Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Today. I cooked. My face off.

Misery loves company cooking.  Lots of things have me down lately.  Bad attitudes.  Bad appraisals.  Boredom.  Illness.  If all my stuff wasn't boxed up, I would normally clean every inch of my apartment.  Since that would be pointless, today I cooked.  Everything.  Mostly foods I like.  And I didn't take pictures, because these are comfort foods.  They ain't pretty.  And my camera has sand it in from that time I took it to the river, so I'm getting a little help from creative commons photos nabbed from wikipedia.  Here goes.

First up were some pickled beet eggs.  This time I used fresh beets instead of canned, and the results are pending.  I can't imagine much of a difference, except I suspect the fresh beets will be more flavorful.  Why do people skydive or run marathons or choose natural child birth?  Just to say they did it?  I suspect this will be the case with my pickled beets.  I used five out of the six eggs I had. ***Update:  These are the best pickled beet eggs I have ever had.  I added a cinnamon stick and it was definitely worth it.
How my mousse would look if I took a picture.   With weird leaves and sticks.   From Wikimedia.
One egg was used in my recipe for Chocolate Mousse.  Right out of the same cookbook I've been using, Quick Foods.  It came out kind of heavy, so I'm not sure what I would do next time (whipping the cream before adding it?).  The recipe was kind of strange in that the ingredients called for coffee liqueur, but nowhere in the instructions did it mention when to add it.  No worries folks, it made its way in there.  Tasting more like ganache, I could only eat half a serving.  It's delicious but has that "I'm frickin' terrible for you" heavy chocolate flavor.

One thing I did here, and it was totally for convenience, was to spoon the mousse into the smallest gladware containers you can buy, which is a 4 oz size, and topped with a little homemade whipped cream.  It's perfect because each container has a lid to keep it fresh.  Not terribly classy, but it might just be if you are the only one bringing a french dessert in your lunchbox at work.

Along the lines of pickled items, I used a can of salmon I had to make an easy pickled salmon + onions.  I remember liking it a lot as a kid, and my grandma gave me instructions on how to make it once.  All the recipes I looked up called for fresh salmon (duh) but I'm not about to use that until I've tried it once Grandma's way.  The salmon in the can was kind of yucky to me (pre-pickling), but Mr. Furball didn't mind the extra bits.

baby salmon are as adorable as their parents are delicious. Around
here, you can visit a salmon hatchery to see them jumping "upstream" into water jets.
I also made salmon dip. This is good because my eye doctor told me to eat lots of oily fish for my eyes. Cream cheese-based dips are easy if you have a food processor.  This recipe also came from my book, but dips like this are common and involve the following:

  • Some kind of fish.  Smoked Trout, Smoked Salmon, maybe crab?  I'm pretty serious about oily fish, so I might try herring someday.  Maybe a combo?  I found that salmon comes in 4, 8 and 12 oz packages.  4 oz is really enough.
  • Cheese.  I used cream cheese.  Try Neufchatel, it's got less fat.  I was going to but I couldn't make a solid decision at the store.  1 box of 8 oz is enough.  (get the box rather than the tub so you can slice it and use it in your food processor)
  • Seasonings.  People like dill with Salmon.  Lemon Pepper is also a good choice with fish. Do what you love.
  • I added plain yogurt.  It's tangy and made of awesome.   This made my dip thinner and more spreadable. 
  • Capers.  In case you used smoked salmon.  They are like eating sad, pickled flowers.  Well, that is literally what they are.  Don't put them in, they are more of a topping.
Process these.  If you are awesome, serve it in a bread bowl.

Side note:  The Pacific Northwest and Alaska are famous for having lots of salmon in general.  Think that would make smoked salmon cheap here?  No it does not.  Still the most expensive item on my list, save perhaps the jumbo bottle of Kahlua I bought to make the mousse. 

How do I feel now?  It doesn't matter, I have dishes to do.

Fishy Goodness. (warning: educational)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fall Favorites, recipes and a new scarf.

Fall begins early in the Pacific Northwest, and may actually last two or more months.  Where I grew up in the Northeast, fall is a quick week-and-a-half-long event right between the hot, humid of summer and the (i n c r e d i b l y) cold and dry winter.  Basically only the third week in October is spared.

But here in Oregon, Fall is a long, slow affair with some sunny days, trending towards mainly rainy ones.  Leaves may turn and slip off the trees slowly.  Sweater weather lasts a long, long time.  Soup is a perfect meal.

I found this book at work, recently. Quick Food (which is shockingly published by Readers' Digest) contains over 300 recipes that you can make in half an hour. Most recipes produce about 4 servings, perfect for two people (with leftovers) or a modern-sized family of 1-2 children.  Since I work in the library, I've come across lots of different recipe books so far, but with so many fast recipes to choose from, this book is a winner.  I've already made two soups from it, it's great!

The first soup I made was the potato leek soup.  So good, and only a few (very affordable) ingredients.  My husband and I had seconds, its fabulous and really does only take 30 minutes.

Tonight I'm making the Thai Sweet Potato soup.  Currently, its still on the stove.

Update:  Sweet Potato soup was good.  Good enough to make me eat the leftovers, which I hate to do.  I might use this recipe and substitute pumpkin chunks for the sweet potato for a good fall Thai soup.  Its much easier than the easy pumpkin soup I've been making for years now, which is already extremely easy.  But cooking with sweet potatoes is easy in its own way, much less cleaning and cutting than when using pumpkin.  I suspect this will still work though!

The book has everything from starters, meat, poultry, vegetable dishes, soups and desserts.  Many of the soups can easily be made vegetarian or vegan simply by swapping chicken broth for vegetable broth.  Its perfect for nearly no-mess, neat-little-package kind of cooking.  Beginning to end (and probably cleaned up) in an hour.

Since soups don't photograph very well, here's something prettier that I've made lately:

Palmiers are easy to make, made with frozen puff pastry and sugar, they are nearly foolproof.  Good instructions can be found here:  Palmiers.

Hot off the needles:  Shizuku Scarf.  Easy, nearly meditative knitting produces a triangular-shaped scarf with fun dangly fringe.  Balloon loves it, naturally.

 Perfect for fall and made with my favorite yarn:  Noro Kureyon.  The pattern is free, make it yourself!  Suitable for advanced beginners.