Monday, August 31, 2009

Improvements and Banana Bread

I made banana bread in a microwave!! I'm really pleased it came out as well as it did. It's a cheater recipe, because I used a cake mix as a base, but whatever. I don't have any flour or sugar to make it from scratch. Besides, more importantly, I can bake in a microwave!! I think I've mentioned that the dormitories I'm in don't have ovens (if I haven't, there ya go). This greatly disappointed me, as I had just gotten really interested in making baked goods--cookies, cakes, dessert bars, etc. I was determined to have my baked goods, so I did a quick Google, and lo and behold, you can bake in a microwave!

I've read many cooking articles despairing about the use of the microwave in cooking. I say screw that. When a microwave's all you got, you make do. Besides, it's not like I'm about to start microwave-cooking everything. Just things that can't be made on a stove. Like banana bread.

I currently have two banana bread recipes in my large virtual recipe library. I picked the simpler of the two, the Quick & Easy Banana Bread featured on SavvyMiss, courtesy of Myvesta’s, and modified it slightly to suit my needs (basically, the dilemma that I had no vanilla extract, no nuts, and most of all no oven).

Cheater Microwave Banana Bread

3 large ripe bananas
1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs

1 ramekin (or many, if you don't want to "bake" these one at a time)
vegetable oil for greasing the ramekin
microwave-safe mug filled with water

~In a large mixing bowl, mash up the bananas somehow. I used the tip of a whisk because I had no potato masher available.
~Add the cake mix and eggs and mix well.
~Grease the inside of your ramekin(s) with vegetable oil. This will help your banana bread come out easily.
~Fill the ramekin about halfway to the top, and stick it in the microwave. Put the mug of water alongside it; the water will evaporate in the microwave and keep the banana bread from getting too dry as it rises.
~Set the microwave timer on about 4 minutes--you may need to add more or less time depending on how powerful your microwave is. When the loaf is done cooking, it should have risen a centimeter or two above the edge of the ramekin. Use your first "loaf" to get the time right. Test your banana bread by sticking a toothpick or skewer into the center of the loaf and seeing if it comes out clean. If your loaf is too dry, set the next batch for less time, and if it's still partially raw when you test it add another minute.
~When your banana bread is done, turn the ramekin upside down over a plate and slide a butter knife or fork against the edge of the bread to loosen it. If you greased the ramekin enough, it should pop out pretty easily.

Yields about 4 ramekin-loaves...well, I don't know for how many people exactly, because the first two were torn apart by Mi and E and our dorm neighbors.

I made chicken teriyaki for dinner tonight like E asked yesterday. This time I made a few changes to the recipe, namely adding 2 tbsp of honey and a handful of sliced ginger. Made it a lot better.

Before I go...
Fire Alarm Count: 14.
Apparently someone was burning incense, which is not allowed in dorms for the explicit reason that it sets off fire alarms.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

And It Starts Again...

Fire Alarm Count: 13

Today we had 2 fire alarms literally within 30 minutes of each other. This is getting absurd. Yumi is not pleased.

Furthermore, it has interfered with my cooking. E asked for my chicken teriyaki for dinner today. I can't tell you how happy I was that someone actually liked my cooking enough to specifically request something.

But after the second fire alarm today, the dorm room RAs announced that to prevent further fire alarms, we were not allowed to cook for the rest of the day.

The idea that I could potentially get in trouble for being able to cook was just ridiculous to me.

On a separate note, my room mate, L, moved into our dormitory for good today. So since we couldn't make dinner we decided to go out to eat. The Coffee Shop is a cozy diner and bar on the corner of Union Square. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of the tasty burger (they're willing to make them rare! Some restaurants don't do rare meat for fear of health problems) with guacamole I enjoyed. But the restaurant lighting was so dim any photos would have come out crappy anyway.

You would be getting a recipe for crab and cucumber salad today, which was supposed to be a side dish for my teriyaki chicken, but since I wasn't allowed to cook today that didn't happen. I plan on making it tomorrow, so...till then.

Midnight Snacks Episode 1

I would first like to congratulate the other inhabitants of my building for not setting off the fire alarm today.

Second, yes, I am indeed making a post at 4 AM. The reason for this is because I am staying up atrociously late to boil water.

Yes. That's right. Boiling water. Not even with an egg or two in the water. Just water. To drink. Because I have personally always felt that buying large quantities of bottled water was a bit stupid when you had a perfectly good kitchen tap right there. I know there is a group of paranoid people who will immediately warn me "Don't do it! Tap water has lead and contaminants and blah, blah blah..." whatever. Past generations have grown up just fine on just water boiled over the stove. If you're that worried, do what everyone says and run the tap for 2 minutes before consuming any of it. I refuse to use bottled water for all my cooking and drinking purposes, and people who are still paranoid can just go here and read up on tap water safety and then come back and inform me of it.

Those of you who wonder why the hell I am not boiling my water while the sun is actually up do not know me well. Which is understandable, because those who do know me know that I like to stay up late. A lot. Really late. And these late-night vigils often involve a snack. Maybe even snacks. And therein lies the reason for my late-night-ness.

Yes, I actually do this. You may laugh.

Tonight, the snack is the leftover margherita pizza that I had as a parting meal with The Boyfriend before he embarked upon his journey back home. Yes, we are totally serious about this long-distance relationship thing. And those of you who can only offer pessimistic comments about the imminent outcome of this endeavor can suck it. Now now, Yumi, be nice!

Ahem. Anywhoo...this margherita pizza by Brooklyn's Tomato N Basil, I would say, is not quite on par with the one I enjoyed on two occasions at Cranbury Pizza, which I just discovered is famous for their margherita pizza (I might be biased, but this is my blog and I'll be biased if I want to). But it was definitely yummy, and dammit I'm no food critic--The Boyfriend and I got a whole pie and had three slices apiece, and wrapped up the remaining two and brought it back to my dormitory. I would gladly eat this pizza again in a heartbeat. Which I am now doing. And with a mug of Arizona Iced Green Tea, I am content.

On a random note, on the way back to my dormitory after pizza, I bought four beautiful vine-ripened tomatoes that actually smell like tomatoes from a street cart by my building for $1.50. As opposed to the two tasteless beefsteak tomatoes Whole Foods fleeced me $2.95 for a few days ago. I am so never buying produce at Whole Foods again. I don't care how organic their food is, if I can't afford it it's not happening.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Defeating the Purpose of Veggies

By frying and adding butter. Yes. While I am not one of those people who cringe at the mention of leafy greens, fried food appeals to me so much more than rabbit food. You may remember that on the day I made linguine, I had some leftover okra and pasta...and today, since it was just The Boyfriend and me for dinner (Mi went home to beg her mom for more rice, and E went out to dinner with a cousin) I decided to make good use of them in an experimental recipe that I had never ever ever made before.

Fried okra. I'm told a lot of people are turned off by the sliminess of the interior of okra. My dad is one of those people. But personally, I have always loved okra. I couldn't tell you why. I just do. The point being, a lot of people don't like how slimy okra is. And according to what seems to be a majority of the Internet, a way to kill that sliminess that people so abhor is by deep-frying it.

I considered this deep-fry method, but seeing as I'm a starving college student and not really in the mood to waste about half the bottle of vegetable oil it would take to deep-fry anything, I decide to go with just frying it.

Panko Fried Okra w/ Butter Pasta and Marinara

1 cup okra, sliced into roughly 1 cm lengths
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
salt to taste
2 servings of pasta
1 1/2 cup marinara sauce

~Heat up the marinara sauce on medium heat, then put it on low heat and set it aside, stirring occasionally.
~Boil the pasta and drain it. Then melt the butter in a pan and basically fry the noodles in butter. Pasta made with semolina flour will not brown the way Chinese noodles do (something I discovered today) but they will still become satisfyingly buttery. Freshman 15, here I come! Pour the marinara sauce over the pasta.
~Dip the okra into the egg, then roll them in the bread crumbs. Do this with more care than I did, because if you look at my photo you can see most of the panko fell off during the frying process. I was too rough with them. But The Boyfriend was hungry, so I was in a hurry. He was hungry because I was so absorbed in my Harry Potter researching that I basically forgot to make dinner. I'm such a bad girlfriend.
~Heat up the oil in a pan, and when it's hot transfer the okra into the pan carefully to avoid panko loss. Stir the okra with a wooden spoon until the panko turns golden and delicious looking.
~Season with garlic powder and salt. Spoon it over pasta.

Makes enough for 2 people.

(Also, I would like to report that the fire alarm count has not changed since my post earlier this day! Let it be known that since this all started, that is a record. How sad is that? Hopefully we can keep this up. Wish us luck.)

More Idiocy and Grilled Cheese

Okay, so I realize it's unusual for me to be making a post this early. You can blame this on the morons who live in my building, who managed to set off the fire alarm at 9 in the morning.

Fire Alarm Count: 10

On to the food. After trudging down 11 flights of stairs first thing in the morning, when I returned to my dormitory I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich. The simple grilled cheese is imperative to keep me happy and content under stressful conditions. This is soul food, my friends.

Grilled Cheese to Soothe the Soul

2 slices of bread, preferably organic Italian bread from Whole Foods
1 or 2 slices of American cheese
2 tbsp butter (yes, it's a lot of butter. I promise it's worth it)

~Heat up your pan over the stove. When the pan is hot, add one dollop of butter to melt.
~When the butter is completely melted, put one slice of bread down on the pan. On top of this, add your cheese slice(s) and your second slice of bread.
~When the bread facing the pan is lightly browned, melt the second tbsp of butter in the pan and flip the sandwich carefully with a spatula.
~By the time the second slice of bread is crisp, buttery, and delicious, you should be unbearably hungry. If not, I forbid you to eat this sandwich. Send it to me.
~Slice in half, watch the strings of gooey cheese pull apart, and enjoy.

Makes enough for 1 person. Or maybe not. You may need to make two of these. I do. Often.

Oh, wait, make that 11 for the fire alarm count, by the way. I made a quick run to the Financial Aid office with E and by the time we got back, there were fire trucks lined up outside our building.

To end this post on a cheerier note: Yesterday, this blog reached 100 hits! Yaaaay! Please help me make it to the 1000 mark too~!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Using Chicken Teriyaki for Evil

Fire Alarm Count Thus Far: 6.
In case you couldn't tell, it's really starting to piss me off. I mean, is it really so difficult to turn on a vent fan and open a window? Let me answer that for you. No. No it is not. Better yet, don't burn anything in the first place. I'm sure at this point, the NY Fire Department, who has come down every time the alarm has sounded, hates us and wishes we were dead. I bet that the one time there is an actual fire, they're going to think, "Screw this, it's just another stupid teenager who can't cook for shit and is too dumb to open a window."

Now that I'm done with that little rant...let's get to the cooking.

As you might have gleaned from this post's title...tonight I made chicken teriyaki! I'll be very honest, whole chicken legs make me a tad nervous. It is much trickier to tell if they are fully cooked than with chicken breasts, since the texture of cooked chicken leg meat is not too dissimilar to that of raw, partially frozen chicken leg meat. The first and only time (to date) that I have attempted to make fried, whole chicken legs, my mother failed to tell me that the drumsticks needed to be stabbed several times in order to cook thoroughly, and so I dipped and re-dipped the chicken legs into the hot oil until the breadcrumbs nearly turned black, and still the meat next to the bone remained pink and decidedly raw.

Today, cooking for my two suitemates Mi and E and The Boyfriend (who had come to visit), I was determined to do this right. I stabbed those chicken legs 5, 10, 15 times as if they had done me some great personal wrong before letting them sit in fridge and soak up the marinade for a half hour. Then I fried them in a pan over the electric stove (which I love) for a long time until I was sure those legs were completely cooked through.

Marinating chicken legs.

And before you ask, it was yummy. A resounded success, if you will. Especially since this is my first time using chicken drumsticks for anything besides fried chicken or curry. It made the whole kitchen smell delicious, The Boyfriend hung around behind me while I cooked staring intently at the pan, and just to be evil, E and I opened our dormitory door and fanned the smell out into the hallway to tempt innocent passerby.

Photo of me browning the onions and scallions, taken by The Boyfriend who was hovering around with my camera. Like my cupcake earring? It's my favorite pair.

Drool-Worthy Chicken Teriyaki

4 chicken legs with skin still attached
1 medium onion, diced
1 scallion, chopped
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup cold water
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
black sesame seeds for garnish

~Stab the chicken legs multiple times with a small knife until they are appropriately perforated (not actually, just make sure you stab it enough so that cooking it won't take forever). Chuck them in a large bowl while you mix the marinade.
~In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the teriyaki sauce, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Pour over the chicken legs, and dunk the chicken in and out of them until they are soaked and more or less submerged. Pour half of the onions in and mix it in good. Pop this in the refrigerator to marinade for about 30 minutes.
~Near the end of the 30 minutes, it is probably a good time to start making your rice.
~After 30 minutes are over, pull the chicken out of the fridge. Heat up the vegetable oil in a pan, and when it's hot add the remaining onions and most of the scallions, setting some aside to garnish. Saute until the smell of the onions are wafting up from the pan before putting the chicken legs in.
~When one side of the chicken is nicely brown, flip it to cook the other side (This task can be made much easier with a pair of wooden chopsticks or tongs. Since I had neither, I made do with a wooden spoon).
~Meanwhile, use the leftover marinade to make a sauce by adding the water and cornstarch to the bowl and whisking it all together. Wait until both sides of the chicken is browned before adding this mixture to the pan, because if you don't you will wind up boiling the chicken instead of frying it like you're supposed to.
~Stir the contents of the pan slowly to keep the liquid from sticking the to bottom of the pan and burning. By the time the sauce starts to thicken, you can stab a couple of chicken legs a few more times to the bone to see if they're done. You will know the chicken won't make you sick if you slit it open and the meat inside is white and the juices that gush out from the incision are clear. A few spots of pink near the bone is normal, as long as it's not actually bleeding.

Makes enough for 4 people. Serve garnished with reserved scallions and steamed rice topped with sesame seeds.

I used store-bought Tsunami-brand teriyaki sauce for this, because I didn't have all the ingredients on hand to make it from scratch (in case you were wondering how I managed to have bottled teriyaki sauce in a kitchen I just recently moved into but not ginger or brown sugar, which by all rights should be staples and are the two ingredients I'm missing...I brought it from home). But if making it from scratch is more your style, check out this recipe from Recipezaar, which got very high reviews, and tell me how it turns out so I can use it the next time my kitchen is more well-stocked.

You can also use chicken breast for this recipe, obviously, but let's be honest, chicken legs just taste so much better.

The Boyfriend, eating my chicken teriyaki and rice. I almost wouldn't believe his pronouncement of it being good if I hadn't also eaten it myself.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Idiots Who Can't Cook and Marinara Sauce with Fresh Basil

It's been a few days since I've made a post. No, that does not mean I haven't eaten anything since my last post. I took the train back to my house to pick up a few things and slept over at The Boyfriend's house with a few friends, and my diet on those days consisted mainly of Philly's cheese steak and Papa John's pizza.

I would like to take this moment to crown Papa John's as the best restaurant/takeout pizza you can get. Why this bold declaration, you ask?

*It's not super-greasy. Many restaurant pizzas have so much oil floating on top of the cheese that it could be soaked up with a sponge.
*The cheese is not burnt, it is perfectly soft and melted.
*The tomato sauce is not just salty, it is sweet and tastes deliciously of tomatoes.
*The dough is soft and bread-y.
*The crust is crisp, but not hard.

Yes. I love my pizza, and Papa John's has appealed to me for all of the above reasons.

On Monday morning, my dad dropped me off at Princeton Junction Station. After I took the NJ Transit back to New York, and rode the subway to 1st Avenue, all the while lugging a duffel bag that I swear weighed about 80 pounds (I'm 105 lbs., so you see why this is a problem.) and carting a plastic crate loaded with even more stuff, I was too broken in body and spirit to even attempt to make myself dinner. So I caved and ran to the nearest CVS and bought myself a few cans of Chef Boyardee ravioli. (Oh no she di'nt!)

Anyway, onto food that I actually made. I have had a package of linguine sitting on my desk shelf since I moved in (if you squint at the picture of my desk I posted on August 20th, you'll see it sitting next to the bag of rice), and since Mi and E had invited a friend, J, who lives on the 1st floor of our dormitory building, up for dinner tonight, I figured tonight would be a good opportunity to use it. So on our way back from Orientation, we stopped by Whole Foods and grabbed a jar of 365 Everyday Value Classic Marinara pasta sauce, frozen okra, and some Canola Oil (we looked for olive oil, which I prefer, but all they had was Extra-Virgin for like $10 a bottle and we're too poor for that).

Back in our cramped dorm room kitchen, I was about to start cooking when...dun dun duuuun! Disaster strikes! The fire alarm starts blaring, for the second time that day (we were gone for the first time). My room is on the 11th floor, and during fire alarms we aren't allowed to take the elevator, so it was down 11 flights of stairs we went. By the time the fire trucks had pulled away, it was 6:45 and dinner was late.

Okay, as I was typing this, the fire alarm just went off AGAIN. And apparently the reason for these THREE alarms in one day was because some people kept burning stuff on the kitchen stove, which created so much smoke that it set off the alarms. What the fuck? (this is probably a good time to mention this blog is not for young impressionable children.) It is not difficult to keep from burning things on an electric stove. If you're really that bad at cooking, you should probably either have someone teach you how to avoid burning things, or just stay the hell away from the kitchen. I'm getting tired of walking down 11 flights of stairs in the midst of a piercing fire alarm.

ANYWAY. On to the recipe. Before walking down 11 flights of stairs for the second time today, I would have said this isn't going to add any kind of extra wisdom to one's mental library of culinary knowledge...but now I think otherwise. So without further ado, I present spaghetti for dummies.

Twice-Interrupted Linguine with Marinara Sauce and Veggies

4 servings of linguine (about 2 oz. per person)
1 1/2 cup of marinara sauce
1 large tomato, diced
1 onion, diced
1 cup okra, chopped
1/2 cup button mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp oil
a few sprigs of fresh basil, chopped

~Toss the linguine in a pot of water with a pinch of salt and set it to boil.
~In a large pan, heat up the oil and put in the chopped basil leaves and diced onion and stir on medium heat until the onion is lightly browned.
~Add the mushrooms, okra, and tomato, and push it around some more until the tomatoes become mushy.
~Tip in the marinara sauce, and stir it until it's hot and the entire kitchen smells like an Italian restaurant.
~The linguine is done when you throw it at the wall and it sticks. Do not overcook it. I prefer my pasta with a little bite--al dente, for all you cooking geeks, meaning to tooth. Cooking this particular pasta to al dente should take about 10 minutes in boiling water. Drain your linguine and divvy it up into four bowls. Pour the sauce and veggies over it and enjoy!

Makes enough for 4 people.

Sauteing the onions and basil.

This is J.

You can also basically do this with any other type of pasta. I intend on making it with shells, which is my favorite pasta shape because the yummy sauces can hide in the little "bowl" the shell makes, and each bite contains a burst of tomato-y goodness.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Trip to the Farmer's Market and Tomato Mushroom Scrambled Eggs

I can see this is going to become a regular thing. All the better.

Today after Orientation ended, Mi, E, and I stumbled upon a farmer's market on the way back to our dormitory. It's an odd concept for me, chancing upon vegetable/foodstuffs stalls in the middle of the city, because...I mean, would you expect to find people hawking fish and produce in the middle of NYC?

Well, maybe you do. I suppose since farmer's markets are the new hottest thing for "green" living, and New York City is one of the first to pick up on trends...

Anyway, Mi, E, and I walked through the farmer's market. Mi bought a bag of onions (different varieties--I think red and Italian being a few), and we also bought a small basil plant. Because fresh basil is awesome, and I'm totally going to attempt to make margherita pizza in our microwave oven at sometime. Wish me luck.

We checked out the tomatoes in the farmer's market also, but most of them were pretty pricey--$3-3.50 per lb., because they were all fancy heirloom varieties. Eh. For those who can afford it...we ran into Whole Foods across the street instead and picked up cheap tomatoes, button mushrooms, and a pack of 3 chicken drumsticks for me to make into curry later this week.

When we got back, it was past lunchtime, so E whipped up some Korean-style fried rice with last night's leftover white rice, eggs, scallions, and one of the small onions we'd just picked up. I don't have any pictures of this, unfortunately, because when I ran to get my camera I discovered the batteries were dead. So I had to wait for it to recharge, and of course by then all the fried rice was eaten. Oh well.

Anyway, on to dinner. Steamed white rice and scrambled eggs with tomatoes and mushrooms was my favorite dish when I was little...

Tomato Mushroom Scrambled Eggs

1 large tomato, chopped into large chunks
3 large eggs
3/4 cup of button mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp oil
salt and soy sauce to taste

~Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat them until they are well mixed. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan, and pour the beaten egg in when it's hot. We want the eggs to be in larger pieces than for the fried rice, so leave it alone longer until the "skin" that forms on the bottom of the pan is quite thick, but it is still liquid on the top. Break it apart with a wooden spoon and push it around until the egg is entirely cooked--it's alright to brown it a little in this recipe. When the egg is done, put it aside in its bowl.
~Heat the second tbsp of oil in the pan, and use this to fry up the tomatoes and mushrooms. Now is the time to add a little salt and soy sauce.
~When the tomatoes have began to turn mushy, add the eggs in and cook for a minute or two longer.

Makes enough for 3 people.

Mi (right) and E waiting for me to finish cooking. All in due time...

Along with our tomato mushroom egg dish, we opened a tin of peppered tuna and some kimchi. I have grown to really like kimchi; the sour spiciness is oddly appealing. Yum. Usually I've not been very good at handling spicy foods, but living with two Korean girls, I suppose it's inevitable that I eventually get used to eating spicy food...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fried Rice in a Dormitory Kitchen

Super-quick post, and I have no photos...sorry. I forgot.

Today, Mi, E, and I went to Koreantown. No, not Chinatown. Koreantown. Yes, I know, I was surprised too. But apparently it exists. Anyway, we went to stock up on essentials--laundry detergent, dish soap, and the like. We also picked up some basic food supplies--eggs, butter, scallions, soy sauce (we're Asian, okay?), sesame oil, and kimchi. It is this that leads me to today's dinner: egg fried rice. It's a very easy dish to cook, and can be put together with just 4 basic ingredients, although of course more would make it better. Here's what went into ours...

Egg Fried Rice

3 cups of cooked white rice
3 eggs
2 tbsp oil (any kind; we used sesame)
2 tbsp butter
1 whole scallion, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
soy sauce (season according to taste)

~Crack open and beat your eggs in a small bowl. You can add salt and milk if you like--I didn't use either, because this dish is already salty enough without more salt, and milk is reserved for breakfast scrambled eggs.
~Heat up your pan on the stove. When it is hot, melt 1 tbsp of butter on it. Pour your beaten eggs into the pan. When the eggs begin to form a noticeable skin on the bottom, but is still mostly liquid, break it apart with a wooden spoon and push it around so that it forms smallish clumps (say about the size of a grape). When the eggs are cooked but not browned, dump them back in the bowl they were beaten in and set them aside.
~Don't bother washing that pan. I don't. It's just going to get more egg in it anyway. Now heat up 1 tbsp of oil in the pan, and put the cooked rice (emphasis on COOKED rice, one might think this is obvious but apparently my father's students once attempted this dish with RAW rice) in the pan. Melt your second tbsp of butter in here, and push the lump of butter around so that all the rice gets equal exposure to the fatty goodness. Break apart the rice so that it is not too clumpy, and add the second tbsp of oil and the salt and pepper.
~Add the eggs and the scallions to the rice in the pan, and push it all around. Add soy sauce to taste; the color of the rice should be around a light tan-brown, depending on how strong your soy sauce is (Japanese soy sauce is lighter, milder, and less salty than Chinese soy sauce).

This recipe makes enough for 3 people. It's very simple to adjust this recipe to make more or less to suit the number of guests you have. As this is a pretty versatile recipe, you can also add other things to it--frozen vegetables, chopped meat (hot dogs work well), etc. Use your imagination and have fun! This is another recipe for the cooking-inept. It's pretty hard to screw up--you'd have to leave the pan on the stove and walk away and forget about it for half and hour or something, as even if you leave the rice on the stove unattended for a few minutes all that happens is the rice browns and gets a nice crunchy texture. It's also a CHEAP dish; the 12 dozen eggs cost $1.69, and we only used 3 to make enough food for three people. Scallions were $2 for a big bundle. Soy sauce and oil should be staples, but since I'm writing this for college, the smallish bottles we got ran us about $3 each, and we'll definitely be using it more in the future. The rice we used we made in our rice cooker, but you could just as easily cook up some Minute rice or get a few containers of steamed rice for $1 each from your local Chinese or Japanese restaurant.

This was the first time I really cooked in our new kitchen. Our stove is electric, and I have to admit at first I was trying to figure out how to light it (I'm used to my house's gas stove), before I realized "OH it's electric! It doesn't need to be lit." Smart, huh? But anyway, I got it fired up and it heated up really fast, and is really easy to clean. I was impressed. This stove and I are going to have a beautiful relationship.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Purple Dinosaur Sprinkles Eats Like a College Student...

...NOT. In my defense, I would have eaten like a college student today, had my mother not forgotten to pack the Top Ramen I had been meant to take with me to college. As it were, I was left with a bag of rice and limitless options. In the end, my suitemates Mi and E and I wandered out to the Japanese & Thai restaurant on the street corner and bought a miso-glazed salmon steak for $15. Kind of a ripoff considering you can get a way thicker and juicier steak for $6.99 at the Asian Food Market, but while I had brought a sizable arsenal of cookware with me to college, we had no oil and no seasonings with which to cook. We're going shopping tomorrow.

But yes. We bought a miso-glazed salmon steak (which was quite tasty, by the way, although a bit drier than I prefer my salmon) and made some rice in our rice cooker, and E brought out some hard-boiled eggs, Korean seaweed, and some sort of meat (beef, I believe), and that was dinner.

Miso-glazed salmon. E loved the veggies.

Rice and an egg: Simplicity at it's finest.

The nori (seaweed) was awesome too. Korean nori is a lot crisper and delicate than the tougher Japanese variety used to wrap sushi. I usually get the seasoned kind, but unseasoned, these 3x2" sheets wrapped around a ball of rice made a humble but yummy meal.

After dinner Mi gave us each an apple, of which apparently she had brought loads. And it was a DELICIOUS apple. I honestly cannot think of a time I had enjoyed an apple more. In fact, I may have to ask her what kind of apple it was...I would post a photo here, but unfortunately I ate it before I thought to take a picture of it. I'm sure Mi has more, though, so I'll ask her for one to take a photo of later.

And now, I'm going to entertain you all with pictures of my new dormitory, which I'm sure none of you have any interest in. But humor me.

So, this is my bed. I got a body pillow--y'know, to replace The Boyfriend. It has a colorful stripey case that I luvvers. And yes, my bed has lots of pillows. Between sleeping, reading, and being on my laptop, I practically live on my bed. The pillows are for good proppage! Or, y'know, just because I like 'em. Oh, and that is N's old wallet on my bed. No, I didn't steal it, N gave it to me. Which makes it my new wallet. It's super-cute.
Okay, so this chair here? It is EVIL. You know how a lot of teenagers (I'm kind of being generic here, as I've never seen an adult do this, and the guys at my high school used to get yelled at for this all the time) like to tip their 4-legged chairs back and wobble back and forth on just the two back legs? Well, I swear the designer of this chair had those pesky teens in mind when he created this chair. It very easily leans back at the slightest shift in weight--which, of course, means my flopping back in my chair leads to me wildly windmilling my arms in an attempt to regain balance. It feels like I'm falling back in my chair, which, if anyone has ever had it happen to them, is a scary experience.

So far, it's already gotten me 3 times, once in front of my new room mate, L, and her mother. I love looking ridiculous in front of people I just met, but...only by my own choice! Jeez.

This is the shelf above my desk. Yes, it's cluttered. And I'm aware that the rice, pasta, and pancake mix look odd next to my small collection of perfume and scented oils. Just let it go.

So that's my first day in a dormitory! I'm really excited to be on my own at last. So finally the true purpose of this blog is revealed: to record my eating habits during college. I'm off to a good start, but we'll see if my love for cooking degenerates to a hatred of the stove over the 4 long years I have to fend for myself.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Picnic at the Fountain~Cookies and Potato Salad

Alright, so...originally, this was not supposed to be a picnic day. My friends N (the same friend that didn't make it for D&D), C, and I were supposed to go to the aquarium today. I made an Event for it on Facebook and everything. But through a series of incidents (read: we couldn't get the car for the day) that wasn't able to happen. So we're having a picnic by the Fountain of Freedom (better known as "The Fountain") in Scudder Plaza instead. For this monumental occasion, I decided to make two types of cookies and potato salad. N came over for a baking party (I know, we are totally your average college-bound teenagers, no?) and we made mutilated variations of the Chewy Chocolate Cookies from Stylish Cuisine and Domestic Goddess's Cherry Bakewell Biscuits.

They are variations mainly because of my complete inability to stand and measure every last pinch of flour that falls into the bowl, and my pantry's shortage of the key ingredient of making the Chewy Chocolate Cookies chewy: glucose, a.k.a. corn syrup. Also, the cherry cookie recipe is written in grams. And no way do I have a scale--so I had to make do with an internet converter and a Pyrex measuring cup.

Here's a funny story: I tried to make a sugar syrup by boiling sugar and water together. Somewhere deep down, I knew this endeavor was bound to fail, because I didn't have any cream of tartar, which would have kept the sugar from crystallizing and forming a golden sugar lump. Which it did.

Yes...giant sugar blob. Which, by the way, was very tasty. I definitely want to try my hand at making sugar floss sometime...burn my hands with something other than cookie sheets and hot pots and poke a million tiny holes in my tongue with sharp sugar splinters. Just for a change of pace. (for the record, I do do that quite often--burn arms, cut my fingers, etc. I am something of a disaster in the kitchen.)

Despite my failure at making the cookies chewy, however, the cookies themselves did indeed come out quite nice. N brought over a set of adorable cookie cutters. Now, I have never used cookie cutters before. Plain circles were always good enough for me. But since my friends were going to eat these, they might as well be pretty.

Say they're pretty!

These cookies are the kind that probably need a nice cold glass of milk alongside them. They are not a soft cookie; they are very chocolatey and completely delicious. I'm eating one right now and it's making my throat a bit dry. But it's worth it. The Boyfriend joined us when the first batch of cookies were in the oven and was the first to snatch the hot cookies off the baking sheet.

Not-So-Chewy Chocolate Cookies

5/6 cup granulated sugar (that's 1/2 plus 1/3 cups of sugar for all of you fraction haters)
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup of miniature dark chocolate chips

~Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

~Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a smallish bowl.

~In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg white and vanilla.

~Beat the butter, brown sugar, and 5/6 cup of white sugar together, then add the egg white-vanilla stuff and mix together. Add the flour mixture and chocolate chips and mix until more or less uniform.

~Chill dough for 30 minutes, then take it out and shape it into whatever shape you want. N and I rolled it out and cut stars, hearts, and moons out of the first batch, and then got sick of rolling out the dough and just made circles.

~Put the cookies on a floured cookie sheet and bake for 10-11 minutes. Then take them out and carefully remove the cookies from the sheet with a spatula and put them on a wire rack to cool. Of course, you can always eat them hot off the cookie sheet...which is what The Boyfriend did. They probably burned his tongue, though.

Yield: Depends on how big you make them, but we got about 24 cookies of varying sizes.

The Cherry Bakewell Biscuits made me nervous, because looking at the recipe it seemed like the dough was about 50% butter. But I had a huge jar of maraschino cherries in the fridge that I have to use up before I leave for NYC, so we were making these cookies. The Boyfriend guinea-pigged himself on the finished product and reported that it tasted strangely nutty. Which was odd, because we'd replaced the almond extract listed in the original recipe with vanilla, and there were no nutty components in the cookies at all.

Mysteriously Nutty Cherry Biscuits

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp confectioner's sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/5 cup plain flour
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, chopped

~Whisk butter and sugar together until smooth, then beat in egg yolk and vanilla extract.

~Add cherries and flour and mix ingredients thoroughly.

~Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes, then take it out and wrap it up in plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to roll the dough into a log, and then stick it back in the fridge (or the freezer, if you're impatient like us). Chill the dough until it's stiff enough to cut without deforming it. This will take about 2 hours in the fridge, or 30 minutes in the freezer.

~Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

~Unwrap the dough and cut it into slices about 1 cm thick and put it on a cookie sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, and then spatula them off the tray onto a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 10 cookies.

Okay, so I don't know about the rest of the world, but for me, happiness exists in the form of potato salad. It's a very basic recipe, and I know some people like to add more zing to their salad with Ranch dressing or mustard seeds, but for me the simplicity of this dish is beautiful. I've been making this potato salad since I was 11, and every time I try a spoonful it it gives me such lovely déjà vu that I always wind up eating about 4 servings. Furthermore, the recipe is so easy it's stupid-proof. There are a few things you can do to make it better--isn't there always? But no matter how you make this it will wind up tasting pretty good.

Simple Potato Salad

4 medium potatoes, cubed
4 eggs
2 sticks of celery, chopped
1/2 cup kielbasa, diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip!)
salt and pepper to taste

~Scrub and peel the potatoes, chop them into cubes, and toss them in a pot of water with a pinch of salt and put it on boil. They're done when you can poke a hole in it with a chopstick/barbecue skewer fairly easily, but try not to overcook them because then they fall apart too easily (they should be slightly softer than al dente). When they are done, drain them and let them cool a bit.

~Hardboil the eggs. They work best for this recipe if the yolk is in the center of the white, so every now and then turn the eggs in the water with a wooden spoon. Make sure not to overboil them so that the yolks become pale yellow and dandruffy. At their best, they should still be golden at the center and very moist. Peel and dice all the eggs and set them aside.

~Dice the celery and the kielbasa about the same size and send them to join the eggs.

~Put the potatoes, eggs, celery, and kielbasa in a largish bowl. Add the mayo and mix carefully with a wooden spoon. Try not to crush the potatoes--this shouldn't be too difficult if you haven't overcooked them.

~Add salt and pepper to taste. Don't put in too much salt, because it should already be pretty salty from the kielbasa and the mayonnaise.

~Chill before serving.

Makes enough for about 8 people, but you probably will want to make more than that. I make it for all of my mother's dinner parties and there is never any left over.

N and I will be off to our picnic soon~

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Daring Adventurers eat Lemon Bars and Peanut-Butter-Chocolate-Chip-Buttons

Okay, so first I would like to say...I've been lazy. I should have posted this yesterday, which is when I made these. In fact, I was so determined to have some baked goods on Friday's Dungeons and Dragons meeting (Hurrah for nerd pride) that I dragged my ass out of bed at 7AM during my summer vacation (I'm still a student so this is a big deal--I've been sleeping on a nocturnal schedule since class got out, 8AM-5PM) so I could catch a ride to the supermarket and pick up all the ingredients I would need, But due to this eight-to-five sleeping schedule, by the time I got home from the meet at 9PM I was exhausted. Not to mention it was a particularly bad time of month for me to be standing upright, if you get my drift. But anyway, point is by the time I got home and was actually free to write, I was too tired to do anything besides eat a little rice porridge and then pass out on the downstairs couch. Which is why I'm writing this now, at 7 in the morning.

Anyway, here's what I made for my fellow adventurers: Bakerella's Lemon Bars and the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Buttons featured on Elissa's blog 17 and Baking. You can find the recipes on their respective sites.

I started with the lemon bars, because they needed time to chill before cutting into squares. I wish I could say mine came out every bit as nice as Bakerella's, but there were all sorts of problems...the least of them being that I had never juiced a lemon before in my life. The lemon bar recipe called for 1/2 cup of lemon juice, and since I had no clue how many lemons I would need to get my 1/2 cup of juice, I turned to my infallible information source: the Internet. According to the Internet, 6-8 lemons would provide 1 cup of juice. So therefore I needed 3-4 lemons. I bought four just in case, took them home, rinsed them, rolled them on the counter to break the little segments of pulp and release the juice inside the lemon.

Now, here is where things start to go wrong. Sometime between my reading the recipe and the actual juicing of the lemons, "1/2" managed to translate to "1". Can you imagine what ensued? I squeezed, wrung, and stabbed those poor lemon halves in vain trying to get the juice level to reach the "1 cup" mark on my mother's Pyrex measuring cup. Needless to say, the best those 4 lemons could do was 3/4 of a cup of juice. In retrospect, this was not a problem, as it was was a quarter cup more than I needed, but this didn't occur to me at the time of the juicing.

A bigger frusturation (at the time) were the seeds. The first lemon I juiced had no seeds, so imagine my surprised when I squeezed the second lemon halves and "plop plop plop" the seeds went, into my lemon juice! Indeed, half the time I spent juicing the lemons was spent fishing the seeds out of the nearly opaque juice...I splashed up lemon juice all over the counter and nearly got some in my eye. A seed popped out and bounced off my thigh. There are lemon gods, and they are having a good laugh at my expense.

My lemon issues aside, the other problem I had was greasing and dusting the pan for the bars. Half of this is due to my inability to read a recipe. I used a glass 9x13 pan like the recipe suggested and greased it thoroughly with a stick of butter, but I managed to dust it with powdered sugar instead of flour like I was supposed to. OOPS. I actually didn't realize this misstep until just now, but it was obvious I'd messed up somewhere when I had to pry the bars from the bottom of the pan with a spatula. The finished pieces were messy and lopsided due to my inadequacy at cutting things into even pieces. I have been outdone by Bakerella's Little Helper, who is probably half my age.

Still, even with those mistakes, they came out a delicious, gooey bright yellow. Both my parents rejected them--"Too sweet", they said. But having the sweet tooth that I do, I consumed it by the mouthful. I was surprised by how strong the lemon taste was (undoubtedly this is partially because I used more lemon juice than I should have), and there was a tartness to it even while being teeth-achingly sweet. In other words, I loved it.

The topping has a tendency to ooze out from underneath the baked surface in a way that makes me want to poke it and lick it off my fingers. By the way, this is a good snack to make if you plan on doing any kissing later...its almost complete lack of dairy (save for the butter) and citrusy flavor means your mouth will taste like lemonade.

The peanut butter and chocolate chip buttons were more popular. I got to my boyfriend's house early for the meeting and promptly dozed the time I woke up the Boyfriend and my friend M had managed to eat their way through about half of the 100 cookies I'd brought. Never underestimate the appetite (or metabolism) of a two teenage boys.

As Elissa recounted, baking the entire batch of cookie dough in one go is mind-numbing work. 15 dozen teeny tiny cookies took me two hours to shape, roll in sugar, and press a chocolate chip in each one. Plus, you have to poke the chocolate chip in quick right after the tray of cookies come out of the oven, before they harden too much and crumble when you try to push the chip in. I had a chip in each hand and was trying to push them neatly into the center of each cookie as fast as possible, and it felt like a ridiculous video game. I finished all 15 dozen cookies, though, and it was worth it. They were incredibly soft and peanutbuttery--they would be, what with the half a jar of peanut butter I emptied into it. I pity any peanut allergist who won't be able to try these. Even my dad liked them, and he is an extremely picky person, especially when it comes to eating (he fancies himself a gourmet). So these were a huge success.

Clearly mine are not as pretty as Elissa's. The chocolate chip of the uppermost cookie in the foreground is slightly smooshed because I dropped it on the hot cookie sheet while transferring the cookies to a wire rack. And I think I need to obtain some bigger sugar crystals to roll the cookie dough in...but this is the first time I've ever made cookies from scratch and had them come out well, so I am beyond satisfied. I pat myself on the back.

And what became of our brave and daring adventuring group? Well unfortunately one of our number, N, couldn't make it, and our journey had to be postponed. So instead we ate cookies, drank iced tea, and watched Sleepy Hollow. And I had a tiny fangirl moment over young Johnny Depp, who was very attractive indeed in his colonial getup. Much to the disgruntlement of the Boyfriend. He knows I love him best, though. (are my pronouns confusing you yet?)

All in all, it was a most wonderful day.