Thursday, January 27, 2011

Baking Sunday: Cranberry Cake

I have made this recipe several times. First time - perfection! Once I overbaked by like 5 minutes - turned out too hard around the edges. Last Sunday, it was mushy cake. From my past experience with the overbaking, I took it out after 45 minutes, tested with a tooth pick - looked alright. After it cooled a bit, I cut it and it looked like the middle was completely uncooked! By this time, of course, the oven cooled down. Preheated, stuck it in the oven again. 10 minutes - nope. 20 - nope. 30 - NOPE! I decided that there is no way it wasn't heating through, so I just took it out. It was definitely cooked through by now, the batter just remained too moist. Or something. It didn't rise. I was pretty pissed.

That up there is my trusty mixer - it was $30 at Walmart and has 7 speeds. Also, it matches my mixing bowl.

I suspect it was because my oven was not hot enough. I'm definitely investing in an oven thermometer. Goddamn oven! Oh well, here's how it went. Just to be clear, I stand by the recipe, it's delicious when it turns out. And even this time, I couldn't help but snag a few thin slices on the go.

Cranberry Cake
Makes 1 10" round or a 9x13 cake

So I'm trying to eat healthier...

And yeah, it's hard. Well, not crazy hard, but harder than not trying. I love food. In fact, I look forward to every meal every day. I love preparing it, eating it, and being proud of myself to making something delicious. I read a comment on this post that said that humans survived on very little food and occasional meat since forever, so food shouldn't be the center of our lives, it should be viewed more like gas fuel for a car. How can someone live like this? Meals are SUCH a big part of our lives! I would lead a very miserable existence if I couldn't enjoy food as much as I do. I guess everyone views it differently, but it's comparable to saying that you can physically survive on 4 hours sleep per 24 hours (I don't know if you can, it's just an example), therefore you should spend the bare minimum sleeping. I literally need 8 hours in the least to function as a reasonable human being. Life can get pretty meager if we don't take pleasure in things that we do the most and can't live without, no? I love me some good comfy sleep! A random weekend mid-day nap - oh god! The point is, food is awesome, and everyone should enjoy what they eat.

Unfortunately, the best tasting things are usually the worst for your health. Nature thought it'd be funnier that way. But nowadays there is a variety of substitutes available to help eliminate at least some horrible compounds that we eat every day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cooking Saturday: Cioppino

Holy crap, this was the most stressful thing I have ever cooked. Was it worth it? Yes. I've never worked with live clams and mussels before so I went ahead and bought all the seafood the day before - apparently a no-no for live stuff. Supposed to buy it the day of (and to be honest, probably RIGHT before you're planning on throwing it all in the pot). After picking up all the ingredients I came to conclusion that, if this doesn't turn out, this will be my most expensive food flop yet.

I sewed this apron in grade 6 home ec class :D Yeah, I still use it

When I got home from the grocery store with all my (pricey) seafood, I put the dead fresh stuff in the fridge right away (shrimp, cod, scallops), left the frozen calamari out to defrost, and quickly looked up how I'm supposed to keep the live stuff from dying on me.

Here's the easy seafood:

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Books!!!

Don't you love it when you're waiting for a package and expecting it on a certain day but it shows up a day earlier?! I sure do! I got my package from Amazon yesterday, and man, was it heavy! I couldn't wait to open it.

1. The Professional Chef 8th Ed. The Culinary Institute of America
Of course, I only had the chance to glance at the books briefly, but they are awesome! This one can be used to open a restaurant! There's info on how to price stuff and all the recipes are for 10 servings (or individual). I guess I'm gonna have to start having big dinner parties. There is soooo much useful information here! I'll probably talk about it more in later posts once I get to read it and use it. Lots of pictures and detailed instructions.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Last Night's Outing: Tommy Burger

Boys love burgers - it's really a known fact. So I was out to find a good burger place around town. After a little research, I found Tommy Burger. It had decent ratings, better than any other place and it seemed a little more upscale than Peter's Drive-In style burger joints. So, let's go, I said, to which Nick agreed gladly.

When we walked in, it didn't look like a place that should be named "Tommy Burger Bar". Looked a lot like Earls, with the decent clean decor and made-up waiters in black, but with TV screens showing sporting events.

The waiter that greeted us was, as Nick correctly deduced, new. He was perfectly pleasant, told us that all their burgers were made with 100% all natural beef. Alright fine, let's look at the menu.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Occasional Treat: Buttercream Bake Shoppe Cupcakes

You gotta indulge once in a while. Nick and I went to the mall and bought a bunch of cupcakes. I was hoping they'd be as good as Crave. And they were.

Last Night's Dinner: Beef and Barley Stew with Mushrooms

It's been extremely mofuggin cold around here so a hearty stew was in order! I recently ordered some organic stew beef from Spud. It was in my freezer for a week or so until I finally decided to get on it. I saw a good recipe for a beef barley stew on The Kitchn, and since barley is super healthy and one of my favorite grains, looked like a good idea. So here it is:

Beef and Barley Stew with Mushrooms

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cook Books: 3 new ones on the way!

I ordered 3 books on Amazon this morning:

On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals by Sarah R. Labensky
The Professional Chef by The Culinary Institute of America
The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page

I'm super excited about both of these, and I'm hoping that they will help me to get that professional chef cooking technique that I need! All of them had great reviews so I can't wait for the package to arrive!!!!! Yay for learning about what you love.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Last Night's Outing: Sushi Bar Zipang

We love sushi. Good sushi. I don't mean everybody's favorite California roll because that's pretty much the lamest type of sushi. Heard that Sushi Bar Zipang was the best sushi in town, so I thought it'd be a nice Friday night date :) I love doing on dates and trying new things. This outing, we tried: sea bream, steamed sea eel, soft shell crab and plum wine.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Last Night's Dinner: Eggs Sunny Side Up

A type of "breakfast for dinner" things I guess. Last night Nick and I were meeting up with some friends to go bowling so our dinner had to be quick. We did have some leftover chicken left, but it wasn't enough. So Nick suggested Original Joe's. Then we decided on eggs with veggies.

Eggs Sunny Side Up with Red Pepper, Onion and Tomato

The Best Garlic Thyme Prime Rib Roast Ever

This one is my absolute go-to recipe for a delicious juicy piece of meat (that is, since I don't have a BBQ and can't make myself rib eyes every night :( probably for the best...). Sometimes I just make this on the weekends, just because. This time, it was for New Year's dinner with my family. My mom saw a picture of the roast I made for last year's NYE which I spend with Nick, and thought it looked delish, which of course it was.

Beef is pretty intimidating because unless I have a rare to medium-rare cooked cut of expensive fatty beef, it turns out too dry. Or tough. Or both. Luckily, this recipes calls for exactly that expensive fatty beef. I usually use a prime rib roast as the recipe calls for, but this time I couldn't find that cut, so I used a 6 lb rib eye for 4 people. There were lots of left overs since my family, unlike myself, don't pig out on inch-thick pieces of beef. Don't judge me, okay?

These pictures are from this NYE dinner:

The meat wasn't actually fuschia but a nice natural pink. Phone camera, sorry guys. You can see that the crust on top burnt a little bit and I'm gonna blame the unfamiliar oven. Well, myself also, because I should have checked what it looked like on the other side at some point in the beginning. Anyways, it wasn't a big deal.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Last Night's Dinner: Nickie's Favorite Mexican Layered Dip

The idea came from one of the guests at Nick's family gathering. The guest brought a similar dip, and we tried to recreate it at home. Ever since, Nick craves this once every couple weeks and especially on game nights. This recipe has evolved since we first made it in the summer. And yes, I mean we for reals! Nick grates the cheese. Possibly more... The point is, this recipe is very easy and doesn't take very much time.

I also picked up a couple beers - a Russian (Baltika) and a Polish (Tyskie). They were both pretty mild in taste. Here's what it all looked like:

Nickie's Favorite Mexican Layered Dip
I use a 9x9 baking dish to make this in, it turns out pretty thick

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Walnut Stuffed Prunes in Sour Cream Sauce

My mom and I used to make this in Russia for special occasions. Prunes for dessert might sound kind of weird, but I love it! It's the kind of recipe that you can get the kid who always wants to help to do since it doesn't have to be perfect. My little sister helped me out! So here's the recipe:

Walnut Stuffed Prunes in Sour Cream Sauce
It's easy to increase or decrease the number of prunes you make

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cardamom Citrus Squares

My mom and I decided to whip these up for a morning play date (my sister is 8 :)). It took me about an hour or so to make them - they're really quick and easy. My step-dad's favorite.

Finished Result:

Cardamom Citrus Squares

Monday, January 3, 2011

Long Break

If anyone is even following this (cross my fingers), you may or may not be disappointed in the lack of new posts so early on in my blog. The reason is a break for the holidays to go see my family. With that said, a lot of cooking was done meanwhile, so expect more posts this week! I'll try to do one a day.

Take care,