31 August 2008

"Happy Belated Birthday to My Oft-neglected Blog" doesn't have the same ring as "Happy Birthday to You"

I just noticed that it's been over a year since I started this. It mostly began as a way for me to document my attempts at cooking, and then it grew into a place for me to dump recipes to Kyle. Now it's something that's mostly ignored because, as it turns out, grad school is hectic. Not that I don't love it, but I think I need to work on my stress management. You know it's a bad sign when your boss emails you with a list of free yoga classes to try.

So yeah, this year should be good. And hopefully I'll blog more. ;)

18 August 2008

Why Cayenne Pepper is Entertaining: A Memoir on Corn Chowder

Colby is funny, but more on that later. After perusing enough tastespotting, I've been itching to make some sort of soup. I found one recipe that seemed promising, mostly because it didn't require a stick blender.

Corn Chowder a la Julie
3 tbs butter
3 tbs olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 small tomato, deseeded and chopped
1/4 sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 baking potato, cubed into 1 cm pieces
celery leaves, chopped
1 c chicken stock
4 ears corn
1 c cream
cayenne pepper

Melt O.O. and butter in a stock pot. Add in onions, celery, carrots, garlic, potato and s+p to taste. Let cook for ~10 minutes, until the onions turn translucent and everything begins to soften. Husk the corn. Take a large bowl and place the corn in the center, cutting parallel to the body in a swift, downward motion to take off the kernels. You'll probably have to flip it upside down because it'll probably be too hard to get all the way down. Once you're done, take the cob and run the back of your knife down where the kernels used to be and get all of the "corn juice" out. Take one of the cobs and divide it into thirds (I just did it by hand). Add in the corn, tomato, and chicken stock. Also, add the corn cob bits. Take this up to a boil and let cook for another 5-10 minutes. Add in the stock and then whatever herbs/spices you want. I used ~1 tsp of Old Bay, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried parsley and let's say 2 tbs of celery leaves, chopped fine. Let it simmer for awhile until the flavors start to blend.

So about celery leaves: Colby and I were discussing whether or not to get celery. I decided to make the soup at about 10:30 PM last night (and by "last night", I mean 3.5 hours ago, but *technically* it was last night) standing in front of the produce section at H.E.B. the local friendly megamarket. I have always felt that celery smells wonderful, but tastes disappointing, since all of that wonderful scent is coming from the leaves. According to Rayray and Alton, celery is related to cilantro or parsley or something that's aromatic and herb-y so I took all the leaves from the celery bunch and treated it just like a fresh herb. I felt all thrifty and creative. Small victories. Anywho, it actually turned out wonderful. I'm guessing that as long as you have the celery leaves, s+p, and like cayenne pepper, the taste will still be wonderful.

So during the making of the soup, Colby started making a pork roast. We're apparently impulse cookers. How cute. He was in the kitchen and standing by the sink and I had just dumped the cayenne pepper into the soup and I wanted to clean off the spoon to use it to taste with, but I wasn't about to eat a mouthful of cayenne with the soup. While my back was turned, Colby put the spoon in his mouth, not really knowing what it was and then turned around to me and told me that "the stuff on the spoon" was hot. Tee hee.

10 August 2008

Lego my dinner party!

Okay folks, here's the lego party post. Unfortunately, there weren't really any pictures, but I'll do my best to describe.

So the whole thing that started this party was this post that I found on Slashfood and then later on Tastespotting. It was apparently taken from the Betty Crocker website, but it seemed like a fun idea. Shortly thereafter, I was alerted to the existence of Lego gummy candy from Kellog's. Seeing that I'm not actually three, I procured a box. Also, at some random trip to the mall (the one where Colby and Kyle went on a mandate to see the batman movie) I found these hard tablet powder candy legos that you can actually build with! Super cute.

We (Colby, Kyle, and I) used box mixes to make the cake (chocolate, yellow, and marbled) and then used white frosting + food coloring from Hill Country Fare. The interesting thing about Hill Country Fare is that it's one of a few different house brands for HEB, a largely Texan grocery store; given that Texas is beef country, I shouldn't have been surprised when I found out that the main fat ingredient was lard. Oh well. I didn't have any vegetarians at the party. We made the cakes the night before and they came out okay. It doesn't help that I suck at frosting cakes.

To continue on with the lego theme, I made lasagna (which is sort of brick-shaped!) which was topped with homemade croutons that were cylindrical. The lasagna is actually super simple and mostly stolen from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (of which I have mixed feelings):

15 oz ricotta
1.25 c grated parm
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
12 no boil lasagna noodles (I used HEB brand)
16 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
3ish c sauce

I made the sauce first which consisted of:
1 lb ground beef
1/4 c minced onions
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs olive oil
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I used Contandina crushed tomatoes with herbs by accident)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried oregano, parsley, basil

Brown/season meat w/s+p, break up into little bits. In a sauce pan add in olive oil and onions and let them soften for like five minutes (or more if you realize that you've forgotten to mince the garlic), add in the garlic and let cook for 30 seconds and then add in both cans of processed tomatoes and whatever herbs you decide. Let that simmer for 15ish minutes or so and that could be a sauce in and of itself. Add the meat (try to drain off the fat) and then let that sit with the sauce for as long as possible.

To construct the lasagna:
preheat the oven to 375. combine ricotta+s+p+egg+1 c parm+basil mix thoroughly until combined. add in like 1/4-1/2 a cup of sauce to the bottom of whatever you're using to cook in. It should be rectangular and deepish. layer on three lasagna noodles side-by-side and spread some amount of the ricotta mixture on it. Add about 1/2 c of sauce over top. cover in mozzarella and do this layering bit twice more. take the remaining three noodles and layer over top the rest of the pasta, cover with the remaining sauce and then cover in the rest of the mozzarella and 1/4 c of parm. cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Take it out and then uncover it and bake for an addition 25ish minutes until everything is soft and the cheese is all melty.

I found that the easiest way to spread on the ricotta mixture to the noodles was to take the dry noodle in hand and then spread the cheese on it before putting it in the pan. It caused way too much grief to try to do it the other way.

As a side, I made garlic bread the Heidi Swanson way and at the very end, put 2 little half slices of fresh mozzarella on each piece so that they would look like lego things.

Everyone loved the lasagna and people that that the cakes were clever. I'm not so sure that they tasted all that good, but that wasn't really the point with these cakes. I made a flourless chocolate cake the other night which turned out "better", but that's for a later post.

08 August 2008

More "Calamity" than "Kitchen"

So those other posts will be coming in the next few days or so, but I felt the need to relate this story.

Once upon a time, an incoming grad student named Julie was moving from the 15th floor to the 16th floor of RLM at the University of Texas. Julie thought she was being clever by using a rolling chair to cart her stuff onto the elevator so that she wouldn't have to make 100 trips between the floors. On her way into the elevator, Julie's cart hit a bump, which happened to be a large groove between the elevator and the 15th floor. This bump jolted the chair, sending her calculator flying off her chair NINETY DEGREES and it slipped right through that groove and fell down the f*cking elevator shaft for, oh let's say, ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY feet below. Julie sighed as she heard the somewhat familiar "clank clank" of her calculator falling; however, this time it was different. The clanking kept going and for some reason the equation mgh=1/2mv^2 kept popping into her head. Later on that day, she decided to look up on Amazon to see how much that calculator would cost and discovered, to her chagrin that it would cost around ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY dollars to replace, similar to the amount of feet that the calculator fell to its death.

The End.

Is that the best bedtime story or what? I'm refusing to acknowledge that it actually happened. Yup, my calculator is sitting in my desk at work. Yeah.

06 August 2008

Guacamole by feel... for the family!

I've decided that when I have kids that are old enough to be trusted to not drool in the mixing bowl, I'm making guacamole a family activity. It's totally gross to smash avocados, and that seems like something a little kid would *love* to do.

I've been straying from recipes for some time, which is ironic because I am a scientist and recipes can be very scientific things. This is due, in part, to sheer laziness and also due to the fact that I want to develop my palette. It's sort of like writing computer programs. Even though it's faster to just do the task by hand, and even though programming makes you a wee bit homicidal, it's all because you want to automate a task and learn something new... yeah. ANYWHO

I had this intense desire to make guacamole because I haven't baked/cooked/prepared anything that wasn't leftovers in the microwave for a few days and tonight we had yummy dinner at North by Northwest. I found out midway through the process that Colby has used an entire huge onion for the meatballs he made last night (which explains why there were so many damn onions) and so I had to improvise. Based largely on the Alton Brown version, I mashed avocados, added lime juice, threw in one small tomato, diced, 1/2 a jalepeno diced super small, two small garlic cloves, minced, about half a tbs of onion powder, some large amount of salt, about half a tsp of black pepper, tsp ground cumin, tbs dried parsley so you can fake out guac snobs by having them think there might be cilantro in it (because cilantro==gross). Stir stir. It actually came out pretty well.

I have tons of other posts in the works, but I've been too busy (read: lazy) to post. I threw a Lego themed dinner party a couple weekends ago and recipe to follow from it. Also, thoughts on milk from a lactose intolerant.

Also, yay for my friends getting food blogs too! (And she's going to grad school for food science!)