Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls: "Not Gooey Enough"

Per Taste Tester: not gooey enough. Obviously this whole web-celebrity-thing has gone to his head.

I used this recipe from the Food Network, and I did actually use less butter and sugar in the inside of the rolls than was required, which would've created more goo. The recipe is huge, next time I'll roll it out thinner so the layers are flakier, with more cinnamon swirl. And gooeyer.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Biscotti for Gifts

Get a look at how productive I am! Cookies yesterday (partial fail acknowledged), half my Christmas shopping done yesterday...and now the rest is getting done today! I'm going to make my work friends biscotti since we all enjoy our coffee. I've started with a recipe from The Professional Chef, which is a textbook/cookbook that Aunt Sadi gave me in 2007. It's like an encyclopedia for Cooking Like You Know What You're Doing.

Biscotti's also fun because it allows me to use my scale, which I LOF. This recipe, strangely, didn't call for any butter. I've probably got 24 or 36 individual biscotts from this one, but I plan to try another next round. They are flavored with almond extract and orange oil, but then I split the dough and went with fruit added for one, while I topped the other with chocolate and almond slivers.

2 lbs flour
0.7 lbs sugar
6 eggs
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp orange oil (I didn't have an orange to zest, but a tsp of zest would suffice)

Whisk the flour and soda together in a separate bowl while the mixer whisks the eggs, sugar, salt, and extract to be lighter in color and thick.
While that whisked, I chopped dried apricots and added a jigger of triple sec to them to soak. I also may have had a jigger. To be sure it was still good. You could do one or both of these things.

Next, incorporate the flour slowly. Due to the lack of any butter or fat, it's a super-sticky dough, but I rubbed some vegetable oil on my palms before I formed the dough on the pan.

Once the flour is incorporated, you can add any nuts or fruit you chose. Half of my dough got the drunken apricots. Half stayed sober.
I was out of parchment to bake them on, so one pan had a silicone liner and for the other I went old-school: Pam and flour. (As mentioned before, I greased up my hands for doing this so all the dough was on the pan instead of my hands.) Bake for an hour at 300 degrees, then allow the loaves to cool for 10-15 minutes.
Now slice with serrated knife from the corner inwards, as thick as an inch or thin as a half-inch. Lay them back on the baking sheet and bake again at 275 this time for 30 min.

Once cooled, I spread melted semi-sweet chocolate pieces on the side of the plain biscotti, then sprinkled with slivered almonds.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cooking FAIL and the Vengeful God of Mixers. But not epic fail.

From Ruby June's Cafe

This is the time of year I always make my favorite cookies: Ginger Honey Molasses Cookies. Last year...oh jeez, no--2007!...they were finally perfected. The amount of flour had to be adjusted, then I got them right.

This year, I used the Almighty Kitchen Aid Mixer and...lo, there was cooking fail. I used to get such an arm work out mixing them, but the AKAM whipped them up like egg whites, so the dough (usually dense) was more like mousse.I just figured out one screw-up: I used the whole egg instead of the yolks only.

But I really want to blame the Kitchen Aid, though it feels like blasphemy that I should only whisper or else something terrible shall befall me, like the Vengeful God of the Mixer might smite me where I stand, frowning at a lousy batch of cookies. They aren't even the right color!

Wait...they taste pretty good! Usually it's really hard not to overbake them. Maybe this isn't an epic fail. I'll let Rick decide if I give them away and make us some more in the old style.

One thing I wanted to share--my mom's wisdom for cooking tips. When you're using honey or molasses, grease your measuring cup/spoon/whatever. The sticky stuff dribbles right out without the messy clean-up. See? Go Mom!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Think They're Getting Along

And I think Molly got into our stash of crack again.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Addition To The Family

Our biggest baby yet: Gracie Lou

I think this close up looks like Stimpy:
(Yes I do know Stimpy was a cat.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tostones con Mojo

I love making this cuban side dish of fried plantains for a few important reasons:
1. Garlic garlic garlic
2. And then you add more garlic
3. The plantains are fried, smushed, then fried again. DOUBLE FRIED PEOPLE. If you were in Cuba, it would probably be double fried in LARD.

This went with some not-so-special pork roast. I usually also make boiled yucca, but time was limited for me so the plantains were our starch. Green plantains, which seem too hard to be useful, actually behave a lot like a potato: softer when fried, then better WHEN FRIED AGAIN.
The dip for the appetizer, called mojo (mo*ho), is crazy simple:
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • AS MUCH GARLIC AS YOU WANT ( I used four large cloves)
I used my hand blender to puree these together. As I said, this is a really garlicky dish, but mojo specifically is one of those rare sauces where the garlic is meant to be burn-your-tongue fresh. The vegetable oil smooths it out, but this is definitely for garlic lovers. Also, a traditional mojo might have pork fat drippings in place of the some or all of the oil. I added some to this version, and it was delicious. Some of the mojo was the marinade for our pork, and half was reserved for fresh dipping. Once you heat it in a pan, the garlic will have less of a bite, but I like the burn.

So once the mojo is ready, throw into the fridge and start the tostones:

Peel and deep-fry 1.5" lengths of green plantain (brown/yellow is too sweet for this) until they turn a darker yellow, about 1 minute or less.

Now commences the smushing of the plantains. I made a professional-grade smusher with a little ramekin that fit into an icecream bowl. My fulcrum of smush was a meat tenderizer.

After you've smushed them all, reheat your pan and toss them back into the grease! They'll need to brown up for about 30 seconds to a minute, then allow to cool before salting lightly. Serve with mojo on the side, but don't put up with sissies who won't try it. The mojo makes the dish.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The ThanksGiving Results

Well, our questionnable cut of lamb turned out good if a bit overcooked by me. After rubbing it with chopped rosemary, crushed garlic, fresh ground pepper, and olive oil, I trussed it tighter than Scarlett O'Hara's corset and roasted it at 450 for 30-40 min. Next time I will start at 450 for 20 minutes, then reduce to 350 for a little more so I achieve the med-rare I was hoping for. It was accompanied by amazing spinach artichoke casserole (to be re-posted at another time when I get the recipe), holiday favorite green bean casserole, and roasted root vegetables. The sauce for our lamb was a port reduction with lamb stock and rosemary.

A few photos were taken before we attacked everything, and I managed to get the pumpkin bread pudding dessert (thanks again Kitchen Witch!), which turned out just delicious. I think that concept could be applied in a french toast setting too, I might try that soon.

Though we lacked a turkey, I feel the Wild Turkey that I laced the dessert's icing with was sufficient to ease our pain.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Plans THWARTED

I think I've been had. I'm pretty sure my comedic buddies of no habla ingles at the carniceria have provided me part of a shoulder and ribs of a lamb. along with a tib/fib that yielded almost no meat.

I had a helluva time getting the bones out and I'm worried it might already be disaster.

Thanksgiving Plans

My family has a tradition of cooking Duck a l'Orange for Thanksgiving, but since this is the first year I can remember when I'm not working the last Thursday in November, Rick and I decided to do our own. Here's the plan, and afterwards I'll post the (hopefully non-disastrous and non-food-poisoning) results.

First, leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic, served with a port wine rosemary sauce. The rosemary I planted in our front yard is sourced from Jesus's own garden and actually almost smells like dark chocolate to me. Being from Jesus's rootstock, I think it's appropriate for the lamb.

On the side will be a spinach-artichoke casserole, roasted root vegetables, and something else.

For the dessert, I found this recipe for Pumpkin Bread Pudding (thanks Kitchen Witch! Hopefully it doesn't make us behave like grumpy old men!) which I plan to top with icing laced with whiskey.
borrego (illustration by 6 yr old me)

The interesting part is the lamb, which I bought from the carniceria where the butchers no habla inglese, so I searched lamb on the interwebs and asked them for la pierna de cordero, except I said cordoro, and additionally Rick says I sound like an Italian mobster when I try to speak Spanish. Too much accent. In any case, they understood me (after me and 3 butchers made sure I said "lamb" and not "ham") and gave me borrego. I'm also pretty sure they gave me some insults, judging by the laughter and joking amongst the butchers. But hey, 7 lbs of bone-in for $15? Plus a bag of produce for $4? I'll weather the embarrassment being laughed at, if in fact I was.

According to another interweb check, borrego is yearling lamb or maybe just sheep. So my move to be all support-your-local-butcher-austin-granola-extra-crunchy may actually lead to some tough chews, but hopefully not. Now to debone a leg and make my own stock!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Rainy Day Ravioli

Weather's drizzly here and Rick's got a busy important new job so I decided to do something I'd been planning for weeks: make a bunch of fresh ravioli and freeze it for dinners. I wasn't exactly the barefoot contessa at this, but I was barefoot, with quite a nice pedicure.

I started with the plan of mushroom ravioli, but ended up doing some butternut squash ravioli too. And then I went crazy and made walnut pate and put that in ravioli too!

I won't go through the pasta recipe--that can be found on my very first post. But for the mushrooms, I threw 16 oz of fresh shrooms in the processor and then sauteed them down to about 2.5 cups (seasoned with fresh garlic also and a dash of balsamic vinegar).

Next time, I think I will roast the mushrooms first, because they ended up being soggy and having to cook down for a while.

For the butternut squash filling, I roasted a split squash at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, then scooped it into the processor and pureed it with more fresh garlic.

My favorite was the walnut pate-- toasted walnuts, olive oil, a spoonful of cooked mushrooms, and fresh garlic. Salt and some parlsey and...vegetarian gourmet!A fantastic appetizer on toasted baguette. Almost too good to put into ravioli. Almost too good to let anyone else share...but I started to get really bad garlic breath after eating these four myself, so it went into the ravs.

First I laid pieces of flat pasta down, spooned the filling on them, and sealed them closed before cutting them with a pizza slicer (into the squares at top, the ones in front of the toes).

But that wasn't as pretty as cookie-cutter-ing circles and then sealing them up.
Let me just note here that in my opinion, dogs in the kitchen mean the food will taste better. I realize the health department doesn't always agree with me on this, but what do they know?

Then, following advice from a recent article I read, I let them chill in the freezer for ~15 minutes before throwing them in a bag. I meant to do 4 bags, but 2 seemed like enough and that gave me leftover pasta dough.

This hermetically sealed bag was closed with the advanced technology I call "Close the bag most of the way and then suck the air out with your mouth."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

New England Vacation

We enjoyed a very long holiday seeing Manhattan, upstate New York, then traveling to Portland Maine and down the coast through Portsmouth, Salem, Hyannis Port, Newport (RI), then back through Long Island before heading home. The foliage was great, the towns lovely, the history a little lacking, and the food expensive. Here's half the total photos capturing a fraction of our fun.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

First Fall Dish: Pot Pie

After a disappointing escapade with beer can chicken (he tried 3 different beers, smoked the chickens for over an hour, and they all tasted exactly the same: like smoked chicken), we have a fridge full of chicken. So of course, chicken pot pie came to mind, and it suited our first fall weather. I believe this is the first time I can remember September in Austin being pleasant.

This is my base recipe for pot pies, with a little cheating on the crusts. But from this I've done many variations with vegetables like spinach, potatoes, and this time okra. I'd like to try using chipotle some time, or curry with a potato, samosa-like filling.

2 frozen pie crusts
1 can cream of something soup (chicken is a go to, but mushroom and also onion make for a great gravy inside)
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken
2 cups vegetables, pre-cooked (suggestions for an easy mix are peas, carrots, onions, and diced potatoes)
Few dashes garlic salt

Defrost the crust and bake one for ~8 minutes so the base will retain its crisp. Mix together all other ingredients, pour into pre-baked crust. Invert other crust on top and carefully pry off its aluminum pan. Press the edges to seal in your gravy, but expect it to boil out anyway and mess up your oven (as illustrated below). Bake at 375 for 40 min to an hour, and keep an eye on the crust to be sure it doesn't burn.One final note-if you prefer less gravy, you can leave out the milk.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Tree Dies In Austin

A little photo essay of our dead tree being cut down. It now will be a stump through Halloween (to hold pumpkins) but we're accepting ideas of what to replace it with.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Kayaking on Lake Austin

I know it seems like I haven't been cooking lately, but I have. I just forget to photograph the interesting dishes.
Here's our recent kayaking trip on Lake Austin closest to the dam. Next time we're taking lunch and a dog with us.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Most Beautiful Baby EVAH

Presenting Miles Waverly Oliphant, the most adorable (and my all-time-favorite) pseudo-nephew Eh-Ver.
Also to be Known As...LittlePants.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Home Improvement MADNESS

Here's the arbor Rick built this weekend, with hanging plants, a fan on the way, and water misters. MISTERS PEOPLE.
I'll have to take some clearer photos of the finished product after he hung all the plants.

P.S. Mom--we've decided we'll take you up on the offer for a beer fridge. We're just gonna give up on work and open a little cafe on the back deck.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Meestery is SOLVED!!!

UPDATE: Meet Erythrina crista-galli, also commonly known as the Coral Tree. In climates with no freezes, it's a big tree. In places that freeze, it grows and flowers then dies back to the base until summer returns. Now we'll try to propagate seeds in Florida to see how they compete with the mothership. Auntie Dee, seeds are on their way!

Previous post:
We thought we had identified our plant as an Australian coral pea,
Kennedia rubicunda, but the more educated minds that are asked to consider the mystery (Mounts Botanical Garden, The Palm Beach County Extension Service, a waiter in FL with a green thumb and an iPhone, and also very big books about plants), the less certain we are of its origins. But, he's now officially a celebrity in Florida...and looking a bit yellowish-green around the gills in Texas (29 straight days above 100 degrees). Since one expert guessed it was a Texas plant, I'll try to contact a Texan expert soon and see if there's an answer here!

Monday, July 6, 2009


The deck is done. Incredibly hard work for 3 days but so worth it.