Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bavarian Beef Dinner

Today was one of those Sundays where all my pent-up energy and plans for cooking were finally realized! It's been a very busy last few weeks with the semester really starting to race to the finish, but today I got back to my traditional weekend batch of muffins which make a nice breakfast during the week - apple streusel muffins, wherein I actually successful made streusel for once! I usually overwork it and end up with cinnamon sugar butter...

Also got a little improvising going with chocolate chocolate-chip cookies! I took the standard Hershey's chocolate chip cookie recipe from the package of semisweet chips (which incidentally, is the only chocolate chip cookie recipe that I've found that makes chewy cookies!), and I subbed out 1/4 c of flour for cocoa, and put in 1/2 white chocolate chips and 1/2 semisweet. They're really good!

And then, since this is my week to cook, I had the Bavarian Beef Dinner marked for my next food share. Do you ever get the urge to sit down and read through some of your cook books? It doesn't strike me very often, but a couple of weeks ago I read through several cook books and marked recipes that sounded good (another interesting find: Mexican-style Chicken Kiev).

Bavarian Beef Dinner (Best of Country Cooking 1999):

2 lb boneless chuck roast, cubed (I bought extra lean stew beef = $10.75)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1-1/2 c beef broth ($0.15)
2 med onions, sliced ($1.59)
1 garlic clove, minced ($0.05)
1 tsp each dill seed, caraway seed, paprika, salt
1/2 tsp pepper
(added mushrooms = $0.59)
1/4 c cold water
3 tbsp flour
1 c sour cream ($0.80)
egg noodles ($1.50)

Brown beef in oil. Add broth, onions, garlic, and seasonings. Cover and simmer for 2.5 hours, until beef is tender. Reduce heat. Combine water and flour until smooth; gradually stir into beef mixture. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add sour cream and heat through (do not boil). Serve over rice (or subbed egg noodles) with sauerkraut on the side.

I didn't include the sauerkraut in the tupperwares, although I do enjoy sauerkraut. The total for this meal was $15.63, coming in at $1.95 per serving!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A dinner party!

Last Monday Julie and Colby and Randi came over for dinner. Usually if I cook it's just for me, which means less incentive to make stuff that actually looks pretty and tastes good. But this time I got out a recipe and multiple pots and pans and made a meal for people, while still doing something fairly nice and simple: baked ziti!

It was an easy recipe - mostly pasta and cheese and tomato-y stuff. Mix it together, cover it with more cheese, and bake! The hardest part was chopping up the garlic. Anybody else find that difficult?

Straight out of the oven I think it tasted okay, but for some reason it was not as good after reheating. Maybe tomato sauce would have tasted better than the can of whole tomatoes. Or perhaps I could have crushed the tomatoes more so it would have mixed better with the cheese.

Also on the menu was stuff I didn't make so much as buy: mixed green salad, garlic bread (which I would like to try making myself sometime), and ice cream.

So, baking pasta and casserole-type stuff is fun. The dishes always comes out looking so hearty. I'll be attempting more similar things in the future!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Austin Bakes for Japan

Randi and I will be at the East Austin location with cranberry orange muffins and homemade kolaches!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Greens Soup

I've been working on an academic paper for the past 9 months or so.  It's been rough going and one of the biggest problems I've faced is trying to figure out what exactly it is that I'm trying to tell people by writing this and using the university's money to get it published in a highly visible journal.  After taking a few days to step back and ponder, I think I really understand the message I want to get across and this has allowed me to become more focused and efficient.  I think the same goes for this blog.

What is the purpose for writing this?  Is it to just share recipes that we've swapped, or should there be something more?  Personally, I've used this to try to step up my game in terms of picture taking.  I'm working on quality too, but even taking pictures has been a struggle for me over at my other food blog.  Ahem.  But there's more to this blog than just disseminating our culinary results.  One of the main purposes here is to promote cooking at home.  It doesn't matter if it's fancy or simple, but the act of controlling what goes in one's food allows the home cook to cater to specific tastes, maintain the nutritional integrity of a dish, and generally increase the quality of what one eats.

It's hard to always make time to cook.  It seems that with busy lives and schedules, it's hard to sit down to eat, let alone start with a cupboard of ingredients.  One thing that I've started to do more and more is making large batches and freezing the leftovers.  The CSA that Colby and I belong to has been really greens heavy in the past.  It's not a problem, but sometimes it's hard to use up all the produce before it goes bad.  I've taken to blanching and freezing the greens for some later purpose.  It wasn't until tonight that I finally put my first big batch in a dish.  I also made way too many potatoes awhile back and froze those as well.  Colby and I got home from work on the late side and I decided that I wanted something simple for dinner.  This is what we came up with.

Greens soup
2 bunches greens, blanched or wilted (I used my freezer supply of swiss chard and spinach)
~1/2 lb potato, boiled (I used Yukon golds)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 c stock
1/2 c milk
s+p, to taste
sour cream

In a medium-sized sauce pan, sweat the onions and a pinch of kosher salt in oil until they are translucent. ~5 minutes or so. Add in the crushed garlic and stir until fragrant ~30 s. Add in the greens, potatoes, milk, and stock.  Cook until everything is heated through and then puree until smooth.  Taste for seasoning.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

This recipe is incredibly versatile.  This was made with whatever I happened to have on hand.  Instead of a yellow onion, I had some really nice green onions from my CSA, so I used them before they went bad.  The greens are definitely interchangeable, as well as the liquids.  I used milk because I just bought a gallon and chicken stock because we always have that.  For a rich, tangy taste (without the sour cream) you could sub in some buttermilk, for instance.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Green Pie!

It was late on Sunday night when I was overcome by a sudden, overwhelming urge to bake pie. Nothing else would do, it had to be pie! After all, I shortly realized, Tuesday was Pi Day (3.14), so it did in fact have to be pie. But not just pie, it had to be green pie, because this week is St. Patrick's Day too, and therefore green is a must.

This led to a google image search (sorted by color, mind you) of possibilities. It turns out there are only about 3 possibilities when you want a truly green pie. The first was grasshopper pie, a delicious blend of mint and chocolate, which happens to be one of my favorite flavor combos, but since I anticipated sharing my pie with my co-blogger Julie, who isn't much of a chocolate fan (I know, I've been demanding her woman card for that one), I opted against it. The next option I found was avocado pie. Ew. Blech. I don't like avocado, but for many reasons that just sounds gross. Enter Option #3, key lime pie! Perfect winner!

I came across this link in the process for Lemon Chiffon Pie. I thought this post was great. I have really enjoyed the Community Supported Home Cooking experience so far, especially contrasting my own cooking style with others'. That blog post is a perfect example of the differences between my personal cooking style and Julie's. Most of what I make is fairly quick, easy, and functional. It's not supposed to be pretty or refined, it's supposed to fill me up and taste good doing it. Julie's cooking is very often about style and refinement, with little to no shortcuts. Everybody has their own ways of doing things, I just thought this was a great moment to realize that everyone cooks for different reasons. Some people cook to express themselves and release their creativity, which sometimes I do, but usually for me cooking is a wholesome, enjoyable way of putting food in my belly.

The blog post alluded to a Key Lime Icebox Pie, which was perfect for my intentions, so I went for it. I always make my own graham cracker crust, but even better for certain situations is vanilla wafer crust (also, gingersnap crust is amazing). I have a standard recipe for graham cracker-like crusts, which I got out of my Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cheesecake Cookbook:

Dessert crust:
1 1/2 c. crushed cookies
3 tbsp sugar
1/3 c. butter (which always turn out too dry so I'd go with 6-7 tbsp)

Also, a personal cooking problem of mine: overenthusiastic use of vanilla. This recipe called for 1 tsp vanilla in the icebox pie. Being the enthusiast I am, I never measure vanilla with a proper measuring spoon. I just pour a little in the batter and call it good. Well, this time I went a little too far. There was definitely a blow-by-blow battle between the vanilla and lime juice for the leading role of this pie. It was still tasty, and satisfied my pie need, but I think I've finally come around to admitting my vanilla hubris.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Meyer Lemon Sherbet

I finally found the recipe for the meyer lemon sherbet we made for our dinner party.  I also discovered that I misread the recipe in the first place.  Oops.  It was still quite delicious, so here's both a link to the original recipe and what I ended up making

Meyer Lemon Sherbet
1/2 c meyer lemon juice
zest of 3 meyer lemons, very finely chopped if not using a microplane grater
1 c heavy cream
3/4 c whole milk
2/3 c granulated sugar

In a small sauce pan, combine the sugar and lemon juice and heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Mix all the other ingredients, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, though longer is better because the flavors can meld.  Pour the mixture into a standard ice cream maker and once solid-er.  Freeze for a couple hours to really set.

We served this with some really yummy blueberries and it was great.  I love meyer lemons and this sherbet didn't disappoint!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Still Alive!

Okay, I admit that we've been a bit lax in our blogging lately, but that doesn't mean that we've been lax in cooking.  The cooking always comes first and thank goodness it does!  We've made some pretty tasty dishes over the past month and a half.  The goal is to recap every other week, after we've finished a cycle.  This time, I'll recap everything that we've made and starting in two weeks from now, it'll only be for the those items we cooked and links therein.

30 January 
Athena - Asian-inspired chicken and rice casserole
Chalence - Chicken and Forty Cloves
Julie - Lasagna
Randi - Jambalaya

6 February
Athena - chicken and shrimp stir-fry
Julie - Tibetan Beef Dumplings, Kimchi and Turkey Mandu, and Lai Wong Bao

13 February
Chalence - Chicken Paprikash with Dumplings
Randi - False Alarm Chili

20 February*
Colby & Julie -  Pot Roast with Root Vegetables, meyer lemon sherbet
Randi - Mexican Lasagna

27 February
Athena - Shepherd's Pie
Chalence - Curried Chicken with Noodles

6 March
Julie - Sriracha Salad with Chicken
Randi - Greek Salad and Hummus

On the 20th, we had our first CSHC dinner party.  Colby insisted on cooking and came through with flying colors.  He'll post about this soon.  *AHEM*.  Since this was a good forum for food that isn't easily transportable, I took the opportunity to use up some of my meyer lemon stash and made a quick sherbet.  Recipe to follow when I can find where I hid it. :)