rhienelleth: (Default)
I went to bed around 11:00, woke up at 2:00 and couldn't get back to sleep. I decided if I can't sleep, at least I can be productive, and ended up putting 6 sliced up onions and a cube of butter into the crock pot. (Thank you [livejournal.com profile] kistha, because I'v always remembered how you caramelized onions in your crock pot that time, and wanted to try it.) I actually bought a big bag of onions at the store a couple of weeks ago - you know the ones in the netting, that come with like 12 onions for $5 - with the intention of doing something like this. So, around 1:00 this afternoon, I figure I'll see how much I have. Some might get frozen, if there's enough, but the bulk of the onions will stay in the crock, and have some beef broth, red wine, and just a touch of salt & pepper added. French onion soup for dinner tonight! I just have to remember to go by the store and pick up some french bread later. 

I love caramelized onions, but they take a lot of work watching the pot on the stove so they don't burn. I'm excited to see how this turns out for myself. This may be the answer to that particular problem for me. 

My eyes are still burning from cutting up the onions, but hey, it's not like I was sleeping anyway. 
rhienelleth: (Default)
I have always been a fan of crock pot, or slow cooker, cooking. There is nothing quite as awesome as coming home after work to find a home cooked dinner already made, and smelling delicious to boot. But my crock pot has always been something of an issue. Brand new, it seemed to have exactly two temperatures, no matter how many choices it supposedly came equipped with - boiling hot, or luke warm. Last year, a friend used it when we were all of a trip together. Halfway through her tried-and-true recipe cooking, she came to me and asked "Why is it boiling?" My response - it always boils. Is this not the norm? No, no it is not. 

My crock pot had a little accident on the way home from that trip, and rather than mourning its loss, this provided me with the perfect opportunity to buy a new one. One that would, theoretically, cook the way a slow cooker is meant to. I did research, and decided on this model by Hamilton Beach. I have always had Rival crock pots before (just an FYI, I use "crock pot" and "slow cooker" interchangeably, regardless of brand. Sorry if that bothers you.) However, given that my last one had issues, I decided to branch out. Consumer reports gave that model the highest overall rating, and honestly, my history with picking good ones has been spotty. I went with it, and the numerous good reviews for it on Amazon helped seal the deal. I also like that it has a temperature probe you can use to automatically have the cooker shut off when meat had reached a particular internal temp. 

It is by far the fanciest crock I have ever owned. It is digital, it has a timer, the afore mentioned temperature probe...and a lid with a gasket you can seal for travel, so no more "accidents" in your car with that chili you made for your workplace potluck - not that I'm speaking from personal experience, or anything. Just know that anything tomato-based is hell to get out of car upholstery. 

Anyway, so last night I searched through the many pages of recipes folks have posted at [livejournal.com profile] what_a_crock, which I have quietly been lurking on for over a year. I made this one, pork sirloin roast w/apples. It turned out very well, indeed. My husband, Mr. I-eat-ketchup-on-my-ketchup, aka, plain meat-and-potatoes (and ketchup) man, thought it was "just okay", but what does he know? It is a constant source of pain to my pastry chef mother (for real, for those of you who haven't been reading me long enough to know. My mother and sister both graduated from a prestigious culinary school, and my mother really is a fancy pastry chef). She tries and tries to broaden his horizons, as she calls it, and to be polite, he tries what she makes, but always he is happier with the basics. I blame his mother. One of the nicest, sweetest women you will ever meet. But most definitely not the most culinary-inlcined. In any case, he often complains at my attempts to make something new and different, beyond our usual steak-spaghetti-stew-roast-hamburger meals. But I get tired of eating the same thing over and over. I also get tired of cooking the same thing over and over. I thoroughly enjoyed the above recipe, and will likely make it again when we have company, since he will not eat any of the leftovers. 

This year, new crock pot in hand, I have vowed to make more crock pot dinners. One, they are easier and quicker, overall, while usually producing excellent results. Two, nothing is quite as homey and comforting as slow cooking in the fall and winter. Given my husband's response to last night's meal, I decided to go with something much more basic for dinner tonight: meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I usually avoid mashed potatoes, because they can be a lot of work, and trying to time them exactly with the rest of the meal so they're still warm can be problematic. That's why I used my slow cooker. 

On the surface, it seems like something of a waste, but I've heard of putting mashed potatoes in the crock pot for awhile now, and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Up front, I will say it is NOT less work. You still have to boil the potatoes, and put them together with butter, sour cream or cream cheese, or whatever you like to use. Then you put that in the slow cooker, and let it cook on low for 3 or 4 hours, after which it can sit at warm pretty much indefinitely, keeping them ready for your meal. This is often used for holiday get-togethers, because it allows you to prepare them ahead of time, and then free up your stove/oven for other things. Having done it now, I can see why this would be appealing. I made my mashed potatoes today around noon. Put them in the crock, and turned it on. Tonight, they are wonderfully creamy and yummy. Any lumps left from the potatoes not quite cooking perfectly are smooth and melt in with the rest. And, even though it is taking my meatloaf slightly longer than projected to finish cooking in the oven, I don't have to worry about the potatoes going cold. They are "just right", to quote a children's story. I see myself using this at the family Thanksgiving get together. 

For those curious, this is the recipe I used:

8 yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cubed, and boiled in salted water
added to them after draining:
1/4 cup chicken stock
half a stick of salted butter
one small container of cream cheese with chives
salt & pepper to taste

They are very yummy. :) I can't wait to eat them with my meatloaf, which should be coming out of the oven about...now, actually. 
rhienelleth: (Default)
 Meatloaf verdict: too much HdP.  While that spice adds a great flavor to my pot roast, it's "too much" for meatloaf.  But otherwise moist and yummy.  Ketchup cures all. :D

Next time I'll add more worcestershire, maybe more beefy onion soup mix, no seasonings in the bread crumbs.

Also, I bought a case of glass bottle "made in mexico" coke at Costco the other day - made in Mexico means they used real cane sugar, not HFCS, although the "bad stuff" about corn syrup turns out probably not to be so bad, these days, I still think there's a taste difference.  Just like there's a taste difference between an aluminum canned pop, and glass bottled.  However, that's some definite sugar and calories.  In general, I don't much like the flavor of diet pop since I went on that elimination diet a year ago.  Plus, sugar substitutes are really bad for you.  I just limit myself to a single bottle of coke a day, if I have one at all.  

Cooking!

Mar. 4th, 2010 02:36 pm
rhienelleth: (Default)
 Meatloaf and potatoes in the oven.  My way of making meatloaf is pretty much to toss in whatever filler/seasonings I have on hand, beyond the usual two eggs/two pounds of meat.  This time it was as follows:


2 lbs. 90% lean ground beef
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (90% lean is a little too lean for rich flavor)
2 eggs
1 C freshly made bread crumbs, w/ 1 T Herbs de Provence (I LOVE this particular blend of herbs, much more than regular ol' Italian seasoning, for example)
1 C quick oats
2 T worcestershire sauce
1 package lipton beefy onion soup mix
1/4 C brown sugar
1/2 C ketchup or tomato sauce (I opted for tomato sauce)

Shaped and placed on top of four sliced potatoes in a stoneware baker, and placed in the oven for an hour and a half at 350 degress.  We'll see how it comes out. :)

Weekend!

Jan. 11th, 2010 10:26 am
rhienelleth: (neytiri warrior princess)
It was a fun and busy weekend. We had friends staying with us (yay!) who very graciously indulged my bread baking experiments (of course, they also got sent home with bread!) Friday night we pretty much just stayed up late talking.

Saturday, I woke up early to go and do my Dream Dinners thing. And now that I've done it once, I have more to report! All the hard stuff done for you! )

Our friends had not seen Avatar, and neither had another friend of ours, and Mark's parents wanted to see it in 3D, so Saturday afternoon I bought tickets, and that night we went with a group of seven. The theater was sold out. The theater was in fact SO packed, we had to park at the grocery store waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay across the way. This has NEVER happened to us before. Apparently, Avatar is still going strong! (It has grossed over $1 billion world wide! Another James Cameron "phenomenon"? I think so!) As with the first time we saw it, our theater broke out into spontaneous applause at the end.

Neytiri still rocks my socks. I think Zoe Saldana deserves an Oscar nod. But I'm afraid that even though her every facial expression and nuance of emotion comes across, the fact that she is a CGI alien for the entire movie will work against her for nominations. :(

Afterward, we again stayed up until 2:00 in the morning, talking.

Sunday was a lazy day. I made french toast out of some homemade bread (it was awesome, if I say so myself!) We had lunch at the brunch buffet a local Hungarian restaurant offers on Sundays, that is sooooooooo good. The guys played an amazing amount of xbox. I don't know how many hours, but a lot. I played some Dragon Age, while [livejournal.com profile] kistha watched "for tips" as she she is also playing it at home. But even though this is my second time through, she actually ended up helping me with some stuff I missed the first time around. :) We both decided they REALLY need to make an RPG wherein a friend can come in to your campaign at any time and play one of your party NPCs. But we consulted her husband the game designer, and if I'm recalling correctly, such an endeavor would require a certain degree of difficulty on the part of game design...but I could be wrong. I was playing when she talked to him, and only heard about half the conversation from the other room.

There was supposed to be actual tabletop roleplay happening, but zombies kidnapped our husbands for several hours, and we never got around to it. Sad. (However, apparently Left 4 Dead 2 is an engrossing game. Just FYI.)

Either way, fun was had by all, and I shall be seeing them again this weekend, when I will be trekking up north to work on Norweson costuming. :D

I have, I think, achieved the perfect bread recipe for just about anything. Sandwich bread. Hot dog buns. Hoagie rolls. Cinnamon rolls that aren't too sweet. Until the sprouted flour comes in, this is what I'm currently doing:

~ 1 1/3 C lukewarm water
~ 2 C all-purpose unbleached flour
~ 2 C white whole wheat flour (KAF, carried at my local Safeway, FYI)
~ 3 T raw honey
~ 1 T vegetable oil
~ 2 T shortening
~ 2 tsp ground kosher salt
~ 2 1/4 tsp bread machine yeast (but I have some SAF on the way w/the sprouted flour)

In bread machine:

Water, honey, oil, shortening. On top of this add, flour, then salt, then make a little well in the flour and add yeast. Turn on and watch as it mixes. Add water or more flour as necessary, until all ingredients are a slightly tacky, but not sticky, and not dry ball moving around the pan. Close lid and walk away until done.

It rises like nobody's business, and produces soft, fluffy, excellent bread/rolls/what have you, that even my extremely picky husband can't complain about. It makes excellent sandwiches or french toast. It is about 10,000 times healthier and better than storebought bread, both for the whole wheat factor, and the lack of chemicals. No cane sugar, hfcs, or milk products for those sensitive. If you just do the dough cycle, you can take it out and make two regular sized (ie, my banana bread loaf pans) loaves for sandwiches and what have you. I sent one home w/friends, and kept the other.
rhienelleth: (Default)
You guys! I am so excited! A couple of weeks ago, a guy here at work brought in some pot roast and mashed potatoes for lunch, and shared. They were really good, and I told him so. "It's a Dream Dinners recipe," he explained. "What is that?" I asked. "A cookbook?" "No," he said, and proceeded to explain to me what Dream Dinners is.

Essentially, it's this place that offers a new menu of home cooked meals every month, and you pick your menu for the month and schedule a time, and go in, and they have everything there waiting for you to assemble and cook, and they do all the prep and cleaning up after, so you're in and out in about an hour, with enough cooked meals for you and your family for three nights a week for a month. You put them in the freezer at home, and when you want to eat one, you just take it out and warm it in the oven. Twenty minutes later, dinner!

Now, I love to cook. But there are plenty of times when it just feels like a whole lot of work I don't want to do. Those inevitably become pizza or eating out nights. Which is fine, but isn't necessarily good for either your wallet or your waistline in excess. I know if we had a wonderful dinner just waiting to be popped in the oven, we would probably choose to stay in and watch a movie at home that night. (TV dinners do not appeal, for many reasons.)

The emphasis on Dream Dinners is tasty, healthy portions of home cooked goodness. For about $4/serving, ie a meal for one person. $8 for Mark and I to eat a great meal when I don't feel like cooking? Sounds awesome to me!

So, Joe (the guy at work) set it up for tomorrow morning so that we could go in together and he and his wife could show me the ropes. There is a "minimum purchase" of 36 meals per month. But that works out to be about $170, which is $42.50 per week. I don't grocery shop and get three meals a week for less than $80 these days, it seems. I am so excited about this! I can still cook when I want, but have these great back up meals in the freezer, and if I already have enough for a month, I can just not go in and get more.

I will have to do things like chop a quick salad to go with them, sometimes, but hey, all the hard work is done. I guess there are other Dream Dinner around, and similar places with different names. I had no idea these things existed, but talk about the best thing ever for a working family or two income home, or even for busy stay at home Mom's. :)

Next month, they have one of my all time favorite dishes ever on the menu, chicken marsala!

ETA: Also, when I am busy writing and the husband is wanting more of a dinner than totino's party pizzas or top ramen, I can pop something in the oven, tell him when to take it out, and go back to my writing! *bliss*
rhienelleth: (baking)
As promised, last night I made homemade hot dog buns.

I will seriously never buy hot dog buns at the store again, if I have a choice. These turned out a little too full, more like hoagie buns, but that's just the learning curve of shaping dough. The recipe was awesomesauce, and for the first time ever, the actual measurements made perfect dough, without me needing to add either flour or water to adjust. I used the dough cycle in my bread machine, and it rose so high, it touched the viewing window in my machine. When it was done, I punched it down, took it out, and shaped it into "buns". The advice I found online suggested rolls of dough about five inches long and two inches wide for standard hot dog buns. These ended up a little too wide for my tastes, as I said, but were the perfect length for the kosher dogs we buy. You can obviously customize as you see fit. I divided the dough into eight equal portions, but next time I'll probably make ten or so. I think that will lessen the amount of dough in each "bun" enough so that when I roll the pieces into five inch long cylinders, they don't poof out quite so far.

For those wondering how much actual time this process took, well. Maybe ten minutes when I first got home, to put all the ingredients in the machine, and let it mix, keeping an eye on it for how everything was shaping up, if I needed to adjust for water or flour. Then, it was close the lid and walk away for na hour and a half, while it did it's thing.

Here is an action shot of the dough kneading in my machine! )
Then, after that hour and a half, it took me probably....fifteen minutes, tops, to punch down the dough, divide it, and shape it, placing each roll on my stoneware about an inch apart in all directions. I had to let the buns rise at that point, and that was another thirty minutes, but again, I just walked away. After they achieved "bun size" I put them in the oven for 15-20 min at 375 F, and lo, there were buns!

Golden fresh rolls/buns! )

It was delicious! Took hot dogs, and made them a great tasting meal, instead of something just quick. I cannot WAIT to try hamburgers!

I think next time, I'll try the timer on my machine. Put all the ingredients in the morning, and then set it to start about an hour and a half before I get home. That means all I'll need to do is shape the dough, let it rise for the second time, and pop them in the oven. Less than an hour before they're done!

Here is the recipe I used. )

I will always be replacing sugar in these recipes with honey. One, it's a more natural sweetener (not treated with chemicals, or whatever). Two, honey has all kinds of neat properties, including being a natural preservative, so perhaps it will help keep the bread from molding/going bad as quickly. And you literally cannot taste any difference, IMO. I've made bread both ways back to back. Tip: to make honey slide off your measuring spoon more easily, coat it with oil first.

I have also ordered some of that sprout whole wheat white flour from a farm, along with some natural dough enhancers that help make whole wheat have a consistancy closer to all-purpose bread. :D It should arrive sometime next week, and then I'll have so much more to report!

I used one of the leftover "buns" to make my sandwich today. Mmmmm. Hoagie rolls just might become my default sandwich bread, instead of the loaves. We'll see.
rhienelleth: (baking)
This is totally going to be like that time I went looking to make home espresso, and ended up knowing way more than I ever bargained for about coffee, and how to make quality coffee, and now I do crazy stuff like roast my own beans.

Does anyone know anything about sprouted wheat? It's very interesting! See, first I got all intrigued by white whole wheat. I assumed it was just whole wheat flour treated to look white. Silly me! No, there are many varieties of wheat. The whole wheat flour we all see in the stores is merely one kind, and each kind offers different taste and baking properties.

Hard White Wheat is the newest type of wheat grown in the US. It offers the same nutritional content of Hard Red Spring Wheat (used mainly for breads), but is white, and has a milder, sweeter flavor than the red, meaning my husband will have no idea he's eating something good for him!

But then there's one step further - sprouted wheat. Sprouted wheat is wheat allowed to sprout, then washed and dried, before being ground into flour. This also comes in a white variety, and the very best part?? The sprouting changes its make up from a starch, into a vegetable! From what I'm reading, this is probably how people actually used wheat berries in the days of yore, when bread was a vital part of the food supply in most cultures. This excites me so much, not just for my health, but for my hypoglycemic husband. Maybe I won't use 100% sprouted flour, but can you imagine eating a bread that is essentially a vegetable?? But it still tastes and acts like bread? I have placed a phone call to one of the milling farms that produces this stuff. The downside - it is expensive. The upside - the health benefits are obvious and immediate.

HOWEVER, it can be pennies on the dollar if you make it yourself! I can see my husband's face now. "You're doing what? Making your own flour??"

It hasn't gotten to that point yet, but it just might. We have a coop in Corvallis. Perhaps I'll just go take a look and see if they carry White Wheat Berries.
rhienelleth: (baking)
I need a new icon, clearly. "Cooking" is not quite the same as "baking".

I'm sure by now, most of you are familiar with my tendency toward obsessing over shiny! new! things!

Anyway, as promised, I made the KAF white sandwich bread recipe last night. It calls for a couple of different ingredients from most of the basic white bread recipes out there, namely, instant potato flakes and instant nonfat milk, neither of which have I ever used in baking before. But I followed the recipe exactly for this first attempt.

And lo, there was bread. I took pictures, but then I forgot my camera at home. So you'll have to be content with this hasty cell phone pic of my lunch: Cut for pic! )

Yes, I know seeing how I prefer my sandwiches (turkey with cheddar and stone ground mustard) is not nearly as exciting as seeing the actual loaf of bread. But at least in this shot, you can see how it looks like actual sandwich bread, all forming to the shape of the sandwich and with lots of little air holes everywhere. But don't be deceived! This bread, while soft and a little fluffy, is nothing like the stuff you buy in the store!

How it compares to yesterday's bread: this stuff didn't rise quite as much. I'm not sure if that's because I forgot to take out the kneading paddle, and had to do it about five or ten minutes into the third rise, though. Despite that, yesterday's bread was MUCH more dense, not sandwich-like at all. It still tasted good on my sandwich, but it had much less bendability than the KAF loaf does. I can almost imagine wrapping a slice of KAF around a hot dog...almost. Also, it cut much easier and smoother than yesterday's. I did not have to struggle to make the slices even!

I made my husband french toast with a slice this morning, so he could try it. I usually make him two - well, this stuff was so heavy compared the the Wonder bread he usually prefers, I made him one, and then he only ate half of it (not the fault of the bread - he has some bug or other, and is not eating as he normally does at the moment.) Curious, I followed up with a piece for me. (Mmmmmmm - delicious!) One slice, as thin as those you see in the photo, and I am FULL. Like, my stomach feels...like I won't be hungry for hours. If yesterday is any indication, I'll actually start to get hungry right on schedule at lunch time. My point is, this bread is not air, like the store bought stuff. Although not super dense, this particular loaf is still much, MUCH heavier than store bought, and when you eat it, you actually feel like you are eating something of substance!

I can actually understand why carbs are supposed to make up a healthy portion of our diet, while eating homemade bread. I have to admit, though, I am a little concerned that all of this experimenting to get what I want will lead to so much bread eating, my attempts at losing weight will be hampered. Is there a big difference between eating homemade and eating storebought in that regard? Or are all the health benefits of homemade simply the last of icky chemicals?

I don't know if this is going to be my "go to" sandwich bread recipe, or not. I'd prefer to find something that didn't require either the milk, or the potato flakes. I've read you can sub some oil for the dry milk, but as the recipe already calls for six tablespoons of butter(!!), I'm loathe to do that. I'm going to go looking again today, and see what comes up. If I get home early enough, I'd like to try making homemade hotdog buns tonight. Words cannot even describe how much that might change the simple hot dog dinner to a gourmet nirvana! (I only use kosher dogs, fyi. I grew up on a farm. When someone describes what goes into other hot dogs, I know far too much to banish the visual.)

So, my adventure continues!

Oh, and mysteriously, my pan lifted right out of the bread maker when I tried it immediately after the bread finished. Perhaps this is what is supposed to happen? IDK. I still want my pan to lift out easily whenever I need it to, ie, after a dough cycle, perhaps. I'll keep trying it for the rest of the week, and see how it goes. But I'll also keep my receipt in reserve.
rhienelleth: (baking)
I am totally trying this white sandwich bread recipe from KAF tonight. KAF has never steered me wrong before!

I'm not entirely pleased with the amount of butter the recipe calls for, and it would be nice to have a milk-free version, as there are a couple of people in my life currently who can't have milk. But I'll try the recipe as is first, and make alterations as necessary from there. The good news is, the husband can totally have the recipe as written, and the real goal here is to find a replacement he'll accept for that icky white store bread he insists on eating.

Mr. Fast Metabolism won't be hurt by a couple T of butter. Heck, I can only imagine what he's putting in his body now, with the stuff from the store.

Bread!

Jan. 5th, 2010 10:37 am
rhienelleth: (boothe & brennan - montana_rosalie)
So, with some of the gift money I got for Christmas, I purchased a bread machine last night. This one, in fact.

I was of two minds about it. One, I come from a family of bakers and chefs. My sister worked for several years as a bread baker, and my Mom is a pastry chef, and both are trained for full on chef-dom, or whatever. In my family, when one acquires some neat kitchen gadget supposedly designed very specifically for one thing to make [insert here] a little easier, the invariable response is "[insert here] isn't that hard- why do you need some bulky machine to do that? You have a mixer. You have an oven." And so on.

I work full time. I also write in my free time, sew, and make jewelry in my other free time. And grocery shop, clean house, cook, do laundry and all of the other little things one does on a semi-daily basis in life. I love cooking. I come by it naturally. :) But I don't love it when I'm tired, or don't have time. But give me a few days off in a row, and I'm making homemade ravioli, or planning some baked thing I've never made before.

I've been waffling about a bread machine, on and off, for years. Mostly off, though, largely due to all of the above. Is it really that much easier than making it yourself? I mean, the time consuming part of bread is waiting for the dough to rise twice. You have to do that, whether it's in a bowl on your counter, or a bread machine on your counter.

But in the last year or so, I've suddenly developed a huge interest in homemade staples. For instance, canning fruit and making my own jams. (Next year, I plan on getting into vegetables.) As I've become more conscious of what goes into my body, these things have appealed to me all the more. And as gas became more expensive these past few years, and then the economy has slid, the price of groceries has gone up...and up. $4 for a loaf of bread?? $3 for a loaf of crappy Wonder bread like my husband prefers?? Really?

The idea of a bread machine had started to become more "on" than "off". I've always made homemade rolls for family gatherings. The husband's family loves this, as they are not bakers. The first year I brought some to Thanksgiving sealed my fate. But the idea of baking bread every week is daunting, and so I decided to take the plunge. (Sadly, I did not think of this before Christmas, when it could have gone on my Christmas list.)

Fred Meyer had the Breadman TR 875 on sale for $79.99, and since it was one of the two machines I was considering from amazon, and on sale for less, I went ahead and bought it. I got it home, unpacked it, and put it through an initial cycle for cleaning, as the manual recommended. Then I tried a basic white bread recipe, subbing the sugar for honey.

The results )
rhienelleth: (Default)
Update on the carrot cake recipe I posted the other day:

I made it and brought it in this morning (don't ask; there was an ingredient snafu last night) for everyone at work today. Two people who don't normally like cake are eating it. Two other people who love cake have told me, separately and in all seriousness, "This is the best carrot cake I have ever had!"

So it's not just me, y'all. Great recipe, great cake, easy to make, now that I've made it myself.

Pictoral evidence )
rhienelleth: (cooking)
 My mother-in-law is a wonderful woman.  I'm very fortunate, in that we not only get along well, she's pretty much a second mother to me.  She and my father-in-law treat me like a daughter, not an in-law. ("There are no in-laws in our family.")  

But bless her heart, the woman is not the world's greatest cook.  When Mark and I started dating, there were exactly three spices in her cupboards - salt, a can of pepper probably twenty years old that they never used, and garlic salt.  That was it.  She cooks very simple meals - meatloaf, roast, chicken, pork chops.  You get the idea.  There are a handful of things she does really, really well, and everything else is, hmmm.  Well.  She has no love for cooking, and it comes across in what she makes.  

However, one of the things she does well, is pancakes.  I don't know where she got the recipe, but it's very basic, and in my opinion, right up there among the best "classic" pancakes.

I made them this morning, using her recipe, and my new pans.  And I'm here to tell you two things:

1. Cookware really does make a difference!

2. Non-stick cookware is a BIG FAT SCAM! 

If everyone had cookware like this, no one would waste their time or money on non-stick ever again!  

I had some trepidation about using my new fry pan for pancakes.  After all, batter is one thing that can and will stick to things, and then when you try to flip the pancake, you have a big fat mess on your hands.  This couldn't have been further from the case.

Pictoral evidence. )
Have you ever seen such perfect, fluffy pancakes?  (Yes, that is peanut butter and syrup - I don't believe there is another way to eat pancakes, personally.)

I spritzed the pan with Pam, heated it to medium, and then with each pancake turned the heat down a notch, as once these pans heat up, they require less heat to cook at higher temperatures than most pans.  When I went to flip them, the pancakes moved as though on the most slick non-stick surface ever, and yet it was stainless steel.  Awesome!

They also tasted as good as they look.  And I have leftovers for tomorrow's breakfast.  (If they last that long.)

In case anyone wants it, the recipe:

Mom's Pancakes

2 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 T sugar
2 eggs
Add milk to appropriate thickness

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly, then add eggs and milk.  Stir until smooth, make pancakes as usual.



rhienelleth: (cooking)
A couple of things this morning.

I know some of you are fans of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.

FINALLY, the rest of the coffee world has realized what an enormous following this drink has. Torani has made for a couple of years now, as many of you probably knowpumpkin spice syrup, which is okay, but still lacks the same depth of the pumpkin spice flavoring Bux uses (it is literally the only drink with the power to still draw me back to their window. No, wait - the white chocolate peppermint mocha of the holidays is the other).

But now, Torani has finally realized that in order to lure pumpkin spice latte fans, they must produce a comparable product - I give you pumpkin pie sauce! I have ordered it, received it, and tried it. It is, indeed, at long last, a comparable flavor to the vaunted Bux version, except now I can make mine with less of the super sweet syrup and better coffee. Ah, nirvana! Note: I recommend a splash of vanilla in your cup as well. It compliments the sauce beautifully.

In other kitchen news, my mother, some years ago, purchased my sister a set of All-Clad pans. The try-ply aluminum core kind. I don't remember if they were for her birthday, or Christmas, or what, but Rhien!Sis went to the same culinary school Rhien!Mom attended, so they have this sort of culinary art bond that Rhien is not always included in.

In any case, she got them on some crazy sale, told me she'd get me a set next time they went on sale like that, and lo, years passed. Then out of the blue, my Mom called me a couple of weeks ago and told me she was looking in her chef's catalog, and while they have never had All-Clad on that same sale again, they have something comparable, and would I mind terribly if it wasn't All-Clad?

Keep in mind, Rhien!Mom has never purchased herself a good set of cookware. She has some individual pans, but not her own set of All-Clad or similar. So I say to her, tell me about these pans. And she does.

They are the Cuisinart Multiclad Pro, specifically, the 17-piece set.

She tells me about them, and they sound pretty much exactly like an All-Clad set, for a lot less money. Still expensive, but not impossible. She asks do I mind, I say "Heck no, I would love them!" Last week, they showed up on my doorstep.

As it turns out, I already had one of these pieces, the 6-quart sauce pot with cover. I bought it when the finish on the supposedly indestructible ScanPan 6-quart sauce pot I'd been using mysteriously starting bubbling and flaking. I had looked at All-Clad, but was able to get the Cuisinart for half the price, and so went with that, thinking "It will at least get me by until I get some All-Clad".

I don't know about you, but in my kitchen, the 6-quart pot gets the most use. I use it for spaghetti sauce, soups, stews, boiling eggs or pasta, you name it. It's the perfect "in-between" size, for more than your 3-quart sauce pan, but less than your 8-quart stock pot. I have often found myself using it, and wishing I had another (possibly because I didn't have an 8-quart. The next largest size in my possession then was my 10-quart, which is big enough to feel way too big for a lot of things.)

My cookware review, under the cut. )
rhienelleth: (Sokka_awesome - dolphin__girl)
I did not take a photo, and it wouldn't have looked significantly pretty, anyway, since all the containers had lids. But I haven't posted about lunch in awhile, and today's was particularly good:

~ Leftover homemade bean soup, vegetarian version
~ baby carrots + ranch dressing for dip
~ applesauce
~ home canned pears

Yummy!

Also, I had oatmeal for breakfast. That all sounds very healthy to me. :)

And while we're talking about canning, I've home canned several things in my canning adventures so far this year:

Peach Jam
Raspberry Jam
Peaches
Pears
Concord grape jelly (for my dad-in-law, for his birthday, with grapes he planted last year)

A friend canned fresh tuna for me, and that is also teh awesome!

On my list still to do:

A last batch of pears (the husband loves them), green beans, salsa (if I can find a really good recipe), applesauce (I am VERY excited about this!), and perhaps tomato/spaghetti sauce. I am a little nervous about using the pressure cooker, I must admit. So far, it's all been water bath canning, but the beans and salsa and so on need to be canned at a much higher temp, hence the pressure cooking.

Also, I believe we're going to research dehydrators. Apparently they make the best elk jerky, much more moist than smoking, so the husband wants to try it. Also, he loves dried fruit, and so do I, and we both grew up with it - he from his grandmother, me from my Mom. I would love to make my own dried apples and bananas! Mmmmm.
rhienelleth: (australia spaces between)
I don't know if many of you know this about me, but I'm a farm girl. Born and raised on a farm. We raised and either butchered, or had butchered, our own beef, sausage, pork, chicken (until the pair of hawks living on our property ate them all), rabbit and, um, hmm. We also had a full garden every year.

I hate weeding to this day. And I have a terrible black thumb. I kill plants, indoors and out. So instead of growing my own, I buy from the local farmsand go to the Farmer's Market on Saturdays sometimes.

I vaguely recall my Mom canning when I was growing up, but then she got a full time job and that never happened again. Well, recently I made some jam from $10 worth of peaches I bought at the farmer's market. In the same week, I chipped in on a friend's fresh tuna buy and ended up with 23 half pints of freshly canned tuna that is freaking amazing.

Today, I went searching for canning tips online "what else can I can with my barely adequate rustic water bath, home canning set up ?" But tomatoes and tomato sauce, it turns out, are low acidic content and either need acid added, or a pressure cooker to can. More research yielded that this is true of most vegetables and meats.

So, I wanted to upgrade my water bath set up, anyway. I need a taller, wider pot to do more cans at once. I need jar tongs, instead of the regular ones I've been using. The difference between getting this, and getting a pressure cooker in which I could either pressure cook OR water bath can was approximately $50. I went with the pressure cooker.

Free amazon two day shipping, that baby will be to me, um...crap. Next Wednesday, thanks to the holiday. :( Oh, well.

In the meantime, I'm on the hunt for the perfect tomato sauce/spaghetti sauce recipe. Alton Brown, don't fail me now! also, my boss has cucumbers coming out his ears from his garden. Perhaps I'll snag some and try my hand at homemade pickles! I do believe I'll make some homemade applesauce this Fall, as well. Mmmmmmmm.

Some central part of me misses that "home grown"-ness of the farm. I might not be able to raise my own cows, but we bought a quarter of a steer last year, part of which is still in my freezer, and I'm loving the canning possibilities.

Do any of you can? What are your favorite canning recipes?
rhienelleth: (coffee)
You'd really think I'd have one by now. 

Oh, well.

So, I stopped by the local Farmer's Market yesterday, and came away with about two dozen Veteran peaches (a yellow variety common here in Oregon.)

Why two dozen?  Well, you see.  They tasted so amazing - they felt firm on the outside, but when you bit into one they were so sweet and juicy, you'd have to eat them standing over the sink.  I overbought because I fell in love, and had this nebulous idea about eating some, and maybe making jam from the rest.  And I wasn't entirely sure how many I'd need for jam.



Four, as it turns out.

Yes, that's right, four, out of the two dozen peaches I bought.  Of course, that's for a small batch of jam - three 8 oz. jars.  So far, I've made two batches of jam and one 13x9 inch pan of cobbler, and I still have seven peaches left.  Oh, yes, and I've eaten one.  As good as they taste, I'm about peached out.  I do believe I'll make one more batch of jam, and then eat the other three, and be done.  But that's a task for tomorrow.  I've spent most of my day in the kitchen, and frankly I'm exhausted. 

But, I have found a ridiculously simple and fantastic tasting recipe for peach jam.  It's from a cookbook called 'The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving".  Well, it's a slight variation on the recipe.
 

Recipe with pics )

 



rhienelleth: (Default)
Help me, oh F-list!

I want to cook something in the crockpot for dinner tomorrow. We have dinner guests coming over for game night, and crockpot cooking is the easiest way of handling that.

However, I'm tired of doing the same ol' things. Pot roast, beef stew, chili.

What are your favorite crock pot recipes?

Keep in mind, the husband is a meat eater, and not a big fan of chicken. He'll eat it sometimes, but it's not his first choice. Something beef related might be best, but feel free to suggest whatever! Who knows what will make me go "yes, that!"
rhienelleth: (Default)
Just an FYI as I eat my lunch -

1 pork loin
5-6 cubed potatoes
half a chopped onion
1 bottle Rocky Mountain Apricot Sauce

All left in a crockpot on low for eight or so hours is very good, indeed. The leftovers are also quite yummy. And it's a nice change of pace from the more traditional pot roast.
rhienelleth: (Default)
My new crockpot rocks. I have concluded that my old crockpot must not have been cooking at a very even temperature, because whether or not a roast turned out perfectly always seemed to be a gamble, and this was not only PERFECT, but even the potatoes had a completely different (and awesome) texture. I am using it again today with this recipe for Beef Burgundy. Except that I don't have time to brown things in the morning when I'm getting ready for work, so I just threw everything in the pot and left it to cook all day. It works with the roast, should work with this. I did coat the cubed beef in flour, largely because I think that will help thicken the sauce. Oh, and I added a chopped up white onion. Who doesn't put onion in beef burgundy??

The husband is not so fond of noodles unless it is spaghetti, so I'm planning to cook up some rice when I get home and serve this over that. We shall see. This is part of my grand experiment to cook more with my crockpot this winter (easy meals), and also to find things to do with a freezer full of a quarter cow (cheaper meals).

Some background: A couple of months ago, we bought half of a grass fed steer with some friends of ours and split it. $330 for over thirty 1 pound packages of the most kick ass ground beef you've ever eaten in your life, a rump roast, assorted packages of steak, short ribs, liver, heart, etc. (We gave the liver, heart and tongue to my father-in-law. Like me, he grew up on a farm where they raised and butchered their own beef every year. Unlike me, he loves the heart and tongue and liver. I could never stomach them.) The ground beef, as stated, is AWESOMELY good. We have already busted through half of ours, and I'm thinking of calling the people up and seeing if they have any packages of just the hamburger we can get to supplement our supply. The steaks, I am less than thrilled with. Apparently we got a tough cow. *sigh* I was mighty disappointed, given my childhood memories of steak. Let me tell you, when I moved out on my own and started buying meat from the grocery store? I was shocked, not just by the prices, but, um...wow. Disappointing, to say the least, unless I bought the most expensive cuts.

So, yeah. I was a tad disappointed to find the sirloin from our recently purchased cow so tough when grilled, it was actually hard to chew. Good flavor, very not tender. So, what do you do with tough meat? You cook it on low heat for a long time, and it literally falls apart on the fork. Or so the theory goes. *crosses fingers* We shall see tonight.

I am pleased with our purchase, however. the ground beef alone was an excellent purchase, and for a good price when factored in with everything else we got. Go online and look. Grass fed ground beef goes for anywhere from $6-$10 per pound (yikes!). We paid about $4, and I would do it again in a heartbeat, and probably will.

We were also recently given a whole and freshly butchered chicken by some friends of ours. They have a small working farm, and they didn't sell all of this year's chickens, so we were lucky enough to get one for free! But it's eight pounds - that's one big chicken! That's as big as the small turkey we usually get for Thanksgiving. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it. First, we'll definitely need to have people over. Second, the husband doesn't particularly like chicken. Third, it's too big to cook in my crockpot, I'm pretty sure. So my working plan is to cook it like I would a turkey, complete with brining it first. I'm not sure when this will happen, but sometime this winter. When we have guests to help us eat it, and send leftovers home with.

But back to the crockpot, these are either things I already cook in the crockpot, or things I intend to try. Untried things will have a *:

Roast
Beef Stew
Pork loin
Spiral cut ham
Beef Burgundy* (trying today)
Meatloaf*
Beer beef stew and dumplings* (I told you the husband is not so fond of chicken!)
Sausage hot pot*
Applesauce* (as recently talked about by [livejournal.com profile] matociquala)

Anyone else have any suggestions?

ETA: Meanwhile, I am eating the best leftover crockpot roast and potatoes EVER in my lunch today, as well as an orange, some applesauce, and a homemade brownie. :-)

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