Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cook Club: Week 2

Last weekend (the 13th), Shawn's mom called and asked if, for his dad's birthday, they could come over to the house and we'd make something for them (instead of going to a restaurant).  Shawn agreed and thus began "Cook Club with Bob and Elsie."

Since Bob is diabetic, we try to have protein and vegetable laden meals while keeping it light on the carbs.  So we opted to forgo the dinner rolls in the main meal and save the carbs for desert.

Leg of Lamb on the grill (recipes? we don't need no stinking recipes)
Provencal Gratin (from How to Boil Water)
Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (from Sprouts Newsletter)
Orange Flavored Chocolate Mousse (from Fresh)

Notes for Provencal Gratin:
Very bland - It really needs more garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and more cheese.  For the amount of prep time, I'd rather just make long slices of squash and cook on the grill.  Of course, if we weren't making something on the grill, then this would be the next best thing, but again, I'd change up the spices and add more cheese. I will admit that I did add an extra squash and two extra tomatoes to the mix (I forgot to tell Elsie not to chop up everything).  2/5

Notes for Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potatoes:
I thought this recipe sounded kinda ick - Kale? Cranberries? all on top of a sweet potato?!  But it was delicious.  Other than the problem of only needing one, maybe two kale leaves and having to have pine nuts on hand, it's relatively easy to make and it tastes good. 5/5

Again with the fuzzy. You can see how bland the gratin is from here...

Orange Flavored Chocolate Mousse:
I have a thing against 'fake food' (okay, not really because I'll eat lemonade pie like no one's business*) - I'll use the full fat versions of food unless the low fat version is an actual food item as well (so using neufchatel cheese in place of cream cheese is fine, but using no fat salad dressing is just wrong). I feel the same way about Frozen Whipped Topping (aka CoolWhip).  If you're going to use frozen spun oil, you might as well use the full fat version.  But this chocolate mousse recipe uses the no fat version, so we'll use that.  THIS time.  I made the first mistake of actually buying Reduced Fat Oreo knock-offs (called WhoNu cookies) instead of buying the pre-crumbed version that's in the cooking isle.  Then I didn't have the right sized spring-form pan, so the mousse is squatter than it ought to be.  The recipe calls for a shot glass of Grand Marnier, zest of one orange and the juice from that orange.  The mousse was, shall we say, very orangey.  I'd probably cut back on the liquor, and maybe the zest as well.  I'd also prefer to use real whipped cream the next time around though I don't know if it would be able to hold up in the fridge.  And now that I'm thinking about it, why not make the mousses individual sized...may be easier to put them in a cup instead of in a spring form pan. 2/5

I forgot to take a picture last night, so here is a picture from today.  A problem with eating left overs of this mousse - it gets a skin on the cut edges...which is kinda ick-tastic.  Maybe I should cover it with clingwrap or something...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Molecular Gastronomy

For Christmas, my sister got Shawn a molecular gastronomy kit.  Shawn decided it was time to make something.  I present to you spherized drinkable yogurt (you can call them smoothie balls if you want):
Step 1:  Make your Sodium Alginate bath using your stick blender.  Find out that your stick blender is busted.  WONDERFUL!
Step 2:  Prepare your yogurt smoothie - add some Calcium Lactate and mix with spoon until dissolved.
Step 3: Drop teaspoons of the smoothie into the alginate bath.
Step 4: Wait.
Step 5: Fish balls out of alginate bath with slotted spoon and transfer to a water bath (to rinse).
Step 6: Yay! Yogurt smoothie balls!
Now then, you do have to be careful when adding the spoonfuls of smoothie to the alginate bath because if you don't get it all in in one fell swoop you end up with weird shapes...I can't quite decide if they look more like pink cat turds or little organs from a small animal.

Pink cat turds or pink organs?  either way, it's spherification gone wrong.

Enjoy your pink cat turds!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cook Club: Week 1

As I was flipping through cookbooks, I found three recipes that I wanted to try in my Hunger Games Unofficial Cookbook that my sister got me for Christmas last year.  I have, as to date, only made one recipe out of the book (hash browns).  As with most of my cookbooks, there isn't anything I have against the book, I just tend not to think of it when I'm making food...besides, it's much easier to go to Supercook.com and enter in the ingredients you have on hand and it returns recipes using those ingredients.  Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of recipes I won't be using from the HGU cookbook because they require things like muskrat or consist entirely of a handful of pine needles and hot water.

The three recipes I chose to make from the Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook are as follows:

Orange Muffins with Sweet Preserves
Mrs. Everdeen's Rabbit Stew
District 12 Drop Biscuits

Notes for Orange Muffins:
Not difficult to prepare - the toughest part is getting the butter melted.  It's not assertively orange flavored, but the muffins are very good - good crumb, easy to make.  Since I'm not prone to making preserves; in the future, I'll probably add some orange zest to bump up the flavor (or maybe a shot of Grand Marnier).  While the recipe says it only makes 12 muffins, it probably makes closer to 18 - I figured they probably didn't rise much since the recipe says that it makes 12 so I filled the tins to the top and now have a mess to clean in the oven.  Shawn says they taste like cornbread (they don't have any corn meal), but it probably has something to do with the 'struessal topping.'  Rating:  4/5
Orange Muffin with Clementine and Mimosa...because mimosas make everything better.
And then later in the day, I made the other two recipes...

Notes for Mrs. Everdeen's Rabbit Stew:
First thought - Rabbit tastes like chicken.  Good to know, next time I'll probably use chicken instead of paying for the rabbit.  Also, now I know that rabbit tastes like chicken so I'll eat it again in the future.  Second thought:  It made me cook this bacon, now what the hell am I supposed to do with it?  (the bacon is never mentioned again in the recipe directions after you cook it) (I ripped it into pieces and added it to the slow cooker).  Since we have a massive slow cooker, and I only had purchased two rabbit quarters, I added extra wine and water to get the cooker at least a quarter full.  The recipe only calls for a total of 1/4 cup wine and there are no other liquids.  Also, the rabbit was done in 4 hours instead of the recipe listed 6 (again, I think it's the fact that the cooker was only a quarter full).  We served the 'stew' with rice - it really is more like something you serve over rice or noodles as opposed to an actual stew. Rating 4/5

Notes for District 12 Drop Biscuits:
The biscuits were really good the night of, not so great as 'left overs'.  They probably would have been better as left overs if they had cheese in them.  I used my usual cookie scoop for portioning and the recipe made 18 biscuits instead of 12 (per recipe).  Made the biscuits (start to pulling out of the oven) in 20 minutes. Rating 3/5
Mrs. Everdeen's Rabbit Stew over white rice and District 12 Drop Biscuit.  I really need to work on not taking fuzzy photos...

Cook Club

At some point during the last few weeks, I had the brilliant idea that every weekend I should make a meal from recipes I've never made in my cookbooks.  I mentioned something about it on facebook - mostly because the original idea was "I should do this on the weekends that my dad is in town so he can come up here and have a good meal...well, if I'm going to have him over, I might as well have others over, too." The recommendation from Jon Grinder was that this thing be called "Cook Club."  Also, yes, I realize that this is like the entire premise of Julie and Julia only she was going through 1 cookbook - I'm using all of them with no goal of getting all the way through one, just a goal of actually using them.

I've brought it up at work, and the going theory is, once a month is good, every week may be a bit much.  So it looks like it will mostly be a Shawn and me thing and others may be invited over every once in a while (or if you want to come over some specific weekend, just let me know)

In any case, Cook Club 1) gives me something to do, 2) gets me to try new foods (kinda), 3) gets me taking pictures again...though I'm not a foodie and I don't 'get' pictures of food unless they're supposed to be educational and 4) gives me something to blog about.

Anyway...Allez Cuisine!

Monday, January 07, 2013

2012: A Year in Review

What did you do in 2012 that you had never done before?
Did a wine country tour in Santa Barbara, California

Did you keep your New Year's Resolutions and will you make more next year?
I don't make New Year's Resolutions, so yes, yes I did keep them

Did anyone close to you give birth?
No...a few coworkers had babies, but no family members.

Did anyone close to you die?
Close to me, no.  But we did lose two of our wonderful Austin Garden Bloggers this year - one to heart failure and one to breast cancer.

What countries did you visit?
I'll have to use the definition of "if it's outside of Texas, it's a foreign country" to do this - New Mexico and California

What would you like to have in 2013 that you didn't have in 2012?
More vacations.

What dates in 2012 will be etched in your memory and why?
January 6 - the date of my surgery.  December 28 - the date Bond and David moved away.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Achievement?  I don't have achievements...

What was your biggest failure?
Not having a garden was my goal.  I failed miserably.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
I fell while running...does that count?

What was the best thing you bought?

Whose behavior merited celebration?
My family.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
A bunch of those running for the republican nomination...

Where did most of your money go?
In order:  Home, Shopping, Food

What did you get really excited about?
Going to the San Diego Zoo

What song will always remind you of 2012?

Compared to this time last year, are you a) happier/sadder b)thinner/fatter and c)richer/poorer?
Happier, thinner and richer

What do you wish you'd done more of?

What do you wish you'd done less of?
Watch TV...worked late...eaten so many carbs...

How did you spend Christmas?
We went to Shawn's Parents' place for the day and then came home in time to meet my dad at our house to open gifts from my side of the family.

Did you fall in love in 2012?
Yes - I fell for a nice little girl named Biscuit.  Also with Spots and Stripes.

What was your favorite TV program?
Suits...or maybe Warehouse 13.

What was the best book you read?
Andrea Wolf - Founding Gardeners

What was your greatest musical discovery?
I'm counting Shawn's discovery - Fun!

What did you want and get?
My stand alone mirror for the bedroom

What did you want and not get?
A garden log...oh well, that's why I have a blog.

What was your favorite movie of 2012?
Probably a tie between Skyfall or Django Unchained.

What did you do on your birthday and how old did you turn?
We probably ate out...or maybe not, I seem to remember working on out either my birthday or on our anniversary...  Anyhow, I turned 31.  I'm getting old.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Getting more done on my yard plan.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept of 2012?
As per usual, plain colored T-shirts and jeans

What kept you sane?
Books, the interwebs, my friends and family.

What political issue stirred you the most?
Don't even get me started...  Take Santorum or Ryan and pretty much yeah, that sums it up...

Who did you miss?
My extended family.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
Wag more, bark less.