There are a lot of parts to this dessert. There are a whole bunch of layers in there that each need to be made and baked and cooled. They are all small thin layers which means to prep them you need lots of small pot, pans and bowls. I don't have a pot small enough for quite a few of the items. I ended up doing quite a few in a measuring cup and some in the microwave when things needed to be heated/melted.

From the top, it's glaze, mousse, creme brulee, mousse, crisp, mousse, ganache, cake.

The crisp layer didn't work out for me very well. I had issues getting it spread because my pan is slightly warped. Then I left it in the oven too long and the edges burnt. And the creme brulee layer ended up a bit icy as it is a frozen dessert.

The mousse was really rich and good. I will probably make it again, just as mousse, not sure about the whole thing. It was pretty easy too. The ganache and cake are pretty good too though the best part is really the mousse.

Look, I even got a not awful looking (for me) picture! mmmmm

Picture this said by one of those fast talking end of a commercial guys:
"This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Pappa Al Pomodoro

This recipe was chosen by Natalie. Now when I saw the name I didn't even know what it was. Pappa Al Pomidoro. How am I supposed to know what that is? I had to look at the recipe a few times before I even pieced it together. It's a soup (mine came out closer to a stew) with bread in it and croutons.

Mistake #1 was starting this when I was hungry. So I started chopping stuff and then I started rummaging around looking for something I could eat right away. Then I'd do another step and go looking for more food. Miraculously I didn't burn anything (including myself)

So this is how I started. I chopped up the veggies that were in the recipe (sorta). I bought a kinda big bulb of fennel so it was probably more than the recipe, plus I had all the fronds and it was throw them in or throw them out... you can see what I did. I just used up the carrots I had, it may or may not be as much as it asked for and when I went to chop the onions (it called for 2) I realized I only had 1 good one. The other one wasn't looking so good. But here are the veggies in the pot.... on top of this there is so much stuff that is supposed to go in, I probably should have used a different pot.

When I went to the grocery store I knew I needed bread and fennel. Forgot to look at what type of bread so I got a baguette. When I got home I realize it called for ciabatta but oh well. It said to put some of it in the soup, like in with the veggies and in there while it simmers. I don't really understand what was supposed to happen with the bread... mine just turned mushy but didn't break down enough to thicken the soup. But the croutons were good. I used maple bacon instead of pancetta, which is slightly weird though not bad. And I toasted them up on the stove rather than in the oven.

Oh and I left out the wine and used a lot less tomato and stock then called for, probably why it came out so stew like.

So this is my super anise-y stew with maple bacon croutons. It's not bad, though definitely way too much fennel. I'll definitely use this approach to making toast, croutons or any other bread product in the future. If I make the soup again I think I'll leave the bread out and just make extra croutons.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Gift Giving

"The foundation of gift giving is reciprocity. You haven't given me a gift, you've given me an obligation."

"The essence of the custom is that I now have to go out and purchase for you a gift of commensurate value and representing the same perceived level of friendship as that represented by the gift you've given me. It's no wonder suicide rates skyrocket this time of year."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Shrimp Fried Rice

So I don't really know why this is but I seem to constantly be trying to use up stuff in my fridge. It doesn't really make sense because there should be some stage of filling the fridge so that I have something to empty. But I don't seem to have that phase. Possibly because I tend to buy groceries on impulse so then it goes into the fridge and becomes something to use up.

This weekend I bought a lobster because I was reading all over the place what a good deal lobster was right now and that it wouldn't last. Now it is in the freezer. I don't know what I am going to do with it since I've never cooked a lobster before.

Anyway, back to this post..... I needed to make something else to cover lunches for the week and I'd thawed out some shrimp. Though I didn't feel like making more pasta this time. I was kinda craving something asian-ish. I thought about beef with broccoli but then I had thawed the shrimp. I know, I'm brilliant.

So this is what I ended up with. It took a while because I chopped the veggies ridiculously small. Like 1/32 of an inch small. And I don't exactly have the best knife skills. But I didn't cut myself, which is totally an accomplishment. It was largely a 'hey look, I have x' type dish. Though the one thing I bought for it was bean sprouts, which I forgot to add. Now I'll have to think of something else to use the bean sprouts in before they go bad.

Fried Rice

1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup carrots, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
roast pork, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 cups raw shrimp, chopped
a few cups leftover white rice
2 eggs
soy sauce
rice wine vinegar
oyster sauce
vegetable oil

Chop everything before you start.
Heat up a large skillet on high heat. I suppose you could use a wok but, well, I didn't.
Add some oil to the pan and cook the shrimp, just until they turn barely pink.
Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside in a bowl.
Add the roast pork and toss until it is warmed through and releases some of its fat.
Add the pork to the shrimp.
Add the onions, celery and carrots to the pan. Add oil as needed.
Saute for a minute until everything softens.
Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
Add rice, pork and shrimp and stir to combine.
Allow to sit for a few seconds to let the bottom get crisp.
Pour eggs over the top and stir.
Saute until the eggs get cooked through.
Pour soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and oyster sauce over the rice and combine.
Taste and determine if you need anything else.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mushroom and Onion Bread Pudding

I had some seriously stale bread sitting around. This bread to be specific. So I was trying to think of what to do with it. So I ended up on the route to bread pudding. But I didn't want a regular bread pudding because A, been there done that and it wasn't that great and I haven't really found a really good recipe and B, my moratorium on baked goods until after Christmas.

So I decided to do a savory bread pudding. Also a great way to use up stuff in the fridge. Impressively, this actually came out better than my attempts at a normal bread pudding. Rich and creamy with a bit of a crust on the edges. I just used up the bread I had, the rest of a just past the expiration date carton of milk, mushrooms that were in the fridge that were getting close, a hunk of Asiago I bought a while ago because Asiago is wonderful but didn't have anything in mind for what I was going to do with it and a few other things.

Mushroom and Onion Bread Pudding

A bunch of stale bread, torn or cut into small chunks, enough to fill a 8x10 baking pan or whatever you decide to use
2 cups of milk, I am guessing, I just poured the rest of the carton in and figured that was good
5 eggs, lightly beaten
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz Asiago cheese, grated
splash of hot sauce

Saute the mushrooms in some olive oil. When they are browned remove them from the pan.
In the same pan, sweat the onions on low with a generous pinch of salt and oil until just starting to brown.
Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
Add the mushrooms and bread and toss to combine while the pan cools.
Whisk together the eggs and milk in a medium bowl.
Add about 1 tsp of salt, grind in some pepper and add the hot sauce. Mix to combine.
Mix in the bread mixture. Allow to sit for several minutes to allow the moisture to soak into the bread.
Mix in the cheese, saving some for the top.
Coat your baking pan with non stick cooking spray
Transfer the mixture into the baking pan.
Sprinkle with the reserved cheese.
Bake at 350 for 45 mins.
Allow to cool and set for at least 15 mins before serving.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holiday Spirit

I hate Christmas. I hate the stupid people standing outside every store trying to get your money. I hate the stupid Christmas music that stupid stores feel the need to play. I hate all the crowds out there buying stupid gifts getting in my way of just regular everyday life. And people who claim to be all holiday spirit-y and then they kill someone trying to get some stupid toy or a deal on that TV. This is what they call Christmas spirit? This is what how people show their love and goodwill to others and peace and all that other crap?

I hate people going to church, though this hatred isn't as strong now since at least I don't live across the street from a church any more. From my experience the strongly religious, in particular Catholics as that was the church I lived by, are the most rude, inconsiderate people. I am still bitter about living there. All the church people parking illegally, blocking driveways, blocking streets, hitting cars and not even stopping to assess damage, parking in multiple parking spots that had clearly been shoveled out by hand.... I could keep going and going, like the energizer bunny but I think you get the idea.

Now I realize this is not necessarily a function of the holidays. It's more a function of human nature and pretty much that people suck but the holidays seem to augment this. It brings out everything bad about people. And there are plenty of bad things. Well, maybe not everything but enough for me to hate this time of year.

So here comes my dilemma.

I want to make cookies. But I am strongly opposed to making anything that might be associated with holiday cheer and all that garbage. The fact that I did the Daring Bakers challenge (to be posted later this month) was bad enough. But don't worry, mine doesn't resemble what it was supposed to look like.

So this is what I've decided to do. I made the cookies. Well, at least the dough. Now the dough is one more thing in my freezer. I'll bake them when all this ridiculousness is over and I can go back to baking. My goal is to not do any baking until after all this crap. Unless I think of something that cannot be twisted into some sort of holiday cheer type thing.

So this is what I decided on. I still have candy left from Halloween. I know, most people finished theirs a month or more ago but I still have some there because I was figuring I'd use it for some sort of baked goods and then haven't quite gotten to it yet. Well now I have. I made a chocolate cookie dough, broke up the candy and mixed it in. I had Butterfingers a whole bunch of Butterfingers. Enough to fill up a bowl so I decided that was all I was going to use in this batch. I also had Baby Ruth's and Crunch bars and a few other things but that's all I used.

I had a little trouble initially because my heat wasn't working that day and it was cold. So when I went to cream the butter it didn't work extremely well. I left it on the counter for 24 hours thinking it wasn't under 55 in my house so it'd soften but it still wasn't as soft as usual. Oh well. I proceeded like it was soft and just let the mixer beat it a bit more.

I made them into cookie size balls so when I'm ready to make them I just have to plop them on a cookie sheet and they are good to go. I was lazy and didn't feel like going upstairs to get my computer to choose a recipe and figured I'd just fudge it.

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup cocoa powder
a whole bunch of fun size Butterfingers, crushed

Cream the butter and sugars together. Add the vanilla followed by the eggs, one at a time, mixing until combined between additions. Scrape down the bowl and mix again to make sure it's uniform.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. Add to the wet and mix until uniform. Scrape down the sides and make sure it's actually uniform. Mix in the Butterfingers.
Scoop into cookie size balls. Chill the balls for at least 2 hours. Bake at 350. Or don't. Timing will depend on how big you made the cookies, like all cookies.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Coq Au Vin

The first recipe for this month's Barefoot Bloggers is Coq Au Vin. It was chosen by Bethany. This recipe was an interesting choice because I've never actually cooked a whole chicken. Usually I buy cut up parts. Whether it's breasts, thighs, drumsticks, usually I only get one cut.

Well I bought a whole one cut up. I'd never really looked for a whole chicken before so I thought they would come whole and you have to cut them up. It was a whole lot easier that it was already broken down.

Another concern with this recipe was the wine. I don't drink. So I was a little unsure as to what to use. I was at the store when I called K (notice the Gossip Girl reference that totally amuses me) to tell me what to buy. I bought a Merlot. I'd have to dig through the trash to see what brand but I don't really care.

I didn't bother with the oil for the bacon... I never use oil for bacon, once the pan gets hot the bacon releases so much fat it seem like a waste of effort. I only used 4 strips of bacon. And I went to 3 different stores is search of frozen pearl onions before I gave up and decided to go home. The sliced onions will have to do.

My pic looks quite unappetizing and I couldn't decide what the appropriate utensil was so I stuck one of everything in the bowl. Oh and I made some roasted brussel sprouts that are underneath. But it was a decent meal. I maybe over cooked it because the meat was practically falling off the bone but it was good and I like it like that.

Coq Au Vin

4 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces
1 chicken, broken down
1/2 lb carrots, cut into bite size pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 sprigs of rosemary
1 bottle red wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp flour
1/2 lb mushrooms

Cook the bacon on medium in a cast iron dutch oven. Remove the bacon and leave the drippings to cook the rest. Add chicken pieces to form a single layer and brown on both sides. Set aside with the bacon and brown the rest of the chicken. Remove all the chicken. Add the onions and carrots and cook until the onions just start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds. Start adding the wine, stock, rosemary and add back the chicken and bacon. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. Move to a 250 degree oven and allow to cook for about 40 mins. Form a roux with 1 tbsp oil and flour and add it to the chicken. Brown the mushrooms in the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil and then add to the chicken. Simmer for a few minutes.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Garlic Shrimp Pasta

I really should cut back on my grocery shopping. My freezer is absolutely packed. First, I had a stash of all sorts of things that I felt I needed to stock my fridge: frozen peas, corn, a few bottles of water, vodka, frozen shrimp, a frozen pizza, a few ice packs, assorted nuts and so on. Then there was batches of assorted things that I just had too much of: pasta I'd made, an angel food cake because I had egg whites left from all the cinnamon buns, a bunch of bagels, some of the leftover risotto cakes I'd made a while ago. And then there was all the stuff left from thanksgiving, a shelf full of stuff my parents brought, turkey stock, turkey soup left from the turkey pot pies.

So it was time to start using up stuff that was there. This time I decided to use up some shrimp and pasta from the freezer. I made something between a shrimp scampi and an alfredo sauce. Came out pretty good and it was really easy to make and only took a couple minutes. I made enough for 2 meals, one for dinner and one to take to work for lunch sometime during the week.

Garlic Shrimp Pasta

Shrimp (enough for 1 layer across the bottom of the pan)
Butter (about 1 tbsp)
Olive Oil (about 1 tbsp)
Garlic (2 cloves), finely minced
Fresh Pasta (1/3 lb)
Flour (about 1 tbsp)
Splash of milk
A squeeze of lemon juice

Thaw the shrimp, peel and devein as needed. Sprinkle with flour, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Set a pan on medium low and add the butter and oil. Add the garlic and shrimp, laying it out so the shrimp forms a single layer. Cook for about 1 min until the underside is pink and flip shrimp over. Add milk and heat up to a simmer.

Meanwhile, boil the pasta. It should only take a minute or so to cook fresh pasta. Add it to the shrimp and toss. Squeeze lemon juice on top.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Turkey Pot Pie

So at the end of the weekend my fridge was packed. The trouble being, there wasn't a whole lot that lent itself well to being pawned off on people at work. There was about 1/4 of a pie, 1/3 of a cake, a few slices of banana bread, assorted things my parents brought and so on and so forth. Enough stuff you couldn't fit another bottle of water in there, let along anything else.

So I've been conscientiously trying to eat what I had rather than cooking or baking more stuff. I ate thanksgiving leftovers meals several times. But that got old. And I've had dessert with every meal which is kinda nice but also kinda weird. And I still have lots left.

So I decided to make Turkey Pot Pie. I used up what was left of my roasted onions, smashed potatoes, the carrots that weren't looking their best in my produce drawer, some of the celery, a quart of turkey stock, the maybe cup or so of chicken stock that was left in the box .... and just about everything else that was left from Thanksgiving dinner. This worked quite well as a cleaning out the fridge meal.

So I sweated the carrots and celery first. The onions were already softened so I figured I would hold off on those. I added a couple tablespoons of flour when the carrots and celery were softened a bit to form a roux. Then I dumped in a whole bunch of containers from the fridge... some listed above and some that I've probably forgotten. Milk. Milk was another thing I had added. Mixed it all up, brought it up to a simmer and let it cook for a bit. A bit meaning when I realized I was hungry and didn't want to wait any more.

Then I filled a bowl up (I don't have any fancy ramekins or anything so I just used a ceramic bowl) and stretched puff pastry over the top. The first one I did didn't work out so well. I didn't get the puff pastry stuck on the bowl enough so it ended up falling in and getting all soggy. It was OK but not quite right. The next one I pulled the puff pastry tighter and made sure it stuck to the bowl just about the whole way around. Bake until golden brown. I just turned the oven on, didn't worry about the temperature too much.

It came out quite good considering it was just me dumping all the scraps from my fridge into a pan, putting puff pastry on top and calling it a pot pie. It was nice and warm and filling, warmed me up nicely from the lack of heat in my house. Warm enough that I could feel my fingers again after chopping vegetables straight from the fridge and puttering around in my unheated house trying to figure out why it was unheated. I could have taken a pic but... well... cold and hunger won.

So what's left: 1 serving of turkey pot pie, cranberry sauce, a little bit of whipped sweet potatoes, some rolls, bits of cakes and pies and other sweets, still some turkey, mac and cheese... when I started this list I was trying to show how much progress I had made and how there really wasn't much left. Now that I am writing it out it doesn't seem so impressive.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

German Brotchen

I was left with plenty of stuff from Thanksgiving. One of the main uses of leftovers is sandwiches. The trouble with that being I didn't have any bread.

Many years ago I had spent a few weeks in Germany. One of the things I remember was the bread. They had these rolls that were hard on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside. This was my attempt at making those rolls. The texture was good. The outside had that nice hard crust; the inside was soft, like Wonder Bread soft. But the flavor was... so-so. I think next time I will need to try a different flour. Maybe I'll add a little sugar or honey or something next time as well.

Here's the dough rising

Here's the outside of the roll, nice and crusty though I probably should have punched it down more and gotten rid of the big air pockets
And here is the inside of the bread. Mmmm it needed a nice sharp serrated knife to cut it in half. I didn't quite capture the steam still coming out of it.

1 package active dry yeast
1-1/4 cup slightly warm water
2 tbsp shortening
1/2 tsp salt
2 egg whites
4 cups flour

Mix the yeast and water and allow to sit for about 5 mins so that it gets frothy. Add the shortening, and salt. Add about 2 cups of flour. Beat 1 egg white to stiff peaks and fold into the mix. Add flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, until it pulls together as a wet dough but does not pull away completely from the sides of the bowl. Oil a medium bowl and put dough in the bowl to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down and allow to rise again. Flour a work surface and dump the dough out. Split into 12 rolls and form balls. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Lay the balls on the parchment paper. Make sure the balls are well spaced as they will expand. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise, about 45 mins. Brush with the additional egg white. Heat up oven to 450F. Put some sort of pan on the rack close to the bottom of the oven. Put ice water in the pan. Put the rolls on a rack in the middle of the oven. Bake for 20 mins.