Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bitter Pancake Fun

So I decided today that I was going to make pancakes..and had the most difficult time finding recipes in any of my cookbooks. Which of course inspired me to think I should have bought the Dorie Greenspan pancake book when I had the chance but never mind. I finally ended up locating one in my Betty Crocker cookbook but after everything was beautifully mixed together I glanced over at the table and saw I had put in 3 tsp of baking soda instead of baking powder.

Not even all the blueberry syrup in the world could have made those pancakes taste good. First bite tasted okay. Then came the bitter aftertaste that I have to assume came from the baking soda. Still, never mind. I have cookies to console myself with that I can post pictures of when I get to work on Monday...Maple Cookies with a brandy vanilla glaze. Yum. It's at times like this when I miss having a computer at home. That might have helped me salvage the pancake disaster today.

Overall, though, I can see the benefits of learning to live without the computer. I've gotten more books read in the last three weeks then I have in the last six months. I spend a lot more time with Mr Data and being the lapcat that he is, this is a dream come true for him. But best of all, I guess I rather feel like I've finally succeed in separating work from home.Because I spent a lot of my day in front of a computer already. Bringing that home with me left me spending most of my life in front of  a computer.

And as a side effect, I get out of the house on time more often than not.

But my apologizes do go out to those who have posted comments that I haven't responded to. I do read them and enjoy them and are often encouraged by them. But at work, there's not a lot of time to spend blogging without having someone reading over my shoulder. And I am very adamant about keeping this blog and work separate. All of us need a place or two to be ourselves. Fortunately, this is one of my places. Thank you though to everyone, especially Palidor, Cathy, Nat & Diane for being there and making me laugh with your comments. It's very much appreciated.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cooking Italy: Pizza


So this week's Cooking Italy Challenge using Marcella Hazan's wonderful book "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking"  involved cranberry beans.

I took the easy way out (I thought) and went with the optional Pizza Dough recipe.

Now this would have been accomplished a lot earlier in the week had there not been the great Sunday dough crisis that involved getting a nice dough worked up and sitting in a bowl to rise.

A plastic bowl.

On an oven while I was baking cookies.

It was not pretty. Poor little dough. The bottom of the bowl had melted, presumably into the dough, which was also baked 3/4 of the way through. So I threw it out, mourned my dough, ate several macaroon cookies to console myself and shoved this aside for a few days.

Now I did choose the easy way of making the dough by using the food processor as I was short on time after work. Also, I ended up letting it rise overnight as I didn't want to stay up too late so by the next morning I had a nice risen dough that slept for the day in the fridge until I got home.

Since I didn't have a round pizza sheet (something had happened to my other one and I honestly intended to get around to getting a new one about a year ago) I went with a square cookie sheet, rolled the dough out into a rectangular and crimped the edges around. So far, not so bad.

I wanted to recreate one of my favorite pizzas, garlic alfredo chicken. So in the interests of saving time and money, I went with a bottled alfredo sauce, and mixed in some chicken, red onions, and roasted minced garlic. Now I went a little overboard with the sauce, but overall, the pizza turned out great. The dough was crisp and cooked through perfectly. The sauce made things a little messy in some areas but the flavor was fabulous.

Definitely am loving Marcella's book.

Balancing Perspective


So things are starting to look up at work. We have a a temp-to-perm receptionist working, the boss is back full time and there is now at last the chance to take time off work. Which means a three day weekend, back on Monday, and then off Tuesday and Wednesday.

Not that I have anything to do on Tuesday and Wednesday. It's just the ability to take the time off  and not be at work. And a good thing too because my attitude has been cranky/bitchy lately. And while it's not an out and out grumbling (although there has been that), it's mostly an internal crankiness which is worse. Because no matter how polite I might be in words, my actions are speaking louder than my words ever could.

Now while I don't think my insurance overs attitude transplants, I can at least have some time to think about why I'm choosing to be in a bad mood. Because as much as I might like to blame it on someone else, the reality is if a bad mood happens often enough, then it's a pretty safe bet it's my choice.

So today is a very good day to look at the things I appreciate:

  1. Having a great vet for Mr. Data that comes to our house
  2. Being able to make pizza from scratch for the first time last night
  3. Getting a seat to myself on the train this morning
  4. Being able to use the internet at work for personal issues
  5. Having food to eat
  6. Mr Data feeling better after a rough two days
  7. Having Friday off and missing a major mailing at work
  8. Getting paid tomorrow
  9. Being able to walk from the el to work today
  10. Waking up this morning

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Photography Therapy

My favorite is the middle one....








Orange Coffee Cake


 Nothing like a computer meltdown to make you appreciate the resources you already have. Normally, I look at recipes online and think "I would totally make this if  I have the time."

The the computer died.

Now I have the time.

I haven't used this book in ages, although after flipping through the book I'm not sure why. This book has some awesome recipes, and definitely nothing over the top so complicated it would intimidate me sort of recipes. Basic good food and lots of baking suggestions throughout the book.

So I decided the other day after waking up earlier than I had been expecting that I would make breakfast. In retrospect, this was also on the same day that I thought it made sense to also make the Macaroon challenge for the Daring Bakers and my soon to be failed attempt to  try to make pizza dough from scratch for my Cooking Italy challenge.

I think I would have succeed with making the pizza  dough had I not left it in a plastic bowl to rise ON TOP OF THE STOVE while I was baking macarrons which caused the bottom of the bowl to not only melt but also to bake the dough.

That said, this was a pretty tasty recipe. And easy for me, giving me a big boost of baking courage after my rather interesting coffee cake the other week. The orange juice is pretty mild but definitely there. I think I would like it a little more orange tasting so I might add a little orange extract if I made this again.

Orange Coffee Cake
Courtesy of Pillsbury : The Complete Book of Baking

Coffee Cake
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup oil
2 eggs beaten

Topping
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup sugar
3 tspcinnamon
1 tbsp margarine or butter, softened
1 tsp grated orange peel

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Greast 10 inch overproof skillet or appropriate sized baking dish. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; mix well.

In small bowl, combine orange juice, oil and eggs; blend well.  Add to dry ingredients all at once; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spread batter evenly in greased skilled or pan.

In small bowl, combine topping ingredients with fork until crumbly. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 12 servings.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

DB: Macaroons


Alas, poor sorry macaroons..you deserved better.

After seeing all the gorgeous posts over at the Daring Bakers, I'm almost ashamed to post these. However, as misshapen as they are, they are also delicious even though I did not go as far as making my own homemade frosting. They were still delightful with Sarabeth's Strawberry Raspberry Jam.

I think after reading some of the other posts on the recipe that there's a few warning signs that I know now to observe for the future.
  1. The consistency of the almond meal. I'd bought mine preground at the store and thought  it seemed a little grainy but figured that it would work itself out when I sifted it. I'm guessing now it did not.
  2. The unexpected death of my sifter about 1/4 of the way through the recipe definitely did not help.
  3. The suspicion that I did not beat my egg whites into hard peaks as I wasn't quite sure how far was too far after reading the warnings that it was imperative to not overbeat the eggs.
  4. Possibility that the eggs weren't room temperature...according to Inga Garten on the Food Network, she leaves her eggs out overnight to bring them to room temp.
All things considered, I think the meringues were doomed before they even began.

Now I started out by being careful. I took my egg whites out and left them on the counter for 2 hours. I hovered over the mixer being careful to observe them going from froth to whipped. I had a small minor moment of despair when I tried to pipe directly onto the cookie pan before I gave up and piped into a small round cookie cutter but overcame that.

Still, flat tasty cookies.

So I think I would try this again, but I read a few tips over at the daring bakers that makes me think there could be light at the end of the tunnel. Among them, were:

I have made macarons many times before and I always use 3+ day old counter-dried egg whites and 1 tsp of egg white powder which really stabilises the egg whites. I always grind the almond meal with the icing sugar in a processor to obtain very fine meal and shift it THREE times this gives the smoothest shells and also I dry the piped shells for about one hour also.

These are not the quickest cookies to make although they're not terribly bad. Maybe 1 1/2 hours not including the "why are they spreading" meltdown you'll have if you follow my original lead.


Daring Bakers Macaroon Cookies
Adapted from Claudia Fleming

Ingredients

Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)



Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.

4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.

5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).

6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.

7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Being Accountable to Yourself

So today should be a keep out of the kitchen day at work since we have an event going on and there will be caterers running amuck. On the positive side, that means I get to come in, hand out a few program books and get paid for really just standing around and doing nothing. On the not so much positive side, there's lots of yummy food lying in wait, ready to pounce and attack me at any time.

I've come to the conclusion lately that keeping an online public food journal is pretty much a waste of time for me. I'm not honest with it at all. I'm not sure if I'm just embarassed to admit to the people in my little corner of the world that I've attacked food as it were my last meal ever or if it's just a question of it being too easy to delete the proof of bad days. Just hightlight, click and it's gone forever.

Whichever it is, the past four days have been a lot easier for me with eating. I have my little notebook and pen handy at all times and have been dutifully writing everything down. Every little extra spoonful. Every little extra sip. It's all there. And somewhere in the process, I've been eating less. Which I find very interesting. It's almost as if once it's out of my head and onto paper, it takes away a lot of the impact the silly excuses and rationalizations had over me. It becomes real then. So where I can say to myself "It's really all just one dessert split over the day" now becomes "Damn, I had a boatload of sugar today."

I think this is proof that my inner child should not be allowed to plan my menus or go grocery shopping with adult supervision too.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

BB: Blue Cheese Souffle


Today's recipe challenge came  from the Barefoot Bloggers . Now this one was leaving me a little worried as it involved egg whites and I have never for some reason quite grasped the concept of properly folding things into batter. I either underfold or way overfold. No happy mediums. Never mind the fact that I have never actually worked with egg whites that involved whipping in general. So I was downright giddy when I saw them actually start to pull together and form peaks...I couldn't have been happier had I scaled Mount Everest armed with nothing more the whisk from my kitchenaid mixer.

It was a little easier for me as I had prepped all the ingredients the night before, putting them into their own little bowls and arranging it all on a platter in the fridge so all I would have to do last night was pull it out and bring it to room temperature. Which did not actually happen quite that conveniently as I worked later and started making the recipe with everything chilled because I didn't want to be eating at at 10:00.

I'm still not entirely sure if I folded the whites in correctly as the top of my souffle didn't look like the pictures I saw from the book. But the very fact that it puffed at all leaves me all relieved that I must have done something right.

End result. I thought it was good but not great. But then, I'm not sure that I'm a savory souffle kind of girl. I had made a chocolate souffle some weeks back with a meetup baking group that I had really liked but this just didn't do it for me. I loved the taste of it but  I think the cheese flavors would taste better for me at least in a omlette or frittata maybe. For all the work it involved putting the souffle together, the result wasn't doing it for me.

But the most important thing is..I think i may be over my fear of egg whites, a good thing too as I have a challenge that involves cookies and whipped egg whites coming up soon.


Blue Cheese Souffle

Copyright, 2004, Barefoot in Paris, All Rights Reserved
Prep Time: 15 min Inactive Prep Time: -- Cook Time: 30 min Level:
2 to 3 servings

Ingredients

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup scalded milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch salt
4 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
3 ounces good Roquefort cheese, chopped
5 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar



Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter the inside of an 8-cup souffle dish (7 1/2 inches in diameter and 3 1/4 inches deep) and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the hot milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the cayenne, and nutmeg. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, until smooth and thick.

Off the heat, while still hot, whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the Roquefort and the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for 1 minute, on medium speed for 1 minute, then finally on high speed until they form firm, glossy peaks.

Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the cheese sauce to lighten and then fold in the rest. Pour into the souffle dish, then smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula to help the souffle rise evenly, and place in the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (don't peek!) until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Weight, Weight Go Away

So today was weigh in day.

And I'm really tired of staying at this weight.

Really frustrated at this point actually. I've been at this weight pretty much for over 2 months. And at that point, this early in the weight loss journey, I have to accept that it's not really a plateau. I am eating myself into staying at this weight. Plus considering the exercising has been intermittent and the tracking non existant, I can see what the problem is.

Me.

Now I have a yoga tape where the instructor says "I invite you to get out of your own way." That pretty much sums it up for me right there.

So it was very timely to see a post from Jenelle at Appilogue talking about doing a u-turn in your own life to stop and restart. Definitely what I am needing in my own life. So I have my little notebook in hand and am writing down every little bite.

Every single one. No more of the "well i had a sugar cookie and then some toffee candy and that's really like a toffee sugar cookie eaten at different points of the day."

Now I still want to bake.I love to bake. And as therapy goes, it's relatively cheap. But offended coworker or not, I'm bringing the leftovers to work from now on.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Da Da Dum Dum

It's time to work with egg whites.

Specifically time to work with souffles.

This fills me with some dread. Okay a lot of dread. As I've posted before, I have a fear of egg whites. Partly because I'm concerned (with good reason) that I'll smack them around too much and make them disintegrate. Also, partly because I have my doubts about getting every speck of invisible butter off my mixer.

On the other hand, the recipe which is throwing my kitchen into chaos does sound yummy and involves blue cheese, which I have always loved even as a kid. And to make things better, there's parmesan cheese involved too so how can this not be a good thing.

I feel rather like I"m going into battle here.

TCS: Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake


For my first cake with "The Cake Slice" bloggers we made Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake from "Southern Cakes" by Nancy McDermott.

Yummy from the looks of the recipe. Not so much while making it although I need to make it clear that was my fault. I decided to halve the recipe at the last minute so there might have been some ingredients that I was off on. Plus on the spur of the moment I decided to improvise despite the fact that I know from experience that I really should try the recipe as it was called to be baked before I tweak too much so I can get a good feel for what I"m making. But that said, hopefully ignorance is indeed bliss as I realized while mixing that I was out of milk so i substituted whipping cream and then I was too lazy to reach for the regular sugar and brown sugar was handier so I used that.

So after mixing the cake batter up, I had my first misgivings as the batter was very thick. After deciding that maybe that's how it was supposed to be, I dumped half of it in the pan and spread it around. No problems, I am a baker, I can do this. Then reality kicked in as I discovered:

Problem #1: I had melted the butter in advance so it had congealed when I was ready to pour the butter over the streusel.
Problem #2: Trying to spread a thick batter over a cinnamon streusel topping is really a pain to do right.
Problem #3: I'm pretty sure I used the entire amount of butter called for the original recipe and not the halved version so there's going to be a  LOT of butter poured over the batter.

I took a quick peek at the cake about 10-15 minutes in (again, I know, not good but I was a little worried) and discovered that there was still layer of melted butter that had yet to soak in. Not a good sign.

When I pulled it out of the ovens, the edges were burned. And although the cake was firm in some spots, in others it was it was soft and buttery and goey.

It is definitely not the prettiest cake. But it is still hands down pretty yummy. I'd make it again for sure...just the right way that time.

 Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake
(Recipe from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott)
Makes a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake

For the Cake
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs

For the Cinnamon Raisin Filling
1½ cups light brown sugar
3 tbsp all purpose flour
3 tbsp cinnamon
1½ cups raisins
1½ cups coarsely chopped pecans
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, melted   

Method
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 9 inch pan.

To make the filling, combine the light brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl and stir with a fork to mix everything well. Combine the raisins and pecans in another bowl and toss to mix them. Place the cinnamon mixture, nut mixture and melted butter by the baking pan to use later.

To make the cake batter, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir the vanilla into the milk. In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar and beat with a mixer on high speed until pale yellow and evenly mixed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl to ensure a good mix. Add the eggs and beat for another 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl now and then, until the mixture is smooth and light.

Use a large spoon or spatula to add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir only until the flour disappears. Add a third of the milk and mix in. Repeat twice more until all the flour and milk mixtures have been incorporated. Stir just enough to keep the batter smooth.

Spread half the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half the cinnamon mixture over the batter followed by half the melted butter. Scatter half the raisins and nuts over the top. Spread the remaining batter carefully over the filling, using a spatula to smooth the batter all the way to the edges of the pan. Top with the leftover cinnamon, butter and nut mixture, covering the cake evenly.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake is golden brown, fragrant and beginning to pull away from the edges of the pan. Place the pan on a wire rack and allow to cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before serving in squares right from the pan. The cake is delicious hot, warm or at room temperature.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sweet Potato Cappallacci


So this weekend, to keep myself out of trouble and from running amuck in the snack aisle out of boredom with my computer being out of commission, I decided it was time to get my first posting for my Cooking Italy blogging group done early so there would be fewer last minute "Oh this looks good enough moments". We are working our way through Marcella Hazan's wonderful book "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" which even though there are no pictures (intimidating at first for me) I can highly recommend.

Now this recipe was not quite as alarming as it might have been a week ago thanks to the pasta making class I had last week when I learned making the dough is actually pretty much a breeze...rolling it out , at least for the gnocchi we made last week, was a lot more of a pain. And I can honestly say now that at least for this recipe, it is not necessary to have tons of equipment to make pasta. All it takes is a table and for me, a cookie cutter.

Pasta Dough
3 eggs
Approximately 1 2/3 cups flour
1 tbsp milk

Filling
1 3/4 cups fresh sweet potatoes (I used canned for convenience)
2 amaretti cookies (could not find so I used a splash of amaretto)
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp prosciutto
1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 tbsp chopped parsley (I forgot this)
Whole Nutmeg (I used ground)
Salt

Butter Cheese Sauce
4 tbsp high quality butter
1 cup parmesan cheese

Now the actual mixing of the dough is fairly simple and actually pretty fun if you're slightly nuts like me and used to like working with the paper mache dough. Although after working with the dough this time, I've learned that it's definitely a lot easier if you flour your hands before starting to work the dough as your hands are at risk of being shellaced with pasta dough. Also, I'd fogotten to whisk the eggs when they were in the center being mixing it in with the dough so that made for a slightly messy moment when I startd to pull the dough together.










I took a hint from Marcella's book and rested the dough for a few hours which made it a lot easier to work with once I was ready to roll out the dough. Although I was not as precise as she was with rolling and turning and letting it hang to stretch, I still feel like I ended up with a perfectly respectable dough.



Once I had the dough rolled out as far as I could to the point where I was nicely close to it being translucent, it was time to cut. I had purchased a pastry/pasta cutter at the store but at the last minute felt nervous about being able to pull it off. So I opted instead for using a round cooking cutter and cutting out uniform circles of dough.

Now as the moment of truth. Actually getting the circles of dough to rememble ravioli. The fist half dozen were NOT pretty. Apparently it is a lot trickier for me to gauge the amount of filling needed than I had anticipated. So those early poor little raviolis were oozing filling and a little mutated.

By the time I had hit the halfway mark, I was feeling pretty good and had fairly nice looking ravioli. Unfortunatately I have no actual physical proof of this. Although this was one of the early success stories with just a little filling oozing out.


Once the ravioli had dried for about 20 minutes, I threw them into a pot of boiling water and fished them out with a sieve once they had floated to the top. I was only a little dubious about the whole thing at this point as I had never had sweet potato ravioli before so I bit into one (it'd fallen on the floor so I figured why not).


Oh my.

Oh my my my oh my.

I had learned that I LOVE sweet potato ravioli. It was absolutely amazing. And this was even before the deliciously cheesy sauce that I didn't even make correctly. Apparently I was supposed to toss the pasta with alternating butter and cheese. Instead I had decided to take the remaining sweet potato mix and melt it with the cheese and butter. It is a thick sauce but oh so very tasty.

I made about 2/3 of the recipe too and then gave up on rolling it out again so I just made a calzone out of the rest of it.

So the end result is definitely hands down better than any store bought ravioli I've bought. And if I have the time on a weekend, I would make it again. It's from start to end at least for me maybe about 4 hours worth of work including resting the dought.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

BBQ Meatloaf

For the first time in awhile, I'm looking forward to going to work tomorrow. Amazing what the lure of a computer can do.

 I still feel off my stride because there's just certain times of the day that I'm so used to plopping in front of the computer. In a way, it's been my babysitter when I'm bored or cranky or feeling sorry for myself. Which leads of course to the inevitable realization that like brooding, my computer usage has taken up parts of my life that I will never get back. And one of the reasons I got a computer in the first place was to work on the great american novel thad got partially written before I got hooked by computer games or checking my emails constantly.

But on the positive side, the great computer crisis of 2009 has succeeded in getting me out of the house more this weekend than I have for awhile. The ballet yesterday was unusual (Othello) but gorgeous and the dancer playing Othello makes me wish I was in my 20's and could actually dance so I could be on stage with him. And I made my favorite meatloaf recipe yesterday...no pictures unfortunately because I'm a little leery of plugging in my camera at the library, but trust me, it's delicious and so easy to whip up it's almost embarrasing to even post about it.

I also even made it to church today which is something I had been slacking on for a few months especially when I got distracted with playing one of the games and realized that services would be starting in 20 mintues and there was no way I was going to make it.  And right now, I'm at the library playing with the computer while my laundry is drying and my pasta dough is resting for a few hours before I roll it out and make ravioli for my Cooking Italy Group.

Interesting what a good shake up in routine can do from time to time.


BBQ MEATLOAF
orgin: unknown magazine at least 5 year or more ago

2 lbs ground turkey (or ground beef/mix)
1 box stovetop stuffing (I tend to use chicken)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup bbq sauce, divided
2 eggs
Shredded Cheese of Choice (optional)


Mix ground turkey, stuffing, milk, 1/4 cup bbq sauce, and 2 eggs together in bowl. Take 1/2 meat mixture and put in lightly greased loaf pan. Spread mixture with shredded cheese and top with remaining meat. Spread rest of bbq sauce on meatloaf.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Should serve approximately six depending on size of slice.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Light at the End of the Computer Tunnel

I'm sitting at the library right now, feeling rather gleeful that I got here just at the right time when there was one computer open. Now I get an hour of computer playtime and then I'm off to the ballet which should help the computer twitchies substantially.

Althought it is interesting that other than checking my email and coming over here to update my blog and check out everyone else's postings, I really can't think of anything else that is so critical as to warrant the computer twitchies. Which goes to show me that I've been using the computer a lot just because its there, not necessarily because I need to actually use it. Plus not having a computer helped get my grocery shopping done for the week..I was out of the house by 8 am today. On any other Saturday, I'd still be in front of the computer, most likely playing games.

That said, I'm feel rather grateful that there appears to be some light at the end of the computer tunnel. Our company tech guy was trying to help me troubleshoot by email at work and told me that if I could bring in the computer to their offices, he would check it out and see if it could be fixed or at least have my lost files transferred to a CD...and no charge too, bless him. Then my boss said that if my computer could not be fixed that I could borrow one of the work computers and take it home with me until I was able to afford getting a new one of my own...and she even knew that it would take at least 6 months or until I got my bills under control again whichever comes first. That's something I definitely need to keep in mind the next time I'm tempted to complain about all the things that she's doing that are driving me nuts.

Things could be worse. I must remember that.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Computer Woes

Well, life has a funny way of dealing with our concerns. The other day I was talking about worrying that I'd been spending too much time on the computer. Then after a few days of fits and starts and general computer flu, mine dear old puter may be gone for good.

The initial reaction is panic. I had files that are probably gone, ranging from  important (budgets and mr data) to semi important (photos I may not have backed up) to inconsequential (computer games, baking challenges, recipes and the such.)

I think the thing that's making me crabbiest is the fact that my sister, who has her good points (alas, hugs and sympathy not being among them) was listening to me rant about my computer and in mid worry started talking about something else.

And which point I hung up and sat in front of my computer screen willing it to come back to life. Which it did not do. So  I have an email in to the tech guy at work to see if he thinks we can heal it. If not, I'm left with a few issues to deal with. One, buy a a new computer which consisdering my debt levels seems to be self destructive even to me. Two, pay off the debts and then buy a new computer, relying on the work computer to work on my blog and other internet related things until that happens. Third, ask my family for help which considering the past issues and the fact that I never paid my mom back in full for something she helped with last year seems in poor taste to even ask for.

Considering how much time I did spend on the computer, this is going to throw my entire life offline for awhile too. First thing I did getting up was log on and check the email. First thing I did coming home was work on the computer. Now I'm facing a life without internet. Without any computer at all. I'm going to have to start doing things now like reading books and cleaning the house and exercising and all the other things I never had time for because I was on the computer.

Which okay, now that I think about it, it's not the end of the world. It might actually break the computer habit and get me back out and having more of a life. That said, there's going to be withdrawals. I had turned my internet off 6 months ago and after 24 hours wanted to sit in front of my computer hoping against hope that it would miraculaously turn itself back on (which it had but that was a comcast error that I couldn't get fixed).

So, I'll blog during lunch time or come in early/stay late to do it. I'll pay my bills online from here the same way.

Fingers crossed it's something that can be fixed though.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

MSC Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes



For my first baking with the Martha Stewart Cupcakes Blog we made Pumpkin Patch Cupbakes. Now I had borrowed out my brand new book to last week to a friend who has yet to return it at the baking deadline, so in desperation I had to use the recipe on her website hoping it was the same one as the book. I figured she couldn't have that many pumpkin patch recipes out there.So if I've made the wrong recipe as the rest of the group, I apologize and promise to get back on track (and get back the book) by next baking.

Now I should admit I have a love/hate relationship going on right now with the pumpkin patch cupcakes. But it's probably not their fault. Nor is it Martha's. It is, however, my tendency to underestimate the amount of work that goes into recipes at times. Like the pumpkin one. I had been wavering toward using just canned pumpkin then decided at the last minute to be a brave, strong grown up and follow Martha's recipe...at least the one she had online.

I'm thinking next time, canned pumpkin all the way.

Clearly my memories of pumpkins were a little skewed. I don't remember them being that much of a pain. And then again, as a kid, my mom did most of the cutting and my sister and I got to scrape the seeds out. I am just flaberasted at the number of seeds a tiny 2 lb pumpkin can hold. They were everywhere. And don't even get me started on the peeling of the pumpkin. I'm fairly surprised I didn't cut myself in the process.

As for the grating...yeah, not so much. I'll confess. I cheated. I cut everything into chunks after sawing off the shell of the pumpkin and dumping them in the blender because I didn't have a food processor and the blender had a pulse tab which I rationalized as being close enough. Despite the fact that every single time I have come up with the brilliant solution to use the blender for an job that really needs to be done by hand or with a food processor it has not turned out well, I still forged ahead. So I had a blender that kept would blend part of it but leave the chunks on top whole requiring me to pull the pure out and start all over. And in order to get the seeds out, I'd somewhat made a mess of the pumpkin that made grating it impossible..although I only tried for maybe all of a minute before giving up. After a good 15 minutes of scraping out the bits clogged at the bottom, I had maybe 2 cups of somewhat grated pumpkin and not the 2 1/2 the recipe said I would have.

I figured that was going to be good enough because at this point, my kitchen was a mess and I was borderline cranky. In the end, I dumped everything into a mixing bowl, pulled out my hand held mixer and after fighting a bit to incorporate the oil, I had  respectable batter with little chunks of pumpkin that I poured into the muffin tin. Unfortunately, I realized after it was very nearly baked that I'd forgotten to put the pecans in. I also ended up substituting a pinch of allspice for the cloves as I had none in the house.And I also went with store bought pumpkin candies, skipping the part of making my own as my artistic skills with such things are pretty much non existant.

Despite all of it, I love the muffins. It had a mellow taste to it that surprised me so I'm not sure that I would necessarily make these for a kid...they seem more like grown up pumpkin muffins to me. I also only made 12 as for this recipe, what I made was what I was going to eat.

One big plus in their favor is that they stay moist for several days after baking. I had made them on Friday and was still enjoying them on Monday. And there's even a few left (okay, there's 2). And fortunately for me, I now have a food processor. Although, i still can't see myself making these again with  a pumpkin and going though that peeling pain in the...well, you get the point. Now if i could get some precut pumpkin most definitely.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

All is Well in My Little Corner

Data is doing much better tonight...stomach is settled, he's eating, interacting and climbed over the computer earlier. All very good signs he is on the mend.

I on the other hand am having a hard time shaking the panic attack that settled in around 2:00...one of those nervous, jumpy feeling ones that just wont go away no matter how much yoga or deep breathing or calming techniques you try. Partly work, partly data, partly just an all around pain in the neck that comes from reading too much into situations.

So now is a very good time to count my blessings and remind myself that all is well in my little corner of the world.

Today I am grateful for:
  1. Seeing Data eat
  2. Remembering to schedule my bill payments so I don't miss a bill
  3. Having a working DVD player again so I could do my yoga dvd
  4. Having Heat
  5. Hot water 
  6. Electricity (esp since I have electric heat)
  7. Trying something new to bake  (more on that later)
  8. My apple cinnamon scented candle that smells so nice
  9. Payday is tomorrow
  10. Having food in the house to eat
  11. Having food for Data to eat
  12. Library books I haven't read yet
  13. Clothes to wear
  14. Having somewhere to live
  15. Waking up this morning
  16. Being able to breathe, to see, to hear and to taste today
  17. Being owned by Mr. Data
  18. Still maintaining a 20 lb loss despite some eating ups and downs
  19. A working computer
  20. Peace and quiet in my apartment with all the neighbors 

That was just what the doctor ordered.  

Making the Most of the Time We Have




I may or may not be in to work today as Mr Data (aka Kitty Extraordinaire) is having a rough start to his day. Not that i'm sure being home with him well help him at all as I'm bound to be hovering over him and making him slightly nuts. But I've realized after these past few months that there are just times when you have to seize the moment while it's there. Now I don't think these are the final few days for Mr Data, although I can see that day closer in the future than I used to. But I remember what it was like when we lost his brother, Brandy, last year to heart disease. Now Brandy had lived a very full life (he was nearly 21) but I've never forgotten feeling like I wished I'd not worked so many hours at work and not played so many computer games and spent that time with him instead. I'm not going to make the same mistake with Data.

So despite my complaining and grumbling about work and what's wrong with it, I have to be grateful that I work somewhere where I can email my boss and tell them I won't be in today because my cat is not feeling well. I'm not entirely sure that the boss will be completely happy because there are things to be done today (last minute of course most of which are not necessary with some planning and scheduling) but it's not like I'm going to get written up or fired for it. All things considered, I have a fair amount of flexibility in regards to taking time off for what I consider to be an emergency. And I have a coworker who will help out with the phones if needed.

Maybe all of this is a much needed wakeup call to appreciate the things that are right with the coworkers and the boss and the office in general. And a reminder to just put down the mouse and step away from the computer and live life a little more. To just sit and be still and take care of my own life instead of worrying about what other people are and are not doing.

Right now, Mr Data is sleeping on the side of the couch in his favorite spot next to the radiator where it's nice and toasty warm. He's eating a little, hasn't had a litterbox incident for a few hours now and I'm starting to feel all might be okay.

Still taking the day off though. Mr Data and I need this time together.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Behold...It's Bacon Jam!



Not that I made it myself, but after having discovered the recipe over at  the wonderful blog, Not Quite Nigella, I had to share it with one of my coworkers who, bless her, made it this weekend and bought it in.

All I can say is thank you. And thank you. Oh, and thank you.

Now granted, I was a little dubious when I first saw it. I've never eaten it but for some reason it reminded me of what caviar jam would look like. Plus it had clumped into one giant lump requiring us to microwave it in order to soften it up enough to eat it.  My coworker  looked about as worried as I did. But all it took was one smell wafting from the microwave to restore our faith in this rather deranged jam.

Now, I'm a bacon junkie as some have already guessed. This is very nearly, but fortunately not too much bacon. It stops right at the pinacle of bacon perfection, where one cracker makes you close your eyes and go "OH MY  OH MY OH MY."

She had skimped a little on tabasco sauce, just using a few drops. And used regular bacon instead of smoked bacon as the recipe called for. But trust me, if you're a bacon junkie, this is something you have got to try at least once.

Now here's hoping I can get her to make this again. Soon. It would be dangerous to have this at home in the fridge.

TWD: Allspice Muffins


I know it's hard to believe, but I had never looked through Dorie Greenspan's Book "Baking: From My Home to Yours" until around the end of August when a few of us joined  a friend for her baking challenge that month. In one day, we baked her challenges for the entire month - Caramel Crunch Tart, Pufflets, Espresso Brownies, Apple Turnovers and Chocolate Mousse. And my fingers reached for that glossy, big shiny book with pretty pictures and...well, it was just love at first sight.

Having refrained from buying the book for another month (unbelievable for me the gotta have the cookbook now girl), this was the first recipe I'd made on my own from the book. Which is not as good as I don't have anyone to send leftovers home with like my friend did when she had us over to bake. So, this recipe at least, was not a "Gotta eat it all in one day because it's got chocolate or lots of sugar" recipe but overall, I liked it. Which is a big thing considering I never really used allspice in my cooking a lot so the taste took a little getting used to.

Out of respect to the Tuesdays with Dorie group , and to Dorie herself, I am not posting the recipe but it can be found over in the book on pages 16-17 or over at the host for this weeks challenge, Kayte at Grandma's Kitchen Table.

Now, I had skipped the Streusel part of it because I was short on time and hungry. So it's possible that I may have missed the full flavor of it without the what is most likely yummy strudel bits (with 5 tbsp of butter how could it not be) but overall they were good. And I now know when Dorie says the batter will be lumpy, she is telling the truth and it's best to believe her.

It's a fairly simple straightforward recipe to make which is in its favor. I could see whipping these up for breakfast if I had guests. And the only drawback to the recipe is that she is very truthful in saying these muffins are best on the day that they are made...I warmed up some for breakfast this morning and they were a little hard coming out of the fridge (I had thumped one on the kitchen table when there was no give after I pushed on the muffin). Once warmed up, the flavor was pretty good although it was not as tender as it was the day before.

I might try it again sometime with the strudel topping, but overall, yes a recipe definitely trying at least once.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Weekend Wrap Up


So, Sunday I would have to say won hands down over what I would consider to be fun  for my activities this weekend but Saturday rocked with the goodies I got to bring home after the cookbook/housewares/anything you can think to get rid of swap that we had at a friends house. My food processor is still residing on the kitchen table at least until I am able to wrestle the kitchen back into some semblance of order. The bowls I can't figure out what they're for are to the right of the cookbook. When I went back on Sunday for the pasta making class, there was still some stuff left but I managed to leave it there. Not that any of it was stuff I would use but there's some funky steak in me that thinks if it's free, it's a shame to not take it.

Now our pasta making class on Sunday was  a lot easier at least in regards to socializing and I got to come homehome with edible yummies, although I'm not sure that I would attempt the sweet potato gnocchi again...at least not the recipe that we were using. So I'm looking for one online as in a word, it was yummy. And being raised under a rock (or so it seems sometimes with my cooking skills) I've never actually tried gnocchi. Or sweet potato pasta in general as my family's version of pasta growing up was out of  a box  with jarred  sauce. But at least I got a feel for working with pasta dough - another one of those "Wait, it's that easy to make" moments with pulling the dough together. Followed up by the inevitable realization by several of us that forming the dough into shapes is a lot more of a pain that we thought and learning that you can't put raw formed gnocchi into a bowl without it coming out fused into one giant ball of dough . Thereby forcing another traumatic round of dough shaping.

But it was fun. And after having sauteed the sweet potato gnocchi in a dab of butter and cooked with brown sugar and walnuts, I've gotten over the trauma and am thinking about making it again sometime.

Now I have to get mysel back into the mindset of working tomorrow. Part of me is back to being crabby and thinking "Well I'll just call in with a personal day tomorrow" while the other half is thinking "But my coworker is bringing in the bacon jam recipe I showed her."

Yep. Bacon Jam. Could food get any better?




Sunday, October 11, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Talk about the Perfect Timing

So, it was a good thing I actually showed up for this cookbook/housewares swap.

Yep, I went.

Rationalizing all the way. First I just had to get dressed and put makeup on. Then I just had to go downtown and I could go home. Then, if I got through it I would allow myself to buy some almond extract on the 15th when I get paid  if I stayed an hour.Of course it helped a lot that the hostess greated me like a long lost friend and seemed happy to see me once I made it through the door. Otherwise, I think I would have felt a lot more off my stride than I did. It's always nice to have someone make a little fuss over seeing you again.

So, how was it? Nice but a little awkward at first. Everybody just spread out and sort of stared blankly around at the stuff, flipping open cookbooks and putting them back guiltily in case we weren't supposed to touch anything yet.  And ok, it wasn't my most outgoing outing as I only knew one person next to me and the hostess was on the other side of the room, but I'm still happy. I asked questions like whehter they liked baking or cooking more which was all I could think of under the circumstances but it was okay. There's definitely some work that still needs to be done and my Dale Carnegie book to pick up again, but considering it wasn't an keeping busy and making talk in between tasks sort of baking event, it was actually pretty okay indeed. And, As Palidor commented earlier, the real celebration was going. Practicing my small talk was the icing on the cake. And it was a bump in the road I had to get over after the last 2 months to get back out and into the world again.

Once we got the go ahead, those of us who were closest has the advantage as we'd been checking things out beforehand and knew what we wanted. I ended up with 4 creme brulee dishes, 3 not sure what they are but they looked cute and I'm sure I can figure out something to  use them for shallow bowls and a lovely glossy cookie book that I'm pretty sure I will use from time to time.Not that I needed it. Even I have to admit I have a very nice selection of baking books now that should hold me steady for quite some time if not forever. But this is a awesome cookie book. Kind of a definitive cookie book for me. And like a nervous mother, I kept an eye out for my cookbook babies and was happy to see that at least 2 of my cookbooks have a new home now..the rest, poor things, were left orphaned so the hostess will take them to goodwill for someone else to have.

Even more amazing, after my blender/why don't I have a food processor rant/blog yesterday, it was the absolute perfect timing that someone bought in a food processor because...and I find this highly funny...she found herself using the blender instead of a food processor for making purees because she cut everything by hand and preferred the blender. So I now have a food processor at last which should help with cutting back on my  blender's impending nervous breakdown. And it will defnitely help with my kitchen meltdowns too.

So I'm home now with new toys and a book and an evening to relax (hint to self: cleaning would be great too). And then tomorrow I'm back over there to learn how to make pasta by hand. Very cool. Something new, something to do and at least 1 person i know already.

Oh happy collapse on the couch.

Get Together? Must Be Time for a Panic Attack

So today I'm supposed to have a meetup get together with some people for a cookbook/housewares swap. And right on target, my brain is scurrying around, trying to figure out a way to not go. Some of the excuses that are coming up are:

1) Need to keep an eye on Mr Data (he had an IBD flare up last night)
2) I can't go because I've gained some weight back. (Never mind it's probably been 2 lbs since they last saw me at the end of August)
3)There's too many people (I don't do well in crowds or at least that's what I've convinced myself of)
4)I need to clean
5)It's too cold
6)I'd have to wash my hair
7) I'm tired from last night worrying about Mr. Data

Now Mr Data seems to be doing fairly well this morning (I think it was the corn starch in something that triggered it). And I know that part of the reason I'm panicking is because I've gotten out of practice with socializing - my entire life for the last month and a half has been work. And worrying about work. And complaining about work. And I know it's taken on a life of its own because I haven't had much socializing to balance it out.

But the reality is too that this particular get together bothers me because there's not an activity to keep busy with in case the conversation lag or my brain just ceases to cooperate when I'm trying to make small talk. Other events has involved eating or concerts or baking. This one is just a cookbook/housewares swap. And it's in a small apartment. It's hard to do your own thing when there's people all around you.

Now on the other side, going would keep my mind off my idiot of an neighbor who has his cats locked out on the third floor balcony with temps in the 30's. But really that's been an ongoing battle since he moved it, involving the rental office and him ignoring them and the humane society who came out to investigate earlier in the year and believed him when he said they always had access to the apartment.Which they don't. But too much focusing on this and I'll really get into a funk.

The reality is I don't want to go. Period. All I'm going to be doing is picking up more stuff to replace the stuff that I'm giving away. And then I'll have more clutter messing up the house (at least that's my excuse for the house being a mess). 

Only problem is the host of this event is one I've canceled on several times during the month of September, usually with no warning. And email communications have gone from saying I was missed at an event to saying "If you come."

If. I've gone from being expected to being surprised if I do show up.

Now that's sad.

And that's not who I want anyone including me to think of me.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cupcakes from #$@# and Other Random Thoughts



So tonight I thought "Let it be Cupcakes."

Ugh.

Can't post too much on them now as they're really an assignment for the MSC Group I joined and the post is due on the 15th. However, it is clearly time to face the inevitable and accept that I need a food processor. Everytime I come across a recipe that involves a food processor, I always have the same rationalization.."Hey, I should be able to do this with the blender...it has a pulse tab on it."

And everytime, the blender gets clogged, I start mumbling hostile threats against it while trying to dump everything into another bowl and finding out that I've ended up with something liquid instead of diced or chunks instead of whatever else I'd been aiming for.

Which is why I'm looking forward to getting together with some friends tomorrow for a kitchen stuff swap. There's always the possibility that there will be some obscure gadget that I will absolutely have to have. It's like a private thrift store in a way. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot to swap gadget wise (at least in a condition I would want people to see). I think when I went through an organization craze some time back I threw out a lot of stuff I never used. And a lot of my extra cookbooks I put downstairs in my apartment lobby with a note asking people to take what they wanted.But there are about 6 cookbooks I have to give away that really, honestly, I don't know what possessed me in the first place to get them.

So, now it's time to get serious between tonight and tomorrow and honestly prune out the rest of the cookbooks I know i'll never use and pawn them off on my victims...I mean friends. And accept that it won't be anywhere near where I should be now that I'm finding out that the library has a pretty good selection of cookbooks for me to try before I buy and realize I only like 2 recipes in the entire book. Not to mention the fact that there's a boatload of recipes waiting on the internet.

Of course, this is said after the fact that I've bought 3 cookbooks in the last few weeks (hey, they were at least previously used ones at ebay and amazon). But I'm happy to announce that 2 of the 3 are ones that I can honestly say I would use a lot of the time. In a perfect world where I am organized and have a clean kitchen at least. And of course, after pulling the books out, I took 1 back and thought "I can't give that one away. There's recipes I might use someday."

Sigh.

I really need a cookbook intervention.

No Time for Sinus Issues...There's Baking to be Done


















Up early this morning with a sinus headache but that okay because...drumroll...there's a 3 day weekend ahead of me!!!!!!!!!

Really there was supposed to be 4 but I started feeling guilty about badmouthing the boss to the toxic twins at work. Now granted, there are some justifiable issues that are at hand. And none of us are the same people we were a few months ago, boss included, so the re-appearance of said boss upset the balance of things that had been created in their absence. Plus, absences have a way to opening our eyes to the things we were really working hard at pretending we didn't see when it's going on.

That said, I don't like the person I become when I badmouth people too much. It gets under my skin. And it seems to fuel the desire to complain more. I''d been told yesterday by the toxic twins that sometimes I was so positive at work that they wanted to smack me. And I've started to think about that since, wondering how being positive became a liability with them.Why complaining is so attractive versus taking action. And there is action to be taken here. Granted, I don't see going up to the boss and telling them that they've changed and not for the better. But if I am that unhappy, I could change jobs. I could step back, do my job, fly under the radar and do my own thing and let the tempers flare and the games be played around me.

In other words, the only person who can trip me up and ruin my day is me.

So I emailed the boss and said I could help out with an last minute event that came up on Monday for about 4 hours. Because it's what I would have done before I got myself into the funk of what I wasn't getting for everything I had been doing.

So 3 days still warrants the happy dance. And I have sinus meds on hand, hopefully more than the 2 tabs I was able to find, so I can get rid of the headache and get into the kitchen.

Well, after I attack the dishes that haven taken over the kitchen first.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

BB Cheddar Corn Chowder


I should start out by saying I've never made homemade soup or chowder before. I've thought about it. I even bought a discount soup book at Borders a month or so back. That's as far as it went. But having recently signed up to be a part of the Barefoot Bloggers group, wouldn't you know the first recipe was soup.

So I wrote up my grocery list, picked up the items, substituting gold potatoes for white potatoes as they were on sale and commenced chopping and grating. Which seemed to go on forever, especially with the onions and grating the cheese. Seriously. There I was grating and grating and slicing and dicing and thinking "Aren't we done yet?"

Although Mr.Data, Kitty Extraordinaire, thought he was in heaven with all that cheese and very upset with me as I would not give him any.

Fortunately for me, Ina's directions were very clear which helped a lot as she gave very specific timeframes for cooking. And I now know what it means by onions turning translucent. Sad, I know. Also, I've learned that if I make the soup again to make even more bacon as once I set it aside for later garnishing found myself grazing on it while checking on the chowder.

I wasn't sure about the end result as first as I wasn't really sure what chowder was supposed to look like...I guess I had been expecting more of a potato soup, thicker but despite that it was delicious. I would definitely make this again. I did find too that the flavor seemed to intensify a little a few days after the soup was made.


So, now that I am over my fear of soups, maybe it's time to overcome my fear of working with egg whites?


Cheddar Corn Chowder
Ina Garten via Food Network
  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)
  • 10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (3 pounds)
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

Directions

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sick Day on the Sly

So I woke up today and called in sick. Actually, I emailed it in and cc'd the other people in the office and went back to bed for all of half an hour before I realized it was pointless, got up to watch tv for awhile and then as the morning progressed play computer games. In other words, I think I could have successfully dragged myself into work had I been motivated. Problem is, I'm not right now. After the events of the past few months, I'm a lot more clear eyed than I have ever been before. I'm also a lot more cynical when it comes to believing much of what i'm told at work as it changes so quickly and what's said is usually not what ends up happening. It's not a bad place to work. And I'm grateful to have a job. It's just becoming more apparent that I need to balance work and home again in order to keep from wandering aimlessly through life. So the interest in cooking again is coming at a very opportune time. Plus, I have some food challenges that are coming up over the next month that are outside of my normal comfort zones or baking/cooking habits so this is a nice way to start shaking the rut.

Plus, I have some fun activities planned for this weekend with my meetup groups including making homemade pasta which I am looking forward to as one of my blogging groups I'm cooking with is working through Marcella Hazan's "Cooking Italian" book which based on the pictures I've seen and the recipes I've read sounds like it will be very yummy, very challenging and in my picky sweet based focus, some of them are way outside what I'd eat on my own unless presented with no other options. So, the pasta making class will help a lot with that.

Now, it's time to get focused on eating better. And exercising. The person I am is the person I have thought and eaten and acted myself into being. There's just more and more times I look at myself and think this is not where I'm supposed to be. And I'm realizing that if it's not working as I am now, what do I have to lose by changing?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Crockpot Chili Chicken










Crockpot Tender Chili Chicken
Adapted from :New Recipes from Quilt Country by Marcia Adams

I have always loved this recipe. And yes, it's another one of the recipes I feed to my sister. This time around though I tried to make it easier. In the past, after dredging the chicken(originally pork chops) through the flour, you brown them in hot oil and then simmer in a pan. Considering I never got the oil hot enough to successfully pull this off, I dredged and threw everything into a crockpot which tasted just as good as the original. Although I think with previous attempts I may have been using old ginger, because for some reason I could really taste the addition this time.

1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp ground ginger
5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup dried onion flakes
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup chili sauce
3 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 tsp dried thyme

In a shallow dish, combine the flour, salt, pepper and ginger. Dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess. Lay in slightly overlapping circle in crockpot.

Add onion and garlic to bowl. Stir in stock, chili sauce, vineagar, brown sugar and minced thyme.

Turn crockpot to High (I was hungry and in a hurry). Lay small mini potatoes in circle around chicken. Cook until potatoes are tender and enjoy.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Apple Toffee Bread










Inspired by all the apple recipes floating around the blogs and the smell of my granny smith apple candle, I decided to bake Apple Bread today.

Big thumbs up (very yummy) although it is more of a dessert bread to me than a casual snack bread. Also, whether it's because of the extra apples or the toffee, it was a very moist cake so part of the bottom did not pull away from the bottom. Then again, I pulled the loaf out just at the 5 minute mark so it's possible it would have benefited from a longer cooling time before turning it out.










APPLE TOFFEE BREAD
Adapted from: Penzeys Spices Fall 2009 Catalog

Prep time: 10 minutes (or more if you're slow like me)
Baking time: 1 hour

3 apples, cored & chopped fine (I left the peels on from sheer laziness)
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (I forgot this)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar(original called for white)
6 oz milk chocolate toffee chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly great standard bread loaf pan and set aside. Core and slice apples. Cut into small chunk. In a large bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer until fluffy. Add oil and beat until combined. Add vanilla extract, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Next add flour and sugar and mix on low just to blend. Turn mixer to high and beat until mixture is smooth. Batter will be very thick.

Fold in chopped apples and toffee bits by hand. Pour/spoon batter into greased pan.

Remove from oven and cool for at least 5 minutes before cutting/turning out bread.

My recipe was halved from the original that appeared in the catalog. Also, I skipped the topping part of it as I didn't want to deal with the extra work.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Joy of Staying Home on a Saturday Night

Right now it's been raining on and off, Data is sleeping on the side of the couch, I have the TV playing behind me and I finally feel grounded. Despite feeling like a small walrus after finishing off the rest of the ice cream I made yesterday that I am bound to regret as I have lactose intolerance. Minor in small amounts, not so minor with that much ice cream.

But I have no regrets. It was really good. But there are more sweets out there. I remember reading somewhere that it was a shame to eat the same things over and over as there were so many recipes out there ready to be tried. And I'm still convinced that I can eat good foods, fun foods and treats and still lose weight.

Just that tricky issue of moderation.

Moderation. It sounds so stuffy and boring. But there is some truth to it. I know I enjoyed the ice cream but I think after so many bites, it was eating the ice cream instead of savoring it. And that's a shame because it was really good ice cream.

Mentally, I think I need an easy in my life.

So, for next week, breakfast and lunch can be regular meals. Dinner I'll go back to slimfast. And if I find myself going overboard on anything, out it goes. Down the toilet, thrown in the garbage with litter thrown on top. Anything. It's not like the food is going anywhere. Now that I'm getting back into cooking and baking, it's never going to be the only time i ever have to eat pretty much anything unless the cows go on strike and refuse to give any dairy products anymore.

Time to get back out there and start socializing again with my meetup groups. Big difference this past month since i was too busy to do any of them. I was using work as my sole interaction with people because I had no time for other people.

Now I need to make the time before I forget the progress and slip back into old habits.

Amish Baked Oatmeal



Many many moons ago, I had gone to Pennsylvania on vacation and stayed at a bed and breakfast up north that served the most amazing baked oatmeal in the mornings. I'm not sure if this is the recipe I used, but it's one I came across in a Taste of Home Holiday Recipe Collection about 7 years ago and have been using ever since.

It's another one of my go-to guaranteed recipes when my sister comes to visit. Although I am sensing a theme here of only trotting out my faves when I have company...so time to start incorporating these back into my regular schedule as my waistline permits.

It reminds me a lot of oatmeal cookie and is fairly easy to make..one bowl, one saucepan sort of thing.

BAKED OATMEAL
From Taste of Home's Holiday Recipe Collection

1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Warm Milk
Fresh Fruit/Brown Sugar optional

Combine the first eight ingredients and mix well. Spread evenly in a greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Immediately spoon into bowl and add milk. Top with brown sugar or fruit if desired.

Yield: 6 servings