When Good Food Goes Wrong

Sometimes the best intentions don’t work out the way you want them to. My past few days have been filled with plenty of culinary disappointments. For a while, I’ve been considering temporarily becoming a vegetarian, and so I’ve started looking for alternate protein sources. Whenever I go vegetarian, I have a strong tendency to eat far too much cheese and load spoonfuls of peanut butter on top of everything. Of course, nothing I’ve made lately has actually been vegetarian, but I’ve been experimenting with black beans. Last night I tried to make pork chops breaded in panko breadcrumbs with black beans and mashed potatoes on the side. The potatoes happened to be leftover, and having never cooked beans before, I threw them in the skillet with the pork. I know I had too much oil in the pan, but I don’t know if you’ve ever had the pleasure of exploding beans. The beans I was cooking literally danced right out of their bean-coats… I know beans don’t have a shell, but whatever the casing is that they’re enclosed in. It just wasn’t pretty. Then, I tried to cook up the leftover egg from breading the pork, and it turned into a dry mini omelet. It wasn’t entirely awful, but I don’t think I’m rushing to make it again.

After I went to the gym (*pause to pat myself on the back for actually making it all the way over there for the first time this year*) I was craving lots of protein, and turned to a can of tuna and some leftover beans. I sliced some wheat bread, piled tuna and beans on top of it, and then added, of all things, cream cheese, because I wanted to make sure I had enough cheddar left if I made mac and cheese later on. Surprisingly, the cream cheese was not the worst part of this combination. It melted up nicely in the microwave. The low point had to be the beans. Maybe black beans and I just aren’t meant to get along. I can accept that, but I was still disappointed.

Tonight tops off the list… lamb sausage which I paired with whole wheat penne and pasta sauce. I pan fried the sausage, and then finished it off by letting it cook in the tomato sauce – I have a tendency of under cooking meatballs, and while I know it’s not the same, I didn’t want to take a chance with lamb. Tonight was one of those nights where the water doesn’t boil, regardless of how much you salt the pot. Overall, it wasn’t a bad dish, if not a touch too lamb-y for my taste. I felt like I was in some sort of strange Moroccan/Italian fusion world. All in all it is certainly worth another try.

Also, to anyone in my building: please clean the dryer lint trap when you use it. Come on y’all… my clothes get linty enough without your help.

‘Night y’all 🙂

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Pie, the best kind of all.

Last night was a nice break from a hectic week of classes, giving me time to veg out by myself and cook. Although 0 degrees (yes, Fahrenheit) no longer seems as cold as it once did, I was still in no mood to trudge out into the Arctic tundra. After finally scouring my kitchen of the past week’s messes – How many of you have tried cleaning a crock pot from the 1970’s? The inside doesn’t come out, so it involves a great risk-reward equation of soaking for a long time and braving electrocution to rinse out – I crapped out on what will probably become tonight’s project, macaroni and cheese, spent some time watching TV online. Sidenote : Keeping Up Appearances – great underrated British 90’s show about the “Bucket Woman”. I may secretly be an 80 year old woman. Regardless, I finally made my way around to making pie. Not just any pie, but Paula Deen’s chocolate chip pecan pie. It is one of my favorite pies, genuinely good in any occasion, be it Thanksgiving, or just to congratulate yourself for making it through another week. I found the recipe online here: http://www.bakespace.com/recipes/detail/Chocolate-Chip-Pie/6155/. I have the book at home, but for reasons of spacial dynamics, it did not make it with me up to my apartment. It’s a super easy pie to make, another reason that makes it perfect for all occasions. If you have an hour, you can be eating pie. It’s a solid recipe, but I do tweak a few things… When making any pie I always use homemade crust instead of store bought. It’s well worth the effort. I’m not ready to divulge my family recipe, but ask your Grandma/strange great aunt who lives with 7 cats/whoever does the baking in your family for their recipe. I’m sure they have something similar. Vegetarians be warned, I will say that I find lard to be the best fat for a crust. Butter is nice, but never seems to flake up like lard does. Also, back to this particular pie, I always at least double the amount of chocolate chips and pecans that I add, but leave the rest of the recipe as is. Otherwise I find there to be too much sugary “filling”, without enough substance. That’s just my personal preference – you’ll find what you like as you experiment. What do you think? What’s your favorite pie? How do you make the crust?

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Culinary catch-up

Photos of my best meals of the past few months!

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From bottom to top (due to my editing and technological difficulties) amazing shrimp/scallop pasta by Boyfriend; an attempt at homemade pizza; ditto on the rock hard pretzels (they became pigeon food today, hopefully they didn’t hit anyone walking under my window); the remains of some guacamole and poutine; chocolate chip cookie dough; and an attempted French tart by my friend Mr. Belgium.

Tomato Soup and other thoughts

Today is the first day I have ventured into the library this semester. I had no intention of ending up here, but was dragged out of bed by Buffalo Joan, my friend and sole compatriot in our program. She thought we should get work done. A solid choice on her part. Except it’s currently 3 degrees Fahrenheit outside, a true heat wave for this week. Wednesday the high was -8. I only coaxed myself outside because I almost ran out of milk, and I dread running out of milk. The grocery store is just around the corner, and only closed from midnight until eight in the morning, but I dread running out of milk, so I bundled up in snowpants and made my way into the cold. The snow outside has smushed into ice – a denigrated reminder of its former flaky, powdery self. The excessively quilty coat I wear to stay warm outside is so long that I frequently trip upstairs. And the amount of schoolwork to be done is overwhelming. The good side to all of this, however, is that it has left me with time inside my tiny apartment to cook horrifyingly large portions of food so I may freeze some and have more to eat later.

My latest adventure was Tomato Soup. The first time I tried Tomato Soup, last semester, was a disaster. It tasted like a watery marinara sauce. After wading through recipes online, I finally found one that looked appealing. (Found here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/jersey-fresh-tomato-soup/detail.aspx). It could not have been more delicious! People raved about it (or were nice enough not to hurt my feelings).  Last night, I tried making it again. I learned some common-sense things the first time, like when you double the recipe, using a smaller pot than the original is not a good idea. I also did not endeavor to find fresh tomatoes in Canada in January, and settled for canned. The first time I misread the French label and came home with whole tomatoes that I had to seed and chop, but the second time I made sure to get crushed tomatoes. Unfortunately, the last time I came home from the grocery store, the temperature was -9, and I had underestimated the amount of food I would buy, which meant that I had underestimated the number of reusable bags to bring. I also bought a gallon of milk and pounds of potatoes, limiting the rest of “heavy things” that I could buy. I settled for three 28 ounce cans of tomatoes. When I got to making the soup, however, I decided I wanted more. Instead of braving the cold *again* – I’ve learned to drastically limit the number of trips I make outside, it’s enough that the weatherstripping on my door doesn’t work properly and cold air constantly rushes in – I decided to improvise with tomato sauce. Interesting choice, given that it was pre-seasoned, drastically limiting my control of ingredients.

I ended up using three 28-oz cans of crushed tomatoes, 1 quart low-sodium organic chicken broth, about half a jar of Kirkland marinara sauce, and doubling the rest of the ingredients accordingly. I omitted the onion, because I didn’t have any in the house, as well as the other spices. I prefer to leave dishes for people to season to taste as they eat them, rather than forcing my taste-buds on a whole batch of something for other people to sit through. At this point, the soup was a bit too tomato-saucy for my liking. Instead of adding more of a butter and flour rue, however they spell it, I looked through my fridge to see what I could add, and came up with cream cheese. I melted about 2 tbsps of cream cheese with about a half cup of 1% milk, and it came together beautifully. When I added it to the soup, it didn’t clump up like the flour and butter mixture had, and it melted evenly throughout. Pictures to follow, but I am one proud girl for saving the Tomato Soup day! Grilled cheese and soup or meatballs added make it perfect!

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