Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Pictures

Merry Christmas!! 

I promised some pictures of the Christmas cookie making, so here they are.  I didn't take as many as I wanted, I was busy cooking stuffs. 
Making banana bread for Christmas dinner. 

Making cookies with Aunt C.

Christmas Eve dinner: Smoked Salmon, summer sausage, smoked gouda,
fruit, chips and nut roll!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

General Tsao's Chicken

KFC has its colonel; the Chinese have their general.

This is my first attempt at making one of my favorite pseudo-chinese (American Chinese) dishes, General Tsao's Chicken. I finally broke down and bought the actual pre-mixed General Tsao's sauce, which is expensive but turned out to be worth it. I used the recipe on the bottle for reference as to how much sauce to use and when in the cooking process to use it.

I think now I know how to mix my own sauce, I don't want to spend almost $5 a bottle too often!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The title says it all: Merry Christmas to all our readers, all our friends, and to all men of good will!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Toddlers, and Corn Bread

I was so happy earlier this week, Thing One actually sat down with us and ate dinner!  Not that he won't sit with us, he's just at that stage where he will only eat if he's dying of starvation.  I have many assurances that he'll grow out of it, and he's not loosing weight or getting sick from it. 

Anyway, I had dropped Nick off at work because I needed to do some grocery shopping, and ended up bringing his dinner.  I had been craving some cornbread all weekend, and picked up a container of cornmeal when I was shopping.  So the first thing I did when I got home was make some cornbread (recipe below).  Once it was in the oven I pulled some chicken out of the freezer and threw it in the microwave.  On the side I made fried green beans with onions and mushrooms.  So very tasty!

The boys and I got to Nick's work and set the food out on the picnic table, and waited for Nick to come out.  While we waited I offered Thing One a piece of cornbread with honey on it.  He'd almost finished it by the time Nick came out, and then he asked for some chicken! (Thing One just came along and drank all my tea! Pest.)  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Oreo Love!

I really should write something about Christmas cookies, it being the last week of Advent and I'm going to be making a lot of them this week.  But I'm not.  I'm going to write about how amazing Nick is and the pack of Oreo cookies he brought me the other week when I was feeling bad. 

I forget why I was upset, it was probably the amount of stress and lack of sleep that I've been under.  Not that those have gone away, I was just dealing with them poorly that week.  Well, Nick went grocery shopping on his way home from work one night and when he got home he asked what he could do to help me feel better.  Then he pulled out the Oreo's and asked if they would help. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

More on Chicken

I made this wonderful dish a few weeks ago, and it was very good.  I'm getting better about cooking chicken when we have it in the house. 

I had cooked this package of chicken all at once and put half aside for later (this post is about the later).  I cooked it diced with salt, pepper and garlic.  Thing One ate almost half of the whole pack that night. 

Anyway, the next day I fried a sliced onion and some spinach in butter.   Then I added the rest of the chicken.  I may have had mushrooms, I forget; I know I had black olives.  I stirred in some sour cream and Swiss cheese near the end.  Then I served it over fried potatoes.  It was good.  I would have been better with some more expensive things like goat cheese!  Oh well.  I suppose by the time we can buy goat cheese we'll have changed the name of the blog!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Reflections

A priest once told me that during Advent we should think on the Four Last Things, namely Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.  He said that that was part of the symbolism of the Advent candles; that each candle (and its corresponding week) was to to symbolize each one of the Four.  The pink candle, being a much softer and more joyful color, was for Heaven, to remind us of the hope we have and ever joy we will have when we get there.  Father said that it really was fitting to think on death while getting ready for Christmas because to really and fully prepare for the coming of Christ we must be ready for all that death means.

Nick and I have had these thoughts brought home to us this Advent; some of you may know that Nicks grandfather died the day after Thanksgiving.  We miss Grandpa, of course, but we are not saddened by his death.  Nick says the best way to describe Grandpa is that he was like a leaf. He lived his life according to its seasons, and with his face always towards the sun. 

I'm not sure how to wrap this up, so I'll borrow Nicks line: be aware.  Be aware of where you're going and what you're doing. And Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

More for the Holidays.

For some really odd reason the combination of garlic and worcestershire sauce creates one of THE smells of the Christmas season.  The people who came up with chex mix really hit on something with that.  I made some last night for the boys and had two startling realizations: that I've smelled cooking chex mix before, but not in a very long time, and that it is one of the smells that helps define the commercial holiday season. 

I cannot imagine where I would know this smell from, and my guess is that I was under the age of ten when I last smelled it.  I do have a vague memory of my mom making chex mix.  I know at some point she had to ask her mother for the recipe, which I've seen in her recipe box. 

And as far as associating this snack with Christmas, all I can guess is that it had something to do with the commercials of Charlie Brown mixing a bowl of chex and then all of his friends walking in and eating it all in front of his Christmas tree.

I ended up having to call my mom for the recipe since the last time I made it I had one of those official chex mix seasoning packets.  Mom gave me a list of ingredients that we compiled from her memory and what I guessed based on the flavor I remembered. When she found grandma's recipe it turned out we were right. 

My amounts were all a bit wrong, though.  I'd done half a stick of butter to about a cup of worcestershire sauce.  I think I ought to decrease the sauce by half.  And then I had about a tbsp of both garlic and onion powders.  Then I baked it. I started at 350°, and when the chex came out soggy I reduced it to 250°.  That worked better. 

My chex mix isn't perfect, in fact it has a very homemade-holiday feel, and I kinda like that. 

Bon Appetite!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ah, Sausage!

Just thought I'd make ya'lls mouth water for the heck of it. Sausage definitely makes my morning.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Of Hobbits And Mushrooms

I know a hobbit. Yes, a real, live, breathing hobbit. Her name is Nadine, and she is a good friend of mine. She is a huge sucker for mushrooms, naturally, being a hobbit, and I must have some hobbit blood too considering my penchant for mushrooms and my hairy feet.

Anyhow, we have become mushroom buddies of sorts on Facebook, exchanging mushroom cooking tips, swapping ideas, and generally just making each other hungry by telling mushroom stories. I know, we're weird, but hey! We're Hobbits. Nuf said.

So, anyhow, I found out today that not only had my wife made a wonderful pot roast for me to take to work, she had also had the good sense to purchase chicken and mushrooms at the same time as the roast. My morning was made.

I cut off between a quarter and a third of a stick of butter and melted it into a small wok, so that there was enough butter floating in their to sort of do a deep fry. I then took the chicken, which was sliced into tenders about six to eight inches long, and put four tenders in the pan to fry. I immediately added soy sauce, enough to darken the butter into a sort of dark sauce. I then sprinkled a couple pinches of sugar on top of everything and put the lid on the wok.

The lid is important: it holds the moisture in and makes for really tender chicken. Every time I let the whole thing sit, on went the lid.

After I let the chicken fry for one to two minutes on that side, I sprinkled garlic powder on it and let it fry until I could see the chicken turning white. At that point, I used a fork to carefully turn over each tender individually.

This is the point at which the hobbitness came into play. I got out the pack of baby mushrooms and sliced about eight of them into big slices right into the wok. Then I added a touch more soy sauce and closed the wok, waiting a minute or two longer.

When the chicken was finished frying, and the mushrooms were tender but not slimy, I took the pan off the heat, forked each tender onto a plate individually, and did the same for the mushrooms (I did this mainly so that I was not drowning the chicken on the plate with butter sauce.)

Not to toot my own horn, but it tasted amazing. Hurrah for mushrooms and chicken.

This one is dedicated to my mushroom buddy Nadine. Cook on, friend and be not afraid to fry the fungus!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The "Inconvenience" of Food

The Christmas season is always a ripe time for advertising specialty food items. And so it naturally should, since the season has always been associated with cookies, cakes, hot chocolate, egg nog, ham and turkey, stuffing, and numerous other delectables that only generally make an appearance once a year.

And yet, at the same time, I have noticed a truly disturbing trend amongst this advertising. This trend I suppose has been ongoing for the greater part of the last century, but only now has it seemed to truly strike home at the center of our philosophy here on this blog. I speak of advertising which specializes in creating the illusion of the "inconvenience" of cooking.

The reality of this was brought home to me quite rudely one day last week driving home from work. A commercial for a local bakery came on the radio, and the entire ad time was devoted to the portrayal of cooking as a chore akin to slavery, and that was the reason I should let them do all my holiday cooking for me. I was disgusted and disturbed. Is that the way our society really views cooking and food? If so, we are in sorry shape.

Food is one of God's most fantastic blessings on mankind. It is raw material for an unparalleled kind of creativity in man, an astounding opportunity to shape and to fashion and to continue the Creator's work. We are made in His image and likeness, and He loves to create. Why shouldn't we? He gives us vegetables, we give back ratatouille. He gives us sugarcane, we give back cupcakes. He gives us chickens, and we give back buffalo wings.

Cooking only becomes a chore, in my mind, when it is performed for purely selfish reasons, meaning cooking for its own sake. We are in a way both liberated and limited by food; liberated by the creative outlet provided by food, limited because we must eat to survive. Selfishness then has ample opportunity to creep into the process, especially since nowadays we seem to have tilted much more dramatically towards the perversion of eating to survive. Now we live to eat, rather than eat to live. And yet we don't want to have to cook. Odd conundrum.

I challenge all aspiring chefs out there to come to grips with yourself about the meaning of your cooking and why you do it. It should never be mixed with selfishness. The most satisfied you will ever be is when you cook for others and not just for yourself.

Cooking only becomes a problem when your reasons for doing so sour.

God bless the cook.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Corn Chowder

I've talked before about my corn soup, and I'd like to share a bit more about it.  And this might be kinda short because the boys and I are at the library, and they are running around. 

I've been making bread about once a week, and when I do, I make corn soup.  I generally end up eating the entire pot of soup with half a loaf of warm bread.  How I make the soup depends a lot on what I have in my cupboards.  I always use a can of creamed corn, half an onion, a tablespoon of vinegar and some milk.  I like to use sour cream and chicken flavoring--if I have any. 

This fall I've been experimenting with adding different vegetables.  Not much works.  The fried green peppers added the best flavor, but the peppers themselves became bitter.  Other green vegetables don't work, and if you're going to add tomatoes only use a small handful or you'll get a red soup. 

Last week I added some mashed potatoes.  I know that that sounds really weird, but it worked.  It made a thin potato soup with corn.  It was really good.  It would have been better if I'd had some leeks to add.  I love potato-leek soup.  I did try to get a picture, but my phone has been weird about pictures lately.

Okay, we need to leave the library and go somewhere they can run around. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Holiday Tea!

This is going to have to be a quick one, because we have to be out the door in about five minutes!  And we loose our internet access tonight, so my posts will depend on being able to drag the boys and the laptop to a wi-fi hotspot.  I apologize in advance for any inconvenience or lack of reading/cooking material.

This is a tea that I grew up with.  My mother always made it, and it's the perfect thing for a cold winter night!  I have no idea where she got the recipe but I'd like to share it with you.

Russian Tea

1/2C instant tea
1C sugar
2C tang
3oz. lemonade mix
1tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp cloves

*If you're using tea with lemon then omit the lemonade and decrease the sugar to 3/4C.

Mix all together and store in an airtight container.  Mix 1-2 tbsp into 6oz hot water.  Enjoy!