Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Dinner

Yes, I actually did cook food for my family's Christmas dinner. Real cooking, none of that pansy toss-together-a-salad-out-of-a-bag or shove-some-rolls-from-a-tube-in-the-mini-oven stuff. In the process of my epic journey of real cookery I dirtied no less than 1 saucepan, 2 large pots, 4 mixing bowls, and 2 pyrex baking dishes. And that's not counting all the utensils I used. It took over 4 hours to do everything. And I loved it. We've still yet to see if I'll love it 365 days a year when I have my own house, thing at a time.

The Menu

Wild Mushroom Soup
Simple Potato Salad
Lemon Chicken
Yumi's New York-Style Cheesecake

And now I shall proceed to go into each menu item in depth. Because I assume by the fact that you are reading this blog, you care as much about what I'm eating/cooking as I do.

The mushroom soup was something I was extremely excited to make. I've never made it before, but I chose the recipe (from based on the review that it was exceedingly like Panera Bread's Forest Mushroom soup, which I adore. The recipe itself was more complex than any soup I've made before (for one, it actually sort of mattered in what order you chucked the ingredients in the pot--gasp!), but obviously not too complex as it came together without a hitch. So, was it like Panera's soup? definitely had the same feel, but it wasn't exactly the same. Which isn't surprising, seeing as I skimped on the mushroom portion of the recipe a great deal (no nearby Italian grocery+no desire to search for one on Christmas Eve=no porcini mushrooms). But I liked it. Which is all that matters.

Potato salad is sort of more of a summery dish, but I made it anyway for two reasons: 1. I love the stuff any time of year, and 2. I promised The Boyfriend that I'd make it. Oh, that's right, I haven't mentioned that he was having dinner with us yet, right? Well now you know. The potato salad requires a lot of chopping, which I handed off to The Boyfriend, which made my mother joke about "slave labor". As if I care, as long as I get my ingredients chopped (he ate half of the kielbasa he was supposed to be dicing for the salad, so I'd say it was fair compensation). As I've said before, I don't think potato salad is a dish that can be messed up. And it wasn't.

Out of all of these, what worried me the most was the chicken. The recipe is courtesy of Tammy Donroe of Food on the Food, which made me feel a little better--I've found that recipes posted on food blogs are oftentimes less likely to bomb since they've (presumably) already been tested by real people. But still. Protein that is unprocessed (read: not kielbasa) somewhat frightens me, because I'm afraid I'll cook it too long or too hot or too wrong and it'll by one mistake or another, come out tasteless, chewy, and revolting.

As it turns out, I needn't have worried, because the chicken came out just fine, despite my forgetting various parts of the recipe (such as the sliced lemon and half the lemon juice. Ah well). I loved the acidity of it (I love acid. Salt & Vinegar chips. Pickles.) and can't wait to make it again.

The cheesecake...well, it was the usual. I forgot the vanilla extract, but it didn't seem to make much of a difference. The most unfortunate thing was that I'd forgotten that 16 oz. of cream cheese only makes enough filling for one thick 11" round pie, and I had to make two (one to take to a party the next day). So the cheesepies were woefully thin since I split the filling between two pies, and while no one besides my dad cared, it's something to keep in mind. Always have enough cream cheese.

Aaaaand...that was Christmas. After dinner The Boyfriend and I ensconced upstairs and locked ourselves in the TV room. And watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Kung Fu Panda. It was an amazing night (and both are excellent, if you haven't seen them I highly recommend it).

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thanksgiving Treats

A weekend home means oven access, which I intend to take full advantage of. In addition to churning out a few cheesecakes as per my parents' demand (not without mistakes, I forgot the eggs, but they turned out great anyway), I decided to try something new.

As you might have guessed, I'm not the most careful of cooks--eggs forgotten, 1 1/2 cups of lemon juice added instead of 1/2. Baking, a science which requires accuracy to ensure success, is not exactly my forte. So browsing my virtual library of recipes, I decided to try something that wasn't too easy to fuck up.

Meringues. The most challenging part of this recipe, to me, anyway, would be getting the egg whites to foam. I've tried twice before without success, and was beginning to think the ability to whisk egg whites into a perfect fluff was just something you were either born with or without. This time, I Googled "how to whisk egg whites into peaks" and came up with the following list of handy tips:

-make sure your bowl and beaters are completely clean, because oil will keep air bubbles from forming.
-make sure there is absolutely
no egg yolk in your whites. Now we know where I went wrong last time.
-use a copper bowl, which will help air bubbles form. I have none, and am unwilling to go out and buy one, so a plain metal mixing bowl will have to do.
-use an electric mixer. Duly noted.
-use older eggs, which, due to chemical changes that take place in an egg overtime, will be more easily whipped into foam.
-add a pinch of salt to the whites at the beginning of beating to stiffen the proteins. did they turn out?

meringues by you.

From REC(ession)IPES

3 egg whites
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

~Heat oven to 225 degrees F.
~Beat egg whites and vanilla until the mixture begins to stiffen and form small peaks
~Slowly add sugar while continuing to beat until the sugar is more or less dissolved and the mixture is not grainy
~Place spoonfuls of batter on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 4-5 hours until they are hard, crunchy, and the centers are not chewy.

Bento Stream

1 by you.

Stir-fried noodles with mushrooms and carrots, romaine lettuce salad from a bag, italian dressing, hardboiled egg, mochi.

1 by you.

Rice with salmon furikake, cut kielbasa, hardboiled egg, mochi, three apple Kasugai gummies.

1 by you.

Egg omelet sandwich, veggie-grits croquette, persimmons. Not pictured: Teriyaki dipping sauce.

1 by you.

Scallion and kielbasa omelet, kielbasa on the side, mashed potatoes.

1 by you.

Plain rice, octopus hotdogs, raw broccoli florets, Ranch dressing for dipping.

1 by you.

Fried potatoes, octopus hotdogs, tomato and romaine salad, mango cubes.

macandcheese by you.

Random bowl of macaroni.