Category Archives: cooking

Cooking Along

Yesterday was my favorite day of the year: First home match of the season. It was a typical first match, raining and cold which is why I failed to take very many photos. I might brush off my pocket camera and bring it to a match. I think it takes better photos than the phone.

Here is the rhodie update: it’s completely dead. I asked the landscaper about taking it out and he pushed the trunk and it broke off at the spot where the shrub met the dirt. It’s gone and we now have nothing in front of our house. I expect to remedy that but first I need to do some household due diligence/maintenance/pain in the butt stuff –long story.

Everything in life: TBD.

This is the view from my bus stop. That high rise in progress used to be a gas station.

For the first time in ages I am trying a new recipe. I am making beef broth from some bones I had in the freezer leftover from a fancy dinner a couple months ago. It smells AMAZING. I keep finding an excuse to go in the kitchen and give it a stir. But the real recipe is onion soup. I’m doing a Cooks Illustrated method of cooking the onions in the Dutch oven in the oven. We’re in about 70 minutes so far. That smells good, too.

I had my most productive writing weekend in months and months. I am plodding more quickly. But now my brain is mush and I’m still trying to tie up loose ends.

Looks like this counter works again and I like it better because seeing that percentage thing go up gives me a feeling of accomplishment.

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Bad Gourd

This lizard was committed to the playing dead thing. I was like, “I know you’re not dead. Run and do something.” But it stayed frozen.

Big tragedy – the pumpkins all started getting squishy and moldy within days of bringing them into the house.

I’m not sure what went wrong. I didn’t do anything different from normal.

Maybe a spore from the garden? Maybe different weather pattern that I didn’t read right?

When I discovered the problem, I had just come home from work and was so tired I could hardly see straight. I threw them in the fridge and processed everything this weekend. I saved enough pumpkin for pies and chili.

The butternut squash are still looking good so we’ll have some soup or something fun with those.

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Pumpkins and Prescriptions

I am either very fortunate or a terrible American but until this year I have never had a refillable prescription. The last two prescriptions I’ve had were for pain drugs after major dental procedures.

I did not know how it works. There is no FAQ for pharmacy use. It seems like everyone just knows how to do it.

When I needed my refill I logged onto my doctor’s online page and clicked the refill request. I received a note that it had been rejected.

I figured I had to phone the doctor. The next day I received a robocall from the pharmacy saying they wanted me to come pick up my prescription.

Meanwhile, I somehow picked the wrong pharmacy. I had a list of addresses and I thought I knew which one I wanted. But then when I went there to pick up my prescription they didn’t have it. I then drove to another pharmacy with the same name assuming that was it and it was not. Then I was trying to take a short cut and ended up on this back road where I had no idea where I was and saw a pharmacy with the same name and they had it.

I thought I changed to the one I wanted but this back road pharmacy is the one that called me. So I went in and said: Look, I’ve never had a prescription like this. I need help. You just do it on the phone. I had no idea. I thought fraud was a problem and this stuff was watched over.

I think I have finally learned my lesson after my missteps the last couple of years. I processed almost all of my pumpkins today and made pie crust and stuck it in the fridge. I’m making the pie on Wednesday. I’m trying a new pie recipe. Remember what happened last year.

I’m also making the gravy on Wednesday. Every time, we’re sitting around while I’m trying to do the gravy. Screw the pan drippings. Let’s get that food on the table before rioting starts.

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Apples and Chard. In A Pie. Together.

In keeping with the theme for 2016, I tried a completely new recipe, like nothing I have ever tried before.

A friend of a friend gave me a recipe for a sour cream pie crust (this one is close and I’ve had it waiting until I was in the mood to make a savory pie.

Link to pie recipe.

The author set out to make it a dessert pie. We are not savory dessert people in this house so I made it with the idea that it would be more of a main meal dish. I had no idea what to expect and I loved it. My husband liked it more than I did. He came home late the night I made it and crawled into bed and whispered: I love that pie. I’m going to have more tomorrow.

The recipe calls for soaking raisins in rum and I didn’t think we had any rum so I bought the smallest cheapest bottle I could find. When I got home I found two other bottles of rum. It was time to clean out our booze cupboard. For people who don’t drink a lot of booze we have a lot in our booze cupboard although I think most of it is vintage. We have two giant bottles of orange curacao. Handy!

In other news, I finished the giant purge of my electronic photos. Now, instead of 7,000 pumpkin photos, I only have about 700. I hope I never regret that.

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Bummer Soup

I’ve come to the realization that I’ve lost my enjoyment of cooking. I’m not sure when it happened. There’s a food blogger whose cookbook finally came out — I’m not a cookbook collector but I love this blogger — but I realized it was pointless to get this cookbook. I don’t even use the cookbooks I have.

I can’t remember the last time I tried a new recipe unless I was visiting family or Kira.

On the week days I’m always tired and in a hurry. On the weekends I almost always would rather be doing something else. I only want to make things that will make leftovers to make weekday meals easier.

I don’t think the situation is fixable unless I change my priorities and I don’t want to do that right now.

I decided I would pick three new recipes to try and was already overwhelmed.

I picked one. I’m going to try the chicken marsala in the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated. I’m not sure when, though.

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The Other Loaf

The bread is in the oven so no photo. This is a strange plant at Mom’s in August.

Most of the time when I bake, I make the No Knead Sourdough loaf. Today I decided to do a different recipe, the Cook’s Illustrated Sandwich Loaf. (That recipe is not exactly the same, but close enough.) There’s also a Buttermilk Bread recipe that I like a lot.

This recipe has the instruction to knead until the dough is satiny. Which reminds me of some other recipe instructions that I have that tell me to do something, like stir sauce, until it’s silky.

I can’t relate satiny and silky to food. I don’t know what that means. Also when the instructions tell me to knead until the dough is soft.

Soft compared to what? It all seems soft to me. If it started out like concrete I might have a better frame of reference.

Actually, my all time favorite recipe instruction is to cook until done – which is both obvious and useless.

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Potato Time

We have some sort of Amityville Horror going on out in the shop. A couple of days ago I saw a few big hairy flies in there. The next day there were a ton of big hairy flies. I swatted and swatted.

The next day there were a ton of big hairy flies. More swatting.

A few hours later there were a ton of big hairy flies. At least they aren’t attacking big hairy flies.

I did some research and I’m going to guess it’s the result of having a warmer than normal summer and not a haunting. The pest control website noted that it is *extremely difficult* to deal with this on your own.

I think I can handle it.

I mentioned that early in the year I took all my wilted potato bits and buried them around the yard and I now have my very own potato farm.

One of my most successful recipes is this potato salad recipe although now that I look at it I realize I don’t follow it other than to add vinegar to the potato cooking water. I’m not sure what potato salad recipe I use. Maybe I look at this and then just do what I want. People at potlucks love it.

Serious Eats Classic Potato Salad Recipe

I still had a ton of potatoes so I searched for more recipes and this was a big hit plus it got rid of the rest of a giant head of cabbage we had. Bob said it was the best potato cabbage casserole he ever had.

Serious Eats Polish Cabbage Potato Bacon Casserole

I still had tons of potatoes so I thought I’d try another recipe. But then when I went to make it I realized I didn’t have as many potatoes as I thought so I ran outside to dig up another plant. I thought I was being punked. Every time I touched the dirt another potato would pop out. I think I harvested another 3 pounds.

So potato cooking continues. This recipe was a tad fussy for me. Next time I would come up with some short cuts. But we liked the result and it made a ton.

Mexican Potato, Kale and Chicken Casserole

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The Secrets of Bread Making (Part 2)

Just to review what we’ve done so far: Thursday we fed the sourdough. Total time: 5 minutes.

Friday we made the dough. Total time: 10 minutes.

Now it’s Saturday and we’re going to bake. You have to organize your time for baking day. There is no way to phone it in. I sometimes realize that I will be gone in the afternoon and then scramble to get the baking done before I go.

Here is the bread dough after 18+ hours. All bubbly. This is the only scary part if you’re not a regular bread baker. It can be very sticky. I put a bunch of flour on the counter and my hands and scrape the dough onto the counter. I re-flour my hands as necessary.

I pat the dough out into flat circle. Not like pizza flat. More like the size of a dinner plate. Fold in half and then fold in half again, tucking the folds underneath and trying to make the top smooth. Just do your best. Cover with the plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, I do the same thing: pat into a circle, fold, fold and form into a ball.

I have my towel from earlier and spread on sheet pan. I sprinkle a handful of oat bran the towel. Totally optional. I like the way it looks on the finished loaf.

I put my ball on it, sprinkle flour on the top and cover with more towel. You want the flour and/or bran to keep the towel from sticking.

Then put in a warm-ish place and set a timer for 75 minutes. The no knead bread recipe calls for baking in a Dutch oven. I did not have a Dutch oven when I started making this recipe and I tried out this pyrex instead. I have since acquired a Dutch oven but I still like the results better when I use this.

Set your oven for 475-ish and put the pyrex or Dutch oven in there. Set your timer for 15 minutes.

When your timer goes off your oven and baking container should be heated and you are ready for business. Now you have to figure out how to get your dough from its towel to the cooking instrument. Good luck!

I pull out the oven rack and remove the lid. Don’t space out and forget that the lid has been pre-heating in the oven. Pot holder. I pick up my bread ball in its towel in one hand and shake out the towel with the excess oat bran over the sink because I am fussy that way. Then I gently overhand it into the pan. Hopefully your pan isn’t sliding around or off the rack. Caution here.

You can see it doesn’t look pretty. Also note that now the oat bran is on the top.

I shake the pyrex if the dough needs settling, replace the lid and shut the oven.

Set the timer for 25 minutes.

Here’s where you need to get to know your oven. The actual baking time for step 1 is 30 minutes. I have an electric oven with a mind of its own but generally runs hot (except when it doesn’t …). When we buy an oven we’re going gas but until then, this is what I’ve got.

At about 25-30 minutes it should be puffed up and pale.

Remove the lid, turn the oven to 450 and set your timer for 12 minutes. Actual baking time is 15 minutes.

I use a Thermapen to check the bread. You’re aiming for 210 degrees. At this point mine is almost always around 207 and I call it good.

Finished loaf, beautiful! It lasts all week but is especially delicious the day of baking. We have hunks with dinner and Bob carves it up to make sandwiches for his lunch.

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The Secrets of Bread Making (Part 1)

Just kidding! I don’t know the secrets of bread baking. But I’ve been making consistently good bread all winter so I am sharing my recipe.

On Thursday night when I get home I feed my sourdough. My sourdough starter came from Aunt Janet. It lives in this jar in the back of the fridge. I pour it into a bowl, add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour and stir and cover with a towel.

Our kitchen is the coldest part of the house so I put the bowl in my room. I love the doughy smell.

If you don’t have an Aunt Janet, maybe you can get a sourdough starter from a local bakery. Or use the Internet. I think you can make your own starter. Do the homework.

Sometimes the liquid on the top looks dark. I just pour it off. Aunt Janet says it’s pretty tough to ruin it. So unless you’ve neglected it for so long that it has hair and a deep voice, you’re probably okay. If you boil potatoes, save the water and use that to feed your sourdough. Maybe that’s an old wives’ tale. Can’t hurt.

The next day it looks bubbly and is ready for action.

I use 1/4 cup for my recipe and put the rest back in the jar for next time.

Apologies to the person who posted this recipe because did not keep a record of where it came from. I put no-knead bread and sourdough into my search engine and this came up somewhere.

I use 5 oz. of wheat flour and 11 oz. of regular flour. Both from Bob’s Red Mill. I have no idea how to do it without a scale. I add 1 1/2 t. salt, my sourdough and 12 oz. of tap water. Stir it all around. It won’t look pretty.

Cover with plastic wrap. I put it in my room where it’s not so cold. But I read somewhere that the no-knead stuff doesn’t need coddling so use your own judgment.

Set aside for at least 18 hours. I leave it longer and have found the recipe to be forgiving. Obviously, or I couldn’t do it.

Stay tuned for part 2.

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10,000 Meals

Just to clarify, this is the result of Photoshop exercises. Not out in my yard right now.

I’ve become lazy about bringing my lunch to work. Who wouldn’t with a million food carts within walking distance?

Colleague is going to be out of town so I had this great idea to challenge myself to bring my lunch every day this week. And it’s not a terrible idea but it takes some planning.

The most obvious idea is to bring leftovers. Except I leave the house at 6:30a and sometimes don’t get home until almost 6pm. I don’t have a lot of cooking time on the weekdays so my weekend cooking is concentrating on making leftovers for more dinners. Also, my husband brings his lunch so I make leftovers with a view to that. He is also a big eater.

So now I’ve spent the entire weekend cooking tons of things that would make leftovers or make things where the leftovers could be made into things to bring to lunch. And now I’m cranky and tired of cooking and more tired of washing dishes and understanding why I’d rather pay good money for Korean tacos or Pho.

But I’m still going to try to bring my lunch every day this week. But the following week, probably not.

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