Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Happy "Free Pizza If You Own a Camaro" Day!

So... phone rings this morning. I glance at the caller ID, and it's the husband unit's work number.

I quickly run through the mental list... I saw him grab his Blackberry this morning, so he doesn't need me to run that over to him. He still has the change of clothes (jeans and tee shirt) that I dropped off Monday when he thought he was going to have to work in the very dirty warehouse after work. What in the world is he calling for?

Apparnelty, someone at work was telling him about it when they got in to work this morning, and he thought it was a joke, but a quick web search revealed it was not a hoax.

And the hubby drove his 2002 Camaro in to work today (which he usually wouldn't do since it was raining today, but that was the car that was quickest to get out of our driveway without playing parking attendent) and by the tone of his voice, dude is really, really, really jazzed about the idea of getting a free pizza just for being a Camaro owner. He was really hoping I'd give permission for him to stop on his way home from work and get a pizza, and scrap my plans for a more healthy, well-balanced dinner. Like, five-year-old at a toy store excited about it. So of course, the plan is now to have pizza for dinner, after my proud Camaro owner of a husband stops (and I'm sure he's hoping the parking lot will be a little like a car show, with some of the folks around here that have some very very impressively preserved older Camaros that we see on the road sometimes) and picks up a free pizza.

And even though I don't like Papa John's pizza that much.... c'mon. Free pizza is free pizza. Sometimes you just don't argue.

But none it changes the fact that I liked his Firebird way better. The lines on that car were way sexier than the Camaro, IMHO.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Home "Improvement"

Sigh. I should really know better by now, shouldn't I?

The hubsy was supposed to take last Friday off, and he was going to tackle some small projects that have been piling up around the house for the past couple of months. Work got busy last week, so he went in on Friday. I spent Saturday cleaning (and had to deal with a cranky spouse after I started vacuuming while he was trying to nap - I was not aware he was trying to sleep) and Sunday it was off to the grocery store, and hubby was going to tackle the leak we have with our air conditioner drainy-thing (which has been a problem for two months), put in the new toilet paper holder upstairs (waiting for this for at least 6 months) and fix the shower curtain rod upstairs (also, about 6 months waiting).

I was at the store and got a call to buy a good scrub brush.... apparently while waiting for the air conditioner leak-thing to solve itself, mold decided to invite itself to the party and there was some clean up to be done. About 20 minutes later, I get the call to buy a new curtain rod, since the one we had screwed into the walls, and apparently the wall decided to give and the whole rod came undone. Sigh.

Got home from the stores (with the unexpected trip to Target, but at least the tension rods for shower curtains have gotten better, got a nice brushed nickle one) and the leaky-thing was fixed, but the hubby was grumpily repairing walls and just being overall huffy.

I don't know why I ever expect this stuff to go smoothly. It never does.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mmmm... party dips....

(photo and recipe lifted from Penzey's since I forgot to take a picture of the finished product......)

I am one of those people that feels naked if I show up for a party without some dish in my hands. It's half because I am grateful to the hosts for having me, and it's nice to help and I like cooking, so it's no biggie for me. It's also half because sometimes I suspect that if I bring something... at least there will be one thing that I like to eat there at the party.

My youngest nephew's birthday party was this weekend, and I was going through the usual "what to make, what to make..." internal conversation, and the new Penzey's catalog arrived, with a recipe for a Pepperoni Pizza Dip. Much like the beloved cream cheese/cocktail sauce/shrimp or crab recipe. And I figured it'd also be good with kids... kids usually like pizza.

I categorized it as "pretty good", but pretty much everyone else was ranting and raving over the stuff. I actually made a tripple batch of it in a 9 x 12 pan, and pretty much all of it was gone by the time I left. A single batch in a pie plate would certainly work for most crowds.... you be the judge. I also left out the green pepper.... I'm not a huge green pepper fan.

Quick, easy portable, and a hit with all. This one is a keeper.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Julia would have appreciated it that way??

Is there anyone that doesn't love Julia Child??

Growing up, we watched a LOT of cooking shows on PBS. And we'd always turn it on when Julia was on (usually closely followed by someone in the family yelling "Save the livers!" in their best Dan Aykroyd voice) and watch and laugh along with Julia. Always encouraging home cooks to have a go at dishes that can be pretty intimidating.

My big intimidation? Souffles. Don't know why, but they've always seemed like something that is either done correctly or is an epic FAIL ala the pressure cooker in the old "House of Tomorrow" cartoon.

(One reason I still fear pressure cookers, too....)

Also, is there anyone that doesn't love Tex Avery?? Anyway....

So.... with all the hype with "Julie & Julia" hitting the theaters... why not whip out my own copy of Mastering The Art of French Cooking and give a try at something that has scared me in the past??

Bring on the souffle!

One great thing about Mastering is that the recipes are written in a way to be somewhat flexible to home cooks at the time the book was done.... not every housewife could get their hands on stuff that is commonplace in American supermarkets now... so there is room in the recipes to play around. I had some leftover broccoli in the fridge, so I decided to go for a broccoli & cheddar (I was out of swiss cheese) souffle.

I cooked some shallots in some butter, since I've got about ten shallots laying around.

Added my flour to make my roux....

Roux... when a roux is involved, the food you are going to be eating is usually gonna be good...

Added some milk that I nuked in the microwave, and it's bechamel....

I took that off the heat and let it cool for a couple minutes, then started adding the 4 egg yolks...

I added them one at a time until they were all in there....

Then stirred in my chopped, cooked broccoli...

Oh, also added the cheese to that when it was cooled. But I forgot to take a picture.

Turned on the oven, and I started with the egg whites....

Yay! Whipped egg whites achived.

Now, on to the real challenge. Folding in the egg whites.

I'm not a good folder (you should just see my dresser drawers..... thank you, thank you, I'm here all week, try the veal and don't forgot to tip your waitress) since I'm just not patient. I know this. But I really, really wanted to try and do it right this time.

So, you add some egg whites and fold...

And fold.....

And fold...

And fold....

And then plop this in your prepped dish and throw it in the oven.....

Oh yeah, I also added some cheese on the top.

I cooked it for the recommended 25 minutes before checking on it, and then cooked it for another 10 minutes, since it still looked a bit pale.

Well, crud.

Not as much lift as I'd like, and not as much brown as I'd like.

Still, it looked good, so I dug in.


I did not want it to be watery like that. I suspect it was undercooked. The top was all nice and fluffy and good, but the middle was kinda runny.

I ate the fluffy part and just threw the rest in my turned-off oven while I ate...

At least that seemed to do the trick. The leftovers were at least solid.

So, I blew it a little bit, but at least my kitchen didn't explode in the process. And even not correct, it was still pretty damned nice. We're "breakfast for dinner" people around here, and I can see a nice ham & cheese souffle on our dinner menu soon, since it's basically just like really, really good scrabled eggs.

It wasn't hard, you can even do it in stages and make your bechamel ahead of time and then just do your egg whites right before you throw it in the oven. It's also one of those great things to know how to do so you can use up all the extra bits of cheese, veggies and meats in your fridge. I like things like that.

Although.... sigh.... I try to gracefully remember that even when Julia started doing "The French Chef" on PBS that she & Paul (her husband) had to wash their own dishes.....

But if Julia, Julie, and thousands of determined home cooks out there can do it, so can I.


So, I decided to try the America's Test Kitchen recipe for Almost No-Knead bread. I'm a lover of the no-knead bread, but I will admit that it can be kinda bland, and a recipe that used a little beer sounded like it was just what I needed.

The original plan was to make the bread and serve it with some pasta. Until I went to my garden and found the first tomatoes of summer......

BLTs are a requirement when you get the first tomatoes of summer. They just are.

And what could be nicer than a BLT on some nice, homemade bread??

The start of the dough....

This is different than my usual no-knead bread... was a lot drier, and well, more like regular dough.

After the first rest overnight....

Then it was time to do the little kneading that is required. Um, problem???

It was like The Thing in dough form. Just kinda went bblllllluuueeeerrrgggg all over the cutting board and as much flour as I tried to use to make is something knead-able and not bllluuueerrgg-like, it just wasn't going to happen. So, I got frustraited and just flopped it onto some parchment paper to do the second rise, and hoped for the best.

About to go into the oven.....

I did like using the parchment paper. Made it very easy to get the dough into my stoneware dish, and very easy to get it out.

And I was pretty impressed with the finished product. Nice crust, good inside, got a good rise out of it, nice flavor. I was very, very happy to slap some bacon, tomatoes, lettuce and mayo on some slices and have a sandwich.
The hubby took one look at my beautiful bread and asked "Where is the 'normal' bread?"
Yep, he wanted his sandwich on toasted Butternut bread. No interest in the lovely, fresh bread that was waiting.
His loss.