Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Apparently I decided I didn't use my stove top quite enough in 2008....

Been a busy little hausfrau these past two days, and the pots have been a simmerin' on my stove top.

Up first... veal stock!!

Woo.... add veggies...


I actually did the first stock and the second stock yesterday, and today was all about boiling the two stocks down.

I was not happy with my yield on the first stock (the darker stuff) but it seems to be coming along nicely.

The other pot in the first picture was some shrimp stock... I really wanted it for my Crawfish Etouffee today, and used the last of my stash on Monday. Luckily, I had a lot of shrimp shells (and a couple lobster tail shells) in my freezer. Yay!

The original plan for dinner was going to be some quickly whipped up chicken enchiladas. But I had forgotten that I bought ground beef, and the ground beef was also leaking (luckily, contained) in my fridge. Well, I wanted to try the Cook's Country Cincinnati Chili recipe anyway....

I swear, if I could turn the smell of browning onions into a perfume, it'd be the hubby's favorite scent on me. As soon as I start onions, he comes sniffin' down to the kitchen to see what I'm up to.

This really was an awesome recipe... got it all done in my bigger sauce pan, and it came together very quickly. It'd be an awesome weeknight meal... start the water for the pasta and start chopping the onions... and you can have it done in 45 minutes.

No picture of the final plates... we were too eager to get eating. I was worried about the cinnamon in the recipe - the hubby has actually had Skyline chili before, I have not - but it really does mellow out nicely among all the other ingredients. And the recipe left me with plenty left over... I can easily get two more meals out of what I now have in the freezer.

In addition to boiling down my veal stocks today.... cookbook porn!!

I don't know know why/guess I should be happy that people around here get rid of some fairly awesome cookbooks. For under thirty bucks, I recently picked up Nigella Bites, a copy of Le Cordon Bleu at Home, and a copy of the Moosewood cookbook. Original printing of that one, actually.

Let's have a look inside, shall we?

The Le Cordon Bleu book, although somewhat recent, does contain some (not in a good way) awe-inspiring photos ala my grandpa's old cookbooks from the 60s and 70s...

I'm sorry... don't ever expect me to go to that level of detail on a friggin' fish...

The Moosewood cookbook gives equal laughs. Like this one... the illustration for "How to Eat a Tortilla"....

Seriously???? It is an older, hippie-type cookbook, I shouldn't be too surprised.

Actually, it reminds me of another gem I have in my cookbook stash....

Now don't get frightened... I'm not foresaking the bacon or anything... but I do have a few vegetarian cookbooks. Some of them are good. This is not one of them.

This book was actally done by the people who lived on a hippie commune that my aunt lived on. I think one of my uncles spent some time there too. It was called "The Farm". We went to visit them, once. I was five, I was a hugely picky eater, and it took my cousins about three seconds to polish off the stash of white bread and peanut butter that my mom brought with as "emergency food". I was then forced to eat some of the worst food of my life for the rest of the week.

The trauma was just wearing off when, in college, a friend came over and was making us a vegetarian lasagna. I was flipping thru his cookbook, when I saw this picture and it all came back....

I don't think that is my aunt or one of my cousins, but I know that place. One of the "main" houses... it was called "The Green Bean Bus". It was a house with a bus attached to either side of it. Us kids were "urged" to stay in the bus part.

I hated it.

Of course, I then had to get a copy of the cookbook for myself. I'll never make anything out of it... I already know the food is gross, and looking at the reicpes I can say it wasn't a lack of talent in the ladies who cooked (it was ALL the ladies there seemed to do... cook and pop out babies)... it was just un-good recipes.

Moosewood Cookbook = Funny illustrations and good recipes.

The New Farm Cookbook = bad graphics, possible photos of member of my family and the guy who painted that really distrubing picture of a kind that we used to have haning in our front room that creeped me out.... and bad recipes.

For our NYE meal, it's going to be crawfish etoufee...

I kinda winged the recipe... celery, onions, green pepper, red pepper, lotsa butter, added some flour, then a can of RoTel and my shrimp stock and a couple cubes of veal stock.

Just letting that simmer away and thicken up, and I'll add the crawfish in at the end so they can warm thru. Just letting that simmer away and reduce. It smells awesome and tastes pretty good, so I'm fairly certain I won't have to throw the emergency frozen pizzas I have in the oven. That's happened on past New Year's Eves. Not fun.

Looking forward to that for dinner over some fried eggplant (the hubby likes it that way) and some beers and a champagne toast with the hubby at midnight, and then waking and making myself a Bloody Mary for breakfast tomorrow and trying a new recipe for our traditional NYD meal of duck.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The bad part about breakfast for dinner....

I know our weather has been whacky, but did a tornado roll through my kitchen??

Tonight was omelette night in the house. One of more a "Denver omlette" style for the hubby, and just ham and cheese for me. Always a tasty dinner, always pleasing, and usually not this messy.

In addition to the omelettes, I steamed some potatoes and then threw them in a pan to brown, steamed some asparagus, and toasted English muffins. For the omlettes, used some of the leftover cheese (man, I need to remember where I got that peppadew cheese... that stuff was GOOD and I cannot find it anywhere), which helped to clear the fridge. Always makes me happy.

And what is that lingering smell???

About 6-7 pounds of veal bones, fresh outta the oven. I've decided that I am a fan of Michael Ruhlman's veal stock method with the roasted bones, if for no other reason than I am a lazy cook and a foil-covered sheet pan is a heckuva lot easier to clean than dealing with par-boiling bones in a big pot. Especially when I'll need the same pot to start on the stock tomorrow. But I am also a fan of doing a "second stock", so I will do that.

And crud.... I just realized that I used the last of my shrimp stock last night for our unsuccessful scampi, and I think I need it for the etoufee I was planning on making for New Year's Eve. Le crud. Looks like I'll be raiding the freezer tomorrow to look for any lingering shrimp/seafood shells.....

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Back to (sort of) real life

Christmas is over... no New Years Eve parties (but there will be NYE and NYD cooking)... into the home stretch of 2008. Still work-less this week, but today was a Sunday as usual and back to getting the grocery shopping done and making dinner.

I actually bought the stuff yesterday to make some scampi for dinner, but then I got Pressed Almond Duck on the brain and we ordered Chinese food. Note to self for next year... if you're going to get the taste for Chinese food the week of Christmas again, be smart and get it on Christmas Day and not two days after, when the good chef is likely enjoying his time off and a lesser chef is manning the kitchen. Not the best take-out we've gotten from that one place (the only place around here that has Pressed Almond Duck).

But, tonight... on to the scampi!!

The mis....

Some nice bread and langostines (size of a shrimp, more like the taste/texture of lobster) I got at Trader Joe's, butter, garlic confit and the garlic oil you get while making garlic confit, and pasta. Oh, and shrimp stock.

Hello... what is this??

Chicken breats in the crock pot. My mom is doing a "post-holiday Holiday Gathering" with my dad's side of the family next Saturday. She's doing some pulled beef, I'm bringing some pulled chicken, all for sandwiches. I'll also br bringing the mountain of crackers and the remains of the Reuben dip that I have stashed in the freezer right now.

Back to the scampi......

Confit garlic in some melted butter. Time to smoosh!!

I usually just go at it with a fork. Works for me.

Half the garic/butter mixture was smeared on the bread.....

And the bread gets wrapped in foil and goes into a 350 degree oven for ten minutes all packaged up, then ten minutes unpackaged/unfolded. You can broil it after that if you want the extra crispy top. I usually don't bother.

Woo hoo.... equipment porn... the new Le Creuset in action!!!

The pasta was either really broken when I poured it outta the bag or I totally overboiled it... it was just falling apart. This was not my best scampi.

Cooked the pasta, drained the pasta, then did the sauce in the same pot... the shrimp stock, some pasta water, the rest of the garlic butter, a big pinch of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Boil it down to the desired consistancy, add the pasta back in, and......

Looks pretty, but all in all, not my best scampi. I think it needed a LOT more salt. The langostines were already cooked, but they were actually kinda mushy and not very good. Oh well. Life goes on. At least we had an excuse to polish off some of the leftover tiramisu. Funny how life works sometimes.

I did want to get a start on some veal stock today... but frankly... I was just too lazy. And persistance paid off... after getting yet ANOTHER disk from Netflix of Footballer's Wives, Season 3 that didn't work in the main DVD player, my computer DVD drive, or the computer room DVD player, I finally tried it in the bedroom DVD player and it works just fine. Luckily that is also the most portable of the DVD players, so I was able to hook it up downstairs and I am currently enjoying the first part of season 3 in all it's trashy glory.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

How to impress your in-laws without really trying....

... AKA, the Christmas Day spread I usually do and we invite the parental units to come by, see the tree, and just chill.

I love this wreath... sparkly and glittery and pretty.

Ok... on to the food. You will see this....

.... turn into a lovely spread. Really. All that is is some crackers, fig spread and cranberry sauce I made ahead of time, meatballs, pickled garlic, a couple types of olives. Stuff that can be bought or made ahead of time.

Yum... baked pita chips and some store-bought hummus. Just dusted the hummus with a little paparkia for color.

Pickled garlic, some oil-cured olives, a couple of cheese spreads.....

Meatballs in that "jar of chili sauce + can of jellied cranberry sauce" sauce in my little slow cooker.... just throw in, set to high, and cook until bubbly (I stirred a few times).

Salami and prosciutto and Parmesan shards and olives and fig spread on one plate, Reuben dip and cocktail rye bread on the other plate. Reuben dip is just a block of cream cheese, a couple packaged of Carl Buddig corned beef (chopped up), some drained sauerkraut, shredded swiss. I mixed it up ahead of time, and just warmed it up in the microwave before company arrived. I've made it before and it always goes over well with the in-laws.

Any my in-laws are always awed by my ability to unwrapp and place cheese on a tray....

That's some camembert, brie, blue cheese, some pepper cheese, Dubliner cheese and boursin. All purchased while they've been on sale over the past few weeks.

That Le Crueset pot on the stove.... Christmas present from my mom. She actually bought it MONTHS ago... right about the time I was going to treat myself to one (there was some drama about that... but all is good and my pot is beautiful and I have veal bones in the freezer that will likely be turned into veal stock starting tomorrow - YAY!!!).

Put out a variety of crackers and call it a day.....

Oh.... wait... put out some hot-spicy almonds, cheese straws (store-bought) and Chicken in a Biscuit crackers on the coffee table. I've been hiding those Chicken in a Biscuit crackers for like a month, because they are the hubby's favorite and they've have been gone by now if he knew they were in the house.

Everyone munched.... nice to have some different food than yesterday... nibble a little, converse with people, head back to try something different. My kinda no-fuss entertaining.

Did have the stuff on hand for a quick holiday cocktail... half champagne, half sparkling pomegranate juice... but we didn't break into those. I know I had more than enough (coughcough*a whole bottle of Riesling*coughcough) yesterday.

And when you're cleaning up, remember God's creatures big and small, with homes and homeless.....

The "rather gourmet" feral cats were ALL over the prosciutto I threw out. The may live outside but they at least keep out of my garbage (if only the squirrels were so nice). They looooove prosciutto. And it's usually only two cats... don't know if these guys have taken in another one or if family was visiting. Either way... a feast for all!

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


So... today actually started off with doing some quick work for old company. After that, it was on to the holiday baking.

First, the new vanilla that my bro & sis-in-law brought me from their last trip to Mexico....

I know the U.S. dollar is in the crapper, but I really don't think they paid $50 for a bottle of vanilla.....

Anyway... first up... tiramisu. No pictures... I was still kinda half alseep and really, tiramisu is SO easy to do and the final product is not nearly as pretty as when you cut/scoop yourself some. Make whip cream, whip your marscapone, cook some egg yolks in a bowl over boiling water until they're light yellow and doing the ribbon thing, combine it all, dip lady fingers in coffe and get a-layering. Oh yeah, sweeten your whipped cream and mixture as you go along. I usually also throw in a couple tablespoons of Kahlua.

Next.... Red velvet cupcakes. I've never had red velvet cupcakes before and I've always wanted to try, so I had a go.

Wow, that is some RED batter. I even went with a single ounce of food coloring rather than the ounce and a half (I only bought one bottle) the recipe suggested.

Got my muffin pans loaded, put them in the oven, and waited. For failure.


Ok... not as epic of a fail. I can work with those.

There might be an issue with me using extra large eggs rather than large eggs, but we haven't had a lot of success with cupcakes in this oven. They all seem to do this. Kinda odd. In any case, I managed to get out 12 cupcakes that were OK or could be covered by frosting. Thank god for frosting, it can turn an epic fail into a not so epic fail.

On to the cream cheese frosting....

Look mom! Lumpy frosting! My specialty, apparently!

Everything was room temp and I tried to get my powdered sugar in there as lump-free and slowly as possible, but I somehow always end up with lumpy frosting. Go me!

Oh... and note to novice bakers out there like me... generally NOT a good idea to frost cupcakes OVER the bowl of frosting, otherwise you may end up with something like this...

At least it's not a very special episode of "When Kitchens Attack: Knives Edition" and it's just cake and not blood. 'Cause it kinda looks like it.

And when putting the hard candy decorations on your cupcakes, it's a good idea to NOT put the first one pretty-side down.....

Thankfully, there were enough candies in the package where I was able to pluck that one off and do the rest....

Not too bad. Not masterpieces, by any means, but I'm not totally ashamed to bring them to the in-laws. And I'll be surprised if we even go through those 12 cupcakes... there are usually a TON of cookies on hand and the kids eat mostly those.

Next up... stuff for the brunch at my mom's.

Look at that blender go! Actually did two mixtures in there... first a savory egg mixture for a baked omelete, and then a custard mixture for Creme Brulee French Toast. Easy easy.

After that... got in my workout, shoveled our sidewalk since the association apparently isn't getting our stuff plowed for this go-around of snow, and made pita chips.

Pita chips... it amazes me what they get away with in stores for the bagged "baked pita chips". Like, two-fifty for a measly little bag. For $1.29 I can get a package of pocket pitas at the produce/ethnic market, and make a HUGE bag of pita chips with very little work. I don't buy into the pre-bought pita chip empire, man!

Dinner was not exciting. Frozen dinners... and while the Marie Callender's Country Fried Chicken was a favorite in college even though it involved some juggling of stuff in the microwave... it was good. They are no longer so. Chicken ala the McNugget texture (and I like a McNugget... when I want a McNugget. Not when I want chicken) and just blah over all. Guess I'm never buying those again. EVER.

Also whipped up a quick Reuben dip that I'll either bring over to the in-laws, or serve on Xmas day. I might actually keep it until Xmas day.... it's filling and since I only have nibbles, it's nice to have something like that. I'll figure that out tomorrow.

One last load for the dish washer, wiped down the counters and this lady is DONE. It's all pretty thoughtless from here on out. Throw some stuff in the oven, and unwrap and place cheese on a board on Xmas day.

Actually had time to do my nails and they are waiting for a second coat of pain.... Christmas... bring it on. As long as the roads are actually travel-able tomorrow... we're currently getting YET MORE SNOW and I am not happy about that. Someone told me that the farmer's almanac for this winter said it'd be a rough December but easier after that.... I sure hope so. I'm already sick of winter.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Baby it's cold outside.....

Yep... that's minus one. That was the temp, not even the wind chill this morning. COLD.

Let hubby take the truck to work, and there was NO way I was going to venture out into the cold in my old car, the Cougar, in this weather.

First order of the day was an important one.... Secret Santa Present Opening Day!!!

Some online friends (ok, all gals) and I have been doing it for a few years, and it's fast becoming a favorite part of the holiday.

Among other things, I got this beautiful set of ornaments....

A nice martini and cocktail shaker. Fits in right next to my Vegas ornaments....

I also got some silicone pot holders, which I have been wanting for awhile but haven't bought since I didn't need to have a "don't you already have enough pot holders?" discussion with the hubby. (Ok, I have... lemme see... eight potholders currently? Only six are my "everyday" ones, the others are old... wait a sec... lemme see... I have more older ones... I think I have about ten pot holders. So, um, yeah, the hubby may have a point. But my new potholders still rock and I wish I'd gotten them long ago.)

I can't wait to also use them to open some jars. My hands are utter crap and their grippy-ness helps me out.

Next order of the day was to make lunch... split pea soup. I happen to be someone who likes split pea soup, and it's one of those things that is REALLY hard to screw up. I think I followed an Ina Garten recipe but also threw in a proscuitto end that I've had in the freezer for awhile.

I started off with just yellow split peas. I know the recipes I read mentioned skimming would be involved. I recall wondering "what am I going to have to skim off?"

Oh, yeah. Ew. Um, that stuff. I skimmed that stuff.

Halfway thru cooking, I threw in some split green peas. About 20 minutes before it was done, I took out the proscutttio end and got as much meat off that as I could, and then added that to the soup.

Mmmm. That and two slices of rye toast was a wonderful lunch on a cold, cold, COLD day.

Also on the agenda was making buckeyes (since they come so highly reviewed). Problem number one.... forgot to get new batteries for my kitchen scale. I estimated amounts as much as I could.

The peanut butter/butter/powdered sugar mixture in the food processor....

And the finished one that I put in the fridge for me to try....

Verdict? Good. I actually recall these as being the only cookie my Grandma Mary actually ever "made". She gave us "homemade" cookies, but we all knew they came from the local Italian bakery. I still need some work on my "coating" technique, I needed to melt more chocolate chips halfway thru. I also should have bought some wax paper rather than trying to put them on greased plates... they kinda stuck a bit. Oh well. Most of them looked good. And hubby had fun making a dent in the "not pretty" ones I set aside.

Also on the agenda, making mini meatballs to go in some "it looks like ketchup, it tastes like ketchup, but by golly, it's not ketchup!" sauce on Xmad Day when the parents come over.

Sigh. I love baked meatballs. Never frying a meatball again. EVER.

And a lovely little shot of the pot holder in action. The way my hand have been currently, with a new storm front coming thru every couple days, it's nice to not have to have my hand in an oven mitt for some tasks.

For dinner, it was bagel dogs. Action shot!!!

I actually used regular flour since I used up all my bread flour. I noticed the difference in texture, the hubby didn't.

Post-dinner, I did some Chile-Roasted Almonds for Xmas day nibbles. Super easy, and while they have a little spice on the back of your throat, totally not overpowering. Just tasty.

In addition to all that, I made some cranberry sauce, (actually to serve on my cheese plate on Xmas Day) and wanted to do some pita chips but I fell asleep on the couch playing video poker on my Palm.

And in addition to all the cooking, I also scrubbed the upstairs bath, vacuumed upstairs, got in my workout, and washed a half a million (approximate estimate) of the hubby's tee shirts. And some of my own clothes. And a load of towels.

The fun continues tomorrow... the pita chips, tiramisu and red velvet cup cakes, and prepping a baked omelete and the creme brulee french toast. Outta be no sweat.