1.29.2013

Mmm, frankfurt enchiladas

Friday night was the extremely important holiday of Burns Night, a fact of which you are already aware if you are lucky enough to be on my contacts list because I definitely texted you and demanded that you start drinking scotch. But at least I didn't demand that you start eating cullen skink, which is what I was doing at the time.

"Perfect" cullen skink, according to The Guardian! Don't get any skinkier.
I actually liked it quite a bit, since it's basically just chowder which means it involves potatoes and comes in a bowl. Good enough! Not as good as my Official Authorised Edition of The Robert Burns World Federation Blended Scotch Whisky. But good.

Easiest. Theme. Ever.
I also made the gromack for dessert, by which I mean Dan made the gromack for dessert, by which I mean he made a variation of it called atholl brose which apparently is actually a cocktail. In fact, Wikipedia does not acknowledge the existence of gromack, or rather it does but calls it cranachan instead. Ugh. This is all terribly befuddling and I haven't even had any atholl brose this morning. Just know that we made an oatmeal-honey-whiskey soup and it was a lot better than it had any right to be.

Best to move on to Cookbook #11 before I get confused and just start transcribing "To a Haggis." The Essential Appetizers Cookbook (Whitecap Books, 1999). Provenance: Mom. Previous recipes on this blog: none. If I was amused by the Britishness of Good Food Fast, I was straight delighted by the Australianhood of this sucker. The presence of "Mini Corn Dogs" in the "Tex-Mex" section, for example, is fascinating. Also the fact that the recipe includes six instances of the word "frankfurt." Skewer those frankfurts for an authentic Tex-Mex experience! I also enjoy that nachos are, I absolutely swear to you, called "Spicy Tortilla Triangles."

But I shouldn't make fun, partly because I'm the one who's been walking around calling cranachan "gromack" like a fool,  A FOOL, and partly because there are really a lot of nice-looking recipes in here. I personally would eat the hell out of some spicy tortilla triangles. But for book club on Saturday I decided to go slightly more upscale, selecting Crostini with Pepper (or Capsicum if you are Australian and confused by the word Pepper) Roulade. I thought a roulade sounded 1) kinda fancy and 2) like something I would probably botch and I know that's secretly why you all come here.

You're in luck!
Joke's on you though, schadenfreudists, as roasted peppers on toast taste perfectly good even if they aren't in nice froufy little circles.

I'm only ever aiming for an appearance of "more or less intentional."
And I have to say, they were beautifully repurposed for breakfast yesterday.

Sometimes I am using the eggs to hide mistakes. NOW YOU KNOW.

Verdict: lots of appetizers. I like appetizers. I am childishly amused by the language quirks of other English-speaking nations. Keeper!

Hey Anna, isn't it super nice of Cali to be reading you a story?


Well, don't take it personally, Cali. She was in kind of a mood after a recent bout of engineering failure.

Let's see, maybe if I can...

...just get it to...

...womp womp.


1.25.2013

My first child was not a climber please help me

I really try not to go through an entire week without eating soup, especially when it is technically winter no matter how strongly the fact that everyone in my family is wearing shorts today indicates otherwise. So, carrot soup it is then!

It's the time of year when everything looks dark and sad because I have not yet bought myself a lightbox but I assure you this bowl was quite lively in person.
I also made crepes! Look how crepe-y and normal (okay, and dark and sad) they look!

Basically like omelets but way more infuriating.

Which makes me seem like a person with some basic level of proficiency in the kitchen only because you didn't witness the dozen tragic attempts before I managed to find a temperature/swirling technique that kept them more or less in one piece. Check out my irrepressible optimism though, nudging all those sad, mutilated crepelets over to one side to make way for what will probably definitely turn out fine next time.

The plate is only half-full! Of failure!
And then I made a plantain and meat casserole, which is what happens when one takes pity on one's theme-besieged husband.

There are worse things.
Ivy has been doing a lot of lounging lately.


In various locations/levels of physical danger.



But I do think we as a family have almost mastered "Cheese!" 

Barely nightmarish at all!

1.22.2013

Salads, rocks, we'll all be skinny in no time

Hey, an internet recipe! How new-fangled! This Caprese Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Reduction had a really nice flavor happening with the tomato, fresh mozzarella, and basil. It's a classic combination, but it had never crossed my mind to throw it on top of a chicken breast.

HANG ON DID I JUST GET TRICKED INTO MAKING MEATZA AGAIN?

As I am ahead of schedule on Expedition Cookbook, I'm taking the week off and reverting to my Pinterest-led comfort zone. Also, a couple of days ago I found this somewhat wary-sounding note next to a stack of cookbooks in the kitchen.

Dan is nothing if not longsuffering.

I was mostly very lazy this long weekend and let professional establishments feed me (Central Market and Black Star, respectively). I have to say, they did a bang-up job.

I like that the menu in no way indicates the prodigious amount of butter involved in this roasted salmon, because it lets me feel virtuous when ordering and still get to eat a prodigious amount of butter.

Hard to feel virtuous ordering fried chicken. UNLESS YOU ADD A LOCAL GREENS SALAD. Ah crap, I'm never going to win Biggest Blogging Loser if I keep giving away my brilliant dieting strategy.

We tried to take advantage of our stretch of beautiful weather this weekend by spending a lot of time at playgrounds. Nice ones! With pleeeeenty of fun activities! I have to admit I was sort of hoping that Ivy, my more adventurous child, would find entertainment outside of "trying to eat rocks."

If anything she's just going to overachieve and "succeed in eating rocks."
Well. At least Anna is big enough now to take proper advantage of playground equipment.


1.18.2013

No Meat Week

When I started mentally dividing the cookbooks into themes, I guess I envisioned Vegetarian Week as more of a thing than it turned out to be, probably because it was really just How I Mostly Cooked For Several Years Before Paleo Confused Me Week. So the drama it generated was pretty low-key. More chopping of things! Lower grocery bill! As long I get to eat cheese the world feels like a reasonable place to live!

I will probably never be an actual vegetarian for the following reasons: 1) At some point it was decided that mushrooms are "close enough to meat, I guess" and they make up the bulk of vegetarian offerings when eating out and they are gross; 2) Existence of brisket; 3) Too lazy to take a hard line on optional dietary restrictions. But I can go pretty long stretches without even noticing that meat is missing, so this week's collection will probably all stay in rotation for that reason alone.

Cookbook #7: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (Mark Bittman, 2007). Provenance: I bought it. Previous recipes on this blog: I am absolutely certain there are some hiding somewhere, but my time-tested strategy of "cursory pass at the blog search function" says none, so none.

Recipe: Peanut Soup, Senegalese Style. I lost myself in the soup section of this book for quite some time. In fact, I was so taken with the soups that I haven't even studied the egg chapter yet. I was looking for something comforting and veggie-filled and time-in-the-fridge-improving. I figure peanut soup either sounds disgusting or amazing to you, so I won't bother proselytizing here, but some of you are really wrong.

Hot peanuts for dinner, come on, it's like something from a dream.
Verdict: obviously a keeper, as I have about 82 more soups to make. Downside: no pictures. This is another encyclopedic-type tome, best evidenced by the section in the intro titled "How To Use This Book." Recommended for: people who like vegetables, charts.

Cookbook #8: Vegetarian: The Best-Ever Recipe Collection (Linda Fraser, 1998). Provenance: the bargain section, from the looks of things.

Hard to go wrong at 2.6 cents per recipe, honestly.
I'm pretty sure Dan brought this one into our union, which means it was likely obtained in college. I cannot attest to the use it got before my arrival. Previous recipes on this blog: none.

Recipe: Vegetable Moussaka. Yes, that is a mushroom. Listen, I'm not devoted to my quarrel with fungus. I'm staying open-minded. Anyway, I found it to be "not bad," but both of my children (who would not eat peanut soup, WEIRDOS) ate it without complaint, which bumps the grade up to A++++++.

Plus there's a nice little egg-yogurt-cheese roof over it! Keeping everything warm and dairyful.
Verdict: there's actually quite a bit of appealing stuff in here, which I know because of all the beautiful color pictures, Mark Bittman. Recommended for: anyone with $6 to spare.

Cookbook #9: Easy Vegetarian Dinners (2003). Provenance: another bargain-bin find, I remember picking this one up at Barnes and Noble for $3-4 a few years ago. Previous recipes on this blog: none that CursorySearch could turn up.

Recipe: Ranch Eggs. Not to be confused with Huevos Rancheros, which appear nine pages later and are clearly different due to...using chopped onions instead of sliced, I guess? That's okay, I'm no stranger to juggling multiple eggs-with-tomato-sauce desires.

Especially since "Sprinkle with cheese" appears in both.
Verdict: I have a soft spot for this one, since I used to cook out of it all the time when Dan and I started playing house (there are several notes from dishes made in 2005). Looks like the most marked-up sections are..."Eggs and Cheese" and "Soups," so, you know. Ever evolving.

Cookbook #10: Super Natural Every Day (Heidi Swanson, 2011.) Provenance: I bought this for myself for Christmas last year. Previous recipes on this blog: Cabbage and White Beans, Miso-Curry Squash with Tofu and Greens, Split Peas and Pesto with Salad Greens, Spinach Chop, Broccoli Gribache, the beeeeeest Cauliflower Soup.

Not only are there pictures in this one, there are insanely beautiful pictures that make everything up to and including kale salad look like a good idea. Recipe: I repeated the miso-curry squash that I made around this time last year. Instead of serving it on rice again, however, I served it on...extra kale.

This is due to my being rather fatter than I was last January. Always a safe bet when the k-word pops up in 50% of a given week's dinners.
Verdict: this book is lovely and it contains my favorite cauliflower soup. Downside: I am spoiled by the vastness of Bittman and Kimball and it seems like there's not that much to this one. It's sort of...slight. Recommended for: anyone who doesn't believe me that "Broccoli Gribache" can be made to look very appealing.

Anna's cup of crayons was on the bitter side this morning.



Oof, definitely.

Ah, well. Must press on!



Cash and Scarlett visited us for a bit yesterday and I was proud to see that my young ladies are responding to the grueling Gracious Hostess training I have been putting them through. They hit all the basic markers of a good host, such as staying attentive and engaged:


...and upright.




1.15.2013

Sometimes when I don't have jokes I just link to old posts that do

Being the model of cookbook-exploring efficiency that I am, I snuck the recipe from Cookbook #5: The Four-Sided Cookie (Lorraine Bodger, 2000) into my Food Lush post yesterday. Provenance: Mom. Previous recipes on this blog: none. My only complaint about this book is the lack of pictures. Even before my brain was Pinterest-fried I vastly preferred cookbooks with pictures, and that has only intensified as the internet continues to draw me to visuals over text, and also...some stuff...with my...attention span.

But most of these recipes (Lemon Squares, Cream Cheese Squares, Granola-Date Bars, etc.) are pretty easy to picture, so you don't really need photographs as a guideline. Verdict: I can see coming back to this for easy playgroup snacks once in a while. And there are some Fudge Fingers on page 34 that seem worth exploring.

Cookbook #6: The Cook's Bible (Christopher Kimball, 1996) is one of several in my collection that I regret not referencing more frequently. Provenance: Mom. Previous recipes on this blog: none. With Christopher Kimball (also responsible for Cookbook #1) at the helm, you know everything will be thoroughly researched and plainly laid out, although (as commenter Gaby pointed out in the America's Test Kitchen post) it might also be a touch on the bland side. Apparently Kimball is a supertaster and is overwhelmed by spicy foods. (For more information on supertasters, please refer to the song by They Might Be Giants, who have written about every important aspect of human experience.)

Recipe: Pasta with Olives and Red Peppers. This one is pretty self-explanatory. It was easy to put together and it was a combination that really worked for me. And kind of pretty! Although, I did cut the oil in half and really didn't miss it.

I guess if I couldn't eat spicy stuff I might just start doing extra shots of olive oil too.

Bonus Recipe: Cider Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon and Allspice. Well...maybe I could have used slightly more thorough and plainly laid out instructions on this one, since they ended up looking like this:

It has been pretty cold lately, so having your side dish resemble the fiery pits of Hell isn't the worst thing.
Verdict: there is a lot of information in this thing. It's really half-cookbook, half-encyclopedia. There is an entire page devoted to What You Need To Know About Kosher Salt. There are endless diagrams of cuts of meat and reviews of thirteen different pressure cookers. In the process of writing this post I bookmarked two pages ("Shopping For Knife Sharpeners" and "Potatoes Explained"). So I will definitely be returning to it, probably before the end of the day.

Yikes, looks like Sesame Street is especially harrowing this morning.

Or just vaguely disappointing.
Oh hey, Ivy! Cool medal!

SUBLIMINALBRAGSUBLIMINALBRAGSUBLIMINALBRAG

1.11.2013

Let's all take a moment to appreciate the Scottish approach to oatmeal

I'm having an absurdly difficult time focusing this morning, so let's just jump right in to Cookbook #3: Good Food Fast, Malcolm Hillier, 1995. Provenance: Mom. Previous recipes on this blog: none. Recipe: Moroccan Chicken.

This brown and beige pile is slightly more exotic than the others, because of cardamom.
The layout of this cookbook is interesting. It's physically divided into thirds, so that you can line up any combination of appetizer, main course, and dessert in one view. Those three categories are then further organized by how long they (theoretically) take to prepare: 10, 20, or 30 minutes. So, for example, you could whip up some Thai Coconut Soup, Lamb Noisettes with Herb Crust, and a Melon Tarte Tatin in a total of one hour.


Or rather, you could do that if the time designations, like BASICALLY ALL PREP TIME ESTIMATES EVERYWHERE, were not a giant flaming lie. I have learned to ignore these notations on most recipes, but when the entire premise of the book hinges on how quickly these things come together, I feel compelled to point out that yes the Moroccan Chicken took about 20 minutes to cook after I had spent 45 minutes prepping all the ingredients. So, let's eliminate "Fast" from the equation, leaving us with Good Food.

OR DOES IT? (Sometimes I wish for sound cues on this thing so hard.) There was nothing particularly bad about the recipe I made, but it didn't exactly whisk me away to Marrakesh. I feel like I have had a similar combination of ingredients with a higher flavor return before, although I am not motivated enough to research that for you.

If you will indulge me in a touch of culinary stereotyping, I suspect that the toned-down flavor may be at least partially the result of the Britishness of this collection, as the people of that fine island seem to have evolved a palate so delicate as to not require the use of salt or spices. Which is fine, and probably money-saving, but my tongue is a bit duller and I should have just tripled all of the seasonings. On the other had, the great benefit of a British-penned cookbook is discovering delicacies such as Gromack, a Scottish dessert composed entirely of oats, heavy cream, honey, and whiskey.

Verdict: I feel like I didn't really give this one a fair shake, since I didn't use it for three courses as intended, so maybe I'll return to it. I'd also like to get my hands on some Gromack, although I'm confused as to why it's classified as a dessert and not a breakfast. It's basically what I had for breakfast this morning, just all mixed in one bowl.

Cookbook #4: Appetite for Reduction, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, 2011. Provenance: I bought this one! Previous recipes on this blog: Braised Cabbage with Seitan, Ethiopian Millet with Mushroom Tibs, Brussels Sprouts-Potato Hash, Red Lentil and Root Vegetable Dal, Curried Cabbage and Peas, Caldo Verde, Pasta de Los Angeles, Cozy Collards with Tempeh. Moskowitz, of Post Punk Kitchen, is a pretty big name in the meatless world, probably best known for her Veganomicon.

Recipe: Goddess Ni├žoise. At first I thought I had made a mistake, picking a "veganized" recipe of a salad, when the only real step required is "leave out the tuna." But she fills in the fish gap with a mushy combination of chickpeas, capers, and a miso-based dressing that is surprisingly satisfying. (Note: I do NOT always accept this chickpeas-for-tuna swap so readily.)

That'll do, fake tuna.
Obviously I like this book, as I have used it many times. Recommended for: really anyone looking for interesting ways to use vegetables. I am constantly de-veganizing these recipes and still find them useful.

Whew! With all that work in the kitchen and archives and whatnot I sort of forgot to take any pictures of the girls this week. Hey Anna quick! Look sharp!

Skeptical of this strategy.
Okay, you too Ivy!

Oh, Ivy is (sometimes) walking now. You probably thought that happened at some point in the last six months  and I just didn't bother mentioning it, but no. Now.

1.08.2013

2013: Way More Explainy

Thank goodness I have the Austin Events Calendar to notify me of important dates such as "Elvis Presley's birthday," otherwise how would I have known to add peanut butter and banana to my oatmeal this morning? (Recipe inspired by Oh She Glows and The King.)

All it's missing is a sprinkling of pharmaceuticals.
Believe it or not, my family did not seem remotely impressed by my holiday theme-breakfast. I guess you guys can just make your own plates of Elvis's Birthday Tribute next year.

Okay, enough of that, time to get to work. As noted in the comments last week, it might be awkward to mock certain items if said items were gifted to me by someone reading the blog, which is a good point because that is 100% the case. I'm going to guess that out of the hundred cookbooks, 70-something were gifts from one person who shall remain nameless here but who is related to me by virtue of being my mother.

I should explain that starting around the time I moved out of my parents' house there was a several-year stretch of Christmases which served as an on-your-own outfitting for my brother and me, which means that my unusually extensive cookbook collection is essentially my hope chest. Being a food-oriented people as we are, instead of sheets and dishes it happens to contain a small library of instructions on how to make hors d'oeuvres. (This book hoarding seemed significantly more reasonable in an age when no one relied entirely on the internet for obtaining recipes.) Also, my mother has a very generous and space-consuming "Why one or two when fifteen is an option?" gifting policy.

All of which is to say, most volumes from these stockpiling years are very nice and simply underutilized. And if I find that the 365 Brand Name Casseroles are not for me? I'm confident that Mom can take it.

Cookbook #2: Emeril's TV Dinners, 1998. Provenance: Mom. Previous recipes on this blog: none. Released two years before he was given his own extremely well-thought-out sitcom on NBC, this cookbook hit shelves when Lagassemania was just about at its peak. And look how young he looks!

Adorable.
As the title implies, this book is really intended for die-hard fans of Emeril Live, featuring recipes that are basically swimming with behind-the-scenes pictures of the show's production. For example, as you prepare Fried Sweet Potato Pies you also get an exciting peek at makeup artist Janet Arena getting Emeril ready for the show! There are cameramen, and audio engineers, stage managers, Emeril with his mom, Emeril with the butcher, Emeril with the Food Network president, Emeril with Elmo. Recommended for: people who reeeeeeeeally like looking at Emeril.

Recipe: St. John's Club Kale Soup. The recipes in this book run the gamut from "Whole Roasted Squabs Stuffed with Eggplant and Bacon Dressing" to "Kicked-Up Pigs in a Blanket," which is to say, from fancy use of pork product to less fancy use of pork product. The soup I made, for example, is full of chorizo.

Not complaining!
It was actually a little less...BAM-y than I expected, but it had a nice gentle spiciness and I'm always happy when my bowl is full of warm potatoes. It was ideal for a rainy winter day. If I can pick my way through the hundreds of pictures of the guy, I think there are several other recipes worth trying out. Will revisit.

Anna was having a pretty rough stretch on Saturday, so I thought a Mommy-daughter ice cream date might help turn things around.


Er...maybe we just need to let her make some more progress on that cone. Give the sugar a chance to kick in.

See? She's totally considering enjoying herself now.


1.04.2013

I got 99 cookbooks in my kitchen, FUN!

Haaa today's title is a stretch even for me, sorry about that. It's rainy here and that makes me sleepy and joke-reachy. It's also a lie, as I have over one hundred cookbooks. How do I know this? Because incessantly inspirational person Jennie announced that she is going to cook one recipe from her cookbook collection every week throughout 2013 and as I glanced around I thought I should definitely do that too.

If you're havin' food problems I feel bad for you son

So I counted them to see what I was dealing with exactly and when I realized there were over one hundred of them I knew that I must spin this very reasonable goal out into a ridiculous project that will make me miserable by March. Yay! One recipe from every cookbook it is. (Watch out, Heidi Swanson! Just kidding, one of your books is totally in there.) NEW YEAR NEW PROJECT HEY I think my coffee is kicking in. Anyway, I'm pretty sure the problem with all of my past endeavors was a lack of adequate scope.

I've actually rounded it off to an even hundo, and here is a quick accounting of how even though I don't feel that I need to explain my art to you, Warren Internet. I am not counting my canning books because they are so specific, although if I get a preserving itch along the way I will certainly consult them. I am counting the five slim volumes of the PILLSBURY HOLIDAY COOKING COLLECTION as one book. I am not counting the instruction booklet that came with my mixer. I am not counting the three organic cooking-for-baby/kid books, nor am I dwelling on the fact that I could have written the words "apples, crackers, cheese" on a Post-It and saved about $40 there.

I am counting the cocktail and sangria books, as well as the slightly weirdo Amy Sedaris and Achewood books. I am also including what seems to be a promotional pamphlet from Tabasco which promises to help me "cook like a MAN." Neat!

Of note: five of my cookbooks contain the word "chocolate," and that is not counting the Hershey and brownie ones.

I know it will be hard to narrow down which bit of deliciousness to pick from some of them. Some of them look very interesting. Some look very...interesting.

Anyway, why don't we get started? No time like the present, am I right fellow New-Year-ambition enthusiasts? Cookbook #1 is my most recent acquisition, The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, which I received for Christmas from my brother-in-law. This is a giant, serious, amazing-looking tome. They test and test and re-test. Testing is right there in the name. It has many tasty-sounding recipes with easily acquired ingredients and thorough technique explanations. Every recipe introduction includes reasons why homemade versions of this particular dish usually suck, which amuses me.

I went with Almond-Crusted Chicken with Wilted Spinach-Orange Salad, transcribed here. Nice, simple, good flavors, fairly healthy. Thumbs up, will re-visit many times.


If I were a smart person I would spend the entire year cooking out of this one cookbook and live a happy, contented life, but that's not really my style.

So, off to a good start! I'm sure the quality of the other 99 is just as high I'm looking at you, book titled "Stuff It!".

On the kidfront, my cosmetics mentorship continues apace.