Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thanks for all the helpful hints on bean cooking!  I think I've figured out that my need to always make things differently sometimes comes into play at the wrong time...Some things are meant to always be cooked the same :)

We've reached 50!  Kinda exciting! :)

[[Another review from Mom!! Danke!]]

50.  Basic Corn Bread, pg. 78

I followed the recipe using a recommended substitution of some whole wheat flour.  I used 1/2 c. of white and 1/2 c. of whole wheat.  Since the dry milk powder was optional, I used only 1/2 c.  I'm not sure why I haven't used this recipe before but I'll definitely make it again.  It was great fresh from the oven and served alongside a bowl of ham and bean soup.  Dad ate 3 pieces of the corn bread although the last piece was "small".

51.  Pumpkin Soup, pg. 206

I was first truly introduced to pumpkin soup while staying with a friend in Germany ... and I haven't gotten enough since!

I'm really not much of an accurate measurer when it comes to soups, but with this recipe, it really doesn't matter.  All that goes into this soup is lovely, and when put together, there is little chance for failure. 

Slightly undercooking the onions turned out to be a beautiful idea -- they remained crunchy and pungent in the end product.  Instead of using milk, I always use coconut milk in pumpkin soups.  The rich, fatty flavor lends itself very well to the pumpkin, and the soup is delightfully creamy with it.  For the pumpkin, I had just baked down one small kabocha, and didn't puree it as called for.  While there was the occasional squash chunk, overall the squash was soft enough that it broke up well just by stirring.  Lastly, make sure to add about a teaspoon of ground ginger.  I would never eat this soup unaccompanied by ginger.  If you have fresh ginger on hand, then grate about a teaspoon and toss it in towards the end of the onion cooking.

I really enjoyed this soup, but also felt like it was missing a bit of a kick.  I typically like to add a hearty dash of orange juice to pumpkin soup, but decided to try this one without.  I would definitely recommend adding OJ if you have it, or taking the alternative route and adding cayenne or hot sauce.

Overall: 4 out of 5  Quite lovely, warm, and rich...but needs an extra kick

Friday, January 22, 2010

I've got a double batch of Pot-o-Gold Peanut Soup starting on the stove for a dinner party tonight, and I can't deny that I'm looking forward to it more than a person normally looks forward to a soup...but for more than just the soup! :)

I made a friend once in a land far away who was able to put words to what I intuitively already knew, but had never sat down to process:  eating together with groups of friends nearly always is a meaningful time.  The opportunity to sit around and do such a biological thing together (eat) creates a unique spiritual space which allows for deeper conversation.  So many of the festivities in the Bible are surrounded by feasting, and Jesus concludes his time with his community of disciples by...hiking? no...shopping? umm...Eating together.  Sure, moments of peace and love can happen when we eat alone or with one other person -- I'm not denying that.  But I find that I am often carried through a couple days on the good, meaty conversation and fine culinary delights that I share with friends and family.

[[A recipe review from my very own mother!  Hey, thanks, Mom! :)]]
48.  Fruit Crumble, pg. 272

This was a quick and easy recipe to make.  I used frozen sour cherries as the fruit and followed the recipe as written except for drizzling some honey over the cherries.  It is more of a cobbler than I was expecting from the title.  The dish could have used more sugar on the fruit but think if peaches would be used instead, nothing additional would be needed.  Definitely will make this again.  And the recipe could easily be doubled and put in a 9 x 13 pan.

49.  Black Bean Soup, pg. 209

I've never been good at judging when beans are done cooking (any hints?).  When I think they're soft, I stop them, but then when I add them to recipes, they almost always are still hard...I can't figure this out.

And it happened with this recipe.  I swear I cooked the beans for at least 2 hours (after doing the quick method) if not more, but the minute we sat down to eat, they weren't soft anymore.  We ate them anyways, and tried to enjoy the flavors anyway.  I used probably double both the onion and green pepper, and if making this again, I would sauté the onions and garlic (and peppers, if using fresh) before adding the beans and liquid.  Without doing this, there is no added fat, and I definitely found myself wanting just a hint.  I did not use a smoked ham bone (wouldn't even know what that is), and instead added a couple bouillon cubes to make up for some of the flavor.

A definite must is the vinegar at the end of the recipe.  I forgot to add it at first, and after a few bites of thinking "ehh....", remembered I hadn't put any in.  It gave the soup a much needed kick.  We didn't use any of the toppings, and ate it with bread instead of over rice.  A fairly basic way to cook beans, I'm sure with correctly cooked beans, this should be a foolproof recipe.

Overall: 3.6 out of 5  I would make it again, probably.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Soup...and More Soup

Searching through my freezer last night for strawberries, I came across a loaf of zucchini bread I had made over the summer and frozen, thinking it would be for sometime "when guests come".  Well, apparently, I decided to arrive last night, because I took that sucker out and put it on the table to thaw.  I've already had four pieces today (got up early to take Husband to work...definitely needed energy for that.  And then, breakfast came...), and in my gluttony, have been trying to pinpoint why exactly I was so ecstatic about my discovery.  Possibly the sugar/fat/carb combo...possibly the amount of chocolate chips I so wisely decided to dump in...possibly just the potential of having baked goods with summer vegetables in the winter.  (I like to think it's primarily the last one, but the jury is still out.)  Regardless, the investment of a freezer last summer has given us the ability to store a lot more of our summer reaping (from the CSA box) and in our moody winter nights, we are given a taste of warmer days and happier times.  And I need those memories, as we're barely cresting the month of January...and winter continues for another dreary couple months...

46.  German Potato Soup, pg. 200

At first I wasn't sure why the recipe had to include the identifier "German", but once I ate it, I knew why:  they wanted to provide us someone to blame.

The recipe alone looks bland, the soup ends up boring, and I inevitably deemed this meal a waste of good potatoes that could have been used for mashing.  Perhaps part of the problem was that I actually stuck with the recipe this time -- I made it exactly as it was written.  (I did end up adding cheese, but that really didn't help much.)  It wasn't "bad", per se, but it's definitely not the kind of soup you want to eat as a main dish.  I can imagine it's tastelessness might be hidden if you had some sausage or veg. seiten on the side to distract you.

Sure, the Husband and a guest who happened by gave it 3s, but Husbands have to say these things, and guests often lie when asked about their food.

Overall: 2 out of 5  Leave it be, unless you're trying to embrace "tradition".

47.  Chicken Potpie, pg. 182

Sorry to all you vegets. out there, I went AWOL for this one.

Also found in my freezer was a half of a chicken breast (and no stewing hen), so I tried substituting that for the first part of this recipe.  I found the broth to be quite lacking in flavor, though, once the breast was done, so added some bouillon to "beef" it up (ahem...)  I did halve the water but kept the same amount of vegetables, substituting a carrot and parsnip for the celery and adding a clove of garlic.  Use what you have on hand, and just adjust the vegetable's chopped size according to how quickly it cooks.  Make sure the veggies are covered with water, adding a little extra if needed.

For the noodle dough, though I again halved it, I found I needed all the water it called for in the original recipe.  (I used egg replacer, so was able to use "half" an egg.)  It took a long time to get enough moisture to get it to form into a ball, so if you do decide to halve the recipe, I would recommend keeping the whole egg, and then adding extra water if necessary.  Be sure to roll the dough as thinly as you can, as it states, unless you like a gummy piece of cooked dough (which I do like...just a forewarning if you don't.)

Being more used to ham potpie from my growing up years, I found this soup to be less salty than what I had anticipated.  I'm sure if you make this recipe often enough, you can learn how much and which seasonings to use, but be prepared in the early days to experiment.

Overall:  3 out of 5  Tastes okay, glad I made it, but if you have a recipe from Grandma that you like, stick with that one.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Warning: Dangerous Pun Ahead!

Just when you think that life is returning to normal after struggling through a kitchen remodel, your brand-spanking-new oven suddenly quits on you.  And, of course, it has the audacity to stop working in the middle of bread baking.  I'm left wondering if the Cosmos is telling me that I should just give up trying to eat thoughtfully and resort to fast food for the rest of my life...I mean, hey, that kind of food gives you more (calories) with less (nutrition...), too! :)  Fortunately, the burners are still all functioning properly, and as Maya Angelou would say, "but still I rise" (only my bread won't).

44.  Quick Corn Soup, pg. 200

This is absolutely a darling little soup!  I grabbed a pint of corn out of the freezer midday, and with about 5 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of cooking, this soup was on by evening.  I love sauteed onions so much that I took about 1/4 c. chopped onions and let them hop around in 1 T. olive oil just until translucent.  Then, I added the 2 c. milk and salt and pepper, leaving out the seasoned salts.  Dumped the pureed corn and milk in, and (here, Emerill might say BAM!) the soup was done.  Amazing.  As long as your corn is tasty, there is no way to mess this soup up.

Overall: 4.5 out of 5  Yum. Yum. Yum.

45.  Middle Eastern Lentil Soup, pg. 213

If you've ever had the lentil salad in Extending the Table, just think of this recipe as the hot version of it.  Seriously.

When you look at the recipe, it may seem like it's going to be boring with basically just lentils, onions, garlic, and a dusting of cumin...and then you see "lemon juice" at the end and you cock your head to the side because you're not sure you agree with the idea.  But I promise you that if you put it in, you'll understand in the first bite.  We also added a good 1/2 t. of cayenne, which really packed a punch.  There's really not much to say about this soup, other than it's good.  Because it was a bit hot the first day, the second time we had it, Husband added a dollop of sour cream which reminded me a bit of stroganoff.  We also ate it over potatoes the second day because it had gotten pretty thick after it cooled.

Overall:  4 out of 5  Tasty and not too demanding of your time or money. 

Friday, January 8, 2010

43.  Basic Cooked Lentils; Easy Lentil Stew, pg. 105

Recently, with the onslaught (Christmas gifts) of dessert cookbooks, I've been avoiding the predictably most-good-for-you recipes of MWL. It can be tough at times to balance the different medias that the culinary arts allow.  Visual artists can meander back and forth from painting to drawing to sculpting and beyond -- must a cook in her kitchen be limited to those foods which keep our digestive system functioning properly? I say no. :)  Life is short, afterall.  But, of course, we do end up back with those foods which satisfy our bellies for longer than a half hour.

With help from my Mom, we tossed together a version of the Easy Lentil Stew.  We changed up the order of the recipe because we wanted a fuller flavor.  We first sauteed the onions, garlic, celery, and an extra 2 carrots in olive oil.  Then, we added all the water, lentils, all the spices, and 4 veggie bouillon cubes.  We added the extra bouillon cubes because we were not going to add any meat.  After simmering for about 30 minutes, I dumped in one small can of tomato paste.  Though it wasn't quite 3/4 c., I thought it was silly to open up another can for less than a 1/4 c.  The stew continued to simmer for about another 15 minutes, with regular checks on the lentils.  I ate mine on top of a baked potato, which was scrumptious!

Overall:  4 out of 5  Good flavors, very filling, and healthy!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

42.  Ruggenbrot (Rye Bread), pg. 59

I enjoy waking up early before my husband and being inspired to make bread in the quiet of the kitchen.  I've probably written this before, but as many people who make bread consistently would tell you, making bread can be a meditative chore.  Bread dough is much more forgiving than a cookie dough and can take non-perfect measurements and still turn out just fine.  The warmth of the dough combined with the opportunity to get your hands dirty go well together, and seeing it all come together in a smooth dough brings great satisfaction.  What's more is that with our current work in our kitchen (still installing cabinets and countertops...), it's a treat to have an extra-cozy and fragrant workspace to motivate us. :)

Knowing there are only two mouths to feed, I decided to halve this recipe and just get one loaf out of it.  This is a simple recipe to change proportions, so change it up according to what you are looking for.

Using molasses instead of brown sugar will give the dough a slightly darker color, but either will round out the flavor nicely with their warmth.  I did mess up on the rye flour bit -- forgot that I was only supposed to put in 1 c., and dumped in 2 c. instead, so I had to adjust the amount of white flour down to about 1 1/2 cups.  Taste-wise, I thought the bread was still great -- probably just a bit heartier than what the recipe states.  I also put in about 1 T. of golden flax seed for spunk and nutritional benefit.

When it comes to making your loaf, don't expect to use a 9x5 and get a "standard" loaf -- the dough doesn't expand much.  For mine, I simply shaped it into a log and put it on a cookie sheet.  Just before baking, slash the top with a sharp (or serrated) knife several times to allow for even baking.

The end result is a hearty bread asking to be served alongside a brothy soup.

Overall: 3.2 out of 5  Standard, healthy, and hearty.