Monday, October 11, 2010

Recipe Geek is Going on Hiatus, Sort of

In the interest of time, I'm recombining my two blogs.  I'm not sure if there's anyone who reads this one but not the other.  If you do, and don't have the link, email me at oldbiddyblogging at yahoo dot com and I'll send it to you.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Date Nut Bread, sans nuts

Perhaps I was subliminally inspired by my recent dates with nuts from  In any case, I picked up a big bag of dates at Sam's Club with the intention of making date nut bread.  I'm breaking with tradition and posting this on both my blogs.
I used the recipe from my favorite cookbook.  I'll list it here, since I can't post a link.

Date Nut Bread

2 cups chopped dates
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup boiling water

Combine dates, water and baking soda.  Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. The dates will soften up a lot from the combination of hot water and baking soda.  They will also fizz a little. Good times!

6 tbsp butter, melted
2/3 cup buttermilk (I used a combination of sour cream and milk since that's what I had)
1 egg
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour a 9" loaf pan.  Combine egg and milk and wisk to blend.  Wisk in sugar, vanilla and melted butter, then add dates and the soaking liquid.  Combine flour, baking powder and salt and mix, then add the liquid ingredients and mix until just blended.  Add nuts. Bake for 55-60 minutes.

Anyway, that's the recipe.  I have a confession to make - I forgot the nuts.  I chopped them and toasted them but forgot to add them to the batter. Perhaps it was a subliminal thing - no more dates with nuts, ever!  Perhaps I was a little distracted.  The arborist was here giving estimates to my neighbors and I.  He was a lot better looking than the guys. He can come climb my limbs any time.
In any case, the bread was really, really good.  Soaking the dates made a huge difference.  They were tender and the bread had a great, light texture and a slightly carmelly flavor.  It was by far the best date nut bread I've ever eaten, even without the nuts. I took half the loaf in to work.  It had mostly disappeared after a few hours, even though not everyone was around.   I'll definitely be making it again, but next time I will add the nuts, and probably some chocolate chips too.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Quinoa with Corn and Black Beans

It's been a while since I cooked quinoa, so I didn't remember the proper proportion of liquid to grain.  I went online to look it up, and ran across this recipe.  I had most of the ingredients on hand, and it sounded good and had very positive reviews.
I made it more or less as described in the recipe, with the following changes.  I had some fresh corn, so I used that, I didn't have any cilantro, so I omitted it, and I only used one can of beans, as recommended by many of the reviewers.
It is pretty tasty, and I'll make it again.  The combination of corn and quinoa always works well.  I ate it with chicken leftovers, but it would be good in a burrito or with a little sour cream.  I would probably take it in the opposite direction and increase the amount of quinoa and stick with one can of beans next time.
Don't believe the part about it making ten servings, though.  I'll probably get 4 or 5 servings out of it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chicken Spiedies

When I moved here I noticed a weird murky-looking marinade at the grocery store.  It was called 'spiedie marinade'.  It's avaible in bottles or you can buy pre-marinated meat.  I had no clue what it was.
It turns out it's a regional dish here in central New York.  As with many dishes, there is debate as to who invented it, wth several people taking credit for it.  Anyway, it's a Binghampton thing.  Meat is marinated for a long time and then grilled on skewers.  Once it's cooked, it's served on a roll.  The original spiedies were made from lamb, but are more commonly made from chicken or pork now.  It's also used for venison, which makes sense given all the deer around here.
I bought a bottle of spiedie marinade.  It smells like Italian dressing. I soaked some chicken tenders in it for a few hours. It was pouring, so  I didn't bother with skewers or charcoal, or bread.
The speidies were tasty - salty, tender, and with a slight flavor of garlic.  I could see why they'd be tasty in a sandwich, especially with beer.  Rugrat liked them too.  I don't know what it is with regional Binghampton cuisine though - they are seriously into salt, with the salt potatoes and the spiedies.  I'm glad I didn't serve them together.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pork Chop Battle, part 2

Now that I have a fancy new gas grill, it was time to test the smoker capabilities.  I opted to do smoked pork chops again, albeit with a simpler recipe.
I brined the pork chops for several hours in a mix of 1/4 cup of kosher salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 4 cups water.  I then put them on the grill, along with some wood chips.  My grill is a bit different, so it's not necessary to soak the wood chips. You just drop them in.  There's no direct flame so they don't burn up too quickly.  Anyway, using the BBQ option resulted in a temperature of 350F, which was higher than the 250-275F that is recommended. The chops cooked quickly, in about 40 minutes.  They were tender and moist and tasted like a cross between regular and Canadian bacon.  The smoke flavor and salt level were just about right.  They were not overwhelmingly smoky.  I will definitely be making these again.  If I feel like being a really anal retentive BBQ geek, I'll try cooking them more slowly at the recommended temperature. 
I really like the infrared cooking so far.  I like my meat on the rare side, without a really charred crust, and everything I've cooked so far has come out moist, rare but not underdone, and was nice and tender. 
Next up: Chicken Spiedies

Sunday, August 8, 2010

New Toy: Char-Broil Infrared Grill

OK, so I had a brief respite from my grill lust when I got the BBQ/smoker, but after a few days the gas grill lust returned.  The smoker is good for the weekends, but I'm hungry and tired when I get home from work.  I wanted to be able to throw some meat and veggies on the grill and eat within 30 minutes.
I got lucky on Craigslist - the full story is posted on my other blog.  Suffice it to say I am now the proud owner of a brand new Char-Broil Red infrared gas grill.  I like it pretty well so far.  There are settings for high heat (clean/preheat) sear (for steaks, etc), grill, and BBQ/smoke.There is a U-shaped pan so grease never drips directly on the flame.  That's good for me since I was always having grease flare-ups in  my old mini-grill. I think the pan also serves to radiate/diffuse the heat so stuff cooks quickly and evenly.  There were mixed reviews on the grill and the infrared.  A lot of people really like it, and Consumer Reports gave it a high rating, but some people got lemons or were die-hard BBQ or gas grill snobs.  Anyway, so far my grill isn't a lemon (knock on wood) and I'm always open to new technology, so I'm happy.
Last night I cooked some chicken breasts* and zucchini.  The zucchini was a gift from the lady that sold me the grill.  The chicken cooked in about 10 minutes, and the squash took 15.  As it was cooking, it smelled really good, like a rotisserie chicken.  That was a good sign.  My old mini-grill always was pretty smoky due to the flare ups.  At five minutes I took a look at it. It looked done on that side so I flipped it.  At ten minutes it was done.  I let it rest while the squash finished.  Anyway, the chicken was really good - it was fully cooked but not charred on the outside, and it stayed very moist inside, even though I hadn't brined or marinated it. The squash was better than usual, but not perfect.  I've never had much success with grilled squash.  All in all, I was pretty pleased with my first attempt.  I'm looking forward to cooking other stuff on it.

*  this is my standard quick meal, so it's a good test.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My new smoker/smoked prok chops and salt potatoes

My brother and some of my coworkers are total barbeque geeks.  I've been listening to them yap about barbequing and smoking meats, and they were a bad influence on me.  
I bought a charcoal grill/smoker.  It was on sale for $19.  I've been wanting to get a nice big gas grill, and still intend to do so, but finding this was part of my good shopping karma this weekend.
It's nice and small and light, but I can still fit a small turkey in there.  When I'm not using it I can stash it in the garage.  I like its' design better than my old round one. I'm giving the old one to a grad student.
I got some pork chops, rubbed them down with a spice rub, and then looked at the instructions.  Ooops.  The grill needs to be cured before the first use, to seal the finish and get rid of paint odors. I cheated and let it cure for two hours, added a few more charcoal briquets and then started cooking the pork chops. I had trouble maintain the proper temperature (250F), so I should've added more earlier.  After an hour I gave up and finished off the pork chops in the oven.  They smelled pretty good as they cooked.  They were moist and smoky, and the rub was tasty.  They were somewhere in between smoked and baked.  I don't recommend cooking them this way, but it is useful to know that rub is so tasty, especially since I have a lot left over.
My brother reminded me that smoked food is best paired with something blander, so it's not so overwhelming.  I used this advice as an excuse to make salt potatoes, which are new potatoes cooked in a saturated solution of salt water.  They are a regional dish here, and there's even chemistry involved, so of course I wanted to try them.  The salt raises the boiling point of the water and also denatures the protein in the potato, so they get really tender and creamy.  They are usually served with melted butter.  What's not to like?!?!  (Admit it, you really want to try them)  Anyway, to take away the guesswork of either preparing a saturated solution or measuring out salt, they sell bags of potatoes packaged with bags of salt.  [I found it kind of funny that the potatoes were packaged in Sacramento, where the workers were probably wondering WTF about the salt.]  I prepared them according to the directions.  The salt/water mixture was pretty close to saturation.  I ended up putting the lid on the stockpot so they wouldn't splatter salt all over my nice clean kitchen.  After about 20 minutes, they were done.  I'm not sure if I didn't cook them quite long enough - they were soft and starchy like baked potatoes, rather than being creamy, but after sitting in the presence of butter for a while they became creamier.  As you might expect, there was no need to add more salt, but they weren't overwhelmingly salty.  (Be forwarned that I like my potatoes very salty, though.]  I may make them again, especially since I still have some potatoes left.
I'll post more once I successfully use the smoker.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Crock pot pulled pork

Some of the grad students and postdocs at work are major foodies of the meat 'n barbeque type.  They're always talking about what they're cooking for dinner or what kind of meat is on sale, the merits of different types of barbeque sauce, etc. This week they were talking about cooking meat in the crock pot, and they also started talking about how they get good deals at the local Smart and Final type store, Mainesource.
So anyway, I went to Mainesource after work.  They had boneless pork roasts for cheap.  I bought one since it looked like it was the right size for my crock pot, and I remembered hearing that you could make pulled pork that way. (I don't have a gas grill yet, although I do have my trusty charcoal grill.) I found a recipe on the internet for North Carolina style pulled pork a la Crockpot, and then proceeded to take liberties with it, since I didn't have any barbeque sauce.*  (Besides, that would blur the line in barbeque sauce styles, not like I'm the least bit authentic, a Californian living in upstate New York, cooking it in a crock pot)  I rubbed the roast with an applewood spice rub, put it in the crock pot, and then put about half a can of diet coke in there since some of the other recipes called for coke or ginger ale. I also added a few drops of liquid smoke for good measure.  Better living through chemistry, baby!  I set the crockpot on low and let it cook overnight.  The house smelled deliciously of fake barbeque.  I also made the sauce, so that it would have time for the flavors to develop.  The smell of barbeque permeated my dreams, and I dreamt that I was grilling.  It also made Rugrat wake up extra early and start pestering me.  I got up and examined the contents of the crock pot.  The meat was falling apart. I plopped it into a bowl and pulled off the fatty bits, and shredded the rest.  I have enough for about 8 or nine portions, plus some for the cats.
It didn't have that nice mix of tender inner bits and slightly dried out but flavorful outer bits, but it had a nice clean, mildly smoky flavor and good texture. I could only taste the slightest hint of the cola flavor.  There was very little fat.  With the vinegar sauce, it tasted pretty authentic.  Even though I'm planning on getting a grill, I'm sure I'll make the crockpot pulled pork again, especially in winter when I don't want to go outside.

*NC style barbeque doesn't use tomatoes at all.  Instead, the pulled pork is served with a sauce made of vinegar, black and red pepper, hot sauce, and a bit of sugar.  I'm not really crazy about traditional barbeque sauce, so I like NC barbeque a lot.

Monday, July 12, 2010

No shopping experiment, the flip side

Once I got to Ithaca and got my kitchen set up, it was time to stock my cupboards..and my fridge..and my freezer..and my liquor cabinet.  Yes, I'm in the process of replacing many of those things that I systematically ate up a few months ago.  I spend a lot more than I'm used to spending at the grocery store, due to all those random supplies.
Part of me wonders if it would be cheaper to just never cook, and just grab ready made stuff at Wegman's, microwave dinners, and/or eat in the restaurants/dorms* around campus.  I did this in grad school, aided by the presence of the MIT food trucks and the 24 hour coffee house, and I sort of did this as a postdoc and in the early years at the startup company, since they fed us. And I'm sure there will be times when I revert to that when things are super busy.  But to make that work, you have to commit to it 100%, like I did when I was a grad student with no kitchen.  Going half and half gets pricy and time consuming- I ended up buying stuff I didn't use, and spending too much time going out to find food.

*  As a perk, faculty and staff can go to the all-you-can eat dorm lunches for $6.  Even when I was a young undergraduate biddy working in the dorm cafeteria, some 20+ years ago, it cost at least that much.  As a result, we didn't see many non-students.  The postdocs in the group are big fans of this, and they bring along some of the grad students. These are some big eaters, too. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Garlic Scapes, part 2: Pesto

I continued my experimentation with the garlic scapes tonight, and made pesto. I had some basil, so I made basil/scapes pesto rather than the scape-only version.

Garlic Scape Pesto
1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 cup basil leaves, chopped
1 cup walnuts
appx 1 cup olive oil
1 cup grated parmigiano
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. Add more oil if mixture is too dense. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add cheese; add salt and pepper. Makes about 12 ounces of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
For ½ pound short pasta such as penne, add about 2-4 tablespoons of pesto to cooked pasta and stir until pasta is well coated.
OM NOM NOM NOM!  OMFG this is so damned good, and I'm not even a big pesto fan.  I have a wimpy little food processor attachment, so I wasn't able to get it as smooth as I wanted, but it didn't matter.  I put some in pasta and mixed a little bit into some yogurt for a salad dressing.
The garlic scape flavor is much stronger than the basil flavor.  You could adjust the proportions to suit your preferences.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Garlic Scapes, part 1

I went to the Ithaca farmers' market today.  I'll blog more about the farmers' market later, but for now I want to report on my introduction to garlic scapes.
Garlic scapes are the stems that grow from certain varieties of garlic.  They curl up into big curliques.  The flower bud is at the end.  Apparently the bulbs get bigger if you cut off the stems so they don't sap the plant's energy.
This is all news to me - I don't know if California garlic is the same type.  A lot of people at the farmer's market were selling them.  I was curious so I bought some.
The woman who was selling them told me that they were good in pesto, roasted, or in scrambled eggs.  A quick survey of the internet confirmed those suggestions.  Tonight I roasted a few alongside some asparagus.  I cut them into 4" pieces.  When raw, the texture is like a green bean and the flavor is a mix of garlic and pepper.  When roasted, the flavor mellows a lot and they get kind of chewy, like a roasted green bean.  They went well with the asparagus and the roast beef.
I am looking forward to trying them in pesto and scrambled eggs.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

No-shopping experiment, conclusion

The goodbye lunches and dinners have started and I'm done with the no-shopping experiment.  I've packed up many of my kitchen implements, spices/seasonings and small appliances, and taken a lot of the remaining food over to my mom.
I can't believe how much stuff I had left over after four months of not buying anything other than produce and dairy.  I used up all the cuts of meat and soups, but had lots of odds and ends like bacon, cheese, leftover ham, etc.  I ate my way through lots of oatmeal, barley, and quinoa, but still had lots of split peas and lentils.  I used up large quantities of flour, sugar, nuts and butter but lost momentum once I started packing up my kitchen.
So anyway, the take-home messages are that I buy way too much stuff and don't use it up in a timely manner, and that if there is ever a famine, shortage of specific ingredients, or another period of unemployment in my future, I will be all set.  I'm going to try to be better about not buying so much stuff.  Being 150 miles from the nearest Costco and Trader Joe's should help.
In an appropriate bookend to the no-shopping experiment, a Sprouts market is opening up near my CA house the day that the movers get here.  I've heard good things about it, but I'm glad it didn't open up any sooner or I'd have even more stuff left over.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Almond Pseudo-Croissants

I love almond croissants.  The best almond croissants I've ever had were at a coffee stand in the New Orleans Intercontinental.  Sheila and I were there for the ACS meeting, and I think we had almond croissants for breakfast every morning.  That was a fun meeting!  (Perhaps a bit too fun in some ways, but that's a story for my other blog.)
I've always wanted to make croissants, and had planned to do it while I still had a lot of time on my hands.  In the traditional recipe, you make a square of butter, put it on top of the dough that's been rolled out, fold it up like a letter, and chill it.  Ever so often, the dough is rolled out, refolded, and returned to the fridge.  This results in flaky layers.  At the end, the dough is rolled out, cut into triangles, and rolled into the traditional croissant shape.  It's a time consuming process.  Like making baguettes, it's probably best left to professionals.
I didn't do much cooking for a while.  By now, a lot of my kitchen is packed up already, and I'm improvising when it comes to ingredients.  I still wanted almond croissants, though.   I found the following recipe, which uses similar techniques as the no-knead breads that I've been making.
Yeast, water, milk, and egg yolks are combined.  Meanwhile, flour, butter, and sugar are combined. The butter is cut into the flour until the mix is crumbly.  The liquids are then mixed in, and the dough is allowed to chill in the fridge overnight.  Then you roll it out, cut it into triangles, and spread it with an almond paste mixture.  The wedges are rolled up and baked.
I had to grind up some rock sugar, since I was out of the regular stuff. There were still some larger chunks left in, but it wasn't noticeable in the final product.  I also used bread flour instead of regular flour. Sacre bleu!
Anyway, they certainly were easy.  The dough rolled out nicely and was easy to handle. It was somewhat slow to rise, though, but that's pretty typical for the refrigerator doughs.  The croissants were moist, buttery, and tasty.  They did not have the flaky croissant texture, but were quite good.  I ate one for breakfast and had another one for my picnic lunch at Point Reyes.  My parents finished off their batch already and raved about them.
I can see making these again, but shaping them and letting them rise in the evening, and then just baking them in the morning.  The dough would also be a great base for cinnamon rolls.
Someday, I'll find a real croissant recipe and make the traditional style ones.  I have a mental image of myself doing this in Ithaca, on a snowy weekend.  It's a nice image.  It's not quite as likely as me shoveling snow from my driveway, of course, but I'm going to hold onto my illusions as long as possible.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cornmeal Pancakes

I've tried a few recipes for cornmeal pancakes.  None have worked very well.  Nonetheless, I was undeterred.  This morning I got one of my cooking emails and it featured pancakes.  Since it was breakfast time and I was hungry, I took a look.  (This is one advantage of being unemployed.)  The cornmeal pancake recipe caught my eye because I have cornmeal and four that need to be used up.  So I did some spur of the moment cooking.
It's not that different than the other recipes I tried.  Probably the use of buttermilk/baking soda, or the ratio of flour to cornmeal, helped. In any case, these ones worked.  (I did have to substitute milk/lemon juice for the buttermilk) The pancakes were tasty and had a slight crunch from the cornmeal, and had good body so that it wasn't hard to flip them.  I ate them with maple syrup (yet another thing I'm trying to use up) but they'd be even better if there were bacon or sausage involved.  (yes, i still have bacon and sausage in the freezer, so another batch may be made before I leave)

butter for the skillet
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup unbleached white flour
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons corn oil
Preheat a nonstick griddle, or with butter lightly grease a skillet, over medium heat while you mix the batter.
In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, salt, baking soda and flour.
In a separate large bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and corn oil.
Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture. With a fork gently combine the ingredients until smooth.
Over low heat, using about 3 to 4 tablespoons of batter for each pancake, cook the pancakes on the griddle or in the greased skillet, about 3 minutes on each side.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Recipe geek restaurant review: Cheesesteak Shop and Adamson's French Dip

I'm mostly done with the contents of my freezer, and have started making the rounds of local restaurants that I've been meaning to try.  The first two places, the Cheesesteak Shop and Adamson's French Dip Restaurant, are in the same shopping center.  It's about half a mile from where Missy and I grew up.  We spent a lot of time there, since there was a drug store and a grocery store.  Now's it's restaurant central, with a Popeye's, a pho place, a chinese place, a cheesesteak place, and a French Dip place.
Anyway, two nights ago I wanted to try the French Dip place, but it was closed, so I went to the cheesesteak place and ordered a small chicken cheesesteak for $5.  It was tasty, not quite as good as the premier place, but tasty nonetheless.  The chicken was chopped up in very small bits, philly style, rather than in stir-fry size pieces. There was ample amount of cheese, so it was an ooey gooey delight.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  However, the Yelp reviewers were right. It was not very big.  If you's hungry, order a larger one or get double meat.
Tonight I stopped off at Adamson's French Dip after I went walking.  It's an interesting place. It's located in the middle of the parking lot in a former camera store. It's mostly take-out so there are just a few tables.   It serves beef, chicken and pork cooked in a wood fired oven.  The star item is, of course, the French Dip.  I got hooked on French Dip sandwiches when I was in college.  They're like pizza - even when they're bad they're still good.  But this one was probably the best one I've tried.  The meat was amply marinated and juicy, so the au jus was hardly necessary, but it was nice.  The bread was squishy and yummy.  A sandwich was $7. It had about three times as much meat as my cheesesteak.  The fries were good too.  They tasted like old-school McDonald's fries from my childhood, so they must be cooked in beef lard.  Everything was on the salty side, which was fine by me since I love my meat and potatoes to be salty. 
I'll do some reviews on stuff other than meat/cheese sandwiches in my next update.

Monday, May 3, 2010

No shopping experiment update/Pedrick Produce/artichokes

I haven't cooked very much unusual stuff lately, so there's not much to post here.  Nonetheless, the no-shopping experiment is going well.  I'm into the home stretch.  The frozen fruit is getting eaten, and the frozen veggies are gone.  I cooked a roast tonight.  It had been in the freezer for a year and a half, but it tasted ok.  I've got a few pork chops and a turkey left.  The turkey is getting cooked on Mother's Day, and a lot of the unopened canned foods and dried goods are getting donated to the postal service food drive.
I visited Missy this weekend.  As usual, I stopped off at Pedrick Produce on the way back.  It's in Dixon, a few miles from Davis.  They specialize in really cheap produce.  You can get a great deal, if you don't mind buying big bags of whatever is in season.  It's usually very fresh, and I end up buying huge quantities and sharing the bounty with my parents.  My favorites are the watermelons for $0.09/lb, and cherries and asparagus for $0.99/lb.  Other items of interest are the extensive selection of grains, beans, dried fruit, candy, seasonings, etc.  There's also a wide variety of hot sauces, homemade style tortillas, and pies.  It's always really crowded, but it's worth the wait.  I recommend stopping there if you're on Highway 80.
Anyway, the no-shopping experiment means that I haven't hit up the dried goods lately, but I still pick up produce.  We're at an in-between season here.  Strawberries are going strong, but it's been rainy so the quality isn't up to par.  I scored some pears, mangos, and jumbo artichokes.  The artichokes were 5 for $4.  If I'd gotten them at the farmer's market they'd cost at least $2/each.
I cooked them up tonight since my parents were coming over for dinner.  They take about an hour, but are easy.  Just cut off the stem* and top, place them in a pot, and cook in salted water with a bit of lemon juice until tender.    Serve with melted butter, balsamic vinegar, or salad dressing.  These were the first ones I've had this year, and it really hit the spot.

* The stems are pretty tasty.  Cut off the discolored end, peel, and cook with the artichokes.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Like many Ag schools, Cornell has a store where they sell dairy products made on campus.  The Dairy Bar is located within walking distance of the chemistry department.  Sadly, I haven't been there yet, but they sell milk, yogurt, ice cream, cider, and cheese.  mmmm

Monday, April 12, 2010

Matzo ball soup

When I woke up this morning I had no clue that I would be making matzo ball soup today.  However, my mom stopped by with 10 lbs of matzo crackers and I could not refuse a few boxes.  (No, we're not Jewish, but they were clearing them out at Costco and we both like them.)  She told me she used to make matzo ball soup all the time when she lived in Boston.  Thanks to my freezer clearing efforts, I had turkey stock in the freezer and a chicken breast in the fridge, so I decided to give it a try.
I used the recipe over at the Cooking for Engineers website.*  They give a pretty complete description, but here's the short version, and my modifications.

2 qts turkey stock
1 leek, sliced thinly (I only used the white part)
1 chicken breast, cubed
Bring the broth and chunkies to a boil, then simmer.

Meanwhile, combine

2 matzo crackers, ground finely in the blender - measure out 1/2 cup
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs of the broth

Blend together and let it rest for a few minutes. The ground crackers will slowly absorb the moisture. Salt and pepper to taste.  Wet your hands and shape the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and drop them into the simmering broth mixture. Cook for at least 15 minutes.
The balls sank to the bottom at first and then floated back up.  I was pretty hungry so it smelled really good.  The soup was tasty and I'm glad I added the leek.  It added a certain je ne sais quoi. The matzo balls themselves were tasty gut-bombs.  I think I should've actually measured out my matzo meal.  (Two crackers make a slight bit more than 1/2 cup, but I dumped it all in.) Next time I'll be more careful. Nonetheless it was a tasty dinner for a blustery spring day.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The light at the end of the tunnel

I reached critical mass on the no-shopping experiment recently.  My freezer is noticeably less full, even though I keep putting tupperware containers of soup in there. I can even see the floor, if i move stuff around. There is also free space in my cupboard now.  I've used up at least 20 lbs of flour, and may need to buy more before I move.  I've also used up 4 lbs of steel cut oats (do the math - I eat them for breakfast almost every day)  I should make it, assuming that I cook the remaining turkey and roast.
I'm not so worried about condiments, dried goods, etc.  I've certainly been running my supplies down, but it's easier just to pass those along to my mom.  I'm running down my liquor cabinet as well but will take that with me.
I'm not sure if the no-shopping experiment has been good or bad for my diet. It's a wash. I weigh the same as I did when it started.  I keep telling myself that if I weren't doing the no-shopping experiment I'd eat fewer carbs and would lose weight, but I suspect I'd also eat more tasty pre-prepared stuff and it would balance out. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ham Stock

My mom made a 20 lb ham for Easter. I got a big portion of it, along with the bones.  I decided to make ham stock.  I'm fairly new to making stock.  I'm more of a "throw the bones in with the soup and pull them out at the end" type of cook most of the time.  However, now that I'm older and lazier, I've started to see the advantages of having ready-made stock available in my freezer.  It tastes better, is cheap and convenient, and lets me use up those bones/carcasses so they are not cluttering up my fridge or freezer. I'm a little bit weird that way.
I've never heard of ham stock before, but figured there must be recipes out there on the internet. Sure enough, there were.* It's pretty much like making any other kind of stock.  Stew up the bones/meat scraps along with some veggies for flavoring.  Simmer it slowly for several hours.  Pull out the chunkies, let it cool slowly and skim off the fat.  Filter the mixture if you're anal and use it or freeze it for later.
It gave me about 9 cups of broth.  I didn't bother filtering it.  It tasted of ham and celery.  I just added a bunch of chopped ham, two cloves of garlic, and about 2 1/2 cups of dried split peas, and cooked it until the peas were tender.  it didn't have the depth of flavor that my last batch of split pea soup did, but it did have a nice clean taste.  It was also a lot thinner - the potato that I added last time really thickened things up.

* My internet search led me to a blog called "101 things every cook should cook"  In it there are a lot of interesting recipes, such as toad in the hole and roast squirrel. There were also several recipes for ham stock and soups made from it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

No shopping experiment, another update/buttery dinner rolls

I'm still eating up the contents of my larder.  I just haven't been blogging about it since I haven't made anything interesting.  In the last two weeks I've processed a 12 lb turkey, a bag of bagels, a loaf of bread, a bunch of cranberries, some leftover Christmas stollen, lots of flour, some couscous, some arborio rice, and some regular rice. I've made a good dent in the dried fruit, juice, and booze too.  I have actually gotten to the point where I've had to start replacing some of the staples, like butter.
I'm starting to find things that have gone stale, like the rice and couscous.  The stuff from the freezer is mostly fine.  For Easter,my mom cooked a 20 lb ham.  Now you see where I get my hoarding tendencies from!  I decided to make some homemade rolls.

The recipes on the Cuisinart stand mixer booklet have all been pretty tasty, so I just used their recipe.  I modified the recipe slightly to make a wetter dough.  If you have a smaller mixer or you don't want to freeze half the dough, just cut all the ingredients in half.

Buttery dinner rolls
makes 32 large rolls

2 c milk
1 c butter
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup warm water
2 eggs
4 tsp active dry yeast
8-9 cups flour

Heat milk in microwave until almost boiling. Add butter, sugar and salt and allow butter to melt.  Let the mixture cool until it is just warm to the touch.  Meanwhile, combine water, yeast, and a pinch of flour.  Allow the yeast mixture to sit until it gets foamy (5-10 minutes).  Add the butter/milk/sugar mixture and the beaten eggs.  Add about 7 1/2 cups flour and mix with dough hook at low speed for 2 minutes, then start adding the remaining flour a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough ball clings to the hook and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Allow to mix for 4 more minutes, then transfer to a clean, greased bowl.  Place in a warm place and allow to rise until doubled in size (maybe 1 hour or so)  Divide dough in half, and set one portion aside if not needed.  (Freeze for later use)  Divide the remaining dough into 16 balls. Place in greased pan (10" round or 11"x15" glass dish)  Cover with saran wrap and allow rolls to rise until doubled (45-60 min)
Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes.
The dough was very easy to work with.  It's important to add the flour slowly at the end so it doesn't get too dry.  The rolls were very tender and buttery. My mom said they reminded her of croissants.  They went well with the ham, and later with the ham leftovers.  I only took a few home with me, so I made the second batch a few days later. They weren't quite as tender as the first batch, but were still quite good, and it's nice to have the dough on hand for those times when you want fresh baked rolls.

Yeasted Waffles

In addition to trying to eat through my freezer and pantry, I'm also using my abundant spare time as an excuse to make certain foods that I would never have time to make otherwise. In a future post, I'm going to make croissants and blog about it.  However, I couldn't find the recipe I wanted to use, so I went through my cooking magazines looking for it.  I didn't have any luck, but I ran across a recipe for yeasted waffles that looked intriguing.  I don't really like baking powder or soda, so this sounded good.  It would also be good for people on low sodium diets, since there is a lot of sodium in baking powder and soda, especially in pancake mix.
It's pretty simple.  A yeast batter is prepared and stored in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, you stir it up and make your waffles. The first batch was ok but not great. 

Yeasted Waffles

1 3/4 cups milk
Butter: 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)(official recipe) or 3 tablespoons (second batch)
2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Heat milk and butter together until butter is melted and mixture is hot to the touch.  Remove from heat and allow to cool until warm.  Meanwhile, whisk together flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.  Add the cooled milk and butter to the flour mixture.  Beat eggs and vanilla and add to batter.  Mix well.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and store in fridge overnight. In the morning, stir up the batter, heat up the waffle iron andmake the waffles.

The recipe was pretty easy.  In the recipe they said that the waffles were softer and less tasty when they used less butter.  In my case, the first batch of waffles were good but were too greasy and salty from all the butter.  It's pretty unusual for me to think something is too greasy and salty.  I'll make them again but add a lot less butter.

Friday, March 26, 2010

No shopping experiment, update

I accepted the job at Cornell the other day.  I'm not sure if it's coincidental, but I've been backsliding on the no-shopping experiment.  I bought a frozen pizza, mustard, juice, sausage, and almond milk today.  I don't need any of those things, really, but I'm getting pretty bored with the contents of my freezer/cupboards.
Nonetheless, I've made some progress. There is noticeably more space in my freezer now.  I'm cooking one of the turkeys in a few day, so that's going to free up a lot of space.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"It'll keep you regular" mixed grain and seed bread

As part of my "no-shopping experiment," I'm trying to use up my supplies of different flours + seeds.  Today I decided to make the mixed grain and seed bread from the recipe book that came with the stand mixer.  I didn't have enough whole wheat flour, and I had a lot of buckwheat and rye flour, so I ended up with the following recipe.  I am sort of frightened by the fact that I had all these ingredients on hand.
The name needs no explanation, of course.

"It'll keep you regular" mixed grain and seed bread

2 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp honey
1 dry yeast
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rye flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
2 tbsp. vital wheat gluten
3 cups bread flour
1 tbsp salt
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Mix the water, maple syrup, and yeast together and let it stand for 15 minutes, then add the vegetable oil and honey. Combine all the flours, oats, gluten and salt and mix.  Add to water/yeast mixture and mix for several minutes with stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Add seeds and then add more bread flour 1 tbsp at a time until a dough ball forms that clings to the hook.  Mix for 4 minutes, then let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size (1-1 1/2 hours).  Punch dough down, divide into three equal portions, shape, and place in oiled loaf pans.  Allow dough to rise until doubled, then bake in a 375F oven for about 35-40 minutes.

My dough was a lot drier than I would've expected. I did change the recipe quite substantially from the original, so I think I should've added less flour.  Nonetheless, the dough had a nice texture and rose well.  I punched it down, divided it, and prepared two loaves. I froze the third portion for later.
The bread was dense but tasty.  It tastes sort of similar to the whole wheat artisan loaves they sell at Costco. I took a loaf up to Missy's and it got the toddler seal of approval from Kadin.  Next time I'll use a bit less flour and let it rise longer.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

More musings on the no-shopping experiment

OK, so I've realized a few things now that the no-shopping experiment has been going on for a while.  In particular, some stuff just can't be replaced easily.  I'm almost out of wine, so it is now exempt. Peanut butter and tofu are also exempt.  They're not dairy but in my mind they're part of the same vegetarian protein source group as dairy.
Bread and cereal also fall into a grey zone.  I don't eat a lot of cereal, but it's nice to have around.  I replaced my supply today.   I'm going to try to continue to bake bread, at least until I use up most of my flour.
I've made a pretty good dent in the frozen leftover soups, so that's good.  They will be replenished shortly once I start cooking again.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Split Pea Soup

It's cold and rainy today.  I have the flu and crave soup, but my sense of taste is dulled.  I decided to make split pea soup.  I have a lot of dried peas to get rid of.
I opted to go with a fairly simple recipe that I found in Epicurious.  Based on the reviews, it was pretty well-liked and was also pretty adaptable.  In agreement with the no-shopping experiment, I adjusted it according to what I had.  I omitted the ham hock and used about 8 oz of bacon instead.  I fried that up, then set it aside.  I drained off most of the fat and then sauteed the onion and celery in the remaining fat.  (I didn't have carrots so I skipped them and added two diced up potatoes instead.)  I added two cloves of minced garlic and sauteed it briefly, and then added the water, marjoram, two peeled and chopped up potatoes, the bacon and dried peas.  The mixture was then brought to a boil and allowed to simmer until the peas and potatoes fell apart (2 hours).  At that point it was pretty thick.   I added salt and pepper to taste, along with a bit of smoked paprika and a drop of liquid smoke to deepen the flavor.  I hope it doesn't taste horrible once  I get my sense of smell back.  I let it cool somewhat and then pureed the whole thing.
Anyway, it tastes pretty good, and will probably improve with age.  It's got that classic split pea soup flavor and the right consistency.  I'm looking forward to eating it with little bit of cheese on top and a slice of toast.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Musings on the no-shopping experiment

I bought a crazy amount of dairy, fruit, and vegetables recently.  This is normal for me.  My freezers and cupboards are too full not because I buy huge quantities of meat and starch, but because I tend to default to dairy, fruit and veggies and the other stuff ends up in the freezer or cupboard.  It remains to be see if I actually save any money during my experiment.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

No shopping experiment, exceptions

I'm making exceptions to the no-shopping experiment.
1.  Coffee is necessary and is exempt.
2.  I have a huge oversupply of tea.  So it's not exempt, even though it can easily be moved.
3.  Cat food is exempt, obviously.  However, the cats will surely benefit when I cook those turkeys.
4.  I've also declared a moratorium on buying bath stuff.  I have enough for several years.  Really. Certain stuff from Paula's Choice is necessary and exempt, however.
5. Chocolate is necessary and exempt.  It is unlikely that I will be left with an oversupply, of course.
6.  It will become necessary to buy some stuff to get rid of other stuff.  However I won't buy the Costco size packages.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pork Chops with Spicy Citrus Chipotle Sauce

It's day one of the eating through the freezer experiment.  I pulled out some soup for lunch and defrosted two thick cut pork chops for dinner/leftovers for tomorrow.  I decided to brine the porkchops, and got out a cook book to find the brine proportions.  Right next to the recipe for the pork chops, there was a sauce recipe that used orange juice, lime juice and zest, and chipotle peppers.  I had all of those things.  Perfect!
The pork chops were browned for on both sides, and then put into a 450F oven for about 10 minutes.  Use a meat thermometer just to be on the safe side.  Puree the sauce ingredients in advance and then cook the sauce down while the porkchops are resting.

Here's the sauce recipe.  I modified it since I didn't have molasses. This makes enough for four pork chops.  (I made a half recipe)

1/2 cup molasses (I used a combination of brown sugar and corn syrup)
1 cup orange juice
zest and juice from 2 limes
4 adobo chilies in sauce (I had some in the freezer.  I just threw in the entire packet - it may've been a bit more)
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp butter.
salt and pepper to taste.
Puree all the sauce ingredients in the blender.

After the pork chops are done cooking, let them rest under fill.  Drain the fat from the pan and add the sauce.  Cook it down until it's thick and shiny.  Remove from heat and add the butter.  Serve with the pork chops.

The pork was done to perfection on the chop that I tested with the meat thermometer. The other one was a bit underdone so I saved it for tomorrow, when I'll be reheating it.   Rugrat was crying and begging while I was browning the chops, so I gave her some without sauce.  She liked it.  As for the sauce, well, it's good I'm on a spicy foods kick.  Even so, it was a bit much.  I'd back way off on the chipotle peppers next time.  It was tasty, though. It wasn't too sweet, and the citrus flavors came through.  I ate my pork chop with broccoli and homemade bread. (I have a lot of flour to use up too!) I am enjoying this experiment so far.

Net food cleared from storage
2 pork chops
3 limes that were staring to go bad
1 packet of chipotle chiles from the freezer
2 oranges that fell off the orange tree
some flour + brown sugar

The (almost) no-shopping experiment

I love to go grocery shopping, and I'm a total hoarder. As a result, my cabinets, freezer, etc, are filled to bursting.  Hell, I've got two turkeys in my freezer, four kinds of flour, and more weird legumes and grains than you can shake a stick at....
So now, I've got time on my hands, less income than usual, and the prospect of an impending cross-country move.  It's time to "eat through the freezer"*, and the cupboards, and the fridge, and the liquor cabinet, so I don't have to end up giving all of this food to my mom. 
So I'm starting an experiment.  As of now, I'm only going to buy cottage cheese, milk, coffee and eggs.  I'll buy produce on an as-needed basis, but will try to use up the frozen fruit and veggies. I may make exceptions for special occasions.
This will not keep me from food blogging, though.  Quite the opposite. I'll keep you updated on the experiment and will also write a lot of posts as I try new recipes to use up my larder of provisions.

*My ex-boyfriend was an even bigger food hoarder than me.  In fact, he was a bad influence on me. His particular predilection was to fill the freezer. Anyway, ever so often he'd go through phases where he'd "eat through the freezer". 

Thursday, January 28, 2010


It's all Missy's fault.  She's got me on a soup kick.  She sends me reports of the tasty weight watchers soups that she makes, and that makes me want soup.  Last week I made the Asian-style vegetable soup.  I still had some veggies left over, however.  In yesterday's newspaper, there was a minestrone recipe.  It would use up my leftover veggies and I had almost all the other ingredients, sort of, so I decided to make it. 
The recipe called for sauteeing the veggies and then adding the remaining ingredients.  I didn't do that, and left out the olive oil.  I chopped up cabbage, a bit of bok choi, some carrots, celery, a small onion, and a bit of garlic.  I dumped that into a soup pot and added beef broth, two 16 oz cans of diced tomatoes and two cans of garbanzo beans (the recipe called for different types of beans but that was what I had) and some italian seasoning.  I skipped the pasta - for some weird reason I don't like pasta and beans together.  I also skipped the spinach, since i had added so much cabbage and bok choi.  I let it simmer for about 45 minutes.
It is pretty good.  It's not as rich or salty as most minestrone, and was thinner and chunkier.  I liked having more beans and no pasta.  According to my calculations, a huge serving would have two weight watchers points, in case you care.*

*I don't care at the moment - I'm not letting myself stress about my weight until I'm officially out of work.  Then I'll have more time to cook healthy foods, watch what I eat, and exercise. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rice Pudding

I had a rice craving a few nights ago, but it passed and I was left with some leftover rice.  I decided to make rice pudding.  I've made it before, using recipes where you cook rice in milk, but I wanted a recipe that started with leftover rice.  A quick search of the internet led me to this recipe, which is seemingly very popular based on the rating and number of reviews.
In the recipe, the rice is cooked in water and then cooked in milk.  I used my leftover rice instead, and cooked it in a mixture of milk and half and half (I ran out of milk).  It's pretty rich, with equal parts milk and half and half.  I added Splenda instead of sugar when it was almost done.  (It's kind of silly not to use sugar, given how much half and half is in there, but oh well.)  It seemed like nothing happened for a while and then all of a sudden it thickened rapidly. At that point I had to start stirring it more frequently.  At the very end, a mixture of beaten egg and milk is added and the mixture is cooked for 2 minutes and then removed from the heat.  Vanilla, butter and raisin are added and the pudding is allowed to cool.  I left out the butter since there was already enough butterfat in there, and used yellow raisins since that's what I had.  I put a piece of saran wrap over the top to prevent a skin from forming, and then let it cool in the fridge.  The pudding was very creamy and rich when warm, and was even better when cool.   It didn't have the grainy texture it gets when the rice is cooked in milk.  It was most tasty and I will be making it again, although I probably won't use as much half and half.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Roast Beef

Pak N Save had round roasts for $1.79/lb today.  That means only one thing - it's time for roast beef!  I LOVE roast beef.  It doesn't matter if it's hot or cold, but it does have to be nice and rare, with a hint of salt.  Even when I was mostly vegetarian back in grad school, ever so often I'd get a beef craving and go get a roast beef sandwich.  I like to make a roast on Sunday, so I have lots of leftovers for the week.  It's tasty when reheated, in salads, burritos or wraps, sandwiches, and, if you get really bored of it, use the leftovers in soup.  My coworkers always gave me envious looks or comments when I would bring it in for lunch.
Fortunately, it is easy and inexpensive to make.  I usually use round roasts, which tend to be pretty cheap and have good flavor, but this method works for other lean cuts of beef too.  Look for one without a lot of internal fat.  The round roasts sometimes have a layer of fat on the top. That's ok.   If it's really thick, remove it.  If it's not so thick or if you are feeling lazy, just leave it.  Rub the roast with a little bit of olive oil, and then rub it with a little bit of salt and pepper, or a herb blend.  Sometimes I use thyme, or a beef rub that I have. Today I was out of thyme, so I used some herbes de Provence (thyme, savory, fennel, basil, and lavender).  For a garlic flavor, make little cuts in the roast and insert slivers of garlic.  Preheat the oven to 500F.  Place the roast on a rack in a roasting pan and put it in the oven. After 15-20 minutes, lower the temperature to 250F and cook until it's done.  (I like it rare but will cook it a bit longer if people other than me will be eating it.).  The low temperature keeps it nice and tender.  It usually takes about an hour to cook a 3-4 lb roast in my oven, but mine's fast since it's a convection oven.  Use a meat thermometer to be safe.  When it's done, take it out and tent it with foil for 15 minutes or so before slicing.  This helps keep it moist. If you want to slice it really thin for sandwiches, it helps to chill it in the fridge first.
Today's roast was nice and tender, and had good flavor.  The herbes de Provence are pretty herbal smelling, so when it was cooking I was afraid it might tasty soapy from the lavender, but the flavor didn't really permeate too much.  The cats liked it too, which is a sure sign that it's not over-seasoned.  However, the roast was completely overshadowed by the sweet potato rolls, which were hot out of the oven.  (No, I wasn't being Martha Stewart - I had some frozen dough left over from when I made them in November.)