Thursday, December 31, 2009

C is for Cranberry (that's good enough for me)

Requested by loyal reader Patti, I'm embracing the (now-over) holiday season with cranberries, a fruit about which I know very little:

- Cranberry juice is apparently especially good for maintaining healthy lady-bits
- and is also quite tasty in a Cosmopolitan. Coincidence?
- The Cranberries (band) were a big part of the soundtrack for my late high school/early college years.
- Helping harvest cranberries seems to be a popular way to torment TV hosts.
- Many people have encountered the Canned Cranberry Gel Loaf as a part of holiday feasts. Some respond to this by hating it, others crave it. I'm one of the haters.

Now for some research:
- it's an evergreen
- native to North America
- called a "superfruit" (a marketing term that basically indicates a fruit with lots of antioxidants)
- seldom sold or eaten in its unprocessed form
- though it is harvested from flooded fields, it doesn't grow in water
- the research that indicates drinking cranberry juice can help prevent UTIs in women was in the British Medical Journal, vol 322, pp 1571-1573, (June 29) 2001, in case you're curious.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

T is for Turkey

A bit out of order here, I know, both temporally and alphabetically, but I wanted to share pics of my gorgeous Thanksgiving beastie:

This is mid-process and that thing covering half of Mr. Turkey is a lint free towel.
I soak it in melted butter and cover the turkey with it at the start of the cooking process. Basting takes place both over and under the towel every 15 minutes.

Yes, I know, I know, you can go the roaster bag or aluminum foil route but I got this method from the Joy of Cooking and
a) It has never, ever failed me. 7 years strong here, people.
b) My turkey is annually praised as one of the moistest anyone has encountered. (Somehow that sounds naughty. Hmm.)
c) What else exactly am I going to be doing on Thanksgiving anyway? Composing a symphony? Working on my juggling skills?

Pretty, no?

Happy Holidays to everyone! More from me soon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

B is for Bacon Beignets - Where Are They Now?

I've thawed and fried 6 in the past couple of days and i have to say it has worked beautifully.

You just move a few frozen beignets into the fridge from the freezer the night before and you're good to go for breakfast. Or you can set them out on the counter to thaw at lunch (yes, yes, I know: Unsafe Food Practice! But, let's be honest, we all do it at home) and have them thawed by dinner time.

Then you set them in a warmed over to rise and fry them as you would when the dough is fresh.


(I am now non-employed, so there should be more updating as we move into C. Stay tuned!)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

B is for Bacon Beignets

I'm not from New Orleans. In fact, I've never even been there. The closest I've come to this tasty treat was at sleepovers with one of my friends in elementary school. In the mornings, her mom would let us make "doughnuts" out of Pillsbury biscuit dough, deep fried, then covered with cinnamon and sugar. (If you don't have time to do a real dough, I bet that would still taste pretty darn good.)

The biggest inspiration for this recipe (besides, as always, King Bacon) were the crawfish beignets at Alligator Soul in Everett, Washington. Recipe guidance came mostly from here and a little from here, with some frying oil advice here, since I don't fry stuff very often.

Here's What I Did:
1 Envelope Active Dry Yeast

3/4 Cup Water (110 degrees F)

1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar

1/2 tsp Salt
1 Beaten Egg

1/2 Cup Evaporated Milk

3 1/2 – 3 3/4 Cups Flour
4-6 slices of bacon

1/8 Cup Shortening

Vegetable Oil for Frying

Powdered Sugar

1) Fry the bacon until crispy. Drain and set aside.

2) Combine the Yeast, Water, and Sugar in a food processor,

3) Let this sit until frothy, about 5 minutes,

4) Add the Salt, Egg, and Evaporated Milk and mix on low speed,

5) Add half of the flour and mix until it starts to come together,

6) Add the shortening and bacon. Mix.

7) When the shortening and bacon are incorporated, start adding the remaining flour, a little at a time until most of it is incorporated.

8) Add just enough flour to make a non-sticky, smooth dough.

9) Place the dough into a large oiled bowl, loosely cover and let rise
NOTE: The original recipe had the following statement "I made mine last night and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator." I did not have good luck with that method and had to do an emergency dough recovery. More on that below.

10) After the dough has doubled in bulk, (3-ish hours) punch it down and turn it onto a floured surface

11) Roll out to about 1/2″ thick.

12) Cut out with cookie cutters. (I used a ghost, an autumn leaf and a snowflake. Apparently diamonds, rectangles and circles are more traditional.)

13) Place the Beignets on a floured baking sheet to let rise about 40 minutes in a warm place (I put them in a barely warm oven. Preheat to 200 for 2 minutes, then turn the heat off and shove the dough in.)

14) When the Beignets have risen, heat 2-3 inches of vegetable oil in a large saucepan to 350-360 degrees.

15) Place 2-4 Beignets into the hot oil at a time, being careful not to smash or deflate them.

16) When they are golden brown, flip them over until golden brown on the other side (This goes VERY quickly so start checking them right after they go into the oil).

17) Remove to paper towel lined plates to drain.

18) Serve hot topped with plenty of powdered sugar

The original recipe says this makes about 2 dozen. I got about that out of it, maybe a little more; I think I was making them smaller.

How'd it go?
Great. Fried dough is just a tasty tasty thing. The bacon fit in nicely, no big surprise there.

I made 7 yesterday which were fried and eaten and then another 20-25ish I pre cut and put into the freezer; supposedly I'll be able to thaw and fry them later in little batches. We'll see how that goes.

What would I change:

- Well, I don't think i'll ever try to get dough to rise in the refrigerator again. As I said yesterday, I awoke to non-risen dough. The save that worked was placing the dough in a barely warmed over for awhile (Preheat to 200 for 2 minutes, then turn the heat off and shove the dough in). Thank you, friendly bakers of the interweb!

- I would use more bacon. There's some in every pastry, but I would like more for even more bacony flavor.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

B is for Bacon Beignet FAIL!

or, D is for Dough D'oh!

I made the dough for the bacon beignets last night and, as of this morning, it hadn't risen.

I checked online and found two suggestions for saving dough that make sense to me:
- put it in a warmer place
- mix in a new batch of yeast water

I'll try them in order and see how it goes.

If that doesn't work, later we'll have Bacon Bread Pudding.

Friday, November 20, 2009

B is for Blog FAIL!


Yesterday I was finally so distracted by work and life and being diagnosed with strep that I forgot to post.

Ah well, it was a good try. Over half and all that, pip pip, chin up.

I can always finish out the run, and 29 out of 30 is perfectly respectable.

Stiil, though: DARN and DANG!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

B is for Breakfast Souffle

This is my family's traditional Christmas morning breakfast. It's not only tasty, but also practical; you make it the night before and on The Day you can just pop it in the oven and be good to go by the time you're done with the stockings.

1 1/2 to 2 lbs bulk sausage (may I suggest Bacon sausage?)
18 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
3 slices white bread
1 to 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
mushrooms and/or onion – optional

1) Brown sausage and drain.
2) Remove crust from bread and cut into 1/4 in cubes
3) Mix eggs, milk, mustard, salt, bread cubes and cheese in large mixing bowl
4) Stir in sausage.
4.5) Also stir inmushrooms and onions at this point if you're going to.
5) Pour into greased 13x9x2 inch casserole
6) Cover and refrigerate overnight.
7) Bake uncovered in 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

Serves 12.

I share not because I cooked this today but because I was sent the recipe from my mom and sister today. Love love love.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

B is for Block. Writer's Block

I'm tired of talking about why I left the job, but I also haven't been cooking much this week, between rehearsals, meetings and puppet shows. I had a very nice japanese curry for dinner tonight. They seem to do curry more savory than spicy, which is right up my flavour profile. Also, there were pickles on it, which sounds wrong but tastes oh so right. And now I must post this before time runs out. See you tomorrow, when I hope to have remembered what i actually meant to write about today.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Q is for Quitting

As in, I quit my job today. In this economy, without having a new job. The place I will not much longer have the misfortune of working is so massively toxic that I would rather be unemployed than employed there.

Sorry this has nothing to do with cooking or bacon.

Here's something about food: I had butternut squash duck soup for lunch. It was like eating a bowl of Thanksgiving gravy. In a good way.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

B is for Bacon Burgers

They were huge and delicious. (That's what she said.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

B is for I Can Bring Home the Bacon

Maybe I'll get back to baking tomorrow. That would be nice.

Friday, November 13, 2009

L is for Longest Week Ever

Really. This week has been too too much. So, I lamely will merely post one of my favourite You Tube videos ever to try and cheer us all up.

(Warning: Gangsta rap, n-word, verbal violence, lip syncing Muppets)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

B is for Bacon Heaven

Otherwise known as The Swinery:

(Sorry about the lazy posts. I'm still sick, plus there's a fair amount of emotional upheaval these days. Feh. More on that later.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

B is for Bacon Recipes

From Mr. Interweb, shared with me by Patti. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

B is for BBB Sandwich

Still convalescing, but finally on the upswing, and finding myself with three different kinds of bacon in the house, I did what any self respecting bacon lover would do: I made a Bacon, Bacon and Bacon Sandwich for lunch.

On the left is your typical store-bought breakfast bacon, in the center is our new friend Danish Bacon, and on the right we have applewood smoked bacon from The Swinery.

As you can see, I did not insult my masterful creation with salad or condiments. Just six slices of bacon on twelve grain bread.


Monday, November 9, 2009

B is for Brown, Babbling and Book signing

I heart Alton Brown. Not in a personal knowing him way, mind you, just in a geek girl fan crush sorta way.

He won my heart during the first Feasting on Asphalt when he cooked stew on one of the crew’s motorcycle engines. And then ate it. I swooned. It was after that I noticed “Hey, isn’t he the commentator guy on that American version of Iron Chef that isn’t as good as the original?” I’ve been a loyal fan ever since.

So when I saw his book tour was coming to my city, naturally I wrote it into my day planner. And started including it as a rehearsal conflict on audition forms. That’s the closest this girl comes to dedication.

I had to work the day of the signing event, so I unfortunately got to Third Place Books somewhat after about 800 of the 900+ fans who were there that night.

The event part was great; not actually a reading, which was fine by me, since I
a) own the book
and b) know how to read.

I’m sure the extended Q&A session we got instead was much more entertaining. Highlights:
- He bet a kid a dollar that his mom drove a minivan and then paid up when he was wrong.
- He said it was ok to mock vegans because they were too weak to pick up a pen to write in and complain.
- He gave a guy who’d been married 6 months what he called The Most Important Marital Advice Ever. It boiled down to: Don’t nitpick your spouse’s cooking, but the really cool part of the story is where Mrs. Brown went on kitchen strike for 8 months to prove a point. The mysterious Mrs. Brown, it appears, is a total bad ass. Good on her say I.

And then there was the signing. I was fortunate enough to have an “E” ticket, so I only had to wait about an hour. My friend Johnny had a “Q” ticket and was thus stuck there until 10:45. As an experience, it was very much like waiting to see Santa Claus: the long line, the giddy anticipation, the sprite-like helpers herding us into place, the first glimpse, the mounting excitement/terror, the encounter and the brain freeze.

Campers, I was sooo not cool. You _want_ to be cool on occasions like this, you think you can be, you’re all “Look, self, just treat it like any other conversation. He’s just a guy, right?” But even though that's true, it doesn’t work. Because as a social occasion, this is absurd. So I babbled about bacon and parsnips. And he thanked me for thanking him for the parsnip episode and bragged on his daughter’s acting. He did not hit me with any snark at all, he in fact had a very gentle tone of voice. My theory is that he was trying to calm me down, whether from pity or fear, who can say?

Embarrassment aside, the mission was accomplished. I met The Man, I got The Autograph (which will take its place of honor next to Tim Gunn, Joss Whedon and The Cowboy Junkies) and I grinned like a fool all the way home.

Thanks AB, for being gentlemanly to a star struck fan grrrl.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

B is for Bleah

Right. So I woke up feeling like crap this morning. Thus I did not get to make the BBB (Bacon Bacon Bacon) Sandwich and Bacon Beignets I had planned. And therefore I cannot really blog about them.

Instead I got to sleep on the couch and drink juice. Not tasty. Not fun. Not particularly blog worthy.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

B is for Bacon Antidotes

With all this bacon I have been/will be eating, I had a moment (brief, granted) of concern for my health. Maybe, I thought, just maybe I should look into foods that help fight cholesterol. So I went to Google.

Fortunately, the 4 most mentioned foods all involve things I already like to eat:

- almonds (yum. and you can even get Snickers made with these now)
- oatmeal (a favourite breakfast of mine in winter and also darn tasty when it gets made into bread)
- fish (I live in Seattle. Salmon is plentiful and fresh.)
- soy (ok, only in edamame, but that totally counts)

Maybe at the end of B I should make a meal incorporating all these elements. Twould be an interesting challenge at any rate.

The articles I liked best:
Mayo Clinic

Friday, November 6, 2009

B is for Bacon Caramels

Today I finally made it to The Swinery, where I got enough bacon based products to easily carry me through the rest of B "Week". I also, unexpectedly, encountered Bacon Caramels:

Me: "Wow. And I'm gonna have to add on two of the caramels, there, on principle alone."
The Clerk: "Oh yeah. We were giving them out free on Hallowe'en and so many people asked if we sold them that we decided we should."

At 50 cents a pop they are perhaps a tad pricey (though not skimpy by any means, size-wise), but totally worth it. The caramel is rich and buttery, the bacon is smokey and flavorful and the two blend together like Torvill and Dean.

They are so good, I have no pictures of them. Go get your own. :-p

Thursday, November 5, 2009

B is for Bacon Berry Cheesecake, part 2

Words! Recipe words which I will type with my hands and you will read with your eyeballs:

Here’s What I Did (with a respectful nod in the direction of the Classic Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cheesecake recipe)
1 ¾ Cups Granny’s Pie Crust Mix
4 Tablespoons Cold Milk

4 pkg. (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
One cup sour cream
15 oz mixed berries (raspberry, blackberry and blueberry in this case)
4 eggs

3 slices of American bacon (you can use more or less to taste)
Sprinkle of brown sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
¾ cup flour

0) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

0.5) Set cream cheese and butter out to soften.

1) Roll out one pie crust and place in the pie pan.

2) Bake for ten minutes.

3) While the crust is pre-baking, mince up some bacon (or be lazy and do a “rustic” cut like I did)

4) Fry the bacon.

5) When the bacon seems almost halfway done (to your taste…as previously stated, I like mine very crispy), sprinkle it with a healthy dose of brown sugar and continue to fry until the sugar is melted.

6) Place the sugary bacon bits on a paper towel to drain and cool.

6.5) If ten minutes have passed, which is probably the case at this point, take the crust out of the oven and set aside to cool.

7) Mix cream cheese with 1 cup sugar and the vanilla.

8) Add sour cream and berries and mix again well blended.

9) Add eggs: one egg at a time, mixing between eggs until _just_ blended.

10) Pour into the crust.

NOTE: Depending on the size of your pie pan, you may have leftover filling. May I recommend some CheeseCake Cuppy Cakes?

11) Evenly top the filling with the sugary bacon.

12) Combine butter, ½ cup sugar and the flour.

13) Add this on top of the bacon.

14) Bake for 40ish minutes (until center is almost set)

15) Cool.

16) Place in refrigerator for AT LEAST 4 hours. Overnight is even better.

How’d It Go?
Great. A tasty treat with the full approval of both myself and Mr. Husband. My sister, mom and brother-in-law have all also enjoyed this recipe during Christmas Past.
I once entered this in a Dessert Dash, but I wasn’t able to find the table that won it to ask their opinions. Ah well.

What would I do differently?
- Give a proper mince to the bacon next time. Lazy me.
- Remember that I have a food processor. This would be easier than just using my trusty hand mixer for all mixing steps.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

B is for Bacon Berry Cheesecake

Pictures today, words tomorrow, for I am L'tired.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

B is for Bulbs

Bulbs of shallots and garlic, which I need to get into the ground pretty darn soon.

In fact, being November, it's a bit past optimal. Unfortunately bulb planting time and the kick-in of the uber rainy season here in Seattle sorta kinda coincide. However. today was sunny and tomorrow is supposed to be as well (fingers crossed and boy does that make it difficult to type) so I should be able to get the little suckers in the ground in the afternoon.

In any case it'll be better than this year. I planted in the spring and got some return, but twas measly compared to what it could be with the correct amount of run up time.

Meanwhile, in Televisionland, The Next Iron Chef has been watched and was double plus pleasing this week. The chef I most wanted to stay (Freitag) and the chef I most wanted to go (Appleman) both did those things. Yay!

Monday, November 2, 2009

B is for Danish Bacon

Half a year ago, this sign appeared at the deli three doors down from where I work:

From said sign you will perhaps be informed that this is not a "proper" deli, a "proper" deli apparently being a kosher place completely sans pork.....or so says Mr. Husband, at any rate.

Proper or no, Danish Bacon seemed a good thing to look into during My Increasingly Inaccurately Named Bacon "Week".
Friday I bought half a pound of this so-called Danish Bacon. Saturday morning I did a taste test with an N of 1. Me.

Danish Bacon is on the left, American Bacon on the right. We see the Danish Bacon is shorter and wider but otherwise "streaked" like we likes it.

I chatted the deli workers up a bit about the difference between Danish Bacon and American Bacon. Their answer? It comes from Denmark. Seriously. They did at least have the grace to seem a bit chagrinned at their lack of knowledge.

I found the Danish Bacon cooked up a lot quicker. Taste-wise, I will admit to not seeing much difference. However, as you can see in the photo, I take my bacon very crispy, which many Brits and spin offs consider overcooking it. So for a different (Aussie) opinon, go here.

Perhaps next weekend, when I'm not heavily engaged in finishing a puppet, I'll give different levels of done-ness a whirl. In the meantime, please don't mention the results of this week's The Next Iron Chef, as my power went out last night halfway through the episode. Thanks.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

B is for Blogging. A lot. Part B

Yep. That was for reals. I joined NaBloPoMo. Why? Because I don’t have time to do NaNoWriMo.

I tried that once, when I thought I did have time. And failed. So maybe I’m looking for a little redemption here. Just a dash. Plus a heaping cup of blogging discipline.

30 blogs. 30 days. Let’s go out and get it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

B is for BAKON (bacon flavoured vodka)

Yes, really:

I'd heard about this Bacon Vodka a few months ago but did not encounter it in the store until last week. I decided that our chance meeting was Fate and immediately brought a bottle home...

...where I mixed it into three of my favourite vodka cocktails: Bloody Mary, Vodka Martini and Cosmopolitan, respectively.

But to be completely fair to Bakon, I decided I should also try it straight up against an unadorned vodka:

The verdict:
Bakon was great in the Bloody Mary, would've been ok in a dirty Vodka Martini and not really the thing in the Cosmo. I also would not recommend it straight unless you are generally in the habit of inhaling deeply from a vial of Bac-os after taking a shot of vodka.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

B is for Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Let's begin gently, shall we? The first time I encountered a warm bacon salad dressing was having dinner with/meeting Mr. Husband's (Mr. Fiance at the time) parents. I'm usually just as happy to skip the salad and get straight to the entree, but I wasn't in charge of the flow of the meal. And I fully admit, I don't actually remember what we ate for the main course that night. What I remember is the magical combination of spinach and bacon. Mmmmm.

But I had never made it for myself at home. I consulted the interweb, particularly this recipe from Chow before starting, but (of course) jumped off a bit to adjust for personal taste and ingredients not at hand.

Here's what I did:
3 slices of bacon
1/2-ish of a small shallot, chopped
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tblspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 pound fresh spinach,
1/4 cup almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts coarsely chopped
1 hard boiled egg

- I cut the bacon into small pieces (a rustic dice, if you want something to call it. aka, unskilled knifery)
- Then I put the bacon in a medium frying pan over medium heat and cooked, stirring once in awhile, until crispy.
- While the bacon was cooking, I washed the spinach, cut off the stems (snacked on those; they are tasty) and tore the spinach into bite-size pieces. I seperated that into two bowls.
- Added the nuts on top of the spinach.
- I also sliced a hard boiled egg and put it on my salad (Mr. Husband doesn't like hard boiled egg, so that leaves more for me)
- Spooned the finished bacon onto a paper towel-lined plate.
- Kept the pan with bacon fat over the heat, added the shallot, and cooked about 30 seconds.
- Then I whisked in the vinegar, brown sugar, and Dijon mustard
- IF YOU WANT YOUR SPINACH WILTED: Keep the vinaigrette on the heat and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- And then pour it directly over the salad.
- IF YOU DO NOT WANT YOUR SPINACH WILTED: Remove from heat to season. (I did the second of these, following the recipe too far, but would rather have gone the Wilted route)
- And then I sprinkled 1/2 of the bacon over the top of each salad.

What I would change:
Very little. Just would've made sure it was still hot when it encountered the spinach. Next time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

B is for Bacon Bacon BACON!

Still a bit safe as far as ingredients go, but I can’t resist; I love bacon. How much do I love it? This much:

What the heck is it? Bacon is cured meat from a pig. Now, since I’m American, my bacon of choice is cut from the pig belly (“streaky bacon” to those of you located elsewhere). In other lands, they tend to go for back and side cuts; less fat, but to me it always seems a bit more like ham.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A is for Pork-stuffed Apples...

...and L is for Lazy Blogger. Sorry 'bout that.

This was my other attempt at a savory apple dish. Not entirely successful but, hey, not a kitchen meltdown either.

In the Prince Caspian book of The Chronicles of Narnia, the Pevensies eat bear meat roasted around apples while they're marching through the woods towards Caspian, and I’ve always thought that sounded oddly good. (The food, not the marching). So that’s where this started for me. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a source for bear meat.

The Joy of Cooking had a recipe for Sausage-stuffed Baked Apples, and that nudged me in a pork-ward direction (never a hard sell).

Here’s what I did:

- Lopped the tops off and dug out most of the insides of two apples.
- Seasoned two pork chops with sage, salt and white pepper. Cubed one and shoved it into the apples, sliced the other in half long ways and wrapped it around.

- Placed the apples on a bed of frozen hash browns (with a dash of milk).
- Baked that at 400 for 30 minutes

- I pulled it out to check the progress at that point and added some butter to the top of each apple. (I was worried about the pork being too dry.)
- I also added some zucchini to the dish and put the whole thing back in the oven for another 30.

How did it turn out:
It was ok, but the pork was a bit dry (darnit) and under seasoned (eep) and the side veggies didn’t really “go” with the main part (ok, probably something I wouldn't worry about if i didn't watch so many cooking shows). It was fine for home cooking. I mean, we ate it all and weren't hungry later or anything, but I wouldn't have wanted to serve it to guests.

What I’d change:
- The meat needed more moisture.
- I’d either try a fatter meat option next time,
- or marinate the stuff for a bit (which would've added more seasoning too. Hmm)
- or maybe try cooking the dish covered. I’m bad about that.

- The meat should’ve been smaller, to better fill up and get cozy with the apples. A nice mince or even a ground option would’ve been better, I suspect. Bad on me for being lazy in the meat breakdown.

- Still not really sure what sides would’ve suited better here. Way open to suggestions.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Randomized for your protection

- Naturally I watched The Next Iron Chef Sunday night. I think this will be a very good season.

- Funniest thing said in my house in response to the show: "Looks like 'confit' has become the new 'ceviche'."

- I'm working on the last "A" entry, and then we can proceed to "B". At last.

- Oh hey, that thing I auditioned for week before last? Totally got the part. Huzzah!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A is for Apples in the Curry

I was looking for something different apple-wise and some savory action besides. I was also facing the oh-so-typical modren dilemma of "I just washed a pound of chicken and I can't do a thing with it."

I don't think apples plus curry would've occurred to me without having seen this recipe.

What I did (not counting this as a recipe, because I played the whole thing by ear):

I got some olive oil heating in the bottom of my stew pot over a medium and then tossed in the chicken (purchased pre-cut for stir fry; lazy, I know). I threw some curry powder, garlic salt, ginger, cilantro and white pepper on it and gave it a stir, then minced a garlic clove and added it.

Next I threw in some hash browns (the cubed kind, not the toaster patties). Periodic stirring until the chicken cooked through, then added a bit of wine, butter and water (basically enough liquid to cover the mass of stuff). Cubed up some zucchini, and peeled and cubed a Gala apple and added those along with some frozen peas.

Once the peas looked cooked-ish, I stirred in a can of lentil soup and a bit more water. Then I let the whole thing simmer for awhile. Right before eating, I stirred in a bit of milk.

The verdict:
Tasty. The apples really worked and subbed in nicely for the dried cranberries I normally would've used.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Z is for Zucchini, My Other Inspiration

I've babbled a bit about what possessed me to do this, but while I was blanching vegetables night before last I realized there was a little more to the story:

Ever since I can remember, I've both wanted to cook and wanted to garden. Kitchens being a little easier to come by than real estate, my first real go at a vegetable garden was last summer.

It was, weeell, mostly a learning year. My own fault; I jumped in without doing much research (I did read the back of the seed packets, but those are not as informative as one might hope), and the only things that did solidly well were the swiss chard and the purple string beans (hurray! for low maintenance plant relationships).

I spent the winter reading up a bit and now have an embarrassment of tasty green riches. I love zucchini, but had only really cooked it one way prior to this August: sauteed in chunks. A yummy enough preparation, but not something you want to do five days in a row. Having been forced into cohabitation with all this summer squash, I now know how to grill it, bake it, stuff it, hide it in cookies and freeze it for the winter. So I thought, "Hey! This method could work for other foods! Whee!"

So here we are. Trying to figure out one last thing to do with apples.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A is for the Agony of the Actor AND All About Grannie

I was sitting around this evening, puttering, doing nothing much, basically waiting to be told the outcome of last week's audition, when I decided this was as good a time as any to explain about Grannie.

Grannie is not my grandmother. I've never met her. Given that she's my husband's ex-wife's grandma, it seems likely I never will. Nonetheless, I highly respect this woman and owe her a debt, because I have been gifted with her recipes.

Reading them is a delight. They're the work of a woman who's been cooking for a houseful forever and will graciously make room at the table for any family or friends who happen to be by when dinnertime comes. And working with them is fun because they contain the vague-eries of someone who really doesn't use a recipe but is making a stab at it as a favor for an eager grandson-in-law; so you have to curl up with them and read intently before you begin, and then you need to ready to do some in-process interpretation.

Here's her recipe for Pie Crust Mix:

(no need to refrigerate)
7 cups Flour
1 lb Crisco
1 Tablespoon Salt

Measure flour, add salt, then sift together into a large bowl.

Add about 1/2 the Crisco, and cut in until like coarse meal. Add remaining Crisco. Cut in, but not too fine.

Store in covered container.


For a 2 crust pie - (Our size 10 1/2 to 11 inches)

3 1/2 Cups Mix
8 Tablespoons Cold Milk

Mix in a bowl, with a fork, until blended. Knead slightly until mixture forms together. Use 1/2 for each crust. Roll out on floured board or cloth.

Bake pies at 450 degrees for 10 minutes; Lower to 375 degrees until done.

A is for Dutch Apple Pie

Back when I was working as a full time actor I spent a September/October as a pig race emcee at an apple orchard. I made friends with the ladies in the bakery, which was great, 'cause they would offer me a slice of something tasty every morning and an entire pie to take home most afternoons. The “Dutch” treatment emerged as my favourite.

Here’s what I did today:

- Crust -
3 ½ cups flour
½ TBLspns salt
½ lb Crisco
4 TBLspns cold milk

- Filling -
2 Granny Smith apples
2 Gala apples
1 Green Tomato
½ cup sugar
½ teaspn cinnamon
dash of lemon juice

- Topping -
1 stick of unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
¾ cup flour

0.5) Preheated oven to 425 degrees.

- Crust -
1) Mixed flour and salt together in the food processor

2) Cut Crisco into cubes and added to processor. Pulsed seven times to blend.

3) Left 1 ½ cups of the resulting mixture in the food processor and mixed together with the cold milk.
*** The remaining mixture I put in a covered container and set aside for future pie action. More on this later.

4) Shaped the resulting dough into a rough ball, placed on wax paper on a flat surface and flattened a bit. Placed a second sheet of waxed paper on top and rolled the dough out until it was big enough to place into my (new!) 9 inch pie dish.

*** Full disclosure: I tried rolling the crust out on a floured board first, but this led to much swearing. In this my time of need I turned to Mr. Interweb, and he gifted me with a full page of Pie Crust Troubleshooting advice.

- Filling -
5) Peeled, cored and sliced 4 apples. Sliced 1 green tomato. Placed all the slices on top of the bottom crust in the pie pan.

6) Sprinkled ½ cup sugar and ½ teaspn cinnamon evenly over the apples. Added a dash of lemon juice.

7) Chopped the stick of butter into chunks and added it and the sugar and flour to the food processor. Blended.

8) Sprinkled topping over the pie.

9) Baked the pie 10 minutes and then lowered the temperature to 400 degrees. Cooked for 35 more minutes.

How’d It Go?
I think it turned out very very well. Crispy where it should be, soft where it should be, tasty all the way through. I’ve been bellowing “Behold! I have made pie!” at random intervals throughout the remainder of the evening. This may have something to do with this being my first baked crust from scratch. Mr. Husband is tolerating this very well, probably because he agrees that the pie is replete with tasty goodness.

I built this recipe with help from Grannie's Pie Crust Recipe (more on this in a later post), this Dutch Apple Pie Recipe at Cooks dot com and, drat, I'm forgetting where I first read about using green tomatoes in an apple pie; I'll get back to you on that bit.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

SundAy, SundAy, SundAy

- Last night was the first concert in our season tickets to the Seattle Symphony, so we ate at The Brooklyn. Best known for their oysters, but every darn thing there is so decadent that I always expect the mob of angry peasants to come carry me off while I'm eating. On my plate this time: Quail stuffed with sweetbreads and fuji apples.

- Woke up this morning to see an old high school friend had posted a link to lots of apple recipes on my FaceBook wall. Huzzah! If you know me, you know my attention was especially caught by the Apple Bacon Pancakes.

- And now off for a little field trip to secure tickets for the local Alton Brown book signing October 16th.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A is for Unexpected Apple

There's a new QFC in the 'hood where I work. It's fun to go there for lunch right now because part of the Grand Opening Festivities is the Gauntlet of Free Samples (lunch appetizers, yum!).

Having gotten past the pineapple and sliced meats I reached my actual goal: the Soup Bar. It's getting Fall-ish here and I was jonesin' for some butternut squash soup. Curious, I checked out the ingredients, hoping for bacon, only to discover it was a vegan-safe, gluten free soup featuring a puree of apples? Wha-hunh?

I'm not a vegetarian of any sort, but went ahead and got the soup anyway. And it was good, not too sweet, which was my fear. I was guessing the apples were in there as a thickening agent, but poking around online, most butternut squash soup recipes out there don't seem to need that. So I guess they just like what it does to the taste.

Perhaps this calls for a side by side taste test when I get to S; apple vs. bacon. I'm betting on the bacon.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I Can Haz Pie Pan

And there was much rejoicing. (Yay.)

A is also for Audition

I didn't get home until after ten due to auditioning, so dinner was a simple affair: steak, tots and manhattans. I'm not proud: The George Foreman Grille got involved. No apples today. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A is for Baked Apples

Full disclosure: I wanted to start with an apple pie but discovered the horrible fact that I do not own any pie pans. How in the name of god is this possible??!? Anyhoo, it threw me back on a simpler idea, which may've been for the best.

Baked Apples
The first time I had these was actually last October. My family and I were spending a week keeping the New Dungeness Lighthouse and my Aunt Cheri made us "Baked" Apples (microwaved, actually); they were wicked awesome.

Unfortunately she lives in the central time zone and I'm in pacific standard, so I didn't feel comfortable calling her for the recipe at 9:30pm my time. (Note to self: Cook earlier.) So I cobbled together a game plan from recipes at AllRecipes, Food Network and The Joy of Cooking.

Here's what I did:

3 apples
dash of bitters
dash of lemon juice
3 tsp white sugar
5 tblspns of unsalted butter
4 tsp brown sugar
shot of whiskey
2 shots of water

0.5) Preheated oven to 375 degrees

1) As mentioned in the previous post, I started with three different apples (Gala, Elstar and MacIntosh), which is a pretty solid baking no-no. I sliced the top 5th off of each and put them in a loaf pan.

***I ate the tops to get a feel for the apples at hand. My fave was the Gala, a nice balance between the other two; Elstar was sweeter, MacIn was tart-er.***

2) Dug out the core of each with a spoon. Basically worked down until just past the seeds.

3) Added a teaspoon of white sugar to the core of each apple.

4) Dashed lemon juice on the top of the Elstar, bitters on the other two.

5) Divided the butter into 3 equal-ish sized chunks and put this in the core of each apple.

6) Sprinkled enough cinnamon to somewhat cover the top of each apple.

7) Added whiskey and water to bottom of pan.
7.5) Accidentally got a little whiskey on the Elstar. Whoops.

8) Added a teaspoon and a pinch extra of brown sugar to the top of each apple.

9) Baked for thirty minutes. (Checked at twenty; not done.)

The Outcome:

I felt a bit like Goldilocks and the 3 Apples: The Elstar was too hard, the MacIn too soft (it kind of 'sploded...on the left there) and the Gala was just right. They all could've used a touch more sugar and cinnamon, but were tasty nonetheless.

What I would/will change next time:
- Use all the same apples, probably Galas. Baking is delicious but fascist; it likes uniformity.

- Make the middle holes a bit wider to a) aid in baking and b) hold more of the good stuff

And of course I was watching Top Chef,...

...because it was Wednesday and I'm addicted.

After slogging through the early eps, I feel ready to make a top 3 prediction: Jen, Bearded Kevin, and Michael of the V(enture) Brothers.

I've never done better than one out of three calling it this early, but I'm feeling good abut this one.

A is for Apple

Yeah, yeah, I know, kind of an obvious choice here. I'm feeling out the format and I promise to get weird later on, mmm'kay? Good.

What the Heck is it? It's a fruit (culinary definition here, i.e., sweet) that grows on a tree. Roundish. Matures in the autumn so it's (huzzah!) in season now.

left to right we have Gala, Elstar and MacIntosh apples. Organic, from my local Greenmarket. Closing in on them we have some "love apples," or tomatoes, from my garden. These are everywhere in my kitchen right now and if I thought I could've conned you and myself into thinking they were spelled "Atomato", we'd be playing with them right now.

Random free associating:
- The Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden tends to be represented as an apple, pretty much everywhere in pop culture, except in the Bible where it's just called a fruit.

- Golden Apples are all over mythology. My fave is the story where Paris (Orlando Bloom in Troy, if you've seen it) giving one to Aphrodite leads to the Trojan War, which I like because those are pretty massive consequences for an after-school snack. (Paris would've done better to take Athena's bribe (wisdom), but if he'd been smart enough to do that, he probably, you know, wouldn't've needed to.)

- There's an episode of the GI Joe cartoon from the 80s where the Joes kill a giant all-consuming blob with the toxin in an orchard's worth of apple seeds. I still remember it after all these years and, hey, apple seeds do, in fact, contain cyanide. Knowing is half the battle!

- I like Fiona Apple's music but not her album titles. Not good cooking music necessarily, but good for driving or working out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wot's all this, then?

Let's face it: Culinary school is not in the cards any time soon. Maybe not ever.

But why be down hearted? I have full access to a kitchen, several grocery chains and Mr. Interweb. Surely I can teach myself quite a bit homeschool-style. Maybe someday I can be Token Self-taught Cheftestant on a cooking reality show and get cut in the fourth or fifth round when I choke in the face of all that advanced training.

A girl can dream, can't she?

Here's the game: I'll work my way through the alphabet, picking an ingredient for each letter and playing with said ingredient for a "week". (Week being in quotes because I'm a theatrrr person, and coming up with seven days of consecutive free time is hard to do.) No other constraints. If, having made it to Zed, we're all not thoroughly sick of this, I'll start over at A with new ingredients.