Friday, October 31, 2008

Something Scary

I love shrimp.  I had no idea that they are loaded with cholesterol!  My mom clued me into this fact and so I looked it up online and indeed 3oz of shrimp contains 43% of your cholesterol for the day!  This, of course, was learned after I made the wonderful "Cajun Shrimp and Rice" recipe found in the latest Simple and Delicious Magazine.

I sauteed shrimp and garlic in a T of olive oil and a T of butter.  To that I added 2 tsp of Cajun seasoning that Brett's mom got me for Christmas.  I hadn't used it before, but I'm so glad I've tried it now because it's delicious!  I'm going to look for more recipes with Cajun seasoning.  Then I tossed in some snow peas which is a veggie that we've grown to tolerate almost to the point of enjoyment (but not quite.)  The last step was adding some cooked rice and stirring it around.  So easy!

We loved it.  We ate the whole thing (6oz of shrimp each) and were raving about how we'd found something new to add to our rotation.

Now that I know how terrible shrimp is for you, it definitely won't be on our rotation.  But I know that it's ok to eat anything in moderation, so I'm sure we'll see this again at some point in the future when we feel like eating 86% of our cholesterol for the day.  AAAAAAAHHHHH!   Happy Halloween!  

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Cookies!

About once a year rolled cookies find a way into our home.  Sometimes it's Easter (I love decorating egg cookies,) but usually it's Halloween.  We've had some really cute Halloween cookies in the past, and this year was no exception.

Brett did all of the hard work.  He made the dough, rolled and cut the cookies out, and baked them.  He even made the icing.  The rule in our house is whoever makes the cookies gets to use their mom's recipe because, of course, everyone thinks their mom's cookies are the best.  So this year it was Brett's mom's recipe, which has a hint of lemon in it.

I jumped in for the decorating.  We frosted all of our white cookies first which included all the ghosts and one owl.  Then we dyed the frosting and got to work on the rest.  Brett is fine with just spreading frosting on, but I love to embellish.  So I got some decorator bags out and got creative.  Even Brett put a few faces on his pumpkins.  Halloween cookies aren't quite as fun as Christmas cookies, but I still love them.

We also have the rule that you can only eat cookies that you decorated...I'm down to 8!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pumpkin Waffles

Brett and I are both very set in our ways as far as breakfast goes.  He has a giant bowl of cereal and I have an Instant Breakfast.  We do however enjoy other breakfast foods, so we usually end up having breakfast foods at dinnertime.  This past Sunday was one of those times.

We still had a good portion of the giant can of pumpkin in our fridge, so I scoured the internet for a pumpkin waffle recipe that sounded yummy.  The one I found said that it works best with a Belgian waffle-maker but it also said that it would work fine with a regular waffle-iron.  So I got out my regular waffle iron and got to work.

When the first waffle was done, I lifted the lid and it completely split down the middle; one half was stuck to the top and the other to the bottom.  This is when I enlisted Brett's help.  He was able to neatly coax the waffle off with a fork without burning himself.  He said, "That was a test waffle."  But it turned out that every waffle stuck.  However, we were prepared for that and Brett pried each one off without pulling it apart.  They did get better and better with each consecutive waffle but by the time we got a near perfect one, it was also the last one.

The waffles were good.  Some bites had a distinct nutmeg flavor, others had a ginger flavor.  Maybe I didn't stir the batter enough, or maybe my taste buds could only handle one spice at a time.  My favorite bites were the crunchy pieces near the edge.  The first couple of waffles were not crunchy and had the texture of pancakes.  (If I wanted pancakes I would have made pancakes!)  When I took my first crunchy bite I got this overwhelming sense of, "ooooh,  yum that flavor is familiar.  Where have I tasted that before?"  Of course it didn't take me long to figure out that it tasted like an ice cream cone, duh!  Then I got this brilliant idea that ice cream shops could make seasonal waffle-cones to go with their seasonal ice cream flavors.  Just think: Pumpkin Waffle cone with Apple Pie ice cream.  Sounds delicious right?!  I'm a genius : )

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Julie & Julia

The book Julie & Julia by Julie Powell has been on my reading list for a very long time.  I'd been looking for it at the library every time I went, and this past week it was finally on the shelf!  (Yes, I've heard of putting a book on hold, but I prefer to leave things to fate:))  I came home and started reading immediately and finished it in a couple of days.

I could not have picked a more perfect book for me to read.  Not only is it about Julie's adventures (and misadventures) of working her way through every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days, but she blogged about it too!  She started her project in 2002, so this was way before I had even heard of a blog.  I view her as a pioneer in cooking blogs.  Her determination to complete her project is inspiring and proof that goal setting, no matter what your goal, can work wonders.  Read the book (if you haven't already!)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pumpkin Oat Muffins

Like I said, we've gone a little pumpkin crazy now that fall is here (although the weather has gotten hot again and is not cooperating at all!)  The latest issue of Simple and Delicious Magazine was the jackpot!  I found four or five recipes that I wanted to try and that is rare!  Usually I'm pleased if I find one that sounds good.  The first one I tried was Pumpkin Oat Muffins.

Besides spilling brown sugar all over the counter, this was a pretty uneventful baking endeavor.  There were lots of ingredients so it took a good amount of careful reading.  One of those ingredients was pumpkin pie spice of which I had none, so I got out our handy-dandy Taste of Home Baking Book and made my own, which added a few more ingredients to the list.  But I certainly liked the idea of putting together my own pumpkin pie spice rather than buying another spice bottle.  My cabinet can hardly fit any more and plus they are very expensive.

The batter was thick, orange, and smelled like autumn.  I took some extra care spooning the batter into the muffin cups and I was doing such a fantastic job until the very last muffin when I spilled some on the tin.  Oh well, I'm still proud of myself.  The muffins got a brown sugar/butter/more pumpkin pie spice topping and went in the oven.

They looked and smelled wonderful, but neither Brett nor I want to have them again for two different reasons.  I thought they were bland despite all the spices, and Brett thought there were too many flavors going on (spices, pumpkin, oats, raisins.)  I will admit that the next day they tasted better to me.  Maybe the ingredients just needed time to get acquainted with each other :)

The giant can of pumpkin is almost used up...hmmmmm.  I've got a few ideas :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pumpkin Roll

I've lived in Southern California for the majority of my life and I've never experienced a true fall season.  Southern California does have 4 seasons, they are just very subtle.   Every fall there are a few species of trees with changing leaves that are always a joy to see (if you know where to find them), the temperature does dip down to the low 60's, and of course the pumpkins start popping up in the grocery store.

A giant can of Libby's pumpkin mysteriously ;) found its way into our pantry and Brett and I have been going a little pumpkin crazy.  Brett found a recipe for Pumpkin Roll online and got to work with me as his faithful sous chef.

The cake smelled amazing!  It took some restraint to not eat the cake immediately.  Brett prepared a kitchen towel covered in powdered sugar for rolling the cake up in.  It proved fairly difficult to roll the cake up carefully without it cracking, but we managed it.  It cooled in the towel.

Then came the even the trickier part of unrolling it, spreading the cream cheese filling, and rolling it back up.  Unrolling was slow work because even though the towel was covered in powdered sugar, the cake had absorbed it all and was now firmly stuck to the towel.  We had to peel the cake off as we unrolled.  The cream cheese filling spread nicely, but when we were re-rolling, the cake cracked a little bit and a lot of filling oozed dramatically out the side.
Difficulties aside, the log turned out beautifully.  We loved seeing the cream cheese swirl inside.  It tasted delicious (almost like pumpkin pie, which I am impatiently waiting until Thanksgiving to eat.)  There was only one thing we would have changed and that is the filling.  We used low fat cream cheese and it wasn't as smooth as the full fat would have been.  Oh well.  It was still good.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Homemade Candies

This was one of those ambitious projects that seemed destined for trouble, but Brett likes to try ambitious things, and I'm always willing to go along for the ride.  We have a candymaking cookbook that we recently rediscovered when we were reorganizing the apartment and Brett's interest was sparked.

I got home from work the other day and Brett was sitting on the couch stirring homemade fondant (filling for candy.)  Turns out he had been stirring for almost an hour!  It was not easy work either.  That stuff was very thick.  When it finally set up, half was dyed yellow and flavored with lemon extract, and the other half was dyed green and flavored with peppermint extract.  He formed them into balls, wrapped them in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge for a couple of weeks until we felt the urge to make candy.

T.V. was terrible Saturday night so we decided, what better time to get out that fondant and start dipping!  Well, Brett got out one ball of fondant, unwrapped it, and quickly realized that it was not the correct consistency.  It stuck very badly to his hands and of course made rolling it into a long snake difficult.  Even more challenging was cutting it into half inch sections.  We did our best, but it was messy work.  Nothing was uniform or pretty.

Even though you are supposed to dip room temperature fondant we put it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up and it seemed to work just fine.  Hand dipping is supposed to be messy business and believe or not Brett stayed relatively clean compared to the picture in the book.  Guess who got to lick his fingers :P (and guess who got sticky fondant on the camera...oops!)

Brett even tried to put a signature L (for lemon) on one them!

They weren't pretty, but they actually tasted pretty good.  The mint ones tasted pretty much like York Peppermint Patties (one of my favorite candies!)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Black Bean Soup

After the recent success of Red Beans and Rice Soup, I went back to the same Veggie Meals cookbook and found another soup that sounded pretty good.  Brett and I eat a lot of black beans, so naturally Black Bean Soup sounded like something we would enjoy.  Another bonus was that this recipe did not call for hot sauce, although it did call for 2 jalapenos.  I only put one.  The recipe made Brett a little skeptical because it came from Rachael Ray, whom he can't stand for 5 seconds, and, even more concerning, it was tomato based.   The recipe called for crushed tomatoes, and I knew Brett would not go for that, so I substituted tomato sauce for a smoother texture.

I thought the soup turned out pretty good.  However, I ended up eating all of the leftovers, so I think that Brett was not a big fan.  It was a bit oniony, but I think the tomato base was too much for him.  Finding a new meal for our dinner rotation is rare, so I'll just keep trying new things and hoping they're at least edible.  Bye-bye black bean soup.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bread Idea?

Most of you know that Brett loves to bake bread, but is growing tired of traditional shapes.  He's talked about trying to make an animal shaped loaf at some point in the future, but we are open to new ideas.  I was up in L.A. at a farmer's market last weekend when my brother and I spotted a strangely shaped loaf of bread in a stall window.

It literally looked like a pile of poop.  Do people actually buy poop shaped bread?  It seems rather unappetizing to me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Candied Walnuts

Lately I have been eating spinach, raspberry, and walnut salads for lunch. It's my attempt to eat healthier. I have never really appreciated walnuts before. Maybe it's the fact that spinach is so bad that I can't help but think the walnut and raspberry bites are delicious. Anyway, of course eating such a healthy lunch makes me think of unhealthy things, mainly, " Wow I bet these walnuts would taste even better if I candied them!" And so I did, and they were better:)

I found three different recipes for candied walnuts and decided to start with the most simple one which happened to come from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. I may yet try the other two, just for comparison purposes (and snacking purposes) but for now I've only tried one.

I heated water, sugar, and a splash of lemon juice in a little saucepan until it turned "golden amber." Of course the edges turned golden amber first, so I wasn't sure if I should wait for the whole thing to change color or not. I waited a little but decided it was time to add the walnuts.

I stirred it up got everything nicely coated and then decided to add some more walnuts.

Martha's recipe said to take each walnut half out individually with a fork and lay them out on parchment. I can just imagine her lining everything up perfectly. Well, obviously this didn't work out for me. I tried using tongs (at least I had the foresight to know a fork wouldn't work for me) but the nuts got soooo sticky that they wouldn't come off. So I made a snap decision to just dump the whole pot out onto the silpat and then try to spread them out. This worked for a little bit, but as you can see, some sections were walnut brittle. I let it cool and then broke it all apart. It was all gone in 2 days. Yum!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Red Beans and Rice Soup

I'm always looking for a new main course to try (I'm never at a loss for desserts) and I came across this recipe in my Veggie Meals cookbook written, of course, by Rachael Ray.  At least this cookbook does not have a giant awkward looking picture of her, it is very subtly RR.  

I didn't leave anything out of this recipe even though Brett hates celery.  He admits that he couldn't even taste it!  Maybe that's the trick to making things taste good.  I did substitute red pepper for green pepper because I had some leftover, but that's not a big deal.  I also didn't measure the hot sauce.  The recipe called for two ounces, but it was only a five ounce bottle!  That sounded like way too much hot sauce so I shook until I thought it looked like enough which was way less than two ounces.

It was delicious, but not really a soup, and SPICY SPICY SPICY!  This was just below my spicy threshold (thank goodness) so I was able to eat it, but my tongue was on fire all night!  We've found another winner to add to our main course rotation, just next time less Tapatio!  

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Lemon Sugar Snaps

Considering my love of cookies, I really don't make them very often.  This past week I finally made some cookies, but it was by complete fluke.  I was planning on making a strawberry rhubarb crumble after my mom had raved about a pie she had just eaten.  But when I got to the store, the strawberries looked terrible, and there was no fresh rhubarb.  However, once I had scrapped that idea, I forgot to put back the lemon that the recipe called for.  I got home, realized I had a lemon, and quickly thought of something to make: Lemon Sugar Snaps!  I've made these cookies before from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook but I didn't remember much about them at all except that they were good.

I only had enough lemon for half of the recipe, which is a good thing (as Martha would say) because two people don't need to eat a whole gob of cookies.  As you know from previous posts, paying attention is sometimes my downfall and so halving recipes is dangerous.

When I got done making the "dough" I was worried because it had the consistency of icing: very soft and fluffy.  It was like the ratio of butter to flour was off.  I was absolutely positive that I had halved everything correctly, so I was confused as to why the dough was not dough-like.  It chilled in the fridge overnight and I was kept up late thinking about what I could have possibly done wrong.  I thought I had figured it out.  Maybe instead of grabbing the 1/2 measuring cup, I grabbed the 1/3, and that's why it seemed like there wasn't enough flour!  I went in the kitchen and checked (did you think I had cleaned up my mess?) but I had used the correct measuring cup.  I was baffled.  I must've done everything right, so maybe there was something wrong with the recipe.

The next day the dough had solidified and was basically the texture of a stick of butter.  I scooped it out and grossly underestimated the amount of space these cookies needed to bake.  When I pulled the first batch out of the oven, four of the cookies had spread into each other!  I wasn't trying to win a beauty contest though so I learned from my mistake and spaced the next batch better.

They turned out delicious (greasy but delicious.)  Why did I ever doubt Martha Stewart?