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Posts tagged ‘cooking’

OYD Cooks!

Erm… bakes…

27 January was National Chocolate Cake Day, and I am going to go out on a limb and say that it was a U.S.-ian holiday. Well, me being all “abroad” and all, I figured that we shouldn’t be stingy with our holidays.

The Christian Science Monitor had this lovely recipe that it shared, a Mexican Chocolate Fudge Pecan Cake which looks good enough. Perhaps I might give it a try one of these days. It reminded me of the Texas Sheet Cake from my Junior and Senior high school days, the very same one that comforted me in my day of tragic grief. De-lish!

Of course, no celebration of chocolate cake would be complete without this hidden treasure, shared with me by my buddy and former roommate, P’s mom after meeting her at his wedding.

It is a little-known secret that I actually do not like cake. There are very few exceptions and they must be very specific, and not exactly cake-like. One is the Spiced Applesauce cake made by Deb at Smitten Kitchen. I can not believe I have ever loved a cake as much as I have loved this. I eat it for breakfast with a mug of chai tea, because the best part of being a grown-up is that you can eat whatever you want for breakfast. It is most coffee-cake like in its simplicity (but not at all as sweet), and full of applesauce (you really should make the attached applesauce recipe to make the cake), and the icing is very simple. Not pretentious like buttercream.

The second is really good red velvet cake, and that almost always requires ice cream, because I hate dry cake. I prefer it in cupcake form if I can from fancy bakeries, and often without its decor. I am high-brow like that, and only don’t make it because I wind up turning everything red in the process.

The obviously the third is the Texas Sheet Cake, which is practically a brownie, so I am not sure it counts.

But the winner is this treasure.

Guinness chocolate cake. It is like a clear Autumn night under the stars, lying back with the perfect someone and a four pack of Guinness… and chocolate. Maybe your Guinness ball is coated in a rich chocolate ganache, and every time you giggle and take a sip you get the creaminess mixed with that wonder. Or maybe that person, whose relationship with you is ambiguous, has lips coated in chocolate and you chat and sip and laugh and next thing you know you are kissing and looking at stars and holding hands and just enjoying your perfectly creamy beer… OH MY CEILING CAT IT IS PERFECT AND YOU COULD DIE YOU ARE SO DELIGHTED. Or, your lips could anyhow.

So, belatedly, why not share, today, this delightfulness with all of you, because you love me, right?

Right?

It also makes great cups. (more…)

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OYD Cooks — Tomato Soup

It sounds basic enough, but I tell you one of the things I have long wanted to conquer was the winter classic. Well, I consider it a winter classic. A mug of steaming cream of tomato soup with a toasted cheese sammich was the best thing to warm me up. It was one of my ultimate comfort foods when I was younger, and for some reason I was never able to explain was the lunch we all never wanted to miss; Fridays in the cafeteria at EMU was always grilled cheese and tomato soup day and nary a music student ever missed it. If you had a friend with a Flex plan they would treat you to this lunch even if they only half liked you.

But there is something about the canned glop that just doesn’t have the same effect. Soup that maintains its shape when I dump it out of a can never really strikes me as something I want to serve my Kid if I can help it. It is great if I have a budget to maintain, but I have actually found recipes that run me around the same price if I have the time and energy (something that I occasionally do have the privilege of). This one was only slightly more, if you count the price of the extra non-tomato ingredients, but I had them on hand from other things and they needed to be used up or they would have to have been tossed out and wasted. I also find that tomato soup (or homemade sauce for that matter) is a good way to sneak in some veggies for kids who are fussy (not that mine is, but it is also a smaller meal, ideal for a packed lunch).

So, this recipe, slightly altered (surprise, surprise) from a cookbook by Annabel Karmel called Cook It Together. It’s a fun cookbook which introduces a few basic food items to kids, then teaches them how to use them in cooking some simple recipes. We have about three or four of her cookbooks so Kid can learn to help with menu planning and meal preparation, which I think is an important life skill. The recipes are all very simple, even the main dishes, but not basic on taste or nutrition.

The original recipe calls for carrot, which I didn’t have, and more ketchup, which I thought was odd, so I didn’t use nearly as much of it. It called for fresh thyme, which is unavailable to me so I used dried, and I cut back on the sugar, because, well, I don’t like adding sugar to tomato things because I just don’t like the taste.

A note on “from scratch”: Yes, I used canned tomatoes. My grandmother, father, and mother, who have been making homemade Italian meals since before I could remember, always used canned tomatoes. They are cheap, and as far as she knows, even Italian people in Italy use them, because tomatoes are plentiful in one season, and they don’t stay that way all year. So, you can. Some day when I have a yard and I live in one place longer than a couple of years at a time I will can my own damned tomatoes.

Tomato soup, as slightly altered from Annabel Karmel’s Cook It Together

1 medium onion, chopped

1 bell pepper (I used red, and the recipe said to use red, but I am sure you can use any)

1 clove garlic

2 Tablespoons EVOO

1-24 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice

a couple of good squirts ketchup, about 2 Tablespoons (I used organic but you can use any kind)

1 Tablespoon sugar (the original called for 2)

a palmful of dried thyme

salt and pepper

4 Tablespoons heavy cream

Heat the oil in a stock pot and saute the onion, garlic, and pepper (and a shredded carrot if you have one, I was going to toss in a zucchini but I didn’t have one of those either. Maybe next time.) in the oil for about 5-7 minutes to soften slightly. Pour in the tomatoes and their juice. Bring to a simmer and add the ketchup, sugar, and thyme. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Using an immersion blender, or in food processor or blender in batches, blend the soup into a fine puree (to your desired consistency). Salt and pepper to taste. Add the heavy cream and serve.

The original recipe has all kinds of nifty add-ins for making faces in the bowls of hot soup for your kid helper, such as black olives for eyes, and piping on sour cream faces, but since I made this to pack in school lunches I didn’t bother with all of that. I like to add a few Goldfish crackers to the lunchbox or some of my fresh naan. This is some hearty soup. From here I should be able to alter the basics and turn it into a nice Florentine or skip the cream and stir in Parmesan cheese after pureeing it to make it cheesy. I love how versatile tomato soup is! Read as I sing the praises of tomato soup! Perhaps by summer I will have come up with a gazpacho I can stand behind and stomach! Yay for tomato soup!

Enjoy!

Tacos!

Seriously! It’s been a big day, what with me starting a Twitterfight and all, which resulted in me being five kinds of hungry. I tell you, Readerland, it was the kind of hungry that could only be satisfied with my own throwdown into the contest of who makes the best tacos EVAH!*

All I could think about all day long was tacos.

I have a love of those messy disasters of meat and pico and whatever you can cram into a tortilla (corn, of course!) and have come to understand that there is just Not a Way to eat them Neatly. I must have either the best in town, or the cheap ones you get at that ridiculous chain, the one Outside the Box or whatever. One day I dream of visiting abbyjean and taking the Unofficial Taco Tour of L.A. (Vampires Not Included). (That was an Inside Joke, Soz.)

So, I searched all day, Readerland, from one end of the Internet to the Other, which should be read as half an Earth Hour, because that is really the length of time it took me to come across a recipe that we ended up using, Via an old NYT article entitled “The Taco Joint in Your Kitchen”, which I ran into while perusing Smitten Kitchen’s archives (I am in love with Deb’s blog, so, thanks, Maia, from Change, who I doubt reads my blog, but thanks anyhow!).

And damn my luck, my camera is down in the car in our parking garage and I just couldn’t muster up the energy to go and get it, but trust me, these tacos were beautiful and delicious, and well worth the time it took to make them.

We have limited availability of some fancier ingredients, so we didn’t roast all of the spices like it says to, and substituted powdered instead, and put a few drops of liquid smoke into the spice paste. We have it on hand from making Kalua Pig in our crock pot like big cheaters, what with not having the backyard and brick pit for burying an actual pig. The taste was quite good. Oh, who am I kidding? The taste overall was just great!

We also put the rinds of the citrus fruit (we used limes instead of lemons because that is what we had on hand) in the roasting liquid which made the meat slightly bitter. This was evened out by the salsa fresca or pico or whatever you want to call it we made to top it.

I have yet to come up with a good technique for baking corn tortillas. I am far too health conscious lazy to fry them when I am really tired, and we really love fresh corn tortillas. One of these days I promise to make them myself, but for now the brand of fresh-like ones we buy will do, if only we could get them tastier by baking. Without buying a fancy uni-use item for our tiny kitchen.

Oh, and would you believe our commissary actually had Tapatío? I have never seen a hot sauce other than Franks on the shelves! Better believe we bought that shit! Almost make up for the total lack of avocados, so sadly, our pork tacos had to go without guac OR yummy slices of fresh avo. OH THE HORRORS!

And if I wasn’t so privileged and aware of it, I would think that was a real tragedy. I got over it when The Guy bought me a champagne cola from the aisle where they keep the pre-made salsa, because I’d never had one, and it made my tongue kind of numb, which amused me. I remembered again when we had to eat our tacos with no avocado.

I’m over it again.

OK. Enough babble for now. Let’s get to what you came here for! I think the original recipe might be under subscription, so here it is!

Slow Roasted Pork Tacos

Slightly adapted from this recipe at the NY Times

10 cloves of peeled garlic (that is not a typo)

2 pound boneless pork butt (that’s a shoulder if you are not familiar with butcher terminology, since I know some of mah peeps are new with the cooking, so I try to accommodate that) We used a 4 pounder tonight because that is what they had and adjusted.

1/2 Tablespoon each of:

ground, mixed peppercorns

oregano

cumin

cinnamon

coriander

salt

2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice

Allow the meat to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 300 F or about, umm, 150 C. Slice four of the cloves of garlic into thin slices, and with a thin knife make small slits in the pork to slid the garlic into. Tuck the garlic on in there.

Combine spices, salt, and remaining garlic in a food processor and make a paste by slowly adding the citrus juice (we didn’t need all of it to do this). It should be a smooth puree that will rub easily all over the surface of your meat. Do that. You can let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours or in the refrigerator for 24 (but we didn’t).

At this point you can either put it on a grill that is covered in aluminum (al-oo-min-ee-um) foil, or in a roasting pan in that preheated oven (the original recipe wasn’t clear if you were supposed to cover it. We assumed you should and did) for at least two hours. The longer the better, as we understand it. You should baste it periodically to make sure it doesn’t dry out on the top, and add more liquid if it isn’t producing enough. We stuffed the citrus peels in after the liquid appeared, but it did make the meat a bit bitter. If you are us, you are going to take the lid off for the last thirty minutes to get the nice browned chewy bits on the top.

Take the hot meat out of the pan and shred it up all nice. You can serve it hot or room temperature on nice warm, tortillas. Corn if you love tacos, and flour if you are a monster! Ha! Just kidding! Eat your tacos however you like them! We served ours with a little fresh pico and even some sour cream!

Our fresh pico (today’s version, anyhow):

4 big beefsteak tomatoes

2 medium yellow onions

1 Pablano pepper, seeded

1 yellow Anaheim pepper, seeded

a few cloves of garlic (we lost count)

a bunch of cilantro, stems removed

sea salt and lime juice to taste

toss it all in a food processor and whirl it around until the chunks are the size you like.

Enjoy!

*This is a trick statement and of course, misleading. The best tacos are made at Rosie’s Cantina in Hale’iwa, HI. The fish tacos are to die for. I hope that clears things up a bit.

Because I Am Such A Giving Person

That’s right peeps! Let it never be said that when someone takes the time to reach out and actually say “Hey! Ouyang! You are a fairly cool peep, and I think you have some cool stuff going on, I would love it if you could do X” where “X” is something reasonably within my powers of awesomeness to grant, that I do not, if not after some time due to the Powers That Be (those scamps!) fucking with my spoons and joints and such from time to time, deliver. (I am not even sure that is a sentence anymore, nor do I care, for I am in a bit of a hurry and my left hand is currently cramping.)

I believe Garland Grey asked once about the recipe for naan, which I started making this summer after one of my fellow military spouses taught me how, and after my EMPIRE RED STAND MIXER OF AWESOME arrived. This is a long one peeps, so I hope you are prepared. I apologize in advance that I do not have a kitchen scale with which to weigh things for you, and yes, this recipe assumes you have access to a nifty mixer like mine, but it does not specify the color, but if you can match yours to your tattoos like I have, then I encourage you to do so for added kitchen fun!

No, I will not be posting pictures of my tattoo today, but maybe naan, which is not shaped like my tattoo.

Naan: (you are going to need to follow directions, peeps, or I can not be held accountable for the quality of product. and even then, I accept no responsibility for your outcome)

You will need:

2 ½ cups bread flour, plus extra as needed

¼ cup whole wheat flour, sifted (unless you like the little hull bits in your bread, then knock yourself out! Shun sifting!)

1 package instant yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)

2 teaspoons sugar

salt

1 cup water, at room temperature (whoever wrote this, must seriously live in, um, Florida, or Arizona, or something. “Room temperature” means “warm enough to not kill the yeast after some cold shit is added to it”. I start out with relatively warm water, about 110-120F, because you will add the next two ingredient to it first)

¼ cup plain yoghurt (I let mine sit out for a while the day I make naan)

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the bowl

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (I skip this step, and will indicate which parts I skip, because I store mine and use it over 2-3 weeks from the refrigerator)

  1. Combine the yoghurt, water and olive oil and mix well. Make sure it is still “room temperature in Florida” (if you have an oven safe measuring bowl, like Pyrex, don’t be afraid to put it in a low oven for a few minutes). Combine the Flours, yeast, sugar, and 1 ½ teaspoons salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment until blended, about 15 seconds. Add the wet mixture and mix on low-speed until a shaggy dough forms, about 30 seconds.
  2. Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead the dough on medium until smooth and glossy(ish – it never looks “glossy to me”), about 8 minutes, adding additional bread flour in 1-tablespoon increments, allowing 20 seconds between each addition as needed for the dough to clear the sides of the bowl, but stick to the very bottom. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and lightly knead by hand for 1 minute.
  3. Shape the dough into a large ball, transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a draft-free spot (we don’t want that bad babe getting called to arms while it is trying to rise!) until the dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. It says “draft free”, and it means it. If you are baking in the summer in an air-conditioned home, place the covered bowl on top of your pre-heating oven, away from the cross-breeze. At this point you can take out your aggressions on the lil’ darlin’ by punching it down, wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerating it for up to two days.
  4. Turn the dough onto a clean work surface, but really, it is a little sticky, so a light dusting of flour might be needed. Cut into 8 equal portions, and roll each portion into a round ball. Set the balls aside on the counter or a baking sheet, again out of the draft, to rest for ten minutes.
  5. Working with 1 ball of dough at a time, lay on lightly floured surface, and roll into a 6-inch circle with a rolling-pin, sprinkling with flour if the dough is sticky. Set the circles aside. You will need to do this quickly, because they will be difficult to work if they get cold, because they are alive.
  6. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat (or, if you have a Korean stove like mind, just whatever isn’t going to burn the crap out of your food) for about 5 minutes. I use a heavy cast iron. Working with one circle at a time, lift the dough and gently stretch about one inch larger, and lay it on the skillet. Cook until small bubbles appear on the surface of the dough. Flip the bread and continue to cook until it is speckled and deep golden brown in spots, about 2 minutes on each side. I use as many skillets as I have room for to make this go faster, as you can roll the dough while the naan is cooking. If the dough balls sit too long they start to rise and get tough to roll. But DON’T LET THEM BE THE BOSS OF YOU!
  7. Transfer to a wire rack (the rest I skip, and after the bread cools, I place parchment between layers and store in a 2 ½ gallon zippered storage bag in the fridge. Make sure to put a paper towel or something inside the container to absorb the moisture so your naan doesn’t get soggy. It stores for 2 weeks or so, and I heat it in the oven and brush it with butter just before serving. you can salt it too, but I usually don’t.), brush lightly with butter, season with salt and let cool. Wrap loosely in a clean kitchen towel and serve immediately.

Two cast iron skillets on a small stove top with rounds of naan (flat bread) cooking in them).Naan makes a great substitute for PB&J bread, and we have even used it when making cheese and avocado quesadilla. Mostly, we just NOM it.

Each “loaf” cuts nicely into four pieces, and if you ask my family, serves one, but I think two serves the three of us just fine as a snack or a side with soup or salad. We haven’t made any good curries in a while, but I am jumpin’ to try!

I hope you get a chance to try it out. Of course, if you do, and you have success stories, or uses for the naan, please be sure to pass them along and share!

OYD Cooks!

A creamy soup with bits of bacon, sausage, potato and leafy greens sits in a pyrex measuring bowl atop a pot on a stove.Zuppa Toscana (homestyle!)

I love this soup from the popular U.S. chain restaurant. Lucky for me with the power of Al Gore’s internet you can find about anything and try to replicate it at home, or if you worked in kitchens all your life making things from restaurants is kind of second-nature.

I mostly followed this general idea from this YouTube instructional, but I strayed from a few things that almost left pieces of my head all over the floor. I am very methodical about soup making…and there are things that you Just. Don’t. Do. Like dump the cream in and call it “done” or whatever. That stuff has to simmer a while so that all the flavors can come together and meld.

I also didn’t peel my potatoes, because I have always had it with the peels on and I enjoy it that way. I made it in a much larger quantity, and I browned the sausage right in the pot where I boiled the water. I was able to drain most of the grease, and what I couldn’t drain I skimmed off later. I really don’t like losing the brown bits that build up on the bottom of the pot when you brown the sausage… it adds so much flavor!

I added just a slight pinch of crushed red pepper, but SHHH! Don’t tell The Kid! We’ve been working her palate up to appreciating less-than-bland food and she didn’t notice. In fact, she excitedly asked for more broth to dip her homemade naan into.

Wedges of naan, an Indian flatbread, sit on plates on a cutting board.One of these days when I am less spoon-less I will type up the naan recipe. It is so yummy and easy with a stand mixer, because it does all the word except the rolling and dry skillet frying.

But the soup? High on the NOMS!

In the picture I am re-heating it. It stores well for a few days, but you should reheat cream-based soups with a double-boiler so that you don’t over-heat and scorch or crack the cream. It takes a little longer, but it has the best results. I use my Pyrex measuring bowl over a pot with an inch and a half of water. I store the soup without the kale, and add it in about four minutes before I serve.

If anyone tries this, let me know how it works out. It is a great way to get some kale in. I love kale, and we have been eating a lot of greens lately because they are cheap and frankly, I have been craving them. I have a great sloppy joe recipe that uses Swiss chard. But anyhow, the kale should be bite-sized and be bright green when it is ready.

Enjoy!

Pictures are cliclkable for embiggenment.

OYD Cooks!

Grilled Nectarine, Bourbon-Vanilla Ice Cream!

I used this recipe from Everyday With Rachael Ray Magazine (OK, you caught me, I changed it a bit, I always change things a bit!), so I am not going to type out everything, but I will let you in on the things that I altered, which honestly isn’t much. OK, it’s just one thing.

I also used my Kitchenaid to allow me to do more than one thing at a time, and because I am not fond of beating eggs until my arms fall off.

So, here are the egg yolks all frothy and ready to go (all pictures are clickable to embiggenate):

Egg yolks being whipped into a frothy frenzy in a stainless steel bowl in a red stand mixer.

At the same time, I had a pan full of heavy cream and sugar to baby-sit until a simmer, at which time I had to first add to the eggs while whisking, and then add back to the pan to continue cooking. This is why I don’t understand how I ever cooked w/o my stand mixer. I do not have that many hands!

A saucepan with a cream colored mixture of heavy cream, sugar, and egg yolks, which has thickened and become custard.

Then, the Gorgeous Household Souz Chef began working the nectarines. First he halved them (he did it, pit and all, he did!), prepped them up w/ some EVOO and sugar, and put them on our grill pan, which was still griddle-side-up from pancakes this morning, so we did it flat topped. Wev, they got cooked.

two halves of a nectarine, pit-side up, on a hinoki cutting board, covered in sugar. They are framed by a spatual and a paring knife.

Two halves of a nectarine, pit-side up, on a flat-top griddle, charred slightly and caramelized.

The one half started to do this wild dance across the griddle as the caramelized sugar bubbles popped. I have one blurry picture of it that was sort of bizarre.

Here’s where I got a little zany! The recipe calls for bourbon, and all our ration control store had was Jim Beam, which isn’t exactly my favorite, but would probably have been just fine. I chose Southern Comfort, because I knew that it was made with fruit, and thought it would highlight the nectarines, so when given the choice, I wanted it for that reason. It always tasted a little like peaches to me, so I thought it would work. I was right.

A tanned hand holds a liquid measure cup and pours a draught of Southern Comfort.

Strain the creamy mixture to get all the icky bits out.

A light golden liquid is strained through a fine sieve, and the chunky parts collect on the top.

After straining, add the bourbon (or wev) and vanilla, mix well, cover, and refrigerate in a stainless steel bowl for at least an hour, until it is well chilled.

An amber coloured liquid is poured into a light golden liquid in a stainless steel bowl where a wooden spoon waits to stir it.

We have two wedding presents in our belongings, a wonderful ice cream maker from my mother and a handsome keepsake recipe card box that we bought with a gift card at a high end kitchen supply store. The recipe card box has been well used, and the ice cream maker, well… we are always looking for reasons to use it because it is huge and takes up space yet we won’t leave it behind when we have the chance… b/c what if I find a fantastic recipe and need it? Good thing I am so damned impractical once in a while!

This ice cream maker is fabulous, but only mixes until about the hardness of soft-serve, which is good enough to get the job done. You pour the chilled mixture into the frozen bowls, and let it do its thing.

A light golden liquid is poured into a frozen bowl with a plastic cover.

Presumably you have had your Gorgeous Household Souz Chef prep the nectarines, so that they are ready to add in the last five minutes of freezing.

An ice cream maker shown from above with a light golden mixture with small lumps in it.

A light golden and slightly lumpy soft ice cream on an ice cream maker paddle held by a slightly pale hand.

I always have to pack the ice cream and freeze it for a few hours to get it the right hardness for serving, but I can assure you that there was much taste-testing, and it is most certainly edible. You will not be displeased! Yum!

Let me know if you try it out, and how your endeavor fares!

Sweets, Treats, and Other Goodies!

Goodies!

The Seventh Carnival of Feminists is up at Shut Up, Sit Down! Go show them, and all the contributors some love (Hey that’s me too!) on the work they did!

Sweets!

Co-Contributors Rawk!

Assorted truffles wrapped in red tissue.

NOM!

Thank you, ever so much!  It made my day to find these in our APO box!

Treats!

I made these Worm Infested Dirt Cups for The Kid’s class for Halloween:

Chocolate cupcakes with faux mud topping and gummy worms

Ewww! And also: NOM!

For the Averted to Chocolate for any reason, I made one dozen in vanilla:

White cupcake with faux sandy mud topping and gummy worm.

I used a “cheat” recipe that cut a lot of the time for me (which I posted at BaCaW), which is a good thing.  It was given to me by another mum, and when I looked it up b/c I forgot the proportions, I found out that it is a Weight Watcher’s recipe (or, supposed to be), but because diets are crap, and don’t work (even “lifestyle changes”), I made sure to use the real, full sugar soda.  Yum!  More importantly, this is a great vegan alternative recipe, since it cuts out the egg, and easier because it doesn’t need the extra oil or applesauce.

Now, I need a nap.  Because, as I have discovered, if you keep borrowing tomorrow’s spoons to accomplish today’s tasks, it is going to catch up w/ you…in a bad bad way.

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