Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fried Rice

Fried Rice

pg 212

Most college students fall back on ramen noodles when they run low on food or just don't want to make anything. Not me, my fall back food is rice! During finals week last semester I swear I lived on the stuff. So it's no surprise that I love fried rice. I have been searching and searching for a good recipe only to be let down every time. When I saw that our cookbook had a recipe for fried rice I decided to give it one last try.

The recipe called for peanut oil, but I didn't have any of that so I went with sesame oil (instead of the olive oil I have pictured). It was left over from the previous fried rice recipes I had tried. Scallions were also supposed to be used, but I didn't have any of those and frankly didn't know what they were. So I just skipped those and threw in some bean sprouts.

The recipe was super easy and quick! I'm also very happy to say I have finally found a fried rice recipe that I am pleased with!

Grown-Up Ramen

  So, earlier this week I was jonesing for some Ramen noodles.  Whether they'll admit it or not, anyone who's ever been a poor college student knows how shamefully good that little packet of 1434mg sodium tastes when it's poured into a bowl of water and a few curly noodles.  The problem was, I knew I couldn't come back to class knowing I'd stooped to the lowest culinary low. So, instead, a found the closest thing to it in Bittman (Stir-Fried Chinese Noodles with Vegetables pg 171) and hoped for the best.

The whole process was pretty quick, really.  The recipe starts out by blanching the asparagus -- it was a perfect opportunity to practice what we'd done this week in lab.  The noodles only took a couple of minutes to cook, and I was able to get all of the chopping done in the mean time.  Everything went into one pan (in hindsight, I would definitely use a larger skillet), I stirred the whole thing a few times, and it was ready to eat.  The process from start to finish probably took me 15 minutes.

The finished product was great; it really was like a grown-up version of Ramen, but with way less sodium and much more hearty with the added veggies.  The only real downside to this meal was probably the cost of buying the oils (the sesame oil was relatively expensive for such a small bottle) but I personally considered it an investment for future Asian cooking, and it was well worth the added flavor that it gave the dish.

One Big Omelet

This week I made the simple omelet found on page 802 of the red Bittman's book. I added some brat, cheese and vegetables to create a wonderful variation. I used 9 eggs instead of 4 so it was quite large! This was the first time I have ever made an omelet and I was very pleased with how it turned out! I would make this again and experiment more with different variations. 

Kale and Sundried Tomato Quinoa Cakes

 One of my go tos for a evening alone. This tasty delight can be enjoyed for dinner or lunch.  You can also pick and choose you combinations as you please.  So many variations are possible.

Mix all the ingredients together with cooked cooled quinoa. Add an egg to combine.  This mixture can keep in the fridge for days or be enjoyed right away.  I choose the later of the two.

 Mold into your desired cake size, and fry in hot oil until golden and crispy on the outside.

Accompanying my cakes will be a lemon slice, a dalop of brown mustard, and capers.  All a top a bed of spinach. You can choose any combination for your salad dressing.

Chicken with Tomatoes, Carrots, & Squash

This week, I tried out Bittman's recipe for Chicken Cutlets and Tomatoes in Packages, p. 683 (hardcover). Since fall is definitely here -- this weekend was gorgeous -- I decided to use a little acorn squash, carrots, and tomatoes for the topping, i.e. the grated vegetables option.
For this recipe, I placed the chicken in tin-foil squares and then layered the carrots, squash, and tomatoes on top. Add a little salt, pepper, and balsamic oil and you're good to go!
I closed up the tin-foil packages and placed the chicken in a baking dish in an oven set to 450 degrees. The recipe said it should take about 20 min; I ended up leaving it in there for an extra 15 min. I served the chicken with my version of zucchini pancakes for the challenge recipe. The meal was delicious! I've never cooked such juicy chicken before, and the flavors of all the vegetables were amazing.
While the chicken was good, my boyfriend and I agree that there was some texture missing. Next time I think I will sear the chicken before putting it in the oven to crisp the skin a bit. I liked that there were so many different options for the chicken packages -- I will definitely try some other varieties. 

Pita with Ground Lamb and Zucchini

This recipe is found on page 272 of the softcover Bittman book.

The recipe includes:
-ground lamb
-chopped walnuts
-canned plum tomatoes
-ground cinnamon
-salt and pepper
-pita bread
-carrot or parsley as garnish (I chose not to use these)

That's lamb in that bag. I swear!
I only used half a pound of the lamb and half of the zuchinni because I did not want to make too much as I was the only one eating.

I chopped the onion and the zuchinni into small squares and minced the garlic. I also chopped up the plum tomatoes. And then it was time to begin cooking the lamb. When the lamb began to brown I added in the zuchinni, garlic, and onion. After those veggies started to get soft (about five minutes) I added the tomatoes, walnuts, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and simmered for another 10 minutes until the mixture became thick.

While simmering, I warmed six small pieces of pita bread in the oven so I would be ready to eat while it was all still hot. Once the mixture was thick and the pita bread was warm I was ready to combine them into something delicious.

This is me attempting to make it look artistic or something.
I'm not sure how different this would have turned out if I had stuck with the same proportion of ingredients as in the book, but it still turned out great. I actually ate the entire thing by myself because I was pretty hungry. If I were to do this again, I think I would have used a little bit more cinnamon and zucchini because I didn't really taste any cinnamon even though I could smell it and there just didn't seem to be enough green color in the finished product for my taste.

Oh! One last thing. Don't put the pita filling in between the pitas on your plate like I did or they will get soggy!
Did you know that there is a sheep farm by the Mall of America? There is! My dear friend Chris lives on the land and takes care of the 400 sheep, 10 goats, 25 chickens and 3 dogs. I spent the harvest moon weekend there exploring, playing with animals, harvesting vegetables, and eating great food.
For breakfast we decided to work together to make a veggie scramble with eggs and vegetables from the farm. I taught Chris the kale stripping technique, he was impressed.
First we sautéed the onions, then tomatoes, then added the kale.
Mmmmm... fresh eggs with vibrant yolks went in next.
The final product: Eggs scrambled with onion, tomato, and kale. I give it yum rating of yummmmm, that's a yum with 5 m's!

Homemade Granola

Jena Fabian saves money by making her own GRANOLA!!! (page 821, hardcover edition)

Making your own food from scratch instead of buying pre-made products is a great way to save money, plus you know where the ingredients are coming from and you can modify it to your dietary needs.  Granola is a really easy snack to make and you basically put anything in it you want, just as long as you have a sticky sweetener and oats.  

The recipe says to add any type of mixed nut and seeds, to make it cheaper for me and to get the most variety I choose to buy a pre-mixed nut and fruit product.  I also used honey made in Madison Wisconsin produced at a family friend's farm (so good).  Coconut was optional in the recipe but I'm obsessed with it so it was a no brainer that it was going to be in my granola.  I then decided to add 1 cup of choc-o-late to my granola mix (although not in the recipe) because chocolate is a girl's best friend and everyone needs chocolate in their life (unless your allergic).

Basically you just add all your ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir...I used my hands (after thoroughly washing) and mixed it all up.  A very sticky process but a nasty snack to lick off my fingers to hold me over until the granola was done.

I then put a layer of granola on a baking sheet and put it in the oven for a half an hour, occasionally mixing it.

And botta-boo-botta-bang DONE! Super easy and not a lot of work at all.  After making this I will never buy granola again, literally I have like 5 pounds of granola I need to eat.

Jam filled Crepes

Since it is morning, I decided I would look  in the "Eggs, Breakfast, and Dairy" chapter of How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. In this chapter I stumbled upon Crepes, Sweet or Savory (pg. 817-818). I hadn't had Crepes in a long while, so I thought it would be nice to make.

The recipe called for:

1 Cup all-purpose flour
Pince of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter, plus unmelted butter

This recipe made 12 to 16 crepes. Since I was only cooking for myself, I decided to cut the recipe in half.

With a wisk I combined all of the ingredients, except for the unmelted butter, in a bowl. I then let the batter rest in the refridgerator.

After the batter was cooled, I put a non-stick skillet over medium heat and added a small amount of butter. When the butter melted, I poured batter onto the skillet until it made a thin layer. When the top of the crepe looked dry I flipped it. 

 The crepe turned out slightly brown and not crisp, which is what I wanted! In the book it said that the first crepe almost never works out, even for professionals. This is exactly what happened for me. My first two crepes didn't turn out the greatest, which is too bad since I only ended up making three crepes. My third crepe, however, turned out perfect. Since I only made three crepes out of the batter, instead of the expected 6-8, I decided not to discard my first two like the book suggested.

 I decided I wanted to make a Sweet Crepe. The book had different suggestions on what to put on a crepe. I tried to follow the recipe for the Creamy Caramel Sauce (pg. 922), but it didn't work out... The book also said jam would go nicely with it, so I spread some Smucker's Red Raspberry Preserves on my crepes.

 I then folded the crepe. The picture shown (top and left) is my best crepe!

The crepe was very delicious!!! I gave my dad a bite and he liked it too. I think this is definitely something I will make again with different fillings. Maybe I will try the Creamy Caramel Sauce again. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Autumn Loving

Oh the glory of fall!

The Leaves Changing Color
Cozy Sweaters and Boots Galore!
But for this gal right here,
Apples and Acorn Squash are what I look for! 

It's fall time here in Minnesota and that means honey crisp apples and winter squash all around the farmers market. I got this little guy from my CSA box and decided to stuff him with a combination of quinoa, goat cheese, cranberries, almonds and onion. Couple market fresh honey crisp apples and you have your own piece of heaven. 

Stuffed Acorn Squash
(From Mark Bitman's How to Cook Everything pg. 371)

  • 1 Acorn Squash
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1 Cup of Quinoa
  • 1/4 Cup of Cranberries
  • 1Tbs of Canola Oil 
  • 1/4 Tsp of Tummeric and Ginger (Plus more for dusting on the squash)
  • 1/2 Tsp Cinnamon 
  • 1/4 cup of Chopped Almonds Toasted 
  • 2oz. Goat Cheese
  • 1 1/2 Cups of chicken stock 
  • 1 tbs Honey
  • Salt to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 375*, halve your squash and clean out the seeds.
  2. Rub the squash with oil and sprinkle with spices and place face down on a sheet pan and allow to roast for about half an hour. When done pull out and allow to cool so that you can handle them for stuffing.
  3.  While the squash is in the oven, start a medium  pot over medium high heat with oil. 
  4. Chop the onions and add to the pot and cook till transleucent.  
  5. Add spices and continue until the onions begin to brown and the spices become fragrant. 
  6. Add Quinoa, chicken stock, salt, and cranberries and bring to a boil, then drop the heat down to simmer and cover. After 15 minutes remove the pot from the heat and let sit with the lid on for another 5 minutes.
  7.  Fluff with a fork and Add almonds, honey and goat cheese.
  8. Stuff squash with quinoa mixture and place back in the oven for another 30 minutes or until the squash is soft and the stuffing slightly browns. 


I served this as a treat for my boyfriend and I and we both gobbled it on up in no time!
Hmmm what other squashy things should I make ?

Warm wishes and tasty dishes,

I decided I wanted to make hamburgers the other night.  I was a vegetarian for over 7 years until about February.  I haven't cooked much meat since I transitioned so I usually like to have someone supervising my meat-cooking experiments so I don't poison everyone with E. coli accidentally.  On Wednesday, my roommate (Haley the TA) spectated while my boyfriend and I made hamburgers with bacon, bleu cheese, and caramelized onions.

I used Bittman's burgers recipe on p.432, the recipe for roasted bacon on p.477, and the caramelized onion recipe from p.517.

We also had a green salad with feta and homemade dressing that my boyfriend whipped up using ketchup as the emulsifier, which was surprisingly delicious.  And Haley used Bittman's recipe for steamed corn on the cob from p.564.  Bittman says "There is no reason at all to boil corn," but we found that steaming was not as good as regular boiled corn.

 Caramelizing onions.

Seasoning the hamburgers under strict supervision. 

The finished product, so delicious!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hi all, this is Robbie,

Yesterday was my roommate Erik's birthday, so I made him a cake. He wanted caramel cake, so I searched through the Bittman book & found no recipe for caramel cake. I did find a recipe for a creamy caramel sauce! On page 922, I used the creamy caramel sauce recipe. The steps for making caramel are simple, almost too simple. I've made caramel in the past, and I know it's tricky. This recipe only calls for three ingredients, butter, milk, and sugar.

You can kind of see the butter in the milk, right?

Cook that in a pot until it's 245˚ F, and you've got caramel sauce!

Except that I burnt it.

I got distracted, forgot about how much I hate electric stove tops, and so came back to a heterogenous pot of what looked like simply warm milk, but actually had a layer of black on the bottom. Thankfully for me, a lot of that black stuff dissolved in the milk, so I just continued cooking and stirring, and ended up with a delicious caramel sauce - after I strained out the icky bits.

No more icky bits!

Then, once I had this sauce, I had to have some sort of cake to put it on! So I also made a cake, using a little too little flour, some of the caramel I just made (and a few of the burnt milky bits), eggs, sugar, etc. 
And here is that cake!

Happy Birthday Erik!

One thing I noticed quickly is that this sauce crystalized fairly easily once it was cool, but was equally easy to make back into a sauce. Regardless of technical issues, it was delicious.

Eat a cake,

16-Bean and Quinoa Soup

I wanted to prepare a dish that didn’t require a trip to the grocery store, so I rummaged through my pantry and fridge this week and ended up making a variation of Bittman’s Basic Bean Soup on page 136 of the hardcover edition. I used a 16-bean mix from Target, vegetable broth, the soup triad (onion, celery, and carrots), quinoa, garlic, and butter in my soup. 
I referenced “The Basic of Preparing and Cooking Beans” on pg. 410-412 and decided not to soak the beans ahead of time since my bean mix included lentils and split peas. After cleaning the beans I brought them to a boil in the vegetable broth.
I then lowered the temperature on the stove and added the rest of my vegetables, a couple pinches of dried thyme, and some bay leaves. The soup simmered for about an hour and smelled delicous! 
 My only real difficulty with the meal was trying to figure out when the beans were finished since each of the beans cooked at different rates. When I thought I had about 15 minutes of cooking time left I added about a cup of quinoa. I’ve never cooked with quinoa before, but have been highly intrigued after my mom started raving about the grain a couple of months ago. To finish off my soup, I added a couple tablespoons of butter  and minced garlic into the pot.  I am not a vegetarian, and rarely make a meatless meal, but this was wonderfully filling and oh so tasty! My boyfriend is pretty excited about these weekly assignments and has decided to rate each of the meals I make for him. My soup earned me 5 out of 5 stars!