stevenpiziks: (Default)
I came across a reference to salt potatoes as being a really good treat.  I researched them and found they looked interesting, so I decided to try them out on Darwin and the boys.

Salt potatoes are basically new potatoes simmered in heavily-salted water.  Once the potatoes are done, you pour most of the water off and bring the remaining brine back to a boil, rolling the potatoes around in it all the while.  When the water is nearly gone, you take the pot off the heat and keep rolling until the water is gone and you're left with a salty crust that forms on the potatoes and makes them look wrinkly.  You eat them plain or dip them in butter or an herb sauce.

I served them with plain chicken and a fruit salad.

The boys were dubious.  What the heck were these things?  Even Darwin "Salty McSaltSalt" McClary, who once salted a slab of bacon, wasn't sure.  But once they tried them, all doubts melted.

You can't eat salt potatoes timidly.  The salt crust is very powerful, and you have to bite all the way through the potato to bring the mealy inside into contact with the outside salt.  But when you do . . . they are delicious.  And heavy.  Boy, are they heavy!  Two pounds of new potatoes--a weensy bag--was more than enough for two adults and two teens.

The recipe is a keeper, but it's a once-in-a-while treat, not a regular dish.

Jubilee!

Jun. 14th, 2017 08:37 am
stevenpiziks: (Default)
It's cherry season!  I love cherries and will eat them like popcorn when they come in.  So will Darwin.  But last week, I bought two pounds and told Darwin to keep his hands off!

"I'm making Cherries Jubilee," I told him.

I've always wanted to make Cherries Jubilee, and I decided to go whole hog.  I took down my ice cream maker and whipped up a batch of home made vanilla ice cream, though I found to my dismay I was nearly out of vanilla extract.  I used almond extract to make up the difference, and discovered that vanilla almond ice cream tastes fantastic!

While that was in the final stages of freezing, I pitted the cherries and put them in a frying pan with some sugar and lemon juice.  I cooked them down until the juices ran tart and scarlet, then hosed it carefully with rum.  With Darwin and the boys watching, I flicked a long lighter over the pan.  Blue flame fired upward.  I swirled it all around until the flames died down and spooned this over chilled bowls of vanilla almond ice cream.

Aran looked askance at the whole thing, but once he tried a taste, he said, "Wow!"  He kept saying "wow" all the time he was eating.  The tart, hot cherries mixed with the sweet, cold ice cream into a delicious dessert.

Oh, yeah!

Lost Morels

May. 3rd, 2017 07:11 am
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Morel mushrooms are a great delicacy, and they grow in Michigan in the wild. (When you saute them, they taste like steak!) You have to hunt for them, partly because morels are secretive, and partly because they get harvested by morel-sniffing Michiganders.

Most Michiganders who are into morels have a super-sekrit spot only they know of. They don't tell anyone where it is, and sneak out to that spot, often after dark, to harvest the tasty, rare morels. (I'm not kidding about the after dark part.)

Here's my secret: morels grow like crazy on my front lawn. Dozens of them. Every year. I walk out my front door and there they are. They don't grow on anyone else's lawn in the neighborhood--just ours. I don't have an explanation for it. Just my good fortune.

However . . .

My husband, whom I love more than life itself, contracted a lawn fertilizer company to goosh our grass. They came out a couple weeks ago. So this week, when I found this:




Are they safe to eat?  It rained a LOT in the two weeks between the times the lawn got gooshed and the time this year's crop sprouted.  Hmmm . . .

The question here is, do I love my husband more than I love morels?


stevenpiziks: (Default)
This past week, I made a menu that came out heavy on the meat.  We had ribs, ham, hamburgers, and chicken.  It wasn't on purpose--I just wasn't paying attention.

Maksim asked about some vegetarian dishes, and I said I can easily make some vegetarian dishes.  And Darwin said some salads as a supper main dish would be good.  (By "salad" he means "tossed salad," not "chicken salad.") 

I'm not an experienced salad maker, really, but now that spring has arrived, we'll have greens and other good stuff available.  A light supper of salad and bread and maybe a little cheese would be really good.

But I need good salad recipes.

So I'm throwing it open here.  I know you veggie people are lurking.  What are your favorite salad recipes?  Hit me up!
stevenpiziks: (Default)
I make a Ukrainian dish which is wildly popular in our little household. It's just sausage crumbled into a big pan and fried up with onions, garlic, chopped peppers, and a whole pot full of potatoes (boiled, drained, and cubed), spiced with salt and paprika. I call it Ukrainian stir fry, and it's everyone's favorite food, even Darwin. The latter is most surprising, since Darwin generally dislikes foods that are mixed together. This, however, he likes.

Thing is, it doesn't matter how much I make--it always gets eaten. I mean, ALL of it. I noticed this trend, and started experimenting. At first, I was putting in one large potato for each person at the table. CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP! All gone.

Then I tried one and a half potatoes per person. CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP! All gone.

Then I tried two potatoes per person. CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP! All gone.

Today, I used two potatoes per person again, except I forgot Darwin had a council meeting and wouldn't be home for dinner. Then Aran got home from work when I was halfway through dinner prep and announced he'd stopped at McDonald's for supper already, so he wasn't hungry.

CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP! All gone.

Geez.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Every so often I'll see a TV show or movie that mentions a food I've never heard of.  Since I'm Adventure Chef, I get intrigued and wonder how to make the food and what it tastes like.  Back in the Old Days, this would take considerable research.  I'd have to ask friends if any of them had made it, or go to the library and look up cookbooks from the culture.  It would take hours or even days.

Nowadays?  Easy!  The Internet is the biggest cookbook in the whole wide world.

Recently, for example, I heard a reference to tres leches cake (three-milk cake), an hispanic treat.  The name sounded interesting, and I wanted to see what it was about, so I just checked Google.  I found several recipes that ranged from overly simple ("take one box of yellow cake mix...") to foolishly complicated ("after the custard has cooled for at least three hours in the dry ice, slice all six cake layers in half with a silver-plated knife sharpened under a full moon...")

Basically, tres leches cake is made with three kinds of milk: regular mlk, condensed milk, and evaporated milk.  The first two milks go into the cake batter.  The third is used to make a pseudo custard that your pour over the baked cake, which soaks it up like a sponge to make everything rich and moist.  Whipped cream, technically a fourth milk, is used to frost it.  The great debate about tres leches cake is whether or not it's worth the effort to separate the eggs and beat them separately or not.

I grabbed a middle-of-the road recipe, complexity-wise, and went to work.  Yes, I separated the eggs.  I baked the cake in a square pan and then realized if I poured the soaking filling over it, the filling would overflow.  What to do, what to do?  I finally removed the cake from the pan, put it in a 9x12 pan, and poured the filling over it.  To ensure the filling wouldn't pudde in the vacant half of the pan, I set the pan on a tilt with a trivet and left the whole thing on the back porch for chilling.  Then I whipped some whipping cream and sugar and frosted it.

Whoo, it was good.  But rich!  A small piece is plenty!  Maksim and Aran loved it and ate it steadily for snacks until it had vanished.

All thanks to the biggest cookbook in the whole wide world!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
When Darwin and I ate at the Whitney, his soup course included a bean soup that we found absolutely delicious.  I tasted a few spoonfuls of it and decided I could reverse engineer it at home.  On Sunday, I did, and the results were delightful.  This was no small feat in a household where I'm the only one who much likes bean soup.

The soup is different in that it's pureed and creamed, which adds unexpected body and richness to the dish. It's suprisingly easy to make.

GOURMET BEAN SOUP

1 pound navy beans, washed
one ham bone, with meat still clinging
2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium chicken bouillon (low sodium so you can control the amount of salt)
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced, or 1 t garlic powder
1/2 t white pepper
salt to taste
1/2 c cream
freshly ground pepper

SLOW COOKER METHOD
Put all ingredients into slow cooker and set to low for six to seven hours or high for about four hours, until beans are tender.  Remove ham bone and bay leaf.  Correct seasoning.

STOVE TOP METHOD
Soak beans overnight in stock, or eight hours.  Add remaining ingredients, bring to boiling on stove, reduce heat, and simmer for at least half an hour, until beans are fully tender and flavors are blended.  Remove ham bone and bay leaf.  Correct seasoning.

With a hand-held blending wand, puree soup, or puree it in a blender, food processor, or vegetable ricer until all beans are broken down.  (I prefer the wand method.)  Return to pot, if in blender, and reduce to low heat.  When soup is at a temperature that you can take a bite without needing to blow on it first, stir in the cream.  Correct seasoning.

TO SERVE
The soup is ready to eat. However, to serve it original style, as it is at the Whitney, place a small piece of toasted, buttered brioche or other hearty bread in the bottom of a soup bowl or tureen.  Pour the soup around, but not over, the bread.  (It's all right if the soup ends up covering the bread.)  Give one, and only one, turn of the pepper mill over the bowl and serve.

If you don't go Whitney style, your instincts might tell you to make corn bread instead.  Although corn bread is the traditional complement with bean soup, the soup itself is extremely hearty, and you'll find that a hefty slice of cornbread would be overdoing it on all but the coldest of winter days.  I served a batch of home made blueberry muffins instead, and the slight sweetness of the light muffins perfectly set off salty, pureed soup.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
For the final part of our Date Night Dinner and a Show, we wormed our way out of the tiny parking structure and headed back up to the Whitney.

The manager remembered us and greeted us with a friendly smile.  "You're back!"

"We're here for dessert," I announced, and he showed us up to the second-floor dessert parlor.  It was a large, luxurious sitting room decorated with antiques and a fireplace of its own and big windows that overlooked Woodward Avenue.  Only one other couple occupied a table.  On a Thursday night, this probably wasn't too unusual.

Iris had apparently gone home, and another server came to our table brandishing a crown-shaped chocolate construction.

"It's our Lion King dessert," she said.  "Perfect for after the show."

"We didn't come from the Lion King," I said with a smile.  "We were at the magic show at the Fillmore."  It seems the Whitney and the Lion King were a thing in Detroit.

The waitress cheerfully explained the dessert anyway and also showed us the sumptuous dessert menu.  She gave us wine recommendations, too.

Darwin ordered a fruit crumble.  I asked for a chocolate cartier and decided to have a glass of raspberry dessert wine on the grounds that raspberry and chocolate would be wonderful together.

They were.  The cartier was a layer of chocolate biscuit piled with mousse and fresh fruit, sealed in an envelope of ganache.  It was smooth and delicious.  The fruit kept the chocolate from becoming too sweet.  After a bite of the cartier, the wine made a firework burst in my mouth.  I made Darwin try it (he normally dislikes anything even vaguely alcoholic) and he was surprised how much he liked the combination.  The wine was very strong, though, and I'm not a drinker, so after one glass, I told Darwin he would have to drive.  :)

The crumble was hot from the oven, both sweet and tart, with a soft crust.  It came with Sander's ice cream, famous in Michigan.

It was the perfect way to end the evening, eating dessert with my husband in a quiet, elegant dining room to wind down after the loud, raucous show, and I was glad we'd saved dessert for afterward.

It was a wonderful dinner and a show--our way!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
You're supposed to avoid sweets and simple carbs such as white flour when you're diabetic. And that bites.  There are workarounds, though.  I experimented with this recipe for cookies, and it came out pretty good:

BASIC DIABETIC COOKIE RECIPE

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup Stevia white sugar substitute
1/2 cup Splenda brown sugar blend (which is part brown sugar and part sugar substitute)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 c white flour
1 3/4 c whole wheat or whole wheat white flour (for crispier cookies, reduce by 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and sweeteners together until well blended (about two minutes).  Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sift together dry ingredients and mix slowly into butter mixture until just blended.  Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto greased or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 11-13 minutes or until desired doneness.  Cool on rack.

That's the basic recipe.  To make them interesting, you add other stuff:

VARIATIONS:

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Add 2 cups extra dark chocolate chips or chunks (the 60% cacao chips have less sugar)
OPTIONAL: Sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of kosher salt before baking

REVERSE COOKIES
Add 1/2 cocoa before adding dry ingredients
Reduce whole wheat flour by 1/4 cup.
Add one package white chocolate chips after dry ingedients (this will increase sugar content)
OPTIONAL: Add 1 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries (this will also increase sugar content, but the tartness breaks up the sweetness and is delicious)

OATMEAL COOKIES
Reduce white flour to 3/4 cup
Reduce wheat flour to 1 cup
Add 3 cups uncooked rolled oats after dry ingredients
If desired, add 1 cup raisins (though this will increase sugar content)

ESPECIALLY TASTY COOKIES
Reduce white flour to 3/4 cup
Reduce wheat flour to 1 cup
Put 2 cups uncooked oats into food processor with blade attachment. Pulse until the consistency of coarse flour.  Add after dry ingredients.
Add 1 more cup uncooked oats (not processed)
Add one package white chocolate chips after dry ingedients (this will increase sugar content)

Enjoy!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
One of my favorite meals to make from leftovers comes about when I have a bit of beef or chicken.  I always keep a jar of stir fry sauce (sweet and sour, hoisin, terikyaki) on hand, and it's delicious to dice some of the meat and fry it up with some onions and a bit of the sauce.  Chop up a few vegetables (a chunk of pepper, a handful of peapods, or whatever else is on hand) and cook until just heated.  Eat with a carb (some bread, rice, or noodles).  Delicious!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
More on the Kroger shopping:

I usually make up the weekly menu (Friday-Thursday) and the accompanying grocery list on Thursday evening.  Now that I'm using Kroger's click-and-pick service, I have the small additional step of hitting up Kroger's web site afterward.  Here I often ran into trouble.

See, the click-and-pick service is quite popular, but only a certain number of people can pick up groceries at a given time.  Lots and lots of people want to pick up their groceries on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning (so they'll have fresh food for complicated weekend cooking).  I join them, mostly because I want to pick my stuff up on the way home from work.  Unfortunately, when I finished my list Thursday evening, more often than not, the 2-3 PM slot and the 3-4 PM slot were both full.  In fact, Friday itself was usually all booked, along with most of Saturday.  Once, I was forced to wait until Sunday.  (Oh, the humanity!  I have no idea how I survived that one.)

I was complaining about this with the back of my hand pressed theatrically to my forehead to my friend David at a bar one day, and David turned out to be unexpectedly weasely.

"Can you create an order and then modify it later?" he asked.

I allowed that Kroger allows this.

"How far in advance can you create an order?" he continued.

"A week, I think," I said.  "But I don't know what I'll want that far ahead."

"So just create an order with one or two items on it a week ahead of time," David said, "and reserve a Friday slot when there are lots of them.  Then go in on Thursday and add everything else you need to it."

I was stunned.  It was so shifty, so sly, so weeeeasely that I was ashamed I hadn't thought of it myself.

Now I do just that.  On Monday I order a gallon of milk and tell Kroger I'll pick it up on Friday between 2 and 3.  Voila!  Lots of slots are always available.  On Thursday, I add the rest of my grocery list to the order.

I'm a weasel, by proxy.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I've been using my local store's on-line pickup shopping option to great effect lately.  I'm still liking it.  I've also discovered an interesting side-effect:

It's saving us money.

Our weekly grocery bill has consistenly gone down by about 15%.  It's because the system only lets me buy what's on the grocery list.  When I use this system, I'm not at the store to say, "Oh!  I should get this!" Or, "I forgot to put this on the list. I'll grab it."

It has noticeably reduced the grocery bill, probably an effect Kroger didn't want, but one I'm happy with, nonetheless.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I loathe grocery shopping.  Join me in that, will you?  There's nothing to like about it--time-consuming, boring, nasty.  I used to do it early on Saturday morning, then realized I could save myself some time by preparing the list Thursday evening and stopping on the way home from work on Friday.  Then I wouldn't have to make a special trip on Saturday, with the added bonus of not having an onerous chore hanging over me for the weekend.  Though now I had another reason to dislike the process--I was doing it when I was tired after the final day of a full week's work.

Part of the loathing has come from the lack of customer service at grocery stores.  The stores keep as few clerks as possible on the checkout lines, and there is rarely anyone to help you in the aisles when you need it.  Grocery stores want to shunt you into self-service everything so they don't have to pay someone else to do it.  You get your own cart, you get your own groceries, many times you check yourself out, you haul your purchases out to your car, and you return the cart.

When I was a kid, at least, the stores had drive-up service.  After you paid for your groceries, the bag boy (he wasn't a "courtesy clerk" yet) put everything onto a numbered cart while pulled your car around to a special door and they loaded your groceries into the trunk for you.  But that service ended right quick in the cutthroat, greedy 80s.

Back in the Old Days (before World War II), no one pushed a cart at the store.  You didn't touch groceries at the store because they weren't yours!  You stopped in and handed your list over to the grocer who peered at it and said, "Yes, we have all these except for the canned peaches.  Will pears do instead?"  And you said pears would be fine.  "Will you be picking these up, or should I send the boy around?" asked the grocer, and you said you wanted them delivered.  A couple hours later, a kid with a wagon knocked on your back door, and you gave him a nickel for helping you put your order away.  The pick-it-yourself concept didn't show up until 1943, when the owner of the A&P realized all his clerks had been drafted and he couldn't keep up his orders, so he put all the groceries out on the main floor and gave his customers shopping carts. A new era had begun!

And now?  Grocery stores find themselves competing with on-line shopping and membership-driven mega-stores like Costco.  People are shopping elsewhere.  What to do?

Enter on-line grocery shopping!

Kroger started offering this service in my area just recently.  The idea is, you register with their web site, assemble an order of groceries, select a pickup date and time, and show up with your debit card.  You pay from the driver's seat, they load the groceries into the car, and you're off.  The service costs $5, and the first three times are free.  (This seems awfully low to me, and I'm wondering if the price will quietly go up if people use it a lot and it becomes a high-demand service.)

I wasn't sure about it at first.  Would it work?  How would I be able to pick the right products?  Would it take longer to assemble the list than just picking it out at the store?  But for only $5--free for now--it was worth trying.  This, of course, is what Kroger wants, but I hate grocery shopping more than I dislike handing demographic information over to a grocery store, so off we went.

Kroger does have a membership discount system connected to my email and cell phone number, and the store (grind my teeth) does keep track of everything I buy.  This information, however, was imported straight into the Click/Pick system when I first used it, which meant items I usually buy popped up, complete with picture and price, ready for selection. This was indeed handy, even if it meant the store was watching.

I had already created a menu and grocery list for the week, so I started selecting from the web site.  It went very quickly, and a little sidebar also gave me a running total on the cost.  I also skimmed through usual purchases to look for anything I might have forgotten to put on my list, then hit the finish button.

They asked me to select a time and date.  The first time I did this, I had a wide selection available.  The second time, no slots were available on the day I wanted to pick my groceries up.  I'm guessing the service was popular that day, and the slots were all spoken for--there are only so many clerks.  Interesting.

At the appointed time, I drove to the store and pulled into a section of the parking lot set aside for the on-line people.  Signs everywhere asked me to call a special number and let them know I had arrived, which I did.  A clerk promptly answered, asked my name, and said she'd be right out with my order.  A moment later, she came out with a portable card reader and a flatbed cart with grocery bags on it.  I used my debit card to pay, and she loaded the groceries into the back of the car.  All done.  Ta-da!

Everything from my list was there, including the produce.  In all, it took way, way less time.

I'm a little conflicted.  I hate handing over more information than necessary (and even what IS necessary) about myself to companies.  I know quite a lot about what they do with it, and I don't like it.

However, I absolutely loved, Loved, LOVED not having to go to the damn store.  It was like having little elves scamper about, gathering my groceries for me while I saw with my feet up.  Now that winter break is ending, my plan is to enter my shopping list every Thursday evening and have the groceries ready for pickup Friday when I get out of work.  I'll barely have to stop at all.  Wow.  Just wow.

So far I'm a convert.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I made two fruitcakes a while ago.  They used regular dried fruit, not the candied fruit, thank you.  (I like fruitcake, but I'm less fond of the fake-y fake version.)  But although I followed the recipe exactly, the cakes crumbled when they came out of the pans.  Not enough moistured?  I don't know.  They tasted fine, but you'd have to eat them with a spoon, and they spread crumbs everywhere when you tried.

I thought for a while, and hit on making cake balls instead.

I got some cream cheese frosting and whirled with the fruitcake in my food processor for a bit, then chilled the mass overnight to stiffen it.  Then I melted some white chocolate in the microwave and used a cookie scoop to form the fruitcake mixture into balls, which I dipped into the white chocolate and set on waxed paper.  They came out messy--I can't for the life of me figure out how people make perfectly smooth anything when they dip--but they hardened nicely out on the front porch.  The boys tried them with some coaxing, and then devoured them.  They lasted only a day.

Meanwhile, they won't touch regular fruitcake.  Ha!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Maksim has a chipped tooth from having his braces off, and we kept forgetting to call the dentist about getting it fixed.  Today, I finally called.  Our dentist keeps evening hours on Wednesdays.

"We have an opening at 6:20," the receptionist said.  "Our next available appointment isn't until Tuesday at 11:00."

It was 5:15.  I glanced at the beef tips I had been planning for supper.  The dentist is ten minutes away.  The beef tips had to be cooked today, or they'd go bad.

"Okay," I said.  "We'll be there."

I bolted itno the kitchen.  Could I pull this off?

My knife flashed through the vegetables, slicing peppers, mushrooms, and onions.  I set rice on the stove to boil and melted butter in two saute pans, then set oil to warm in a third.  When the butter was melted and bubbly, I dropped sliced peppers, onions, and pea pods into them to sizzle, along with a little soy sauce and red wine.  Into the other pan went the mushrooms with salt and lemon juice and red wine.

Once those were going, I set the tips to cooking in olive oil with salt and yet more wine.  I shouted for Aran to come up and set the table.  The clock was ticking above the hissing stove, and I shook pans while minutes passed.

When the steak was done, I poured off drippings and yanked together a small pan of onion gravy.  At 5:50, I rushed everything to the table: beef tips sauteed in red wine with mushrooms, sauteed vegetables, steamed rice, onion gravy.  Ha!  The master chef strkes again!

It was very good.

At 6:07, I abandoned Darwin to do the cleanup and zipped out the door with Maksim straight into a snowstorm.  (!)  We hadn't even known it was snowing!  It was serious stuff, too.

We toddled down the snowy street, carefully negotiating turns and curves, and made it to the dentist at exactly 6:20.  Whew!  Maksim's tooth was repaired in an hour.  American health care for the win!

On our way back, the sky miraculously cleared, revealing a full, rich moon hovering over the remaining clouds.  It was a hella busy evening!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Today was a Difficult Day.  Fridays are difficult anyway because I do the weekly grocery shopping on the way home from work (mostly to get it out of the way for the weekend). This time, because of the Difficult Day, I was tired and in a bad mood.

So I splurged on the Friday menu and cooked a lot.  It became a Four Burner Friday, with Oven.

MENU
Garden Salad
Garlic Hoisin Baked Salmon
Paprika Cod
Sauteed Shrimp
Steamed Crab Legs
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Braised Carrots
Cheese Plate

This required quite a lot of careful timing.  I had to figure out how to get everything done just as Darwin got home from work.  It wasn't out of any demands made by him, but merely that Darwin gets home from work late, and the rest of us are hungry, so we want to eat when he walks in through the door.  I cheat a little here and use the tracker on his cell phone (to see how close he is).  I set the salad and cheese to chilling in the fridge first, with the sweet potatoes boiling on the stove next, since they take longest to cook.  When Darwin was about twenty minutes away, both kinds of fish went into the oven and I set the carrots to simmering on the stove, then mashed the sweet potatoes and set them back on the stove.  Ten minutes out, I heated up the pan of olive oil for the shrimp and dropped the crab into bubbling salt water.  It was a four-burner job!



Darwin got home just as everything was finishing up.  Everything headed for the table and we had a tasty meal to defuse the Difficult Day.

And I should get a medal for the perfect timing.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Maksim regularly lobbies to eat at IHop because of their choocolate pancakes, which he likes to eat with strawberry syrup.  So I decided to see what I could do with this.

I bought strawberry syrup at the store at my weekly grocery run, and yesterday set out to make the pancakes.  I used my usual pancake recipe (no Bisquick), but added cocoa and extra sugar, then cut back a little on the flour.  The batter came out silky and glossy.  I asked Darwin if he might want to try a pancake when they were done, and he said he wouldn't.  Then I showed him the batter.

"I'll have four," he said.

The pancakes came out fluffy, soft, and rich.  Maksim devoured them.  Aran was iffy at first--he doesn't like food variants--but I had him try one, and he became an instant convert.  I'm limited on what kind of pancakes I can eat, but I made a half-sized one for myself with a little bit of the syrup so I could see what they were like.  Perfect!  Chocolatey with a bit of cocoa bite, smoothed out with strawberry syrup.

The recipe I mostly made up as I went, but here it kind of is:

COCOA PANCAKES

2 eggs
1 cup lowfat milk (1% or 2%)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 t salt
3 T sugar
2 T baking powder
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa (you can use regular cocoa, but the pancakes won't taste as rich)
3 T vegetable oil

In the bottom of a pitcher, beat eggs with a wire whisk.  Add milk and first cup of flour.  Add other dry ingredients.  Whisk together until well blended.  Add last 1/2 cup of flour and oil.  Blend.  (You may need to adjust the flour up or down a little to get a good pouring consistency--add a bit more milk if the batter is too stiff.)  Pour pancake-sized portions onto heated non-stick griddle (or oiled regular griddle).  When they begin to bubble and the edges stiffen a little, turn with spatula.  Cook second side 1-2 minutes.  Serve hot with fresh fruit or syrup.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Everyone gets up in arms about artificial sweeteners. Whenever a new sweetener comes out, it comes under attack by the uber-granola crowd.  First it was saccharine.  Then aspartame.  Then sucralose. Then...

They cause cancer.  They cause diabetes.  They cause addiction to sweet foods.  They cause obesity.  They cause . . . they cause . . they cause . . .

Know what?  There isn't one shred of documented evidence for any of this.  Saccharine, for example, was indeed found to cause cancer in lab rats, but only when the rats were given nearly their own body weight in the stuff first.  But the headline SACCHARINE CAUSES CANCER got out, and suddenly everyone was screaming for it to be removed from foods.  Aspartame was used for decades and has absolutely no harmful side-effects whatsoever, as study after study after study has shown.  But thanks to the granola crunching crowd on the Internet, memes spread that it was somehow bad for you and the howling began.  Now the soda companies have removed it from their drinks and they're replaced it with Sucralose, which doesn't taste as good.

I really, really hate stupid people.

The only artificial sweetener Darwin can stomach in coffee or other mixed beverages is aspartame, largely because other sweeteners don't dissolve well. But it's getting harder to find thanks to the granola idiots.

And here's the thing: I'm breaking all kinds of granola idiot rules, to great effect.

DON'T USE ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS IN BAKING, they howl.  Never, ever ever!

Yeah?  Bite my hairy long one.  Maybe you'll get a little protein out of it, granola ass-wipes.

A while ago, I bought a big bag of zero-calorie white "sugar" and zero-calorie brown "sugar."  The white is supposed to be used one-for-one as regular sugar, and the brown is twice as sweet, so you use half as much.

As an experiment, I made some chocolate chip cookies with it.  I followed the recipe pretty much as normal, but substituting artificial sweetener for sugar: 3/4 cups of white and about 1/3 cup of brown.  Because I was afraid of lost bulk, I added another 1/3 cup of white sugar.  I also wanted to reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates from the flour.  The normal recipe I use calls for 2 3/4 cups of white flour.  I changed this to 1 1/2 cups of white flour and 1 1/4 cups of whole wheat flour and used 1 1/4 t. of baking soda instead of just 1 teaspoon to ensure a decent rise.  I also used dark chocolate chips, which have lower sugar than semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips.

The recipe:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup artificial white sugar
1/3 cup artificial brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 t vanilla
2 large eggs
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
12 oz. (2 cups) dark chocolate chips or pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat butter and all sweeteners together until well blended at medium speed, approximately three minutes.  Stir in eggs and vanilla.  Sift together dry ingredients and blend into butter mixture until just combined.  Mix in chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, usually about 12 minutes.

They came out tasting delicious.  Darwin and the boys said they couldn't tell the difference between these and regular cookies.

Yesterday, I tried the same thing with banana bread, once again substituting artificial sweetener for the sugar and using half white and half whole wheat flour.  I got the same result--banana bread that was indistinguishable from regular bread, but something the diabetics in the house could eat without spiking their blood sugar.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Today, my ex-wife texted me to say she was at the store and they had Porterhouse steaks on mega-sale, but she couldn't cook them--her broiler doesn't work right and she has no grill.  Perhaps she could bring them over for a cookout . . . ?

Well, sure!

I popped out to the store and got some corn on the cob, broccoli, and the ingredients for cheese potato casserole.  I whipped up the latter and got it in the oven.  Kala arrived, and I finished prep on the other stuff, which included cubing a watermelon I already had.  When Darwin got home, Kala laid the enormous steaks on the smoking hot grill and grilled them to perfection just as the potatoes came out of the oven.  We all sat down to delicious steaks with cheese potatoes, buttery corn on the cob, fresh broccoli, and cool watermelon.  It was a summer delight!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I found a slew of recipes for chicken thighs on-line a while ago and saved them because Darwin and the boys all like chicken thighs quite a lot, but most recipes call for white meat.  Good thigh recipes are rare.

Anyway, today was a chilly day, a good one for working in the kitchen, and I decided to try this one Italian chicken recipe.  The short version is that you fried the chicken halfway, then used some of the fat to make a sauce with garlic, onions, thyme, red pepper, heavy cream, broth, paremsan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and a few other things.  Then you return the chicken to the pan and bake it to finish.  Sounded good to me.

I followed the recipe exactly, as I always do the first time.  When the chicken was on a plate, resting, and the sauce was done, I tried some.

The sauce was AWFUL!  Bitter, too spicy, bad mouth feel.  Absolutely wretched.  I went back through the recipe to see if I'd made a mistake.  Nope.  I'd done everything the recipe called for.  Oh, it was terrible!

Now I had a plateful of half-cooked chicken and a houseful of hungry people.  What the hell was I supposed to do?

I checked the fridge.  I'd bought a big box of mushrooms recently.  I grabbed the bottle of Marsala from the bottom shelf--lots in there.  Chicken Marsala it is!

I dumped the awful sauce down the drain, though I ran it through a strainer first to preserve the (extremely expensive) sun-dried tomatoes.  When I tasted one, I found they were quite delicious, at least.  Cool.  They'll be good on sandwiches or something.

I hurriedly chopped onions and garlic, sauteed them in olive oil and butter, and threw in the mushrooms.  When they were soft, I added the marsala and some flour, and then some chicken broth.  This I reduced until it was thick.  Meanwhile, I heated another pan and cooked the chicken the rest of the way through.  When the marsala sauce was thick and bubbly, I added the chicken to it and let it all simmer together for a few minutes.  There!

Rescued Chicken Marsala! It tasted much better.

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