Monday, February 28, 2011

P.S. "Do's and Don't's"

I did try and mash pre-baked potatoes. Don't bother, it's not worth it. You might as well boil the potatoes. I had to cut it up and simmer it with milk to get it warm enough to mash properly.

Also, I suggested to Nick that he freeze some leftover sour cream that we had. Don't do that either. It breaks down and separates. You can still use it and it still tastes okay, but it's thin and a little lumpy.

-- Zizi

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Quick and Easy


I thought I'd share this bottle of wine with you. Nick found it at Kroger. I don't know if you can see it in this picture, but the label has a window in it and the painting is on the back of the bottle. It's a really good wine. If you get the chance, I recommend you pick this one up.

Dinner tonight was a basic vegetable stir fry with noodles. I prefer noodles to rice; that's just me. I sauteed an onion, a carrot, some broccoli and a mushroom in oil with soy sauce, salt&pepper, ginger, paprika, garlic, curry powder, sage, cayenne pepper and a spoonful of sugar. I also added a tablespoon of the wine. An expensive wine to cook with, but I didn't use that much. Besides, I would rather use it up than let it go bad. I should have used more soy sauce than I did, but we're running out.

I had enough sauce in the wok to simmer the vegetables in; then I tossed the noodles in and coated them in the sauce. It's more of a thrown-together Asian taste than anything, and good for a night like tonight, when I've got a lot to do.

-- Zizi

P.S. That bottle of wine was beautiful. One of the more artistic labels I've seen. -- Nick

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Happy Birthday!



It was Nick's birthday last week (well, closer to two weeks now), and the sad thing was that we were all sick that week. And even if we had felt up to celebrating, we had no money for a cake. So we waited, and on Sunday we had a big party. I made a cake (more of which below); we went over to his parents house and spent the day with his family. It was much fun. The guys all threw a football, the younger ones played with our boys and I played with my camera while I talked with my mother-in-law.
For dinner, Mom had made a wonderful Beef and Mushroom soup and hummis with pumpernickle bread—I will post the bread recipe, 'cause I have it! We brought salad to round it out and a bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz that complemented the whole meal perfectly.

Then I pulled out the cake. I'm very happy with it. This is the first cake that has come out exactly the way I wanted it to. EXACTLY!

I found the recipe for it here and when I saw it I knew that I had to make it for Nick. He grew up on a very Japanese based diet and loves sushi. He learned how to make it, and he introduced me to it. And this cake fits with his sense of humor. In a word, it's perfect. I have waited in gleeful anticipation until the day when I could shop for the ingredients and the day after, when I could make it. Now, Nick didn't know what the cake was going to look like, I planned it as a surprise. The only request he had was that there were M&M's somewhere on or in it. So I mixed them in with the batter, put them in between the layers and used them for the carrots on the top.

Anyway, back to dinner: Nick's sister had given Dad a bottle of raspberry wine from Gettysburg and he served that with the cake; and I made a small speech and toasted Nick. The day ended with a roaring fire, and all of us together in the living room.

Happy Birthday, Darling!

--Zizi

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Square Meal

Hmm....I was going to write about how square my dinner tonight was; how it was a nice balance of starch and vegetable, with a little meat. Then I was reminded of that scene in The Phantom Tollbooth.

You remember the one I'm talking about. They are all making speeches before the banquet and Milo says something about a “square meal” and something else about a “light meal.” He is then served a plate of squares and a bowl of light. Milo went hungry. If you don't remember, I suggest you get the book; it's worth a good meal.

Anyway, for dinner tonight I fried a potato with an onion, sliced carrots and mushrooms, and I threw in some sandwich meat at the end. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, nutmeg and sage, and I cooked it in a substatial amount of butter. I would recommend you use less butter than I did—I'm still feeding The Amazing Flying Child, and I'm underweight for that, so I try to eat more butter, carbs and the like. I was a little unsure of how the nutmeg and sage would taste together, but it turned out well. Either that or I didn't add enough sage. The nutmeg was good with the potatoes and butter. On the whole it ended up tasting a little like a roast beef with potatoes and vegetables.

A small hint on cooking potatoes. Raw potatoes do not fry well. I've learned this the hard way. No matter how small you slice them, raw potatoes take forever to cook, and tend to burn before they get soft. Even french fries and frozen shoestring potatoes come half-cooked. So I'll share with you my favorite shortcut: I keep a few baked potatoes in the fridge. I bake about eight at a time; that gives me enough to serve some baked, and have enough for a breakfast. And then some for dinner, like tonight. I have not tried to mash baked potatoes; somehow I don't think it would work too well.

Happy Cooking!

--Zizi

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Warning: Expensive Recipe Day


I said I was thinking about alternating frugal with something fancy, and today's post is the fancy one. And there is a story behind this one.

It was Christmas Season, maybe 2006—I'm not sure, though. Anyway, I was working at the restaurant and the chef was planning a BIG event to celebrate not only Christmas but also the 100th anniversary of the building that the restaurant was in. It was going to be a weekend thing; he was serving dinner at two times (doors were closed between) with no menus.

I forget what the main course was, but the desserts...sigh. Brandied Apple Pie with a lattice crust. Coconut Pie, the recipe that I found and tweaked—the one that ran as a featured item for half a year and got shipped across the country. And homemade Chocolate Ice Cream with Macadamia Nut Biscotti. (Chef also made Brie for an appetizer: a wheel of brie, topped with lingonberries, wrapped in a lattice crust and baked.)

Chef also wanted the waitstaff to be in period costume to fit with the theme of the evening. As I have a reputation for making my own clothes, and for said clothes being eccentric, chef asked me to make six late-Victorian dresses. We were planning that weekend for two months. The weekend itself was incredible.

It was also one of the most hectic days at work I've ever had. It started Friday evening, and my shift ended Friday at 5pm. I had the weekends off. Being a good restaurant, we liked the food to be fresh. Friday was filled with baking pies, roasts and mixing ice cream. Biscotti, however, takes too long to make for us to have done it that day. So we made it Thursday. Well, I made it. Chef handed me a cookbook with a bookmark, and said “Make that.”

The book had a lovely picture of Julia Child on the front, but I forget the title. The recipe was about two pages long, complete with pictures. An involved recipe; well worth the time and effort. I didn't like biscotti until I'd had if freshly made. I copied the recipe for myself. I'll give it to you as we made it then, and I will include the variations at the end.

Biscotti

2C water*
3 tbsp baking soda
2/3 C un-blanched macadamia nuts
1 2/3 C flour
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 tsp Fra' Angelico**
1 tsp vanilla
¾ C sugar

* Add the baking soda to the water and bring to a boil. Add nuts. Boil until the nuts are just soft enough not to crack. Drain and let the nuts dry.
Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Whisk eggs, liqueur, vanilla and sugar together. Add to flour and stir. Add nuts. Divide dough in half and form into chubby logs 12-13” long.

1st Bake: Bake 35 minutes at 300 degrees. Transfer from pan to cooling rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes.

2nd Bake: Cut logs into ½” slices diagonally. Lay on sides on cooling rack and bake at 300 degrees for 10-15 minutes—till crisp and golden brown.

Store in an airtight container. Keeps for about a month.

* We used toasted nuts, so I skipped this step.
** Try to find a liqueur that matches the flavor of the nuts used. I haven't tasted all of them, so I can't tell you all of the combinations. I would imagine that a flavored brandy or something like Triple Sec would add a fruity flavor to the finished biscotti. So it depends on what you're going for.

Ciao!

-- Zizi

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Something Sweet...


I feel like I need to post something sweet; a dessert of sorts. We haven't had anything sweet in a while. And, sadly, it might be another week or two before we make anything sweet. We ran out of flour. And oatmeal, and we're almost out of sugar. So far this year has had that beginning of the month feeling where everything is just a little tight. But I've realized that I had had too many cookies in January. So when we do get baking supplies again I'm going to vary what The Amazing Omnivorous Child and I cook. The following recipe is one of the first things we'll make. And hopefully I'll have my new camera by then and will be able to wow you and make you hungry with good photos of great food!

Happy Cooking!

--Zizi

Lemon Squares

Crust

1C flour
1/2C butter
1/4C powdered sugar

Mix well, and pat into 8x8 pan firmly. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Filling

2 eggs
1C sugar
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp lemon juice

Mix and pour onto crust. Bake for 20 minutes again. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wake Up!


I feel a little odd about posting Fr. Jim's sermon (although I won't apologize) and I feel like I should explain why I did.

This time last year we lived in a single-wide trailer out in the middle of nowhere. The entire kitchen was in danger of falling through the floor and we were picking up groceries at church. It was obvious that we were in the midst of a Divine Lesson, but it was a hard one to learn.

This time last year, Fr. Rush read the Beatitudes during Mass and his sermon was on being poor in spirit. Being poor in spirit, in ancient Jewish culture, meant that you had no one to rely on, no one to help you. And blessed are you for that, for the only one left to you is God. That's when I realized that we were trying too hard to do things on our own, or trusting in friends and family to help us, when we should have been trusting in God more.

Our daily prayers went from asking that the car keep working to asking for the grace to trust. Within weeks the trailer was condemned and the rental agency found us a new place; a few months later Nick got hired as a permanent employee with benefits. It wasn't a complete turn around, and things were still hard, but it was now uphill.

Things had begun to be hard again, this winter. Then, last Sunday, it was the Beatitudes again. And Fr. Jim gave that sermon. It's not that we had lost the trust in God that we learned, rather I think we had begun to become complacent and this was a wake up call.

So this is me, sharing my Divine Lessons with you in the hopes that someone will learn from my mistakes. Okay, maybe “mistakes” was a bit off, as I've done nothing wrong; from my example. That's better.

Ciao!

--Zizi

Mushroom & Broccoli Alfredo, with COMS

It's simple, just like it sounds. I used fettuccine noodles. I fried onions, broccoli and mushroom slices in butter, with salt, garlic and a touch of cayenne. I added the mushrooms last, and almost before I took it off so that they wouldn't become overdone. I removed the vegetables from the pan and added about 3oz. Of butter. Just before the butter burned I added a can of COMS and roughly 3C of milk. I mixed that well and then added the vegetables and noodles back in. The sauce thickened up when it cooled down.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Promised Pork


I don't have anything philosophical to go with today's recipe. So I think I'll paraphrase the sermon for this week. It was on the Beatitudes, and the only reason I have it is that Fr. Jim gives out an English translation (odd as the Spanish Mass is for those who understand Spanish).

The Beatitudes are all about happiness and unhappiness. We heard Jesus speak about all kinds of unhappiness and suffering. Poverty in Spirit, grief and mourning, humility, injustice and thirsting for justice, desire for mercy and the conflict of one's life.

What do people do when they encounter these things? They turn to God. They look inside themselves and ask God to touch the broken places and empty spaces in their lives. They realize each and every day that they are responsible for trying to be happy.

Perhaps Matthew's Gospel and the Beatitudes should read like this:

The really happy people are those who are inwardly free of possessions. For they leave themselves to God's peace.

The really happy people are those who allow themselves to experience grief, for they will better know how to comfort others and in turn be comforted.

The really happy people are not arrogant, for they are content that God has forgiven their sins.

The really happy people have a strong desire to do what is right, even if it is inconvenient; just knowing they have done their best.

The really happy people see all things with a clear unprejudiced eye, which means they appreciate God in all of His creation.

The really happy people work to bring about God's kingdom because they continually recognize and accept God's plans.

The really happy people are not ashamed when others see them as foolish for their beliefs.

The really happy people trust in God's promise of salvation. It will all work out. They will see God face to face.”

– Father Jim Gallagher

I fried the pork in butter and then added pineapple juice and Worcestershire sauce. I finished and removed the pork and thickened sauce with cornstarch.

We had mashed potatoes with garlic salt, sage and paprika; onions fried in lemon vinaigrette.
green beans, and pineapple slices on the side.

-- Zizi