Chili Mongers

October 9, 2009

It took a week longer than expected, but in our defense we did cook last Saturday. In fact, not only did we cook – we let go of  many of our insecurities about cooking, threw caution to the wind, and came up with our own recipe for the first time. My memory is a little fuzzy, but it went a little something like this:

  • 2 chicken breasts sprinkled with salt and cayenne, sauteed in oil.
  • 1 can canary beans
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup sweet corn
  • fresh mushrooms, garlic, onion, green pepper, grape tomatoes
  • salt, pepper, cayenne, cumin, Cholula sauce, parsley, sugar

We topped it off with a lil’ sour cream and cheese and enjoyed a Saturday night staying-in. Admittedly, it was the best chili of our lives…so watch out, you may just find a can at your neighborhood grocer in the next 5 years. We’re going global with this stuff.

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Oh the anticipation….9 months in the making.

As usual, it’s been far too long.  This is due to several factors, including having too little money and eating too much oatmeal…and let’s be honest, unless you are  Amelia Bedelia, oatmeal is not creme brulee (which I’ll get to later). Just for the pure purpose of rambling while bored at work on Saturday afternoon, however, I will say that I have gotten fair to good at my oatmeal ingenuity. Some favorites include: oatmeal cooked with frozen raspberries, brown sugar, cinnamon, and soymilk; oatmeal cooked with strawberries and bananas; oatmeal with applesauce, walnuts and raisins; and oatmeal with peanut butter and raisins.  For the purpose of this blog being about expanding our cooking skills though – I will get to the next reason there have been no blogs – Creme Brulee.

Despite my intolerance for dairy products and fat, and the inevitable embarrassing “stomach noise moments” to follow – creme brulee is worth every bite.  However, achieving a home-made creme brulee and its perfectly smooth, soft, vanilla, goodness, is a much higher hurdle. In fact, the disaster that ensued here couldn’t really be called creme brulee…and is the real reason for a lack of blogging. One can only face defeat in the kitchen so many times before completely losing any scrap of pride. This failure is attributed to two minor, yet catastophic decisions: 1) Attempting to make a “healthy creme brulee”. 2) Not following following directions exactly.

After hours of STA Travel paying me to conduct internet research on the best healthy creme brulee recipe, I finally settled on a Cooking Light rendition. That evening Herman and I ventured out to our neighborhood Jewel-Osco to pick up the necessary ingredients: eggs, milk, vanilla bean, and non-fat dry milk. Standing in the baking goods aisle, we stared at the $7 box of non-fat dry milk and made the very bad decision to purchase instead, the $1 can of evaporated milk. Evaporated… dry – same difference, no?

It was Thursday night, and in a gesture of optimism, I had bought 4 new ramekins and invited Meg and Dave over for dinner and dessert the following night. A lot of pressure was resting on this little vanilla custard. Perhaps the reason creme brulee is so infamously difficult to make has to do with tempering liquid.  Just google tempering milk and one finds www.baking911.com.  Making creme brulee involves heating the milk and cream to just the right temperature at which time the beaten egg is added without ending up with a scrambled egg inside your dessert. No problem for our culinary skill, thus far things were a success.

It wasn’t until one hour later after the custard had been baking already 30 minutes longer than prescribed, and was still a soupy, sweet liquid that I realized our error….dry milk is indeed dry-er than evaporated milk. Desparately, I racked my brain for ways to fix this until I remembered reading online that cornstarch could be used to thicken light creme brulee recipes. As I carefully added small spoonfuls into each ramekin, the creme brulee formed little pockets of solid mass. Another hour of baking, and the top had developed a thin pudding like film, the inside still moving like a miniature waterbed. As it had already been well over the instructed baking time, we put them in the fridge regardless, hoping they would magically turn into creamy custard.

Friday night arrived, and les petits pots de creme were no more creamy than skim milk. In one last attempt at salvaging the sweets, Herman lined each one in the freezer. Meg and Dave arrived and we all enjoyed some beer and barbeque, until it was finally time to indulge in dessert. Sheepishly, I passed out each ramekin and spoon. I watched as Herman, Meg, and Dave, rather than cracking a perfectly carmelized sugar top, cracked a frozen film of cornstarch and milk. This was no creme brulee…..I have decided instead to refer to it as Herman and Megan’s frozen pudding pack custard. Defeat.

After a month of oatmeal and one very big culinary upset, the only other reason I can excuse our lack of blogs has been a recent obcession with going to Sweden this summer. Countless hours of actually looking at airfare while at work, chatting about how we would ever afford it, and dreaming about it, I found a way. It may be two tickets to Frankfurt, but then, Europe’s not sooo big… and a brauhaus or two, or three along the way doesn’t sound so shabby.

-Meg

 

p.s. Herman’s photos to come.

Carb Love.

March 27, 2009

 

Herman and I have been meaning to post this for awhile now. Our pact was to blog here once every week…but since I was in New Zealand for a week, and Herman has troubles taking care of himself without me around (i.e. eating pizza solely for 5 days and peanuts for the remaining 2)… it took a little while to get to this.

This bread recipe began a few months back when Herman went up to Appleton while I stayed home. Having nothing to do with myself and no television, I made a first attempt at baking bread. Whole wheat bread. Without a machine. It turned out more like bits of compact flour… a little pack of carbs and calories with no fluff or goodness. This spurred on some serious internet research on how to make a fully fluffy loaf of bread. What I found was perhaps the easiest recipe ever invented. No Knead Bread….it’s like getting an A for reading the Cliff’s notes on bread-making. I am almost afraid to post this link since it inevitably means giving up my gloating rights. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/081mrex.html 

For all the seasoned bakers out there, this is probably old news from a 2006 New York Times article.  

The following photos are a whole wheat adaptation – it turns out a little more dense, but equally scrumptious. 

 

salt

salt

 

 

 

We grabbed some salt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

whole wheat flour

whole wheat flour

 

And some flour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

flour, salt, yeast, water.

flour, salt, yeast, water.

 

And mixed it with some water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

rooster timer, christmas present from mom.

rooster timer, christmas present from mom.

 

 

 

We waited 18 hours. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After 18 hours we folded the bread like an envelope, let it rest 20 minutes, and then coated a towel with cornmeal to let it rest for another 2 hours. We then baked the bread for 1 hour in a ceramic pot with a lid on top for half of the time, creating a perfectly crispy crust.

 

bread, apples, happy tummies.

bread, apples, happy tummies.

 

 

 

We ate the bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only complaint I have about this bread is that it is so cheap and so easy aaand so delicious that Herman now refuses to eat anything from a store. Not too shabby if I say so myself ;).

Spenat Paj

February 26, 2009

Today’s recipe was all Herman… inevitably it involved butter (lots of), cheese, milk, and white flour. I invited Lina over telling her that Herman was making “spinach pie” which I had no idea what that was, but assumed she knew considering this was supposedly a “Swedish recipe”… Lina had no idea, her words were, “sound interesting”. Haha. 

Herman found the recipe here:

 http://www.guldkorn.com/default0.asp?reason=bigscreen&varpresenturl=/std/recept.asp&varpresentqs=iRecipeID=528&redir=1&from=&bhcp=1

Since most of you do not read Swedish, I’ll explain. First we made a basic pie crust, which I decided to make with half white and half whole wheat flour. I borrowed a little trick from my pop by sticking the dough in the freezer to cool (we were hungry!). Instead of rolling the crust out, you actually thumb it onto the pan, which was ideal for my crazy thumbs.

 

all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, butter, water

all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, butter, water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, we whisked the eggs and milk – we also swapped moo milk for rice milk. 

 

egg. a.ka. ägg

egg. a.ka. ägg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we cut up the veggies and layered them in the prepared pie crust.

 

spinach, black olives, tomatoes, feta, egg and milk mixture, salt, pepper a.k.a peppar

spinach, black olives, tomatoes, feta, egg and milk mixture, salt, pepper a.k.a peppar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We waited for about 45 minutes, and ate far too early….it was a little runny…but after 15 minutes it was perfect! During dinner I asked Herman when he made this last. Never. I next asked Herman when he ate this last. Never. I next asked Herman when he saw this. Never. But apparently it is a really popular Swedish party dish that he really “missed” having. Uhuh. No wonder Lina was confused… Anyways, it was pretty darn delicious and easy to make.

 

spinach pie for 6, megan, herman behind camera

spinach pie for 6, megan, herman behind camera, emma begging like a dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herman says if he ever has friends, he’ll invite you over for Spenat Paj and serenade you with Beatle’s Honey Pie.

One day late.

February 16, 2009

Two bottles of wine by mid-afternoon, and we quickly realized yesterday was not going to be tomato sauce and pasta from scratch. One messed up batch of aioli later, I think we made the right decision….. 

Twenty four hours later we strolled down to the America’s “Most European Grocery Store”, Treasure Island – I thought it fitting for our Italian dinner. $31 later we were on our way home, weighed down with 20 Roma tomatoes, fresh garlic, thyme, and oregano, and some olive oil, eggs, and flour. 

Our recipes were stolen from the Food Network and a very long, involved You Tube video of pasta making, speaking mostly about the correct yellow hue of fresh eggs.

Step One: We did this.

 

tomatoes sprinkled with onion, garlic, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil

tomatoes sprinkled with onion, garlic, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil

 

 

 

 

We seeded these red Romas and popped them in the oven.

 

 

 

 

 

Two and a half hours of waiting in anticipation.  (Herman played chess, I learned how to say “Bollen är inte mat” – “The balls are not food” no joke.) 

Step Two: We attempted this.

 

eggs, flour, and salt

eggs, flour, and salt

 

We kneaded pasta dough and rolled it out as thin as possible…. turned out not so skinny. A pasta machine is now on our wish list. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Three: We peeled the tomatoes naked, mashed them up, and boiled them with some wine. Apparently we should not have drank the full two bottles last night – we were left with year old cooking wine (my mom would lift her eyebrow at that).

Step Four: Boiled the fat pasta for two minutes.

Step Five: We ate until our tummies hurt.

 

herman, megan, table, home-made pasta, tomato sauce, avocado and tomato salad, cucumber water, paolo conte's "it's wonderful"

herman, megan, table, home-made pasta, tomato sauce, avocado and tomato salad, cucumber water, paolo conte's "it's wonderful"

 

The pasta is already going straight to my chubby arms.

That’s it boys and girls. Just a mess left to clean now…

 

 

scorched dishes

scorched dishes

Saucy Business

February 10, 2009

Attempt one has been postponed due to mold. Please come back Saturday for pasta and tomato sauce from scratch.

Herman’s recommended listening: Louis and Ella: Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.

Moldy Romas...at least 10 of them.

Moldy Romas...at least 10 of them.

A Clean Kitchen.

February 9, 2009

As part of our new year’s resolutions for 2009, Herman and I decided to teach ourselves the art of cooking. Less of an art and more of a disaster, our style has no more befitting name than the Messy Kitchen.  (Although let it be known that I cannot stand a messy kitchen – currently our plumbing is on the fritz and we cannot clean a single dish….However, if Herman had his way the kitchen would stay as is).

Anyways, this is a documentation of those trials and tribulations. 

P.S. I would recommend listening to elevator music when reading this post.

 

Messy Kitchen, a portrait by great American painter Grant Wood.

Messy Kitchen, a portrait by great American painter Grant Wood.