Saturday, January 31, 2009

Duh duh duh duuuuuhh.....

(or however it is the "football" song goes in your head....)

Woo! Time to get the ribs and chicken wings started!!

Took everything out of the fridge, and sliced my ribs into serving-sized slabs. Really, the recipe has them so tender by the end, it's easier to have them sliced at the start. Or at least that's been my experience all the times I've gone with this recipe.


... meet rub.....


Don't forget, gotta rub both sides.... front...

And back....

A mess of lovely ribs, in lovely rub, about to go into the fridge so I can cook them tomorrow....

And you really do have to rub it on to the meat. No, it's not icky to touch cold, raw meat. It's something you have to do if you want a good result. Deal with it.

And by the end, your hands and board will look something like this...

And you'll likely have rub all over your counter, floor, and any small children and animals that were underfoot. But it's worth it.

Next up... the wings....

They saw the rub and wanted to be a part of the fun. Can you blame them? I also had a little rub leftover and I figured it was easier to use it here since I still have plenty more to use up.

Thew them in my big ol' pot to steam for fifteen minutes. In that fifteen minutes, I was able to clean up, unload and then load up the dishwasher, shovel off the deck for the hubby who was trying to fix out staticy phone line and was then on a run to Menards, finish putting away the groceries, and cure the common cold.

Ok, maybe I didn't cure the common cold. But I did have some lovely looking wings....

Let those cool, and packed them up and into the fridge they went.

I'm still not exactly sure how I'm going to swing the cooking tomorrow... the wings need about an hour in the oven, the ribs need three. Very different temps. I think I'm either going to do the wings first as a kinda pre-game warm up and then focus on the ribs, or start the ribs and sneak in the wings after two hours and just let the ribs sit while I do the wings. Right now, leaning to the first option.

And nurtz... I forgot to adjust my blue cheese dip today. Oh well.

And I even had time to paint my toenails today. I'm a pretty happy Hausfrau right now.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Superbowl prep... GO!

First off... ugh. Industry I work in = NOT GOOD. I only half-jokingly blame it on Microsoft and Windows Vista being the only operating system on PCs for sale this holiday season. I fear I will soon be another faceless statistic in those jobless numbers.

But enough of that.... FOOD!!

If you have not yet started your Superbowl menu, if you're prone to do things like a Superbowl menu like I do, even though I really only watch football when the Bears are losing/on. But heck... and event that is all about things like ribs and wings and chili and potato skins and nachos... sign me up. I'll cook for that.

If you're looking for a starch to make, I'd suggest Parmesan Steak Fries. I think they were an Everyday Food (magazine) recipe from awhile back... but they are really one of those things that you don't need a recipe for. And I really don't follow the recipe anyway (surprise!).

Start out.... cut each spud - skin on - into 8 spears. I think the original recipe called for sixths... I find the eighths just cook a lot better. And I find it easier to do. Take that, Martha!!

Next up... the eggs. Recipe calls for eggs white only... but don't be one of the hatas that wastes the egg yolks. My own personal theory is that by using the egg whites one night, I am free to indulge and go for an egg yolk-rich recipe another night. I refuse to believe that eggs are bad for me.

Whip up the egg whites until they're nicely frothy. Not like you're doing serious pastry-like stuff with them, but nice and bubbly. Yeah, I was busy DOING it, so no peektures.

Egg whites, meet potato spears.....

After the toss in the eggs whites, you toss them in a serious amount of cheese. Original recipe was like 3/4 cup parm.... I use about the same amount (ok, well, more.... since I tend to double the recipe since I love these things) but I use Romano cheese... 1) We like it better, 2) I'm particular when it comes to parm and I like the expensive stuff, and I'm too cheap to use parm. I'll admit it.

Ready for the oven.....

And the important time and temp details....

While those cooked, it was on to mixing up some Blow-Your-Mind Blue Cheese Dip.

I liked the idea of the recipe, and I had light sour cream and low-fat Greek yogurt to use up. If you are not yet a convert to Greek yogurt... become one. People who say they can use yogurt like sour cream? I always though they were nuts until I tried Greek Yogurt. I can eat this stuff like sour cream.

Shallots and garlic, ready to be chopped...

Cooked those in a little olive oil, and no pictures because shallots make my eyes water about a zillion times more than any other onion or object on earth (ok... well, maybe the Sex and The City scene where Harry proposes to Charlotte... that one gets me teary every time) so no pictures of the cooking process since I couldn't see straight.

Cooked shallots and garlic (my eyes were better) going into the sour cream, mayo and yogurt mixture.....

And don't forget to add the mustard powder, like I almost did.....

Mmmm... blue cheese dip.....

And by that time, fries were ready to come out of the oven....

Oh yeah... you want to use a Silpat or baking paper for the fries. They'll stick to metal or foil or glass like a corruption charge sticks to the governer of my fine state of Illinois.

Very tasty. Not super crisp on the outside, but there is cheesy goodness to be had, plenty of fluffy potato.... they are a crowd pleaser. They'd make any football watching fan or non-fan happy.

The dip... I tried some tonight (with some Chicken Rings from White Castle... gormets, I tells ya) and the first taste was HOLY YOWSA GARLIC. A little better after that. It's still a bit chunky for my personal dipping purposes... I might go at it tomorrow with a wisk or potato masher to break up the big cheese chunks. Or not. We'll see.

So... looking forward to a fun and food-filled weekend. The next two weeks at work and the layoffs that will be coming... not so much.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Song Poisoning....

So... watching the morning news (wooo!! Rock it, WGN!) this morning, they had the usual "Around Town" segment, with some local group that is doing some staged musical that takes all the greatness that is School House Rock. Problem is, they were not doing it well. The segment I saw, they were doing "Three Is A Magic Number". And it was notgood. I might be biased... one of my favorite bands, Blind Melon (RIP Shannon, you idiot) did the most awesomest cover of that ever, and I had it going thru my head. All. Day. And of course, I don't have it on CD. And I couldn't find it in any of the fifty places I keep my MP3s.

I had a real post to do tonight... really I did.... Parmesan Steak Fries and the start of prep for Superbowl weekend with some Blow-Your-Mind Blue Cheese dip that I made for the chicken wings... but after spending an hour searching for it and then some time downloading other stuff to my MP3 player before I bothered to go on to The Internets to find this song... yeah... evening gone. And I still gotta watch Hell's Kitchen.

But thank you Internet... I have heard it now, it is downloaded to my Palm, and I will likely listen to it about ten times tomorrow. And I would ROCK a math test on the multiples of three, thanks to my fondness of this one, even the original since I was a kid and it was standard Saturday morning viewing.

No animation.... just the song. But it's great.

(We'll see if I do this right.... yay! I know how to post video!!!)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Your cooking has two moves Marge....

After a day of trying to convert some serious engineer-speak ("select the selection and after you have selected the selection blah blah blah..." seriously?) my brain usually hurts. It's really a day spent doing some serious manual translation. You need to read every sentance, figure out how many thoughts are really in there, then play with the software and try to figure out what the heck they REALLY mean, and then work it all into something that can be useful to a reader AND not offend the submitting engineer enough that they'll throw a hissy fit. Because some do - when you don't use their exact wording, they will fight you. Sometimes to the point where you need to go "well I'm not asking you to fix X, Y, and Z in your code... don't play around with the words. That's my job."


So, tonight I needed comfort food. Something that makes a foodie really happy.

Hey... Shake'N Bake and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese makes me happy sometimes. Deal with it.

And I love the Steamfresh veggies. If you haven't picked them up, do so. I have a bit of a complex about using too many microwave steamer bags, and I figure these cook in the bag they came in, so my ecological guilt is appeased, a little.

Oh yeah... don't forget the apple sauce. SO important with pork chops.

I am not so much of a food snob that I disagree with some help from store-bought products and not doing everything from scratch. Would I serve this if company was coming over? No. Was it a nice, stress free cooking night for a day where I was so out of it that I walked into the kitchen 15 minutes after I put the pot of water on the stove, only to find I forgot to turn on the burner? Yes. Was it tasty enough? Yes.

All items were prepared as per package directions. Hey... ya don't have to crap up a good thing. Just follow the directions that someone translated, even from food-engineer speak.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Smothered Burgers and Fries with Garlicky Mayo

Um... hello? Where'd my cooking grates go?

Oh yeah... put them in the dishwasher last night. They're enameled cast iron, and I can NEVER keep them clean. But I love them anyway.

Ahh... that's more like it. On to dinner!! So what does one cook when they have a nice, clean stove? Why... Smothered Steak Burgers and Shoestring Fries with Garlicky Dijon Mayo. Because there is nothing like making splatter-tastic burgers when you spent a half hour cleaning your stovetop the night before.

The meat mixture... plus some dried minced onion. One of my secret weapons in burgers.

Too bad there was a section of the package of ground beef that froze while it was in the back of the fridge.... guess it'll only be three burgers rather than four.

I've never done smothered burgers before... here is the mushroom mixture to go atop the burgers....

Despite all the efforts of the mushrooms, shallots, steak sauce, and some veal stock, the mushrooms didn't have much taste. I also had a problem with the recipe as written... why would you do the sauce first and then the topping, and waste all the fond in the pan? I cooked my burgers first and then did the sauce in the same pan.

Some veg... zuchinni and some cherry tomatoes....

The complete meal....

The burgers were "meh"... didn't do much for me. But the true star of the meal....

The mayo. The awesome, lovely, wonderful mayo. I'm not one for the whole "mayo with fries" thing, but this stuff actually had me thinking of maybe making it on Valentine's Day so I can lick some off the hubby. Although I'm not sure he's fond of having mayo spread over his body. He's odd that way.

The burgers... not on my to-do-again list. The actual fries... not too bad, but the mayo was just a star. I used non-course dijon, because I just used the squeeze bottles of mayo and mustard in the fridge door. I also used some white balsamic for the vinegar... don't have any sherry vinegar. But in any case... yum. I stashed the leftover mayo in the fridge and I need to think of a way to use it by the end of the week. Sooo yummy.

Sigh... time to wipe down the stove... AGAIN....

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cooking Guilt

I was really, really half-assed with my cooking last week. And I know it.

We've suddenly gotten very busy at work, and combine that with waiting for the other shoe to drop in the current state of the economy, it was just exhausting. Getting home and wanting to do nothing but just veg out. It happens. And I've learned to just go with that feeling rather than try to push myself and ending up crashing and burning.

But I wanted to make it up to myself this weekend.

Headed out yesterday into the frozen tundra that the Chicago area has become to do my weekly shopping. I did make a fun little discovery in stopping by a little Italian deli that is very nearby, and I found out they do some GREAT sandwiches. Too bad they close at 6pm in the evening. But I figure if we've got a taste for sandwiches on a Friday, I can always try to stop on my way home from work.

For dinner, it was shrimp with pasta and cream sauce. Mmmm... cream sauce.

Started by making some garlic confit...

And then some tomato confit....

Add some garlic and unfortunately all of the tomato confit... I wanted to have some of it for another dish later this week, but two of the tomatoes I bought were just too darned hard to use... to the cream, plenty of salt, and break out the stick blender...

Always tasty, even though I sprung for the wild-caught American shrimp this time around and all I could taste while eating them was chlorine, but the pasta and sauce was good.

Also, yesterday, I dealt with a mess of onions and turned this....

Into this...

.. which went into the slow cooker with a stick of butter before we went to bed, and in the morning, I came downstairs to the wonderful sights and smells of this...

The weather is not going to be any kinder to us this week, so I figured for lunches, I'd do some grilled turkey and Swiss sandwiches with some French Onion soup.

One of the reasons I love doing the onions in the slow cooker (other than the Unattended Cooking Time... seriously... it took me a half hour to clean/chop all those onions) is all the juice you get. The cover traps the liquid in the cooker insert....

See? Look at all that liquid. You don't want to waste that.

Now time to play with some of the stocks I have made recently.... dumped in some veal stock, some duck stock and some chicken stock....

I also added some balsamic, some pepper, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, put the lid on, and let it cook for 4 hours on high.

Hmmm.. how do I amuse myself in the meantime??

Spice rub!!!

A bunch of spices for a rub for my ribs for next Sunday. I usually do a version of Alton Brown's "No Backyard Baby Back Ribs", but we're not fans of the spice rub he uses. WAY hot. My favorie recipe comes out of The Complete Meat Cookbook. AWESOME cookbook. If you like meat, you should own this cookbook.

Even though I have a very nice cookbook stand, I usually jot down notes on a post-it and thwap it on a cabinet to give me instruction while I cook. See??

For those interested....

2 T paprika
2 T chili powder
2 t cayenne
2 T garlic powder
2 T brown sugar
1 T cumin
1 T mustard powder
1 t ground sage
1 t oregano
1/4 cup salt (kosher)
1 T fresh black pepper

Wooo.... pretty.... it's like tasty sand art....

And then it's time to shake shake shake, shake shake shake, shake your spice rub!

I actually did a double batch.... really... have you ever heard anyone say "Gee... I just have too much spice rub around...."??? I don't think so.

Dinner tonight was chili.... mmm... tasty, warm chili.....

And with my new huge Le Creuset pot, I was able to make a double batch. Which means loads and loads of chili for freezer for later use....

So... at least for the near future... the lazy cooking nights can at least make use of my chili stockpile. Chili dogs, chili over tamales, chili omeletes (I know, it may sound gross, but it is seriously good - we had them once at Cheeseburger Las Vegas and we quickly became addicts). Really, what can't you do with chili??

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Productive Without Pictures

I left my cell phone/camera in the car. And I'm not putting on real pants to go out and get it.

Today was a productive day in the kitchen, though.

After being a slug yesterday (migraine, which means I need all the energy I can muster to constantly adjust the light and TV sound levels to what is acceptable at that moment) I was determined to be more productive today... and I started early.

Woke up early, and I threw the leftover chicken carcass from last night's dinner (chicken enchiladas) and some veg and water into the slow cooker for some chicken stock.

Went to work. Did lots of stuff. Attended training for our new bug tracking system (welcome to the year 2000?).

Came home, made a version of Ina Gaten's Bay Scallop Gratin for dinner (needs work... with the scallops we get around here, I need to cut WAY back on the liquid, but it was still tasty). Cleaned that up. Browned three pounds of ground beef and some chopped onions so it can hide in the freezer until Superbowl Sunday for chili. Roasted four pounds of chicken backs/necks (it seems to be mostly backs, but that is fine) to also go into the freezer stash for chicken stock in the near future. Made a version of the Cook's Country Cincinnati Chili using ground turkey (might actually like it better than the beef version, we'll see if the hubby agrees). Cleaned the kitchen, cleaned out the fridge for garbage day.

Tried to figure out how the heck the strategy for Omaha Hold 'Em poker works, and I'm still clueless. But I'm fine with that.

And I pretty much did all this to avoid having to scrub down the bathrooms. Priorities, ya know.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

24 degrees outside? Break out the summer shorts!

The dangerous cold has lifted... time to get on with life.

For me (and the rest of the people in the area) that apparently means going to the store.

Saturday was shopping day. The day started with a trip to Sam's Club. And apparently everyone was in as big of a need for toilet paper and coffee as me, since EVERYONE seemed to be at the store when I was there. I shoulda gone on Friday night.

I don't enjoy trips to Sam's Club. They didn't always used to be so bad, but as more people have gotten memberships over the years, the place is becoming as bad as Wally World. Unattended kids running around, people swarming for free samples (seriously... do you need to form a crowd three people deep for quesadilla samples?)... heck, there was almost a riot at the place with the roasted chickens by the meat... I thought some lady was going to clothesline me so she could grab the chicken I had in my hands. Ugh.

After that, the produce mart and regular grocery store were a cakewalk.

Actually, the product mart was even more fun than that.

I don't know if the deli dudes at Eurofresh read my blog or if there are just more people shopping there that are interested in what major stores seem to consider "nasty bits", but they've been hitting it off the charts lately. Since I first found veal bones there they have been excellent at usually having some out with the rest of the meat, as well as other bones for soups and stocks. I knew I needed to get my freezer chicken stock supply restored, and figured I'd just buy some wings or something and use those.

No need!

Apparently, they now sell dirt cheap packages of chicken necks and backs. Oh yeah.

When all was said and done, my meat haul when I returned from the stores....

And NOT pictures is the cooked chicken and ribs I picked up at Sam's club. Chicken will be used probably tomorrow for dinner, and the ribs are in the freezer, waiting for Superbowl Sunday.

In all the meat pictured above is two packages of the chicken necks/backs, two packages of ground beef, two packages of ground turkey (good sale), a package of turkey culets, a flank steak, mild Italian sausage, two packages of chicken wings (also for Superbowl Sunday).... and apparently other stuff, since there are more packages there than I am recalling right now. Oh yeah.. a package of country ribs. 'N stuff.

The country ribs, flank steak and sausage were for Sunday dinner.

But before that.... see anything missing?

Ah. The Final De-Christmasization of the House. Christmas tree is put away. Just as much fun as the day it first goes up.

So... um... yeah... by the time all the shopping/putting away and cleaning was done, it was late.

We ordered pizza.

Hey, a girl needs a night off sometimes.

But tomorrow was another day... the hubby went over to his folks for awhile, so I was left alone in the house. Blew threw some stuff on the Tivo and I was kinda bored. So I decided that I needed to make another big batch of Soup.

Cook More 2009: Soup, soup, soup, soup, soup, soup, soup soup!

(sung along to the Monty Python "Spam!" song)

Cheddar Chicken Chowder

I've actually made this before... long ago, the hubby and I were both home, snowed in from work, and I whipped some of this up for lunch. As I recall, I didn't exactly follow the recipe then, and I didn't follow it exactly this time.

Starting off, I only had some green pepper... not red....

See that lovely brown stuff on the bottom???

Foodies call it "fond". Anne Burell calls it "crud". I just call it "yummy stuff". You don't ever want to waste that yummy stuff on the bottom of pot. It's not icky, burned on stuff. It's goodness. Tasty, tasty, goodness.

A little bit of chicken stock and some scraping the bottom of the pan and it'll come off... making your food tasty, and your pot easier to clean....

Anyway.... I know I have cooked, shredded chicken in my freezer somewhere, but apparently it's playing hide and seek. I made several trips between the kitchen and the basement freezers, looking for it, with no luck.

And since the homemade chicken stock has not been done yet, time to go for the good boxed stuff...

Seriously... if you're going to use a stock/broth you get from the grocery store... ONLY by Kitchen Basics. I've sworn by the stuff for a long time, and I stocked up my mom's pantry with some for the week since I figured she'd be on a broth-type diet after her recent incident. After having weak chicken broth at the hospital for a few days, she was amazed at how good this stuff was.

On to the recipe.... ok... no frozen corn on hand but I think a couple cans of canned corn....

Make that one can of corn, one can of creamed corn. And apparently some pimentos that I was planning on using over the holiday to make some pimento chees that I never got around to.

In ya'll go!

Oh... and that went in with the LOG of frozen cooked turkey that I was able to find. The ever-ellusive chicken is still in the freezer, somewhere.

I have to say... this stuff was as good as the first time I made it.


Even forgetting the crumbled bacon on top (I did use some bacon fat to cook the veg) this was darned tasty. Creamy, cheesy, and it works well with turkey.

Dinner was a snap tonight... Italian Sunday Gravy again.

This is kinda the point where you start to skim some of the fat off the surface. Big old grease slicks are not pretty, but this is still some tasty stuff.

This time I did not cut back on the garlic, and since I didn't use spicy sausage (only mild... haven't found a brand of spicy sausage that I like) I added probably a heaping half tablespoon of red pepper flakes, and wowsa... all the difference in the world. It doesn't make it "burn the mouth" spicy... just gives it a nice, overall spice and flavor. Red pepper flakes are kinda like garlic... kinda overpowering when "raw" or added without much cooking, but when you let them cook for a long time, they do some really nice things.

And with that... the weekend is over... on to the workweek. Ugh. At least with MLK Day tomorrow there is no school traffic, which adds a little less frustration to the day.

But there is a bright spot... hopefully tomorrow I'll get my copy of Polish Heritage Cookery... someone in the hubby's family needs to make pierogi from scratch, and I've decided that is me. I know his dad's mother was always the great cook of the family and she used to do all this stuff... someone else needs to bring it back. I *WILL* be doing some type of homemade pierogi for Easter.