Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Saved!!!!!

Thanks to my friend Julie, I no longer have to wonder how many people are reading my blog! She pointed me in the direction of blogpatrol.com, and I now have a cute little counter and access to some stats for my blog.

From now on I'll know how often my mom reads my blog.... :)

I Give Up!!!!!

I have been trying to decide whether or not to monetize my blog. In order to make this decision, it would be nice if I knew how many people were visiting my site on a daily basis. Unfortunately, I can not get Google Analytics to work. I have tried to find help on the Google Analytics page, as well as through Blogger, but so far have been unsuccessful. Every time I install the tracking code on my template, it causes the background color of my blog to disappear.

If anyone reads this blog and can help me fix this- PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT! If I can't figure out how to get stats on my site through Blogger, I am thinking about moving over to Wordpress- where I'd get stats for free without having to alter the template of my blog. There are 2 downsides to this plan....1- I have read horror stories about trying to copy posts between Blogger and Wordpress, and 2- If the posts won't transfer, I would have to just link to the old posts and start completely over, losing the readers I already have.

It's times like this when I wish I had computer techie friends to get me out of jams of this nature.

HELP!!!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

TV Chef Pioneers- Take 1 (Jeff Smith aka "The Frugal Gourmet"

Jeff Smith (1939-2004) began airing his tv cooking show "The Frugal Gourmet" in 1988. While not the earliest cooking show I watched, it made a huge impression on me. He did series of shows on different topics, and there was usually an accompanying cookbook.

I remember episodes with Elmo (who hasn't done a kids cooking segment with Elmo? By now he knows enough about cooking to have his own cooking show). And I also remember episodes about different cultures and foods. Mr. Smith was always very informative about the history and cultures that produced the ingredients. I probably learned as much about geography and history as I did about cooking. I don't remember a single recipe from the show, but I remember the lessons.

My mom never had much to say about this show. She probably didn't watch it. By this time I was in college and not around as much.

I found this video on youtube, and I included it because it just so happens that he is on David Letterman promoting the very cookbook I have on my shelf ("The Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook").



Unfortunately, The Frugal Gourmet's career came to an abrupt end in the early 90's "when two of his male assistant chefs brought charges of sexual harassment against him." (quote from Wikipedia). The cases never went to court because they were settled outside of it. At the time it was happening, I knew none of this. I just knew that the show suddenly disappeared after almost 10 years. As a matter of fact, I didn't even know he had died until I looked him up on Wikipedia to write this post.

I will leave it up to the individual to decide if damnation of his lifestyle overrides appreciation of his talent. As for me, I think he was way ahead of his culinary time, and the information he gave is worthwhile, even if he had other personal flaws. I enjoyed the book immensely and will be cooking several recipes from it this week! Which means that The Frugal Gourmet will also be this week's featured cookbook.

Stay tuned....

Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes......

I've been thinking about adding some weekly features to this blog. I've also been not sleeping a lot lately, so I've had plenty of time to think things up.

I was thinking the other night about why I like cooking so much. There are many reasons for it, I'm sure. The two most important ones, however, are:

1. My family cooked a lot. During the holidays, gatherings were usually held at our house because my mom and dad liked to cook for a crowd. They owned a catering business, and because of that, cooking in large quantities didn't phase them a bit. Some of my earliest memories of my parents involve cooking- my dad making home made blueberry pancakes and my mom baking and decorating birthday cakes (both for us and other kids at school).

2. I began watching cooking shows when I was fairly young. Cooking was a form of entertainment for me- both from the sheer enjoyment of watching the ingredients come together magically, and from listening to my mothers editorial comments about the presenter or the ingredients.

The second reason has prompted me to add a new feature to the blog. Each week I will profile another "Pioneering TV Chef"- at least until I run out of them. This means the feature will last at least 4 or 5 weeks.

I'm not talking about the Emerils or the Alton Browns (although I'm a HUGE Alton fan). I'm talking about the people who had small, low budget cooking shows, usually broadcast through PBS affiliates. These people were cooking on TV before it was fashionable. They were the true pioneers. Some of them are mentioned by today's food celebrities as influences.

Another thought that sprang from the "Pioneering TV Chefs" feature, was to review a cookbook each week. For the weeks when I'm featuring a tv chef, I'll try to review one of his/her cookbooks (if I can find one). I am in the process of developing a template to use for this, so each post will have common themes. Perhaps that will make it easier to compare books.

So be on the lookout for these new features, and please tell me what you think. You can even make suggestions for future posts (chefs and/or cookbooks). My cookbook shelf is crowded enough to keep me going for a while, but I always welcome suggestions!

French Toast!


I know- everyone has a recipe for french toast. The only 2 mandatory items are bread and eggs- everything else is up for interpretation.

I made a batch of french toast this morning to use up the last bit of the Anadama Bread I made last weekend. Here's what I did:

I used 4 eggs (you just have to eyeball it depending on how much bread you have), a dash of half n half, a dash of Grand Marnier, a dash of orange juice (I was serving this with a navel orange that I supremed, so I squeezed the rest of the juice out and mixed it in), and some honey. I whisked this together and then started soaking my 6 pieces of bread in it.

I fried the soaked bread in butter.

Yummie, yummie, yummie!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I Love Molasses!



As I have mentioned several times before, I read lots of food blogs. I have noticed that because the food blogging community is a pretty tight-knit group, topics tend to travel and multiply amongst blogs. Take for instance Anadama Bread. I noticed 3 or 4 blogs with posts about this, or about other "thirded" breads. Thirded refers to the fact that there are usually 3 different types of flours in the dough. I read a very interesting post about the history of thirded breads over at What Smells So Good? I was immediately interested in Anadama Bread because it includes one of my favorite ingredients- molasses. So I did a little digging....

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about Anadama Bread.

I ended up over at the foodtv website, and that's where I found the recipe I used.

Anadama Bread:

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
About 1 1/4 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons dark molasses
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
Butter or vegetable oil, for greasing the bowl and loaf pans
1 large egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons water, for egg wash
Combine the yeast, sugar, and 1/4 cup of the warm water in the mixer bowl or in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Set aside for about 10 minutes, while the yeast "blooms." When the yeast looks frothy, add the melted butter, molasses salt, flour, and cornmeal. Slowly add up to 1 cup more warm water, mixing with the dough hook or a wooden spoon. The amount of liquid may vary, depending on the flour, so add just enough water to form a soft, but not sticky dough. Knead by machine for about 10 minutes, or by hand for about 15 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Lightly oil or butter a large bowl. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in the bowl, and turn it once so it is lightly greased all over. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and place in a warm, draft-free spot. (An oven that has been heated to 200 degrees and then turned off is a perfect spot). Let the dough rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Grease 2 (9 1/2 by 5-inch) loaf pans. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut it in 1/2 and shape each 1/2 into a loaf. Place each in the greased loaf pans, return to the warm spot, and let the loaves rise until they are about doubled in size, 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the top of the loaves with the egg wash and bake for 1 hour, or until deep golden brown. To test for doneness, remove the hot bread from 1 pan and knock on the bottom of the loaf: you will hear a hollow sound if the bread is done. If necessary, return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn both loaves out of the pans and cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes.

The bread turned out beautifully- if not a little heavy. And I must admit that I did not follow the prep instructions. I kneaded it and let it rise in my bread machine. That could be why the dough was heavier. Had I bloomed the yeast like it says to in the recipe, it might have been a little lighter.

My favorite way to eat it is to toast it in a skillet with butter- then enjoy with a cup of Earl Grey tea. It makes for a very yummie mid-week breakfast.

Of course, I also made one hell of a good peanut butter and apple jelly sandwich with it this week, too. But you can do whatever you want with your loaf!

Tuba Humor

I think music people have odd senses of humor. I can say that because I am a music person. My college career was spent (or mis-spent, depending on who you talk to) around the music department. I was a voice major for about two years. Two very entertaining years.

Dev and I went to the spring choral concert at Adams State last night. While we were waiting for the lights to go down and the concert to start, Dev picked up a copy of the school paper for us to peruse. The following headline made me laugh out loud:

"Junior Recital: Nate Adams' Tuba Hits Multiple Emotions."

I often get emotional when I hear the tuba.

Salad of the Gods


Ok- well that may be a slight overstatement, and it makes a few important assumptions...

1- That the Gods are southern.
2- That the Gods are not vegetarian.
3- That the Gods have not already signed some sort of exclusive contract with a less than mediocre national chain restaurant to produce their salad in a different way.

With that introduction out of the way, allow me to introduce to you the "SALAD OF THE GODS."

So I may need to divulge another fact to you- I really didn't come up with this salad all by myself. I had a similar one years ago at an Atlanta restaurant that I'm not even sure still exists. It was "The Rib Ranch" (I think). After a brief bit of research on the web, I have found that it is no longer called "The Rib Ranch," but is now called the "One Star Ranch." The place was great- very eclectic atmosphere. As I remember it, when you walked in the door you were immediately greeted by a huge 100 gallon aquarium with a stuffed (like taxadermy-ized not beanie baby-ized) armadillo.

Anyway- this salad can be anything you want it to be as long as you include a nice big scoop of pulled pork barbecue right on the top. My salad also included romaine, cucumber, avacado, scallions, tomatoes, ranch dressing (homemade) and tortilla chips.

I was inspired to make this salad because I tried a new braised pork recipe Friday (that didn't come out well at all). I shredded the meat and sauted it with some barbecue sauce my brother made. Rather than just make another sandwich, I remembered the wonderful salad at the Rib Ranch (from at least 15 years ago) and set to work making my dream a reality. The only thing I didn't replicate was the tasty tortilla shell bowl. I didn't have that kinda time.....

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Little Self Reflection...

As long as I can remember, I have been a lousy sleeper. I have spent long hours pondering this (usually in the middle of the night).

I am also a night owl. Great ideas or solutions to problems always come to me late at night. Mornings are not my favorite time.

Worrying is a favorite hobby of mine. I'm sure this is part of the reason I'm an insomniac. I can make myself sick worrying about something.

What do all these things equal? Devin would say "one neurotic chic." I have to agree. People always offer suggestions like, "just stop worrying." Well if I could do that, I would. Given a choice, I'd rather sleep.

I'm not sure why I brought all this up. Just sharing, I guess.

I'm A Strawberry Cake...




You Are Strawberry Cake



Fresh, sassy, and romantic.

You're a total flirt, who never would turn down a sugary treat.

Occasionally you're a bit moody - but you usually stay sweet!

A meme for you on a windy Thursday Afternoon...

Along with my award, Ben tagged me for this meme. It's called the Six Word Memoir. I have to sit and think of 6 words that sum up me and my life. This will be challenging, but here it goes.....

Loquacious
Nonsensical
Inquisitive
Hungry
Impractical
Sloth-like

Following Ben's lead, I'm not going to tag specific people, but if you want to participate, please do. And leave your link in the comments so I can go read your memoirs!

What a Pleasant Surprise!



Look what I found in my comments when I got home today!!!! My friend Ben over at What's Cooking gave me an award! My very first blog award! I am so tickled I don't know what to do!

When I started food blogging, I had no idea what a wonderful group of people I would meet. Nor did I know how many wonderful recipes I would learn and how much inspiration I would get on a daily basis. Food blogging is definitely one of the best things I've ever done....And it's awfully nice to know that there are people out there reading the blog and liking it. It would be weird to think I'm just talking to myself (although I do that, too).

Anyhoo- thanks a million Ben. I don't know that I deserve it, but it means a lot to me.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Crepes with ham and hollandaise

While still on the high from my successful flour tortillas, I decided to attempt one more round, flat food- crepes.

I found the recipe on foodtv, and followed it exactly. Here it is...

Basic Crepes:

2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter
Butter, for coating the pan

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.
Heat a small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.

I served them 2 ways. The pic shows them filled with minced ham and topped with hollandaise sauce. I also served them with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar.

Would I do this again? Probably not.

The first crepe was scary because it looked like crap. But after the first one, you kinda get the hang of it.

There just isn't much to it. I would have to stuff them with something pretty spectacular to do this again.

But I'm glad I tried it!

Chicken Kabobs


Chicken Kabobs, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

This is where my home made flour tortillas landed. I marinated some chicken breast (cut into chunks) in yogurt and red curry paste. Then I threaded it on kabobs with onions and mushrooms. I served the kabobs with Greek yogurt sauce, cucumbers, avacado, tomato and spinach. I used the tortillas to make it all into a wrap. Dev used them to mop up the sauce....

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Flour Tortillas


Flour Tortillas, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

You are looking at the very first ever batch of flour tortillas I've ever made. They came out pretty well.

I think next time I will sub whole wheat for some of the flour, and I will definitely add some herbs to the dough.

The recipe was simple. I found it on foodtv.com...

Flour Tortillas

2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. veggie shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 c. warm water

Put flour, shortening and salt in a mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until crumbly. The recipe said it would take 3-5 minutes, but it didn't take that long for mine. With the mixer running, slowly add the water and mix until the dough is smooth. Take the dough out of the mixer and shape into small balls. Mine were like golf ball sized, but the resulting tortillas were small. If you want bigger tortillas, make the balls bigger. I think it is mostly trial and error. Put the dough balls on a tray and cover with a damp cloth. Let them sit at least 15 minutes.
On a lightly floured board (I actually used 2 pieces of parchment paper on a silicone mat) roll dough balls into discs. Mine were pretty thin, and most made 6 inch (or thereabouts) tortillas. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high heat. Make sure it is very hot before you put in the dough. Cook tortillas one at a time, about 30 seconds per side, but you will know when they are ready to flip because they will get bubbles in them and start lifting off the skillet bottom. But keep an eye on them- they go from pleasantly charred to unedible in about 2 seconds!
The article I read said they can be frozen after they are cooked. Layer them in ziplock bags between wax paper or parchment paper sheets.

Mine are bound for some red curry paste-marinated chicken pieces with greek yogurt sauce. I will try to remember to post a pic of the wraps before we dig in!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Enchilada Lasagna



Diane posted a recipe for Enchilada Lasagna on the food blog about a week ago. It sounded so yummie I had to try it.

So tonight I did it, only I used it to clean out my crisper drawer, so I added a few things to it.

First, I lightly oiled a pyrex deep dish pie pan. Then I poured some canned enchilada sauce in the bottom. I put a flour tortilla on the sauce, then added half of the filling I made (I sauteed half an onion, a zucchini, mushrooms, a can of diced green chiles, and half a tomato in olive oil, ground cumin and ground coriander). I topped that with a little sauce, some shredded monterey jack and colby, then another tortilla and repeated the process. I topped it with a tortilla, the remaining sauce and the remaining cheese.

It baked in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes- until it was all hot and bubbly. It was garnished with slices of avacado and fresh tomato, along with a dollop of sour cream and some scallions.

I served it with a spinach salad (spinach, cucumber, mushroom, scallions and balsamic vinaigrette) and a glass of shiraz/grenache blend. Here's the salad and wine:

Corn Tortillas



I made my first successful (?) batch of corn tortillas today. I followed a recipe I found on one of the blogs I read called "The Little Bits All of which are Unique." I added some dried herbs to the dough, to perk up the flavor of the finished product.

I consider this a qualified success, because the texture of the finished tortillas is different from the ones at the store. I can't imagine these ever being flexible enough to wrap anything in. Perhaps I pressed them to thin? Anyhoo- here's the recipe...


Masa Bread a.k.a. Tortillas
From “Unique Little Bits”

2 cups masa harina
1 tsp kosher salt
1 ½ cups water +/- depending on the environment
small amount of oil

Pour a little peanut or olive oil in a small bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the masa harina and salt, stir in the water until a nice dough forms, adding additional water if necessary.

Form the dough into balls, roughly 1/4 cup in size. Dip your fingers in the oil and rub a light coating over each ball. Place the balls on a plate or baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.

Heat a wok or grill pan (ideally cast iron) over MED heat. Cut open a storage/freezer bag by cutting off the top zipper part and the bottom, then cut down one side. Open the bag and place a dough ball on one side, folding the other side over the dough ball. Use a little frying pan to flatten the ball into a thin disk.

Peel off the top layer of bag and gently remove the disk from the bottom plastic, flipping it onto your hand. Place the disk on the heated wok or grill pan and let cook about 2 minutes. It's kind of like cooking a pancake, you can see the edges start to firm up then you know it's time to turn it over. If you try to turn it too soon, it will stick to the grill plate (if using). The second side cooks faster.

Things that occupy my spare time....

I read a ton of food blogs- I mean like 207 of them. I use a reader service called Bloglines, and I have subscribed to these blogs and read them every night- at least the ones that have posted that day. This takes up a lot of my spare time. It's where I get my news, my inspiration and my entertainment. Food blogs have become my primary source for new recipes and ideas (replacing foodtv or regular cookbooks). In some cases, food blogs have inspired me to buy cookbooks (like the 2 Alice Waters books I now own). I wait and see how many fellow bloggers are raving about it, try a few of the recipes, and if I like it- I buy it for myself.

Sometimes I get inspiration for more than just food ideas when I read my blogs. For instance, I subscribe to a blog called "Thyme for Cooking." Yesterday, Katie (author of this blog) was grappling over the issue of how food blogging has changed the way she cooks- or thinks about cooking. She said for some reason she can't think of dinner in simple terms anymore. I couldn't agree more. At one point last week I was sitting around wondering what I was going to cook for dinner. I flipped on the laptop and began surfing around, when it occured to me that I could just open the freezer and microwave some veggies. Dinner didn't have to be a big production including a new recipe. So I ended up with ham, corn and peas. It was simple, but very satisfying. I think Dev was actually relieved that he recognized something.

I also read something interesting over at "Taste Buddies." The post was about "wabi-sabi" which is an eastern belief in the acceptance of transience and the value of imperfection and incompleteness. Followers of this belief consider these things beautiful. Now here's something I can sink my teeth into. I think part of the joy of cooking at home is that everything doesn't have to be perfect. Sure- the plate I photograph for the blog at least looks decent, but the food itself does not have to be garnished and dolled up. Things just have to taste good. Oh- and you should enjoy preparing them.
This particular belief speaks to me of things outside the kitchen as well. Everyone is a work in progress, and we are never really "complete." If we could come to grips with this fact, instead of buying 4 million products to try to perfect ourselves, maybe we'd have more time to concentrate on getting along. We could all sit down, open a bottle of wine and make a big dinner for ourselves!

Omnivore's Dilemma- A Review

I think I'll take a minute to write a few thoughts about the book "Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan.

I liked the book. It was not quite as easy to read as the Barbara Kingsolver, but I'm glad I read it. At times, especially during the descriptions of the history of the industrial food complex, the book was a bit dry. I understand that there was a point, and I need to know this stuff if I'm going to make educated choices at the supermarket, but gah, dress it up a bit, huh?

I especially enjoyed the chapters on hunting and gathering (mushroom hunting and actual hunting of animals). Mr. Pollan showed the very human and emotional side to hunting that few of us ever think about. Of course, few of us ever eat meat that has been killed in this manner.

Which brings me to the lessons I learned from this book...

1. We (speaking of Americans) are blissfully ignorant of the origins of our food. People think their food comes from the supermarket- but it had to be somewhere before it was there and we don't take the time to find out. I think we would be healthier if we did a little homework and made the effort to educate ourselves about how our food is processed. Mr. Pollan has done this and it is quite an eye opener.

2. The industrial food industry has done a miraculous job of creating thousands of products from one commodity- CORN. I have become a much more dedicated label reader after reading this book. The chapter on fast food and the amount of processed corn in most of its offerings was surprising to me. The amount of processed corn in everything is shocking.

3. I can not possibly live my life eating a completely unprocessed, organic diet- but I can get a lot closer and get more involved in the origins of my food. I can educate myself and take the time to seek out more local sources. I can plan better meals so I'm not lurking around the frozen pizza aisle at the store after school.

That's about all I have to say about the book right now. I highly recommend it- although not as "an entertaining beach" read- more like a "because you really need to" read.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Production List Begins...

Here are my thoughts on projects for my long weekend...

Biscuits- another batch to freeze (and photograph)
Tortillas- for wraps next week and to make homemade chips for guac!
Cookies- for Dev to snack on this coming week
Black Bean Fritters- to use up some of the cans of black beans in my pantry

I'm sure this will change and or expand- but these are my thoughts at the moment!

And I will write that post on "Omnivore's Dilemma."

Spring Fever....or maybe it's just a headache

Today was a tough day.

I woke up this morning at 6am to find all the cars in the parking lot covered with snow. I knew right then and there things at school would be crazy. And I wasn't wrong.

We had a special event at school today called the "Jungle Mobile." I'm not sure why it was called that, since the different stations dealt with topics like seatbelts, helmets, pedestrian safety, fire prevention, accident prevention and poison avoidance. Anyway, the kids were supposed to scatter and find their way around all the stations, then meet back up before returning to class. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Well, lots of things sound simple in theory- but reality is usually much different. I can't think of an example from nature that will help me get across how chaotic this event was. An ant bed is too calm. A swarm of killer bees is too sedate. Picture in your mind about 80 5, 6 and 7 year olds all swirling around a gym bouncing from one station to another- stopping, dropping and rolling, trying on helmets, clicking seatbelts and generally running around having a grand time. By the time I managed to round up my 20 ducklings, the buses were there and waiting to spirit them home, where their parents could deal with them.

The only thing keeping me from the fetal position under a desk is the knowledge that we have no school tomorrow. Which means I get to play in the kitchen all day!

I have several things I'd like to tackle over this long weekend. And I have several posts to catch up on. Last weekend I conquered my fear of biscuits (there aren't any pics because the biscuits didn't last long enough- but maybe I'll make another batch to freeze). I also made a big batch of spaghetti and meatballs. Oh and then there was the meatloaf.

This weekend I will face my fear of tortilla making. Last time I tried to make corn tortillas, they exploded into thousands of little pieces. I plan to try making both flour and corn varieties. I found some recipes around the blogosphere for stuffed tortillas, which will make things even more interesting.

I have set a goal to try and post everyday. With school drawing to a close, the next month will be very challenging- but there will be no shortage of blog material!

Ok- so I will go now and make a list of the posts I will write over the next few days....so check back soon!

Monday, April 14, 2008

New Hobbies and New Habits...

So I've been doing lots of cooking lately (especially since we FINALLY have drinkable water again). But I've also picked up a few new hobbies since Spring Break, and I've been spending more time getting into those.

When I was a kid, someone took the time to teach me how to knit. I don't remember exactly who it was, but I think it was a babysitter. Anyhoo, it's been years since I even thought about it. Over spring break I dug out my knitting needles, and Dev's mom gave me a refresher course. The result has been a lot of fun. Rest assured I won't be cranking out socks or scarves anytime soon, but I am working on these little bookmarks as end of the year presents for the students in my classes...



Speaking of revisiting childhood crafts, I have also renewed my interest in macrame. I don't have any samples yet because I don' really know what I'm doing and I haven't had time to get clasps. I am planning on making some bracelets and necklaces, using non-traditional materials (like ribbon instead of hemp).

And lastly I have been attempting some beading. So far I have made several pairs of earrings (can't give pics because they are gifts and I don't want to let the cat out of the bag). I'm having fun looking at beading magazines and websites trying to find simple designs to recreate.

I also found time to read. I just finished "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. You can find the Amazon.com info on it here.

I enjoyed the book, and soon I'll sit down and write a post about it.

Right now I've gotta go pick Dev up from class!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Carrot Cake


IMG_1462, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

Sunday I decided it was time to conquer my fear of baking cakes. I have had some ugly experiences trying to bake cakes at this altitude (7500 feet above sea level) so it was with trepidation that I headed in the kitchen to attempt this project.

Below is the recipe I followed. The person who wrote this recipe halved it for cupcakes. I don't remember which blog I got this from, but if anyone recognizes it, please let me know so I can give the credit to the right person!

I did the whole recipe and baked it in a 9x13 pyrex baking dish. It is really more like a muffin batter instead of a cake batter- which might be why I didn't experience the same problems I had with previous cakes.

At any rate this is a delicious cake and you really should make one for yourself. And if you can get ahold of homemade cream cheese, the icing will be off the chart!

CARROT CAKE CUPCAKES
Cook's Illustrated's inspiring recipe fills a 9x13 pan. To make a dozen cupcakes, I cut this recipe in half. Half would also work for 9x9 pan.

Hands-on time: 65 minutes (for cupcakes, less time for 9x13)
Time to table: about 2 hours
Makes a 9x13 cake or (halving the ingredients below) 12 cupcakes

CAKE
2-1/2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring (see KITCHEN TIPS)
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/14 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 pound carrots, peeled and trimmed

1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil (or canola or safflower)

Preheat oven to 350F. For 9x13, spray pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment, then spray the parchment. (This seems to be able to lift the entire cake out of the pan. To just cut pieces right in the pan, I think you could safely skip this step.) For cupcakes, grease muffin tins well. (I used vegetable oil and the cupcakes were quite sticky. Next time I'll use Baker's Joy or use cupcake papers.)

Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

With a food processor (see KITCHEN TIPS), grate the carrots, transfer to another dish. Add the sugars and eggs to the food processor and process for 20 seconds. With the food processor running, pour the oil into the food processor in a slow stream, then process for another 20 seconds. Stir this mixture and the carrots into the dry ingredients until no flour streaks remain.

Pour into prepared 9x13 or muffin tins. For 9x13, bake for 35-40 minutes (rotate half-way through) or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. For cupcakes, bake for about 30 minutes. For 9x13, let cool to room temperature. For cupcakes, let cool about 10 minutes, then remove from tins. For 9x13, Cook's Illustrated suggests inverting the cake onto a wire rack, peeling off the parchment, then inverting onto a serving plate.

Spread icing over top.

CREAM CHEESE ICING / CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
8 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool (I used Neufchatel, the reduced-fat cream cheese)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool (see KITCHEN TIPS)
1 tablespoon sour cream (loved this addition!)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/4 cups powdered sugar (also called icing sugar, confectioner's sugar, it's the white powdery stuff)

In the food processor (washed), mix the cream cheese, butter, sour cream and vanilla til smooth, wiping down the sides as needed. Add the powdered sugar and process til smooth, just a few seconds. NOTE: Half the icing was more than enough for a dozen cupcakes.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Tortilla Chips


IMG_1384, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

I needed a dish to take to a baby shower this week, and I thought this would be perfect. Turns out it was!

The only aggravating thing about this recipe is all the chopping. Had I been making this for myself at home, it would have been less processed. But for a special occasion, the cubing was a must.

Here's the recipe (with my changes)....

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Tortilla Chips
from "Cooks Illustrated" Apr/May 2008

Fruit Salsa:
2 T. apple jelly
2 T. light brown sugar
1/4 c. orange juice
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
I added a tiny bit of red wine vinegar
2 granny smith apples, cored, peeled and chopped fine
1 pint strawberries, hulled and chopped fine
3 kiwis peeled and chopped fine

Cinnamon Chips
2 T. granulated sugar
1 T. ground cinnamon
12 6inch flour tortillas

For the salsa:
Whisk jelly, sugar, orange juice, jalapeno and vinegar in a large bowl. Add apples, strawberries and kiwis and toss to coat.

For the chips:
Adjust oven racks to the upper middle and lower middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar and cinnamon in bowl. Lightly coat tortillas on both sides with cooking spray (I used vegetable oil) and cut each into 6 wedges. Arrange tortillas in a single layer on 2 baking sheets and sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over top of tortillas. Bake until golden and crisp- 10 to15 minutes, switching and rotates sheets halfway through baking time. Serve with salsa.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Salsa Verde Carnitas


IMG_1382, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

Oh my gosh.....

This recipe was absolutely outrageous! It cooked all day long- but boy was it ever worth it.

Here is the recipe. At the end I will confess where I cheated!

Salsa Verde Carnitas from "Simply Recipes"

• 3 1/2 pounds pork butt (pork shoulder)
• 2 cups salsa verde, bottled, canned, or homemade
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 3 cups chicken stock
• 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
• 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
• 1 Tbsp fresh chopped oregano (or 1 teas dried)
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
• Salt
• 12 to 16 corn tortillas, heated and softened
• 1/4 head of cabbage, very thinly sliced
• 1 teaspoons olive oil
• 1 teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar (if you only have unseasoned, add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar to it)
• Salt and pepper
• 1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and chopped
• 1/2 cup crumbled Cotija Mexican farmer's cheese, or some grated Monterey Jack cheese
• Crema fresca, crema Mexican, or sour cream
• Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
1 Trim the excess fat from the roast. Put the meat in a large casserole or Dutch oven with salsa verde, onion, stock, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and oregano. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat, cover, and simmer until meat is very tender when pierced, about 3 hours.
2 Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove meat from liquid in pot and put the meat into a roasting pan. With 2 forks, tear meat into large shreds. Roast meat for 15 to 20 minutes until parts are brown and crispy.
3. While the meat is roasting, skim and discard fat from liquid in the casserole pan. Boil juices, stirring, until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, 8 to 10 minutes.
4 Return the meat to the Dutch oven. Stir in chopped cilantro. Season with salt.

Serve with heated and softened corn tortillas (20 seconds each in the microwave spread out over a paper towel will heat and softened packaged tortillas sufficiently), diced avocado, crumbed Cotija or grated Monterey jack cheese, sour cream (or crema fresca), and seasoned cabbage slaw.
Seasoned Cabbage Slaw
Place thinly sliced cabbage in a medium sized bowl. Sprinkle on olive oil, seasoned rice vinegar, salt and pepper. You can substitute white vinegar or apple cider vinegar for the rice vinegar, if you do, sprinkle on some sugar to help balance the acidity of the vinegar. Toss. Adjust seasonings. Let sit for 10 minutes for the cabbage to absorb some of the dressing.
Serves 6.

So......

I didn't make the slaw. I used flour tortillas because that's what I had. I didn't have coriander seeds so I used ground. I served the meat with the tortillas, sliced avacado, chopped cilantro, chopped green onions, lettuce and sour cream.

Next time I think I will use spicier salsa (or throw a chopped jalapeno in with the braising liquid) and I will use half broth and half beer to give the liquid more of a kick.

Cheddar Broccoli Mushroom Quiche


IMG_1372, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

Another Sunday project completed!

Cheddar Broccoli Mushroom Quiche:

I cheated and used a store bought pie crust. There, I said it.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Put the crust in a pie pan (I used a glass one).

I thawed one box of frozen chopped broccoli and sprinkled it on the crust. Make sure you get rid of any extra liquid from the broccoli.

I put about 2 cups of shredded cheddar and colby jack cheese over that.

I put half a container of mushrooms over the cheese.

Put the following ingredients in a blender, process, then pour over the guts:

4 eggs
pinch of REAL nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper (I used a few shakes of hot sauce)
pinch of sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups heavy cream

After the quiche is assembled, put it in the oven at 450 for about 15 minutes. Then put a crust guard over the crust edges and turn heat down to 300 degrees and bake for about an hour (or til the middle sets).

We will probably eat on this for breakfasts and lunch all this week. Quiche is a great thing to have in the fridge.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread


IMG_1374, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

I can't believe how productive I'm being today.

Here is the recipe for the whole wheat bread I just took out of the oven....

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
From King Arthur Flour

1 ½ cups + 2 T. lukewarm water
2 T. butter or veg. oil
1 ½ t. salt
2 T. sugar
½ c. nonfat dry milk
3 ½ c. whole wheat flour
2 t. instant yeast

Combine all of the ingredients and mix well by hand, mixer or bread machine until you have a fairly stiff dough.
Place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl and allow it to rise for 60 to 90 minutes- until it has expanded quite a bit. It won’t have doubled in size, but should at least feel puffy when you squeeze it.

Lightly grease a 9x5 loaf pan. Gently shape the dough into a smooth log; there’s no need to punch it down, just stretch and round it to fit into the pan. Place it into the pan, smooth side up, cover the pan and allow loaf to rise for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, until the center registers 190 degrees on a thermometer.

Remove from oven and turn it out of pan onto a rack. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.

Shrimp Cheese Ball


IMG_1378, originally uploaded by All Things Mimi.

I am helping do the food for a baby shower at school on Tuesday, so I thought I'd get the jump on some of the prep work today.

Here is the recipe for the shrimp cheese ball:

1 pkg. (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c. havarti, grated (I used a combo of cheddar & colby jack)
4 green onions, chopped
2 t. crushed dried basil (I used greek seasoning)
1 t. dried rosemary (I used 2 T. fresh)
1 t. salt
6 oz. cooked shrimp, chopped (I cheated and used 2 small cans)
Paprika (for garnish)

Dump everything in a bowl except paprika. Mix until it comes together. You are supposed to form it into a ball then coat it with paprika. I just put it in a bowl to serve with crackers. I will sprinkle the paprika right as I put it in the table.
This is really good, and would be better if you used leftover grilled shrimp. The canned ones have little flavor, but I didn't have any real shrimp.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Breakfast Sausage Version 1.0

Another thing I never find to my liking is breakfast sausage. Home made recipes usually turn out too dry and bland. Store bought versions are either too salty or over do the maple or whatever other artificial flavoring they use.

I have decided to take on the project of finding the perfect breakfast sausage recipe. Here is the base recipe I used this time around:

1/2 lb. ground pork (next time maybe I'll use a mixture of meats?)
a handful of dried blueberries
1 tablespoon REAL maple syrup
1/2 onion- sauteed in olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
a handful of bread crumbs

Put everything in a bowl and squish around with your hand until it comes together. Form it into whatever size patties you want and cover with plastic wrap. Store in the fridge overnight.

I plan to have this batch in the morning for breakfast, so I'll tell you how it came out then!
Here's a pic of the patties in their raw state....



Depending on what happens with these...stay tuned for Breakfast Sausage Version 1.1, or 2.0, whatever the next one would be!

Desperation Salsa

I don't think I've ever found a jarred salsa that I really, really like. Harry and David's salsas come close, but they still taste like fancier, more expensive jarred salsa.

My menu called for turkey tacos this evening, and I really wanted a fresh tasting salsa to go with them. It's not tomato season here yet, so I had to use canned. What I came up with turned out pretty darn good. I'm sure I will be tweaking it after I have actual groceries in the house (which will depend on how long we are under a tap water ban).

Here's what I used:

1 can Del Monte Zesty Mild Green Chile diced tomatoes
1 small can diced green chile (any brand will do)
1/2 onion (raw)
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped roughly
lime juice
dash hot sauce of your choice (I used Cholula)

I threw all those things in a blender and gave it a whirl. The result tasted pretty fresh and not at all artificial or canned. Like I said before, I will tweak it later with fresh tomatoes, fresh cilantro, etc.- I just don't have those things around right now.

There's no pic because I forgot to take one and now that I'm sitting at the computer, I'm too lazy to get back up.
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