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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Waffle Time!



  • Waffle time, it's waffle time, will you have some waffles of mine? Waffles are great. Really. Their uniqe shape means that the waffle has more outside than inside! And here's the waffle's real claim to fame (at least to us nerds) One day, a US man figured out that the trick to making great shoes could lie in the interesting physyology of the waffle, and poured liquid rubber into his wife's waffle iron. He named the shoes after the goddess of victory- Nike. There you have it- ridiculously overpriced shoes would never exist without our humble fluffy friend. 
    But seriously, this common baked good has fallen from grace. It's been relegated to frozen floppy things flavored with yummy catalyzed polymeriztion! Know where I just saw that word? The side of a paint can. Here is a shiny new recipe for fluffy, yummy waffles with no polymers. 

     1 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking p owder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 7 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Like, the second largest you have. (I say second largest because I know people whose largest bowl could be mistaken for a satellite dish. But hey, who needs all those channels when we youtube have cat videos?)
Separate the eggs, and use your electric mixer to beat the whites to stiff peaks. Like weebles, stiff peaks wobble, but they don't fall down. In a smaller bowl (not small, but smaller.), beat the yolks, and then beat in the oil and milk. Then, mix that into the dry ingredients (whisking, please!).
Now we come to the waffle dilemma: mixing the light, airy eggs into the dense, heavy batter. How to solve it? Well, you might want to call on your fourth grade teacher. Why? Fractions, my friends. Divide the eggs into thirds. Stir in the first third as quickly as possible- this step is not about folding, you just want to lighten the batter for the eggs to come. Then add the second third (second third? wow. i need better words.) and fold it in. Repeat with the last of the eggs. 
At this point, your waffle iron should be heated up. You did heat the waffle iron, right? Good job. Use a spring-loaded ice cream scooper to put two scoops of batter into the iron, close, and wait. When it's done, remove with a fork and enjoy. :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Do you know the muffin man?

MCAS.
M Massachusetts
C hild
A buse
S ystem.
(actually, it's Massachusetts comprehensive assessment system)
I have this lovely torture on Wednesday, and, like every other person who's taken it, I was dragged to several meetings in an attempt to get us students "exited' and "ready to learn." Along with the other usual rants, the things that comes up over and over again is "eat a  good breakfast." A "good breakfast" is muffins! Not mini-muffins, big, huge, fluffy things coated in butter or cream cheese. You can make them the night before and warm up in the morning so that you have something to munch on. Here is my new favorite recipe for basic muffins:
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar (don't worry, I need those calories)
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegtable oil
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Stir together all the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Why? Because now you need to make a well in the center. Don't just sick your spoon in and think it's okay, because it's not. (I learned the hard way- I made this twice in 20 minutes.) Push the dry stuff all the way up those bowl walls, and leave to do something else.
3. Something else: Lightly beat the egg, and mix in the milk and oil. Pour those down the well in the dry stuff, and mix. It is imperative that you impeccably use the implement to integrate the ingredients instantly. (try saying that one time slow!) Overmixing is the key to a bad muffin! But don't undermix, or your muffins will have dry flour pockets in them. Gross.
4. And now we come to the fork in the road. Pick it up! It might pop some tires. It really dosen't matter wether or not you use muffin cups. As long as you grease the pan well, you'll be fine. But, If you must have the classics, they have ones with bunnies on them!
5. Fill the cups all the way (yes, all the way. you won't get quite as many as you normally would, but they'll be nice and big.)Put in your hotbox for 25 minutes, or until a toothpic placed in the center comes ou- let's stop here. I have always had a problem with the toothpick theory. It essentially asks you to stick your head into a 400 degree metal box while forcing a small stick into a place that won't leave gaping holes in your baked good without touching anything in the oven. It just doesn't work! Try this: use a skewer. The bamboo kind you use for barbecue! They're long, thin, and require much less entry into the oven. And it works!
This is a recipe for plain muffins, and for some, plain just doesn't cut it. Thankfully, this recipe is also adaptable for any number of add-ons. Try bacon and cheese! (I like orange cranberry muffins the best) Now you can go forth and be tested and tortured with a full stomach. :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Absolutely not a witty title related to applesauce

Who doesn't love apple sauce? A better question- who loves searching those little plastic cups in the grocery store for the one super-organic package of zero-sugar noxious hippie chow that your children will not trade to a classmate for a half-eaten melty candy bar? Nobody. You can make apple sauce, but then you'd need to get out the big pot and simmer for 2 hours and mash it up with a potato masher, right? Not necessarily. Here are my very vague instructions:
The ricer method:
Peel, core, and rinse as many apples as you think you will need. Cut them in half or even quarters for large apples, and leave small ones whole. Bake or microwave until soft and warm, and send 'em through your friendly neighborhood ricer. No ricer? No problem.
The microwave method:
Peel and rinse the apples, then cut in half using a heavy chef's knife. This method does not work for the ricer because you need the round shape for maximum squishing, but here is my magical trick for washing less fruit and get the seeds out at the same time: use a metal teaspoon to scoop the area around the seeds out. This leaves you with a lovely little circle that you can use for, well, nothing really. Throw it away. Roughly chop, microwave in a microwave safe bowl, and cook on high for 3-5 minutes or until soft. Sorry, but this time, you do need the masher. Mash away at the apples, finish with cinnamon, and be done.
With both methods, you get minimal effort applesauce that's actually good for you! You can eat it for breakfast, or top with a generous helping of ice cream. Also for breakfast. And now, I patiently await the end of the Monday curse. :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Poach'd! (ouch! my e!)

I'm better!!

Evil, thy name is egg. Poached egg, to be precise. As of today, I have, in my life, made these 3 times. You'd think that dropping an egg into water and letting it sit for a few minutes would be easy, but it's not.
What you expect: Nice little jiggly blobs with a yummy, runny yolk sliding onto a clean, shiny plate, and sitting down to consume with some nice toast.
What happens: You follow the instructions as well as you can, but the white gets stringy, the yolk separates entirely, and the spoon breaks the yolk in the water before trying to fish out any possibly edible remains. Then you scrape the egg bits off the bottom of the pan, and plop down in the middle of the 7:00 p.m. chaos that usually turns up in a house with 6 people. It's underdone.
If you can't think today, (or are especially lazy) my endeavor was an epic fail. In order to spare others from the same horrible fate, here are my egg poaching tips:

  • Use fresh eggs. As an egg ages, it begins to separate and weaken, inevitably resulting in a less-than-desirable egg. 
  • Find a reliable recipe, and follow the instructions as closely as possible, especially if you have never done this before. I know what you're thinking- a recipe for eggs? Yup, there are rules. FOLLOW THEM.
  • Use a slotted spoon. Why? Your lovely chicken balls have been submerged in water for a few minutes. When things get in water, they tend to become wet. Even if the eggs weren't wet, they are hot, so vapor will condense on the plate. By using a slotted spoon, the egg will get all the support it needs while giving water an exit point. 
  • Serve on toast. Coming back to the previous point, a nice piece of toast will soak up the egg water. Don't worry, it will still be, strictly speaking, edible. :)
  • Saved the best for last: Cheat! You can go out and buy some fancy poaching cups that will clunk around your cupboards for several years and then end up re-gifting. You can wrap it in plastic wrap. This method is quite strange, and unless you are absolutely confident in your pan, then I do not recommend it. You can go back to our old friends, the cleaned out tuna cans. They cost about three dollars, and you can just wipe 'em out after consuming said tuna. Just place in the simmering water, and put each egg in its own little circle. The resulting eggs will not have the same rustic, blob-like shape, but you can pretty much be sure of success. 
And now you can sit down to enjoy your egg. Isn't that great? :D

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sick Day Food

Sick day.... Fun. What makes it worse is that I was sick with a stomachache, so I can't pig out on ice cream and chips like every other person in the world because I don't want it to be worse. Here is a list of all the things I ate, in no particular order, so that you can laugh at my sadness:

  • bagel
  • yogurt
  • grapefruit
  • dried cranberries
  • fruit2day
  • fruit snacks shaped like bunnies
  • organic pop tart
To those of you that think that's a pretty good list, think again. I was home alone all day, so I couldn't cook anything! I've really been lazy- all you people out there are probably like, "This is a cooking blog! When is she going to cook something?" I can defend myself for that- I made an apple pie for pi day. Why no picture? I ate it. Now it is gone. To make it up to you, have a cookie: *gives cookie.*

**I'll cook something when I feel better :)**

Thursday, March 11, 2010

You say potato, I say pancake

Potato pancakes- a Hanukkah staple. If you haven't tried one of these delightful devices, you have been sadly deprived. I'll attempt to describe them: Shredded potato and onion fried with egg and flour into a warm, crispy, fluffy circle or rectangle. They are a bit of work to make, but with a few decent tools and sound food science in your soul, you don't need to wait for winter to have potato pancakes. You need:
4 russet potatoes
1 small onion
1 large egg, beaten
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups of oil (canola, peanut, vegetable, whatever for frying)
Assemble your vegetation and cut into spreadable pieces. Peeling the potato is optional; most people don't even notice after being shredded.










Your trusty box grater comes out here. Get all the potatoes into wee bits, and then shred away. Lay the resulting pieces out on paper towels to drain excess liquid, and slice the onions very thin. If you have a V-slicer or mandolin with a matchstick setting, you're golden. If not, you'll need to slice them by hand. Thinking of shredding them like the potatoes? Think again. I tried, and they fell apart. Ogres are like onions. They have LAYERS. (bonus points on the test for identifying the movie reference here) DO NOT use one of these devices:





Why? They make rings rather than shreds. At least that's what mine did, but mine is older than dirt.

When your vegetation is suitably dried, mix in the flour, salt, and then eggs. At this point, you should have a 10" skillet on the stove, medium/high heat, obviously with the oil inside. There are a few basic methods for determining the temperature of oil:
The average popcorn kernel pops at about 350 degrees. Enough said.
When placed in properly heated oil, a little piece of bread will sizzle and bubble noticeably. For the love of pete, DO NOT put a whole slice of bread in the pan! Just don't do it!
A good ol' fry thermometer (350 degrees)
OR a fancy new infrared thermometer. Those are cool. I don't own one.
Squish 1/4 cup portions into 1/2 inch thick patties, and place about 3 in the oil at a time. Cook 2-3 min. on each side. They're done once they turn golden brown and delicious.










Contrary to classical belief, more oil does not equal greasy food. In fact, the contrary is true. More oil (at a suitable temperature) will cook the food more quickly, allowing less absorption of the fat. Take that, weight watchers! You can also filter oil that has not been heated beyond 450 degrees through cheesecloth and use again. If you notice significant color change or ever, ever see smoke, it's time for a change.
When the pancakes are done, place on a draining rig composed of a cookie sheet with paper towels inside, and an inverted cake cooling rack on top of that. Looks something like this:












Drain, repeat, and eat! (With applesauce, of course)




This was my FIRST time ever slicing an onion. :)




Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Once upon a midnight dreary

9:36. For me, this is late. And you just can't be up late without a midnight snack, am I right? The beauty of the concept is that you don't usually have to do any cooking, just pull out whatever seems appetizing, and maybe stick something in the microwave. Tonight am going stick with my standard glass of water, but I want to know what you guys pull out when you're looking for a nighttime treat. The best ones will go up here, for all to see. :) Good night.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Another Blog Post, For Another Time

Today I found a recipe for "1 minute microwave cake." It tasted horrible and was rubbery, so I won't rant about it anymore. Instead, I want to talk about the all-too-overlooked pantry pals: plastic wrap, tinfoil, and the pretentious parchment paper. These are are everyday, run-of-the-mill, can't-possibly-live-without-it, borrow-some-from-a-friend things that make cooking possible.
Tinfoil-
Our shiny aluminum friend has potential far beyond campfire chow. Not that camp food is bad. No name or ingredients list here, just trust me and do this.
Take a banana, and observe the little sections on the peel. You know, the little flat sides. Position the fruit so it makes a "U" shape, and use a paring knife to cut away a section of the peel on that side, leaving some connected to the top and bottom. Remove the piece, and save it. Scoop out the banana in that area, and fill with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. Replace peel, wrap in foil, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 min. (about), or until the chocolate is melted and the flesh is soft. Unwrap, take off the handy dandy peel lid, and eat! Yum. :) Want something a bit different? Pour 2 cans (14 oz) of evaporated milk into a glass baking dish, and cover with foil. Place that dish inside of a poaching pan, and fill that pan with enough water to reach halfway up the side of the glass dish. Review: Milk inside of dish. Dish covered in foil. Foil-covered dish inside bigger dish. Bigger dish containing water. Place the whole contraption (being careful not to spill that water!) into that same 350 oven, and cook for 1 1/2 hours. What emerges is a delicious, ooey, gooey toffee-like sauce. Pour over some vanilla ice cream, or into a pre-made gram cracker  crust with banana for EPIC pie. My idea? Keep the sauce in the original pan, chill in the fridge, and top with some chocolate ganache. Which is also another blog post for another time. Scoop out onto the serving vessel of your choice, and eat while promising to go to the gym the next day. Of course, there are also about ten gagillion craft uses, too. My final word on foil concerns thickness. What kind you get doesn't matter for covering, ect., but normal, bargain-brand foil is often thin and easily broken, heavy duty is strong but pliable (good), and super-heavy-duty is more like sheet metal. DO NOT get the stuff from BJ's (what I used to call the home depot of food) unless you will be lifting boulders with tinfoil.
Plastic wrap-
Sadly, this little dude doesn't have many hot applications outside of the microwave because it, well, melts. Melts into a pathetic little heap. This wrap's forte? The fridge. It's good for keeping funky flavors out of fatty food like cheese, butter, frosting, pudding, you name it. Get a good kind, and it makes a nice air-tight seal. You can also use it in the microwave, but having no personal experience with that, I will not peruse the topic further.
Parchment paper-
A relative newcomer to the culinary scene, this convenient papery substance is nonstick up to 400-something degrees. You can use it to keep cookies, cream puffs, and other baked goods from cementing themselves to the pan. Goodbye, chisel. We'll miss you. You can even use it as a sling for brownies and cakes. Simply take 2 strips of the wonderful substance, and layer across eachother in the pan to make an "X" shape. Pour in the batter, and bake according to your recipe's instructions. If you did things right, there should be a good amount of parchment hanging off the sides of the pan that you can grab to lift the baked good of your choice right out. No more knife-chiseling, pan-flipping, or cooling rack marks on your fluffy, yummy brownies. Think you can do this with waxed paper? Think again. Waked paper has:
Funky flavors
It MELTS
The waxy part can stick to your food even though you think it's not there
Parchment is impregnated with silicon, so it doesn't melt, doesn't stick, and doesn't leave undesirable flavors. You can use it in place of oil/cooking spray for baking, and throw it out when you're done. Less cleaning, more eating. But here's my favorite part: you can stage out all of you cookies, pastries, whatever, on separate sheets and then switch them out right away. I have to give credit to my favorite TV chef here (Alton Brown, whose word is law in my book for those who do not know) for introducing me to this- he uses it in innumerable episodes. For anyone who has never seen good eats, think a cross between:
Julia Child
Monty Python
Mr. Wizard
and sock puppets. Add some sound food science, and you've got TV.

**Like what you see? Show this site to your food fanatic friends. I don't bite- promise.**

Monday, March 8, 2010

iPie

I love my pug, Beatrix. She's my most willing food tester, and enjoys eating everything I make, edible and otherwise. :)
There are a lot of pocket-sized things these days. You can carry in an iPod touch a computer about a million times more powerful and about 1/1,000,000,000 times smaller than the Mark I. (or II. whatever.) But you know what isn't usually pocket-sided? Pie! The divine device known as the pasty or pocket pie was born out of the genius minds of American slaves, Chinese peasants, or Cornish housewives depending on who you ask. It uses a little bit of food, a little bit of filling, and a little bit of fuel, making it the perfect cheap, (seemingly) easy treat. Alton Brown came up with the best description: "As my gramma used to say, poor people workin' food."
Here's AB's recipe:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons cold cubed butter
3/4 cup milk
1 egg mixed with 1 to 2 tablespoons water
1. Sift together all dry ingredients, making sure to wear safety goggles to prevent projectile flour throwing. Cut in the butter with your fingers, and use a wooden spoon to mix in the milk. Looks familiar, huh? This is almost the same procedure we used for the biscuits. But there's a bit of a twist.
2. Roll and knead out the dough 15-20 times. This time, we want gluten to provide 2 seemingly contradictory traits: flexibility and strength. Roll out thin with a rolling pin, and cut into 2 1/2 inch rounds. Stack these rounds up, and then roll each one into a thin circle about 5-6 inches wide. While rolling their buddies, you can stack your newly formed discs in between layers of waxed paper.
3. Prepare filling. You can use anything from leftover beef stew to blueberry preserves here, so be creative. Just do not use anything excessively wet, or the dough will get soggy.
4. To fill: place 1-2 tablespoons of your filling in the approximate center or the round. Dab a little egg wash onto half of the circle, then fold the non-egg half over, and seal. Use a fork to crimp it closed, being careful to roll it onto the dough rather than slice through it. Take a clean pair of shears, and make 2 little snips on top to act as a steam vent. (there are no written records of exploding pie, but let's try not to change that)
5. Line the pies up on an ungreased baking pan, and cook for 25-30 min. at 350 degrees. They won't be very brown, but will puff up slightly and become firm.
6. Once they come out of the oven, move to a cooling rack, clean up your mess, and enjoy.
There are other ways to cook these (ie pan frying and deep frying) but I do not have enough oil to deep fry, and my pan fried ones burnt. Badly. Feeling adventerous? Here are Alton Brown's instructions for this recipe:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/pocket-pies-recipe/index.html
Alas! The monday curse continues today. But in a few hours it will be tuesday! Yay!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Corned Beef ≠ Beef + Corn

Guess what? In observation of the anniversary of Babe Ruth's first professional home run, I'm making corned beef! Not really. But I am making corned beef. The lazy way. These days, you can usually go to your local mega-mart and pick up a pre-brined, ready-to-go, vacuum sealed hunk of delicious cow product. You don't have to know how to do anything with one of these, and all you need is insane patience. Here are the simple steps:
1. Purchase aforementioned cow product
2. Place in wide-mouthed vessel with tight-fitting lid. You could probably use a slow cooker for this too, but I have never done it myself.
3. With the cow product in the pot, add just enough water to cover.
If, like me, sometimes your water tastes like the pool at the Y, I suggest purchasing a filter.
There are 2 basic models: pitcher and sink. Pitchers just need to be filled with water and stashed in your chill chest until needed. A little filter inside filters the water as you pour it. I have a sink-top device, which screws onto the sink and filters when you turn the knob. It has 3 convenient settings: normal water, spray, and filtered. Normal, as the name implies, simply flows through a metal grate like the one on the sink usually has. Spray is like the sprayhead hose you have on the side of the sink; very good for dishes. The filtered setting is the one that actually filters the water, and it comes out in a thin stream. You do not want to run hot water through the filter, as it could damage it.
4. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then turn to low for 4 grueling, annoying, horrible hours of waiting. Use the time to read a book or something. I had play practice today, so I was able to skip out on the waiting.
5. Some people like to boil their potatoes and cabbage right in the pot with the meat, but I personally don't. You can do whatever you want.
6. When it's all done, pull out your delicious meat and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. If you didn't, you'd burn your mouth! And the juices need to regroup a bit, too.
7. When it comes to slicing, you have two choices: against the grain or with the grain. Against is certainly the tradition, but with the grain offers a lower risk of disintegration. Again, your choice.
8. Serve alongside some boiled greens, and you've got the lazy man's irish dinner.
Wondering why there's no pictures? We ate it so fast that I forgot! This is a great, low-maintenance weekend dish. Granted, the pre-brined meat is a deviation from the norm, but you don't need 3 pounds of  salt and half you fridge space. Give it a try. It's not fast, but a good, slow-cooked dish the night before work or school is better than wolfing down a stale granola bar and glass of milk while finishing up your 3rd quarter projection analysis spreadsheet. Then you wake up in the morning realizing you fell asleep working on said spreadsheet, and skip breakfast to get it done. Then you lose the power point, and you know the rest. Bad monday. But who knows? Maybe taking time to turn up the ol' flavor knob to 11 will inspire you to abandon you pop tart in favor of some good scrambled eggs. Yum!

**Thanks for keeping this site alive for its first week!**

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Don't eat my baby!

Ever had a dutch baby? If you haven't, you missed out! It's essentially a huge, overgrown popover baked in butter and sprinkled with powdered sugar and lemon. They're easy to make, and even easier to eat! Try this out for sunday breakfast (because I assume most of you don't log on at 7:30 in the morning to read this):
3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter (does not need to be chilled, but should not be room temperature. just take it right out of the fridge.)
1. Prepare all your ingredients into little bowls, cups, whatever. Because as soon as the oven turns on, the dutch baby train aint-a-stoppin'. Place the butter into a 2 quart glass baking dish, or a heavy cast iron skillet if you have one. Stick it in the cold oven, and then preheat to a warm, toasty 425 degrees. 
2. Get your blender, and whip the eggs until well blended. Add the milk, and mix again. Then, slowly add the flour. YOU MUST do this slowly unless you completely trust your bender to break up 3/4 cups of flour and be entirely lump-free. I don't trust my blender. 
3. As soon as the oven is preheated, take out the pan (being careful of the spattering oil, please) and pour in the batter. The butter will go up around the sides, and possibly run over onto the top. This is ok, even good. It will make a DELICIOUS buttery crust.
4. Bake for 25-30 min., and get out whatever you think will taste good on top. When the timer goes off, pull out your creation and let it rest. Yes, it has to rest. Why? Our batter is filled with itty bitty bubbles. As it cooks, they are essentially smooshed into one big ├╝ber bubble. That makes your pastry into a giant balloon, and when it deflates, it leaves a nice, yummy, custardy, crispy edible bowl of deliciousness. Or a circle for you lucky cast iron skillet people. 
5. Slice, and add toppings. For one pan, you can expect to get about 6 slices. Yes, they are huge. Yes, they will be covered in carbs. Yes, they are the best ting you have ever eaten. The classic is certainly powdered sugar and lemon juice, but jam, honey, fruit, and syrup work very nicely too. 
I found my camera cord, so here are some pictures for those of you that have never seen one of these fluffy joy rectangles:

I made the batter using a hand blender and a big bowl, and found a really great trick for cleaning it off. Our hand blender is really old, so you can't take the shaft of of the electrical components and stick it in the dishwasher. Scrubbing it is a pain, so I got a tall plastic cup and filled it about halfway with hot water and soap. I cut a hole in the bottom of a big plastic bag, and stuck it over the top of the blender and pulled the cord through. Just turn it on (the bag makes a nice splatter shield), and it gets nice and clean. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Grape Fruit, Baked Fruit. Wait- what?

Yup. Baked grapefruit. Not lying. While some people don't fully appreciate this humble yellow orb, those that do often only sprinkle a little sugar on top (or none at all) and eat while watching infomercials. (can you believe that my spellchecker recognized informercial?) I was leafing through our family copy of the New Doubleday Cookbook, and found a recipe for baked grapefruit. It said: Halve grapefruit, dot with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 30-40 min. at 350, and baste occasionally with pan drippings. Way to be specific, cookbook. We have a few grapefruits in the fridge, so I decided to whip this up.
There weren't many more instructions than what the big fat book gave me, so I took a few liberties. Here's how I did it:
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Slice 2 grapefruits and place cut side up in a glass baking dish
3. Slice off about 1 tablespoon of butter from that big 'ol stick in the fridge. Why the about? Because every grapefruit is different and you may need more, or you many need less. I needed less.
4. Shave off thin slices (not wafer thin, just thin) and cut in half. Dot the top of each half with the butter, and then sprinkle on a pinch of sugar.
5. Bake for 30-40 min., basting occasionally with the drippings. Or should you? Mine were very stable, and almost nothing dripped.
Now comes the challenge of eating. When I dug my spoon in, a few juice sacks and some liquid resulted. The taste? A warm grapefruit soup. Not very impressive. Mine could have been improved with a heck of a lot more butter and sugar. There were no drippings, so I think that there should have been more melted butter. If there were, the sugar would caramelize and the liquids would be a yummy sauce. But I did it wrong. Here's what I think you should do:
1. Follow my steps one and two
2. Cut 2 tablespoons of butter from the stick
3. Cut the butter into 4 equal parts (yes, one for each half. for you measurement fans, 1/2 tablespoon butter per fruit). Cube the parts, and dot over the fruit.
4. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar over each half, and bake 30-40 min.
5. Baste the inevitable drippings occasionally
6. Take out
7. Eat
How to eat? I have no earthy idea. I just scraped it off the sides, and it suited me fine. If you make this and find a better way, please let me know! As of right now (4:02 p.m.), one of my prepared halves is in the fridge to see if they undergo some magical fridge transformation. This was a fine experiment, but as for me, I'm going back to the store to get some more grapefruit and infomercials. I think you can get those at info-mart, right? I encourage everybody to try this and not fail epically as I did. But hey, we can't all be perfect chefs all the time. :]

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Arty Chokes 2 For $1.00

Today, my principal came over to our lunch table and told us a joke. You know, the kind where it's clever but not very funny? One of those. Here it is: There was this guy named Art. He went out, and choked this guy to try and get his money. The guy only had 50 cents. He chokes another guy, and he only had 50 cents. The newspaper headline the next day? "Arty Chokes 2 for $1.00." Get it? Yeah, I do too. Cue awaked pity laughter.
Why the corny joke, you ask? My friend and I were discussing artichokes when he happened by. We have decided that there is no better way to eat them than straight up and dipped in melted butter. Yum! I had my first artichoke a few weeks ago at my grandparent's house, and it was good. I had another one lsat night, and plan on eating the leftovers today. When cooked, the thing looks (and smells) like a gym sock. But the taste? Epic. I don't think that my siblings will ever try one, but they should. Most people can cook an artichoke, but just in case you can't, here are my cooking and eating instructions:
1. Procure an artichoke
2. Get a large, wide-mouthed vessel with a lid (a.k.a pot), and fill with a few inches of water
3. Insert a steamer basket or what I call a "steamer thingy." Why do I call it that? Because it has a proper name but I don't know what it is. But it looks like the mutant child of a pot and a colander, and has handles, and fits inside your wide-mouthed vessel to use for steaming, draining, whatever. I recommend a steamer basket, but you can use whatever you want; the artichoke police won't come to your house and take it away.
4. Take your artichokes and snip off the little pointy things at the top of each leaf with a pair of shears.  Use a big knife, and cut the stems off. According to Alton Brown, non-woody stems can be cooked along with the artichoke and are almost as good as the heart. I have not tried this, so if anybody wants to cook a few stems and tell me how they are, that would be awesome.
5. Arrange your artichokes (usually people do about 4 at a time) in the steaming device, pop on the lid, and put over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, or until tender.
6. Procure tongs.
7. Remove artichokes from vessel.
8. Prepare dipping substance. There is a large debate over the best dipping substances, but here are the ones I've seen:
Mayonnaise
Mayo + Mustard
Hollandaise
Melted butter (in my opinion, this is the best one)
9. Eat :)
How to eat:
1. Lift leaf from artichoke
2. Dip in dipping substance
3. Hold so that the leaf is curving down (if you put it on your plate it looks like a little tunnel and not a half pipe).
4. While maintaining curve, place leaf on your bottom teeth, and slowly drag across to scrape off the white stuff and dipping substance.
5. Repeat for pretty much every leaf. When you get to the point where there are only a few leaves left and there is a cone-like shape, stop! Because the humble artichoke is, as are many foods, a flower-bud. And inside? A flower. Cut into it, and you will see the fuzzy part appropriately called the "choke." As my grandfather says, "If you eat it, you will indeed choke." Cutting into this, of course, is purely for science.
6. What you should do is grab the base of the leaf-cone, and twist off. This will leave you with a small disk with a white thingy on top. This has got to go. Get a butter knife (or, now that I think about it, a grapefruit spoon) and cut around the white thing. This will reveal some fuzzy stuff, which you must also remove.
7. After all that labor, you get a grey disc. This is the holy grail of artichoke fans everywhere, and it is essentially the concentrated form of the stuff that you have been scraping off the leaves. Slice it up, dip in dipping substance, and savor. Because if you don't savor it, you need to disassemble another one.
Of course, you can always cheat and get canned artichoke hearts. But they aren't nearly as good, now are they?

Now excuse me, I need to go eat one of these.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Review: Microwave Omelet Maker

I like omelets. I hate making them. Here is the process as I see it:
1. Mix eggs
2. Pour eggs into pan
3. Realize you forgot to grease the pan
4. Remember you are using a nonstick pan
5. Watch it cook
6. Wonder how long you should let it go before you add toppings
7. Just give up, add toppings now and hope it works
8. Scramble around for a spatula
9. Break the omelet in an attempt to flip it in half
10. Stare at the gooey mess on your plate with confusion
11. Poke it. 
12. Nibble a little piece to see if it's edible
13. Decide you don't want to waste 15 cents worth of eggs and eat it even though it's awful
We got a microwave omelet maker a little while back. When I first saw one, I thought it was a semi-circular sandwich holder. Maybe it's a taco holder. Weirder things exist! It's small, white and has two little compartments. I sat there for quite a while wondering how on earth this thing would make eggs in the microwave, and the instructions were dirt-simple. Mix 2 eggs and some water (there was a specific amount, but I forget), pour half into each part, and cook an high for about a minute. Then you take it out, stir it, be amazed that this thing is actually cooking, and repeat the process several times with different cook times (see your own instructions for specifics). Add toppings, close the compartments, and cook a little bit more. Pull it out, slide it off, and tah-dah! Out comes a cute little omelet.
Considering getting one? Here's what to look for:
Strong, durable plastic
Lock that will lock tightly and unlock easily
Dishwasher safe

Pros: 
  • easy to use
  • fast- done within five minutes
  • nonstick- no little egg bits for you to scrape off
  • dishwasher safe
  • good for a quick meal
Cons:
  • eggs may discolor a bit (mine were grey in places but tasted the same throughout)
  • slightly dry texture
  • requires fairly constant tending 
  • not practical for more than 2 servings
The Bottom Line:
While it definitely will not replace a good pan and some skill, this is a great tool to use if you need a quick meal or an alternative for a picky eater. 





What it looks like

Monday, March 1, 2010

Biscuits and Bagels and Monday, Oh My!

Happy March-day everybody! (is that a word? march-day?)

You love them, I love them, everybody loves them. The flaky, fluffy, buttery bits of joy that are biscuits! Mondays are awful, so I whipped up a big batch last night in hopes to improve them. They could fix anything, in my opinion. I brought them in, and my friends and I ate them at lunch. You could hear the drool from everyone who saw the big ziploc bag of yumminess. I don't know how it went in the cafeteria, because I had to go to a meeting about politics. Fun. Guess what? Half the people at my table have anticonsumptionofbiscutsitis. But people who don't sit at my table were happy to finish them up. If you don't have the horrible disease my friends do, I've got a recipe guaranteed to add a bit of homespun goodness to your monday:
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
2/3 cup milk (you could use buttermilk, but I used 1%)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1. Preheat oven to a warm, toasty 400 degrees
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. I whisked them together because I don't like sifting, so I whisked them. You could sift if you want.
3. Cut in the cold butter with your fingertips. Yes, your fingertips. You're going to get dirty, but don't worry. It's for the good of the food.
4. Get your sacred spoon. You know what I mean, that one wooden spoon that tackles anything and everything. Got it? Good. Pour in the milk, and mix it all up into a big ball of, well, goo. Be sure to mix in as few strokes as possible, lest you create the elastic, plastic, structure called gluten. (dun dun dunn...) Ever had a nice, chewy, french loaf? You have gluten to thank. Ever had a disgusting, tough biscuit? (Yes, bad biscuits do exist... It's sad but true) You have gluten to blame.
5.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured countertop about 1/2 inch thick, and cut out as many circles as your pastry ring can make. For pastry rings, you have two options: pastry rings and clean tuna cans with the top and bottom cut out. They cost the same, but one comes with tuna. One Doesn't. You make the choice. I used the cap from my cooking spray.
6. Put the circles on a lightly greased cookie sheet and brush with the beaten egg (you could go without the grease, but you don't want to risk sticking after you've put all that work in), or a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper on it. No, not the parchment they use in Harry Potter, paper impregnated with silicon, guaranteed to be nonstick. You can find it in most grocery stores these days right next to the tinfoil, plastic wrap, ect. I'd love to take you on a long, loving tour of each and every one, but that's another blog post. For another time.
7. Bake for 12-15 minutes, and use the time to clean up that big mess you probably made.
8. Take out, and eat immediately. Or take to your friends to brighten up monday.

Okay, has anybody else seen those green bagels at Stop & Shop? Raise your hand. Come on, do it. I see you, you, and you. Hey you! Green pants! Raise your hand. You've seen these. My baby sister was eating one this morning, and when she cut into it, I was greeted by a play-doh green circle of confusion. Seriously! It looks like play-doh. My other sister said that they were just plain bagels and green food coloring, but for me, that's just too boring. I wonder what Saint Patrick's day flavored bagels would taste like...

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