msbabs32: (accomplished)
Sunday, July 26th, 2009 11:43 pm
This last Tuesday the big project day came and went – well, in fact. I went home early and felt like I had been hit by a truck. It took a couple more days to remember how to relax. This weekend was the first where I didn’t spend part of it at work, lost slept over work or have something looming Monday. It seemed like everything was work: pick up breakfast from McD’s to have at my desk and lunch/dinner was whatever they brought in. On the weekend N and I went out because we had no staples. Laundry I did only when absolutely necessary and dry cleaning was my friend. Our house would have been lost had it not been for my maid.

So this weekend I faced all the chores that I have been ignoring for the last month. I had to go food shopping, load the dishwasher (since I was now home dirtying dishes) and deal with messed up services. Oh dear god - the Horror…the Horror! I forgot how much work a home is. Dirty dishes are well, dirty; Trash smells like a bio-weapons experiment; the help desk isn’t; and grocery shopping takes forever and planning. Halfway through waiting for my deli meat I realized that working under the gun as I did was in some ways easier. To be able to focus your mind on something and have all other concerns taken care of or mitigated. You just have to not burn out – kinda like college.

But I would burn out or I would become selfish and a “woo girl” to be able to handle that crap non-stop. Since I like my relationships with my friends and my husband I’ll happily deal with the drudgeries/responsibilities of home-life. It also allows me extra processing cycles to write blog posts again. Now then, I think there is a multi-colored mold colony I need to introduce to the trash…
msbabs32: (Cooking)
Sunday, June 28th, 2009 06:31 am
N was away last week on a business trip. The last time he was away I went hog wild on ordering anything N couldn't eat but I could. That was fun at first and got tedious towards the end. This time I decided to cook dinner every night, even if it was for just myself.

It was fun! I used ingredients that I normally leave out due to N's preference (but not allergies). The dish that I discovered as my new fav is Mushroom Spinach Saute )

It was so very, very good. Leftovers also add very nicely to soups, casseroles and fried rice. I may have to make a large batch of this as the weeks veggies and let N pick out the mushrooms.
msbabs32: (Cooking)
Friday, May 1st, 2009 02:59 pm
There are ups and downs when grocery shopping with N in mind. Swanson, Campbell, Progresso - all of them had some type of soy oil or soy protein in them. Healthy Valley was my savior but 1-2 months ago they too turned on us. They started putting soy protein in their cream of Mushroom and Cream of Celery soups. I had to stop making rice bakes and casserole dishes which had become weekly staple.

I researched several "Cream of" soups until I figured out a general template )

So far I've tried celery and asparagus. The flavor is something I have never gotten with canned. After a bowl of each I poured the rest in 12 & 20 oz containers for use in future recipes. Aside from the initial chopping, the work involved with this dish is minimal.

Add 1 more thing I can do from pure scratch!
msbabs32: (Cooking)
Saturday, April 18th, 2009 01:47 pm
So much sadness this morning. I placed the bacon on the sheet, set in the oven and went about making the rest of breakfast. As I was eating my waffles, coffee and sausage (notice no bacon) I smelled something. I shot up and bolted to the kitchen. I threw open the oven door and attempted to rescue my darling strips. All the while N is crying "Honey? What's wrong? Honey". When he arrives in the kitchen he gets (warning, the below may be traumatic bacon lovers)
his answer. )
I forgot to set a timer to:
a) tell me the bacon was done
b) remind me I had bacon in the oven

After much sobbing and scrapping I cleaned up and tried again. This time I set the timer and checked its progress through the window. The second batch came out much better (sorry no pics). I need to keep a better eye on things during the mad breakfast rush.
msbabs32: (Bah)
Sunday, April 12th, 2009 11:37 pm
I cook with a lot of garlic. Two of my favorite dishes use at minimum 20 cloves a piece. Therefore I usually buy it prepared. The last couple weeks prepped garlic was unavailable at the normal grocery store. Not wanting to make an extra trip to Whole Foods I got the 3-heads pack. They felt firm, looked non-moldy and of enough quantity.
Just about every clove of every head had already started to sprout. I only get about 2 descent cloves from each head. To quote a friend of mine: Rasafrasa! I've gone through three packs from different stores. Every time the heads gave no indication they were bad - almost as if this was some weird food conspiracy.
So no more. Even if it means an extra trip to WF exclusively for garlic.
msbabs32: (Cooking)
Saturday, April 11th, 2009 01:29 am
I've taken to making bacon by the package in the oven of late. It is easier to make, the bacon almost always cooks evenly and is much easier to clean up. Whatever we don't eat immediately gets bagged and tagged in the freezer. However, taking it out of the oven is not for the faint of heart. a pound of bacon makes 1/3 - 2/3 cup of pure rendered lard. One can't escape the thought "This has been deep frying in all that fat"!
So I thought I would try a healthier method. I layered the bacon on a grid cooling rack that fit in a half sheet pan. "Ha," I thought, "The bacon will be suspended from all that grease below!" I'm pretty sure an evil cackle resonated immediately after. It normally takes 10-12 min to make. After 20 there was still no real progress and the ends were charring. So back into the grease they went, bubbly with happiness as they settled in. Four minutes later they were done - deep fried in their own fat, golden, crispy, and ambrosia.
As I drained off pan and dabbed the bacon I thought about how bacon is made on the stove. You are not supposed to drain the fat off until you are done. The chefs call it "lubrication" probably because most cannot bring themselves to face the fact: proper bacon must basically be deep fried.
If this story has ruined your bacon eating, I suggest you come to grips with it. Eat a salad later to make up for it or have the bacon on a salad instead of a cheeseburger. If this story made you a feel a little wiser and hungry, keep in mind that bacon fat is supposed to make wonderful biscuits. :-9
msbabs32: (Cooking)
Thursday, April 9th, 2009 01:49 pm
I love french press coffee but paying $30 for a 12 oz coffee press is enough to give pause. So this morning I tried the tea leaf basket from a broken teapot. It fit properly in the mug, allowing for water to flow around and below it. A thick head of froth appeared as expected as the coffee steeped but basically left as I pulled the basket out. The coffee tasted rich and good until I stirred it right before taking a sip. Apparently quite a bit of sediment got kick up. After allowing it settle for a minute I went back to the cup. At about 1/3 from the bottom the coffee became silt-y and I had to toss it.

The keeping-coffee-grinds-at-the-bottom aspect is crucial advantage of a french press. In conclusion if I wanted coffee and had no other way to make it, the basket method would save me. However, since I don't like tossing half my coffee at every mug, I'm going to fork over the 30 bucks at my next store visit.
msbabs32: (Cooking)
Sunday, April 5th, 2009 11:42 pm
Crockpot Stroganoff with Cream Cheese

Given my very busy schedule, I like to do roasts and stews in the crockpot. We have our favorites but sometimes we need a break. So I found stroganoff with cream cheese recipes on the web (N doesn't like the sour cream taste). All of them call for canned cream of mushroom soup. This presents a problem as N is allergic to soy and *all* cream of soups - I looked frigg'n everywhere -of late have soy in them. So instead I found a recipe for crockpot cream of mushroom soup and modified it by halfing the stock and excuding the milk/cream products.

Verdict is - pretty good. I miss the twang of the sour cream, but this is good too. The texture of the meat was very good - soft with just a little bit of chew. The mushrooms were like butter but still had structure. The sauce came out watery, but I triaged it my adding thickener. Once thickened it tasted better. I think some of the flavor was lost in the extra water.

The next time I make it I will exclude almost all the stock and allow the beef to release enough for the "soup" If towards the end it isn't enough I can always add then. I've posted the recipe I'll use next time:  )

Stay tuned for results of the next attempt...
msbabs32: (Yummies)
Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 11:54 pm
Tonight I made scones. The times I've made it before the scones always came up kinda melty looking. I thought I over kneaded this batch (7+ folds) but it came out excellent. They rose tall with good form.  However, I can't be exactly sure which factors resulted in this.
  • "Over kneading" may have strengthened the gluten enough to hold its shape
  • Using a smaller pan and over-packing could have helped rising
  • The oven was set 25 degrees lower, which I then ramped up while baking
  • It took ~7 extra minutes to get brown on top
I guess I'll have to just play with it until I figure it out.
On the sadder side I made a buttermilk Chocolate cake from scratch last night. This was my 3rd or 4th time making this cake.  Every time I've made it it falls.  When I take it out of the oven it looks nice and tall but always cools to sadness.  Sites I have read suggested it may be no baking it long enough, opening the door or over mixing.  It's always so sad when it happens.  Does anyone have any advice?
msbabs32: (Bah)
Sunday, January 18th, 2009 11:40 pm
So I *finally* found a shortening that N can eat and he was willing to try it.  I think to myself, he's almost never had biscuits, let's do that!  So I found the Good Eats Ma Mae's biscuit recipe.  Now I am up for trying variations - all purpose flour instead of soft wheat, drop instead of rolled - but I like to do a recipe as close as I can the first time for a reference point. 
I go to my local grocery store to find a biscuit cutter.  None.  Okay, maybe my local Whole Foods - no go.  next stop grocery stores around my work - no, nope and don't carry those.  Okay, I think, perhaps I need to go to a Bed Bath and Beyond.  They have everything.  3 regular BB&Bs and the main BB&B distribution center later, Nothing.  At best they had heart shaped and star shaped cookie cutters.  I do research online for what Williams-Sonoma and Sur la Table would have.  WS will have them - in late Feburary.  Oh, Come On!
I mean a simple 2" biscuit cutter.  Usually part of a set of circular cutters of varying diameter.  I have seen the "giant cupcake" mold, "Build a Bear" mold, and electric contraptions to do everything there is to do in the kitchen.  But no circular cutters.  Is LA so isolated from such basic baking that they don't have this simple tool?  Apparently so.  I'm going to Amazon to get what I need and am starting to wonder if that should be my first stop in the future.
msbabs32: (food)
Saturday, November 29th, 2008 03:37 pm
Last afternoon I started to do my own Thanksgiving Dinner.  It was small, only 4 people.  A wedge of brie, crackers and pear was the appetizer until the turkey finished.  Dinner was a 12 lb turkey, garlic potatoes, mashed yams, gravy, baked spinach, asparagus and cornbread.  I forgot it takes a frigg'n long time to do T-day dinner and it will take you longer than you think.  I am forever glad for the decision to do the appetizer.  I still think its possible to get everything hot/warm to the table at once and relatively on time.  It will most likely require a choreographed cooking schedule in 1/2 hour increments.  Next time....  But the turkey turned out really good.  I just had a leftover leg and it still sung of flavor and moisture.

After dinner started the cleaning - oh dear god.  Actually it was very doable.  I started with an empty dishwasher and that helped tremendously.  First thing I did was dispatch the turkey.  I had a container for the keep and a large open trash for the toss.  I moved all the side dishes to appropriate containers and loaded the dishwasher.  After half an hour the kitchen was perfectly clean.  With the exception of the dessert waiting to be served, it looked as if T-day dinner never happened.  It. Was. *Awesome*.

I like doing big dinners.  And I think I'm finally getting good at the logistics.  I wish my place was more conducive to large gatherings.  Perhaps my next house.  Then I'll do a set of Prime Rib or I'll brave the inconceivable: a from scratch Turducken.