Monday, September 27, 2010

Crushing Spices - A Great Stress Reliever

A few weeks ago, I bought a mortar & pestle from IKEA (I wished I had a $5000 shopping spree to that store).  I got to use it for the first time tonight.  I crushed some corianders seed, mixed in nutmeg, cinnamon, salt pepper, then rubbed it on sliced pork tenderloin.  I cooked the the pork in a skillet, then sauteed some gala apples and shallots.  Finally, I deglazed the pan with some apple cider and mixed in some chopped sage.  It was really good and reminded that autumn is coming, even if it's still 90 degrees in Florida.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Adult beverages

A double tall rum & coke can help all the annoyances of the week go away. I'm just saying.
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Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Favorite Cooking Tools

After about 10 years of cooking, I've realized that the tools that I use play as a big of a role as the ingredients, the recipes, and my skills.  Here are the ones that I rely on the most, which I used today to make my favorite beef stew recipe:
  • A good Santoku knife.  It's great for chopping a large amount of ingredients, and the indentations on the blade help to prevent food from sticking to it.  
  • A good bench scraper.  This is used to scoop up ingredients (like the onions and carrots in the picture.)  It's also useful for divying up portions of dough.                                                                                                                           
  • A Y-shaped peeler.  This may be just my personal preference, but I think it's a lot easier to peel vegetables with this kind of peeler.                                             
  • A garlic press.  If I have to chop 1 clove of garlic, I'll use a knife, but for 12 cloves, I'll break out the press.  I got mine from The Pampered Chef, and it's easy to use and clean.  
  • Long tongs...mine are 12 inches long which are great when turning meat in hot oil.
  • A flat wooden/bamboo scraper which is ideal for getting all those good flavor bits off the bottom of the pan. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Momentary Lapse of Blogging

I haven't posted any new blogs lately, so I was determined to add one today. 

Things have been really busy.  We took a trip up to NY and Pennsylvania.  It was a lot of rushing around but I got to see my sister, my niece (cutest baby ever!), some good friends, and the in-laws.  As soon as we got back, I started 2 classes at the local college.  These classes are very intense, and cram 16 weeks worth of material into 8 weeks, so I've been doing a lot of reading.  Luckily, I've had some time to do some cooking.

I made a tomato tart last week.  The base as a sheet of puff pastry, coated with a thin layer of sour cream and grainy mustard.  This added great flavor and prevented the crust from getting soggy.  On top of the crust were sauteed cherry tomatoes (which are at season's peak right now) and leeks.  This was baked, and then topped with goat cheese (yum!) and basil. 

I'm going to try to add some more posts this weekend...a neighbor gave me some homemade strawberry jam...I'm going to try to make some cookies with it!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

At the (Kitchen) Improv

As I get more comfortable with cooking and baking, I've been trying to improvise a lot more and not just follow a recipe as written.  Sometimes this happens just because I want to tweak an existing recipe, or things don't work out as planned.  The latter happened this week when I put the last layer of white chocolate mousse on my cake that I mentioned earlier this week.  It was suppoed to be a firm top layer, but as I poured it on, I realized that was not going to happen; it was way too thin.  So, I just let it run over the top and down the sides, so it ended up like a layer of frosting.  The cake was soooo amazing.  Everyone at work loved it and it was devoured in about 5 minutes.  Definitely a keeper!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Whenever someone at work that I like quits, I like to make a somewhat over-the-top dessert.  These have included a strawberry jello poke cake, chocolate chip cheesecake, and this time, a triple chocolate mousse cake.
Layer 1:  A flourless dark chocolate cake
Layer 2:  A semisweet chocolate mousse
Layer 3:  A white chocolate mousse/whipped cream.
I saw it made on America's Test Kitchen a few weeks ago and it looked amazing.  I finished the first layer tonight, which was melted chocolate, butter, vanilla and egg yolks, with beaten egg whites and brown sugar.  It smells amazing.  I'll finish the other two layers tomorrow, for the potluck on Wednesday.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Honey Wheat Crust?

Club crackers makes a honey wheat flavored cracker which has a slight hint of sweetness. I'm thinking they would make a really good pie crust. Time to experiment.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Until yesterday, I never knew how to ride a bicycle.  My father just never taught me.  I did try 9 years ago, back in 2001.  I attempted to ride around my apartment complex, and I did start getting it by the end  of the night, but never tried again. When we moved down to Florida, ae gave our bikes away to friends of ours who foster kiids.

For my birthday, Cronk got me a very nice bike, so I was determined to learn.  This weekend we drove down to Fort De Soto Beach, found an empty parking lot, and I attempted again.  Within some time (I say 5 minutes, Cronk says 30), I was off and pedaling down the road.  It was just a triumphant feeling that I was able to accomplish something that I've wanted to do for so long.  I pedaled past some random woman and yelled out "I know you don't care, but this is the first time I've ever ridden a bike!". 

We went out again today to a park so I could practice some more.  I can definitely handle going straight, and making left turns.  I'm still working on the right turns.  My goal is to be able to ride the Pinellas Trail by the end of the year. 

I'm trying something different tonight.  I have a partially used head of cabbage.  I was thinking of trying cabbage rolls, but the way that I previously cut off parts of the head, that won't work.  I'm going to try a de-constructed cabbage roll casserole instead.  I'm hoping for the best!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Blueberries, Goat Cheese,and Mermaids

There is a definite problem with combining a scavenger hunt around town and a pub crawl.  People stop at the first place to have a drink, and then lose all motivation to keep doing the scavenger hunt.  At least, that's what happened this weekend.  My team gave up pretty early, but we did make it to Jollimon's in Dunedin where we found the mermaid (one of the items from the scavenger hunt), got our picture with her, and ate.

I had an amazing salad with blueberries, strawberries, almonds and goat cheese.  I never would have thought to put blueberries with goat cheese but it was a delicious contrast.

I made another really good salad tonight.  Napa cabbage, carrots, garlic, bean sprouts (which I never used before) and shrimp in a spicy thai lime chili dressing.  It was great!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blogging in the Dark

Although Blogging in the Dark could be an interesting name for a band, it's what I'm doing right now. We lost electricity about 2 hours ago. A transformer blew right outside of our house and apparently some tree limbs need to be cut so the power company can fix it. luckily I added a blogging app to my cell phone, which is quickly losing its battery.

I love the stillness that my house gets when the power is out..just serene silence. I'm normally not a fan of quiet; I typically have music on at home for background noise. But there's something about the lack of noise during a power outage that I really like.

My department is having a birthday breakfast for me tomorrow and my one friend is making this sausage strata which is incredibly delicious. There is egg, bread, sausage, ham....all the flavors together are amazing!

I'm turning off the phone now and am going to enjoy the rest of this quiet evening.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grilled Pizza - My New Best Friend

I've never been much of a's always been Cronk's job.  This year I decided to jump into the wide world of barbecuing. I've become a huge fan of grilled pizzas.  I occasionally make my own dough, but it's really easy to just swing by the supermarket and pick up some pre-made dough from their bakery.  Then I just roll it out, add some salt, pepper, and olive oil, then throw it on the grill.  Just 2 minutes makes it nice and crispy with great grill marks.  Then I flip it over, add the toppings, go for another 2 minutes and enjoy.  So far the toppings I've used have been:

  • Arugula and mozzarella 
  • Caramelized onion, fontina, and thyme
  • Ricotta, parmesan, asparagus and lemon zest
  • Tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil
They've all come out great! They're definitely a 
different flavor and texture when you cook the pizza on the grill compared to a pizza stone (although I do love my Pampered Chef pizza stone!) I think I'll go south of the border for the next one and do something with chicken and chipotles in adobo sauce.

Last night, I went into my 2nd bedroom and saw Abby snoozing....I had to take a few pictures to get a good shot, but I love this one.  Cronk's been taking her on long walks in the morning, and it helps tire her out by the time 9 PM comes along.  A tired dog is a happy dog.  

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cake Balls!

Some of my coworkers and I have been joking around, toying with the idea of opening up a cupcake shop.  We feel it is a much better alternative than our current office jobs.  One of these friends brought in cake balls today.  Whoever thought of these is a genius.  They're basically a cake, rolled into small balls, then coated in some kind of frosting/icing. Cake that fits in the palm of your hand...amazing. 

The ones that he made today were a pecan/praline cake with a semi sweet chocolate coating that hardened as it cooled.  They were so delicious. We joked that one of our ads for the cupcake shop (which would include cake balls) could be one of our girl friends holding a tray of cake balls with the slogan " Why does she have all the balls?" or "Balls...they're for girls too."  We just need some investment capital to get the shop started...stay tuned!  I think I'm going to further inspire my friend by getting her cupcake cookbook for her birthday next week. 

Dinner tonight was pretty easy.  I had some frozen salmon filets that I let thaw, then drizzled them in olive oil, salt, and pepper.  A few weeks ago, I bought a Northwest Salmon Rubs from the Spice and Tea Exchange, so I rubbed that on and baked them for a few minutes.  The rub was amazing...some asian flavors and just the right amount of heat.  On the side, I made some couscous (one of the world's quickest side dishes) with some fresh basil and parmesan cheese mixed in. 

Five more days until the 80's themed pub crawl/scavenger hunt!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Titles and their meaning

The title of my blog basically sums up the most important parts of my life.

Cooking: This is what keeps me sane and is one of my favorite things to do. Be it baking, cooking dinner, or making drinks, anything involving the preparation and eating of food is the best way for me to spend my time.

Cronk: My boyfriend...I love him. Not to be confused with "Crunk". He gets to enjoy my cooking. I always can tell if a meal is good because he'll roll his eyes in delight when he takes the first bite.

A Crazy Dog: Abby, my 2 year old boston terrier. Like Cronk, Abby has stolen my heart and I would do anything for her. She also tends to enjoy some of my kitchen concoctions if they "accidentally" fall on the floor.

This weekend's creations:
Watermelon smoothie: Cubed watermelon, vanilla yogurt, ice and water.
Caramelized onion risotto: Typical risotto recipe...mix in caramelized onions with balsamic vinegar and thyme.
Pierogie Casserole: Basically a deconstructed pierogie. Lasagna noodles, mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese, onions, garlic, sour cream, and green onions.

My birthday is coming up in a week....there's an 80's themed pub crawl and scavenger hunt the night before my birthday. This combines two of my favorite things: the 80's and drinking. Although I did end up getting way too tipsy at the last pub crawl I attended.

More meals, and tales of boyfriends and boston terriers to come!