msbabs32: (cooking)
Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 11:37 pm
After 18 months of waiting then hemming and hawing I finally bought my rechargeable milk frother. Tonight I made drinks with it. First thing I realized is that it is very powerful. The first go whisked the milk right onto the counter. Once I got the hang of it, the frother made incredibly fine and dense foam. It was almost solid and wonderfully tasty. Lusciously frothed cappuccino in hand, I then read the instruction manual. What? That's just how I roll.

First notable warning was: "Use a container at least 3x the volume of your liquid to prevent spilling". Duh - I knew that by *now*.
Second notable warning was "Persons with nervous disorders should never use the appliance without accompanying person in order to avoid any danger".

Now one must wonder what transpired for the company to feel the need to include this in the list of warnings. Was some unfortunate soul, never having encountered a vibrating appliance before, overcome by the alien movement of the frother and stuck it some god forsaken place? More to the point, if there are super high strung persons running wild about your area, it's probably not the best idea to be serving them caffeine.
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: (Research)
Monday, April 27th, 2009 05:20 pm
Wandering Whole Foods this weekend I was perusing the produce area for healthy snacks at work, specifically fruit.  I saw the cantaloupe.   I like cantaloupe and these are already cut in half and prepared. I bought two halves and was happy. Eating one at home with only a spoon and with great ease strengthened my resolve. I took the other to work and tried to have there.  At home the cantaloupe was dispatched mindlessly. My stainless steel spoon easily sliced and scooped in one motion with only occasional  glancing. The experience was done with quickly, almost too quickly.

This was not the experience had at my desk. The plastic spoon lodged into the fruit and threatened to break.  Attempting to use more lateral forces failed as well. A plastic knife had to be employed to  get at any of the meat and it was messy.  I had to use a combination of the knife, the spoon and my fingers. It took quite some time to finish.  I almost bailed cantaloupe juice all over my desk several times. So while plastic utensils with cantaloupe is not a FAIL, I would not recommend it. No more cantaloupe at work, unless I decide to bring in a metal spoon.

UPDATE: Cantaloupe half and I did battle again at home. But this time I brought a metal spoon - and I made sure the spoon was small so it took longer....
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: (Cooking)
Saturday, April 4th, 2009 04:11 pm
I grew up in Hawaii eating all sorts of Asian and American food. Some of my favorites were typical for a kid: ice cream and pizza. In college I started to cook for myself and my magic ingredient was soy sauce. I put it in everything, even if just a dash. "Soy makes everything better" was my culinary philosophy and catch phrase. My staples were fried rice, shoyu chicken and dressed up Ramen. I was just discovering the beauty of nuts in salad, bread, candy, etc. I swooned at Pad Thai. I discovered peaches - ambrosia incarnate. I could see my culinary future revealed to me and I was very happy. To boot soy, Asian foods and nuts were now touted as "healthy foods". I was so set.

Then I met my future (and now) husband, N. A week into knowing him I discovered that he was allergic to almost all legumes (e.g. soybean, peanuts), nuts, raw drupes - basically everything I had sworn was culinary center. For the 99% of the population that doesn't know what a drupe is look at this Wiki page. Due to not being able to take soybean oil he had never had any Asian foods, and barely ate any biscuits, buns, cakes or bread products in general. Name a food I gushed about up through that time and N physically could not eat it. We could never go to an Asian restaurant together. We would never share Thai takeout or grab a bowl of pho. It was if he breathed nitrogen instead of oxygen - and was allergic to normal air. I thought "this can't work out. I give it a week, month tops".

It is now several years, an LDR and our wedding later and here we are. N doesn't cook. I do and despite all the challenges I do a very descent job. I decided I should start blogging about my/our culinary adventures in hopes to give and get help, support and company anyone out there in the same situation.
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: (Yummies)
Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 04:08 pm
Ran into this site:

I simultaneously became hungry and dearly missed my kitchen. The pictures are gorgeous and many of them have recipes attached. That's right food pr0n and instructions. How cool is that?

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, January 3rd, 2009 11:45 pm
For the party I threw tonight, I decided the main attraction would be a mashed potato bar.  It turned out pretty well.  I made a bag of russet potatoes and kept them warm in my rice cooker (I so love my rice cooker).  Sides were simple and had had different reviews.

Butter                      Very successful.  3/4 gone
Sour cream              Marginally successful.  I think it was largely missed b/c it was covered
Chives                     Reasonably successful.  1/2 gone
Mushroom Sauce     Reasonably successful.  < 1/2 C left
Real bacon Bits        Very successful.  < Tablespoon left.

I has about 8 people at the party and I have half the potatoes left.  Some people went for the snacks and sweets instead, so I would estimate 1 bag feeding about 15-20 people.   I also had a secondary main dish of sweet and sour chicken wings to offset the savoriness of the potatoes.  The potato bar was reasonably easy to prepare and maintain.  I may do this as a thing for future cold time parties.
msbabs32: (food)
Sunday, December 28th, 2008 11:32 pm
I have a loose list of things I want to do in LA before I get-too-old/have-kids/leave-LA/etc. For N's birthday I got to do one: Eat Dinner at Spagos.  For those who don't know about Spagos, it is Wolfgang Puck's First Restaurant.  It still has a rotating menu and is known as "the place" for really special occasions and to see a celebrities.
The decor is whimsical.  I now know where Cheesecake Factory got their decore.  There weren't any celebrities we recognized but that's fine.  I find they tend to distract from your own experience.  However there were some impeccably well coiffed people there.  Most people looked like we did - dressed up for a special occasion.  These people looked like they were established regulars.  They looked like they fit.
Well, let's start with the wine list.  I don't think there was a bottle under $80.  The cheapest glass of wine was $17.  However the Pinot I got was very nice.  Then they came by with a bread tray and seemed strangely insistent we take something.  Once again delicious.  I ordered the Bass with seafood and got exactly that.  No side of potato or rice or vegetable.  And the food was not in large portions - ah, that's why they wanted us to take bread.  That being said, I don't think I can describe the food in a couple of sentences and give it justice.  However I also don't want to take up an hour giving it the justice it deserves so I will just say it was exquisite.  You could taste every single flavor instead of only 1-2 dominant ones. 
Dessert was difficult.  N is allergic to nuts and all their normal desserts is made with nut oil.  however their serve proved as impeccable as their food.  They got N an ice cream dish with raspberries and wrote "Happy Birthday" in chocolate sauce.

So, in short:
Food - Smaller portion, but you will be comfortably full
Wine - Not cheap but very good
Service - Excellent
Repeat Business: For a very special event, absolutely

Now I need to work on that afternoon at the Getty...
msbabs32: (chirstmas)
Monday, December 22nd, 2008 06:51 pm
Disclaimer:  I haven't had the time to be present online for the last several weeks so I will be posting all my scribbles from my scratchbook over the nex few days...

No, I haven't died (although I think others thought I was close).  I've just been very busy.  Two and a half superbugs, manic shopping, insane work demands and one family holiday party later, I have survived.  I am happy to say that I am almost completely done with Christmas shopping.  I only have to aquire 2 presents once I land in H.  Assuming I can get on the plane (long story, lots of rant and for another post), but I'm 95% sure I will.  A few observations for the holiday seasons - so far:

On shopping/presents:
  • It is infinitely easier to get gifts for someone who has a casual hobby.  Casual being defined as not wanting/needing/analyzing the best products for the hobby.  People who are "totally into" a hobby are impossible to buy for.  "Rock Band" or gardening are good examples of casual hobbies. 
  • If you are making/baking things for multiple holiday events, pick one or two things that is your specialty and only make those.  This makes things easier because it reduces ingredient waste, keeps the recipe in your head and lets you get into a groove.  This year it was cheesecake.  I did the equivilant of 5 cheesecakes this season ( 2 cakes worth in cupcake form).
  • If a gift doesn't work out for this year, keep it in mind for the next one.  This way you have a back-up plan if you can't think of anything and you will have more time to coordinate group-gifts.
  • All gift certificate presents should come with a Wrapper-gift. Just something small ~$5 so the recipeints have something tactile on Christmas Day.  It makes a difference.
On Holiday Food:
  • Have No-Cook foods in the house.  You may very well be too busy/tired to cook dinner.
  • Compromise nothing in Holiday recipes.  Low fat/low carb can be done the rest of the year.
  • Well wrapped foods are a great "for everyone" gifts.
On Health:
  • An electric blanket really helps when you are sick and freezing.  You also know you are getting better when the lower settings feel "too warm".
  • Take naps when you can. They are your best defenses against getting sick.
  • Unless you're down and out ill, exercise everyday (at least 20 min) to keep your immune system going, keep yourself alert and make up for the food tips.
  • Buy at least 2 hats - one you can wear comfortably at home and one that can be worn for work.  they keep you warm when three layers of sweaters can't.

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.
msbabs32: (exhausted)
Thursday, November 27th, 2008 11:18 pm

Tuesday I had to o home early because I got allergic to my office.  After lunch I started sneezing in long uninterruptable streaches.  At 1:30 I went home.  Traffic. Was. Terrible.  Both on and off freeway.  It took over an hour for me to get home.  I took a long nap until dinner.

At T minus 6 hours to T-day I decided to start Part I:  The gianormous cheesecake.  As I started to make the crust...and was incredibly relieved I started early.  I made the mistake of not vetting the ingredients in the store.  It had and/or-soybean-oil.  With N's allergies, the graham crackers were no longer viable.  I went to three stores looking for a non-standard brand of graham crackers.  And yes going to the store 6 hours before T-day is as frightening as it sounds.  Luckily it was the last drama of the night and the 3 lb cheesecake was made, cooled and chilled that night.

T-day: I went to the large clan gathering of N's family.  Had turkey, sampled about 10 side dishes and  desserts.  Saw this really cool whipped cream dispenser I may have to get.  The Cheesecake was received well, but I think I'm on the hook for both normal and pumpkin cheesecake the next time.

T-day Part II: Fowl Replay.  Since my bro and cousin are stopping by Friday I plan on making my own turkey dinner.  I have three starches adn   I need to start the brine soon.

I am thankful for my mighty good man of a husband, for my friends who keep me in check with reality, N's family for welcoming me into their fold, my own family - I love you, my improving health, my country, and all my LJ friends for listening to my meandering entries.

msbabs32: (yummy)
Thursday, November 13th, 2008 09:40 pm
Now that the chillier holiday season is here, several of the normal "sin foods" are given reprieve and actually celebrated. I found this recipe on:  As soon as I saw this picture

I knew I wanted to make it!  It looks like she used popover tins and 7 strips/basket.  I think if you used cupcake tins you could get away with as little as 3-4.  This is good so you are not faced with the dilemna of eating 7 strips of bacon or (gasp!) sharing.
msbabs32: (dessert)
Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 07:58 pm

            I have discovered bliss.  I have discovered layers of perfectly espresso kissed ladyfingers layered between the whipped creamy goodness of mascarpone cheese.  Absolute sublimation.  And I found it for $8/lb. 

            This would be the tiramisu found at the Whole Foods dessert bar in Venice.  At first the find was bittersweet.  How could I convince N to have dinner at WF several times a month?  Maybe if he tasted it he would understand, but maybe not.  Then inspiration saved me.  Surely if you can buy it by the pound you can buy it by the whole...and yes, yes you can. All 4.25 lb of it, an entire tray of Tiramisu ambrosia.  N has tried it and is as excited about it as I am.

            I plan to cut it up into serving sizes, place a couple in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.  Hopefully the hassle of unfreezing the bulk will slow us down so the tray will last at least a few weeks - yeah, right....


msbabs32: (scared)
Thursday, October 9th, 2008 04:35 pm
OMG! Mother’s Cookies has fallen under the treads of the Economic Apocalypse's tank of doom!  You remember Animal Cookies.  Those little animal cookies drenched in icing with sprinkles?  Yes, I’m crying too.  And although I haven’t had them in forever, I’m going to the store and buy some.