Let's eat!

Hi. My name's Carol, and I love food. No, you don't understand. I love food. If I were on the Titanic, I'd be in the galley (kitchen) eating up the chocolate pudding and the roasted quail. I go to most events, activities and parties just for the food. The company and the conversation are secondary. Here, I'll try to document everything that goes into my mouth. Aren't we excited? Oh, hey, are you gonna eat that?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rachel's Incredible Banana Pumpkin Bread



Found this recipe from a bloggable life. As usual, I fell in love with the picture, the mention of "moist," and the idea of combining bananas with pumpkin, like it was a new thing.

Mine didn't turn out so golden brown. But the five loaves I made tonight smelled great.



I kept having trouble greasing and flouring the pans. I don't know why. Normally it's a piece of...cake. I had to redo one of the pans. I mean, rewash and re-grease, and re-flour. I hate it when the flour doesn't adhere to the pan even if you put a ton of grease on it. I veered between a spray and butter with paper towel.

In the end, the loaves came out easily, a lot easier than previous times with just the greased pans.



As usual, after the first batch, I began to have second thoughts about doing a second batch. I also noticed I barely had enough sour cream left for a second batch. Plus, maybe I should do the pumpkin-Nutella recipe instead or another new one with white chocolate chips.

I also began to worry because of the large amount of flour this banana pumpkin bread recipe called for: five whole cups. I couldn't find anywhere in the recipe whether to use a stand mixer or not. But found comfort in the "Slowly add the remaining ingredients, mixing until evenly blended" part, which I did. The batter just tasted a little gluey was all.



The first three batches, strictly following the recipe, came out right, exactly as they should. I changed the second batch up a little in that I used a much-bigger loaf pan and a regular 9x5 pan, thus changing the baking times. The bigger loaf pan took forever to finish baking. The sides, when done, felt hard as a rock. Gosh, I hope these are edible and not dried out. Maybe we can toast the slices.

I'm inkling towards trying a basic, simple pumpkin loaf and sticking with that. I think I may have found it too, for the next time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Malia's Chili



I just made the best chili in the universe, Malia's Chili. Malia is the wife of a former classmate of my husband's who attended and made batches and batches of her chili for a high school reunion beach potluck last July, at Kailua Beach Park. This chili was so good, I couldn't eat anything else.



For months I pestered my husband to get me the recipe. He finally tracked her down via Facebook and got me this:

Here's the recipe (but not sure about the measurements so adjust to your own taste):
4 lbs. ground hamburger
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
2 small cans tomato sauce
2-3 cans dark kidney beans
garlic
onion
garlic salt
chili powder (3-4 tblsp.)

Brown hamburger with garlic and onion. Drain out oil. Add cans of tomato paste and sauce, garlic salt. Bring to simmer. Add chili powder (more or less according to taste), and some water as chili powder within thicken a bit. Add kidney beans. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Cover.




As I bought and gathered the ingredients in preparation for this Halloween weekend (chili and hot dogs), I began to question some of the amounts. Do I really need four pounds of ground beef? (In my case, ground turkey.) That seemed like an awful lot, compared to some past chili recipes. I'd already plotted to just use one pound then freeze the rest.

Don't do it. I used all four pounds. You need to. You'll see if you make this. It's real chili, in that it's thick with meat and the tomato sauce mostly thickens and cooks out.



I even questioned the use of tomato paste. It's too sweet for me. But somehow its sweetness balances off nicely with the spice. The recipe is pretty basic. You can augment it with what you enjoy in chili. I enjoy canned and fresh chilis, so I put those in, in addition to a can of Rotel's diced tomatoes and green chilis. For the water when the chili powder thickens the mixture, I added leftover chicken broth instead, not a lot.



I need only taste a little to know this is exactly what I had--give or take a few perks, viva cilantro!--in Hawaii last July. Thanks, Malia.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry ala Nigella and me



I couldn't find Nigella Lawson's Nigella's Kitchen recipe for teriyaki chicken, the one where she cuts up pieces of chicken thighs, marinates them in a soy/sake/mirin/ginger marinade for 15 minutes, then stir-fries without the marinade, takes them out before fully cooked, cooks down the marinade into a syrup, then throws the chicken thighs back in for a finish, served over rice noodles and snap peas.

I already kind of make this kind of chicken. Only I don't cut mine up in pieces. I broil the filets in the oven and serve with rice and broccoli.

So what I ended up doing on this busy, busy Wednesday is making up my own marinade based on what I already had, what I could remember to buy at the store and to heck with what I forgot (the fresh ginger...next time). I just forgot to stir-fry the chicken pieces without the marinade until they were browned on the outside. I had to take them out, sort the chicken from the sauce, forgot to keep them separate, did it again, until I finally got it right. The soy helps the chicken pieces brown nicely. The marinade you must cook down (to cook out the raw chicken juices) cooks down into a nice, flavorful syrup.

I didn't need/have sake. I threw in chopped green onions with the marinade. I also served it on top of a small bowl of just-made jasmine rice, which I bought in a fancy olive-oil-shaped bottle from Food Emporium the other night for way more money than I should.

My body so craved rice with teriyaki chicken (never sweet) that I almost finished the two chopped-up chicken thighs, with another bowl of rice. Almost.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dressed-Up Jalapeno Bagel



Weekday mornings are usually coffee-and-zucchini-muffin breakfasts. Weekends are reserved for splashy egg dishes. But two nights ago, I picked up some bagels from PCC, including a jalapeno and cheese, which doesn't last long.

I was maybe reserving the jalapeno bagel for the avocado I also bought, but it's not ripe yet. I do, however, still have some leftover baby spinach and a tomato that won't wait longer than a week. So I put them all together with some cream cheese in toasted bagel half-sandwiches.

Trouble is, because I have IBS-D, I can't just wolf these down and go to my son's soccer practice, which I must do in about one minute. I'll have an accident on the way over. Luckily, I have my husband who is enjoying the rare musician's day off, so he can drop James off, come back, and then I'll take over. Just in time for a trip to the lav.

Don't forget to salt and pepper the tomato slices.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Egg on a Whole Wheat Roll



A simple sandwich for breakfast--nothing beats it.

Of course, with it being soccer Saturday and me, breakfast was after 4 p.m. It was also considerably healthier than the NY-style egg on a hard roll. I used a whole wheat roll, heated it up a little (not until crusty) in the oven at the lowest temp while I fried one egg, slightly broken in the yolk and two slices of turkey bacon in olive oil. Salt and pepper the egg, top it with a few slices of cheddar. You're good.

My family refuses to touch turkey bacon. But after the initial gross-out at it not looking like "real bacon," it's actually quite good. At least to me.

I preferred a zucchini muffin from PCC, but I ran out yesterday, so I'm going to the market again. I also need bananas for my All-Bran cereal mornings.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jazz Alley Menu - Meze



This time around, I got to finally try a cup of Jazz Alley's Avgolemono Soup (Greek lemony soup with chicken and rice). Almost two weeks ago, I was here catching my husband in his Steely Dan tribute band show with saxophonist Tom Scott. I tried to order the soup with my steamed Manila clams appetizer and Pane (rustic bread with olive oil), but my server at the time advised against it -- deeming the mere cup of soup overkill. She was right. But ever since, I plotted to go back for the soup and something else.

Tonight, I attended the Manhattan Transfer show, their first set in their first show (in a tour promoting their Chick Corea Songbook CD release), at a friend's suggestion (she's the girlfriend of one of the singers, Tim Hauser). We missed each other, but I had the glorious little cup of soup. It was just the right tang of lemon, not too much, with a bland cushion of rice and chunks of tender chicken.

By the time I got halfway into my Mediterranean Meze - tzatziki, hummus, roasted eggplant, some frisee, sliced cucumbers, roasted peppers, olives that tasted of warmed-over body fluids (sorry, not a black olive fan), and pita - plate -- a bargain at $12.50 in this pricey downtown Seattle establishment (main courses are well over $20)... I was almost sick full. The last time I ordered the Meze, it was disappointing. I think it was a year ago for a band I can't remember now. Flavorless, bland, rancid-tasting olives.

It was way better this time around. The tzatziki I mistook for sour cream blended nicely with the tang of the vibrant hummus and mini-chunks of roasted eggplant. The pita was actually warm not stale, and I could taste meaty flavors in the olive oil, salt and pepper blend. But it was rich, too.

Most people go to Jazz Alley for the world-class musicians, bands and singers. I go for the food, with the acts as a mere side dish... even though Manhattan Transfer blew my mind with their vocalese.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pasta e Fagioli (with Italian turkey sausage)



I have more soups in the fridge than I know what to do with. I still have leftover Manhattan Clam Chowder from last week. My friend Christina, another foodie/chef, dropped off some salmon seafood chowder she made. Then, tonight, I whipped up Pasta e Fagioli from the For the Love of Cooking blog (for the second time).

I did it mostly because I thought I'd be done with it in time to drop some off at another friend's house later on, along with the Pumpkin Nutella Bread I made yesterday just for Mike and his family. Mike did me a favor by attending our son's third soccer game to take pictures. He's a professional photographer (who's really good capturing sports) with a family business called Four Angels Photography. As payment, I'd planned on baking for him. I also threw in a check out of my own account. I believe people should be paid for their skills in service.

Anyway, I wasn't done in time. I woke up late. I neglected to take into consideration the two-hour simmering time the Pasta e Fagioli required. And my son wanted an in-home movie night.

I followed the recipe to the letter this time. I even found the Italian turkey sausage from Albertson's.

Last time, over two years ago, I quadrupled the recipe, fiddled with some ingredients, wasn't able to get the Italian turkey sausage, made do with some other turkey/chicken version from Trader Joe's, and served an entire stock pot's worth to my then-Bible study group. They proclaimed it the best soup they ever had. Some had seconds, thirds and fourths. The gigantic stock pot was empty by the end of the Bible study. Nobody paid much attention to the Bible that night either, they were so in love with this soup.

I may share some of the soup with some friends this week. It all depends if I have time to make deliveries and if this soup turned out as good as the first attempt did. If it did or surpassed the first attempt, I may keep the soup all in the family. This time, I'm accompanying bowlfuls with whole wheat rolls. Even healthier.

It's now 2:06 a.m. (I had other work to do). I had my husband put the pot of finished Pasta e Fagioli into the fridge. In a minute, I'm going down to heat up a bowl of my friend's salmon seafood chowder for my late, late, late dinner, and hoping tomorrow isn't as busy. Hah!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Bread/Pumpkin Nutella Bread



I baked two different pumpkin bread recipes. Mostly because the first one, dlyn's Pumpkin Spice Bread, required toasted walnuts--and I'd only shortsightedly bought enough for one batch, the first batch. I liked this recipe, because it was different from the usual. It had lemon zest, lemon and molasses, in addition to the spices.

The instructions were spotty, however, as most food blog recipes are. A lot of food bloggers only go for the great photography to grab your attention and raise hits, but neglect the follow-through. A lot of us reading food blogs like to recreate recipes of food they make. We don't really appreciate food bloggers who leave out important tidbits like, say,... the temperature of your oven (it's usually 350 for pumpkin bread) when you put your pumpkin batter in there.

I can screw up the simplest of recipes all on my own, however. With this one, I missed the part at the end that said to remove the baked pumpkin bread out of its pan "right away." I missed it, because I was already onto the second recipe, Pumpkin Nutella Bread from two peas in their pod, and I'd somehow missed the last ingredient listed when I read it over five times earlier this week (?!!!!).



My friend was dropping off my son from a playdate with her son, she offered to hang out while I rushed out to the store to pick up hazelnut extract. Little would I know that hazelnut extract is about as easy to find in your average supermarket or fine foods supermarket (Food Emporium, which as I found out tonight, is closing down for good in a few weeks--boo hoo) as Leprechaun juice.

I was looking high and low in the baking section of Food Emporium for hazelnut extract, past lemon, lime, strawberry, raspberry, lemonade, butter, mint, almond, and every other kind of extract you can imagine. But no hazelnut. That's when I noticed most of the shelves were emptied and there were two long lines at the registers--at 9 p.m. Highly unusual. After learning that my favorite go-to place for hard-to-find items would no longer be, due to a downturn in business, I headed to Albertson's. No luck there either.

I quickly formulated a plot to substitute hazelnut syrup (to flavor coffees with), which I had, for hazelnut extract. I could've done without it, but I actually thought I'd find it in stores, silly me.



I may have over-baked the first pumpkin bread. The one I put roasted/salted pumpkin seeds (I'd made from scratch the night before) on top of before baking in the largest loaf pan I had, the one larger than 9 x 11. But I remember leaving such quick breads in their pans to cool for 15 minutes before unmolding. Should be alright. Just in case it isn't, I've added a container of softened butter with which to spread the slices with for church tomorrow.

There isn't a lot of sugar in the Pumpkin Spice Bread. It's really and truly hearty bread, the kind you have for breakfast with strong coffee before going outside to rake the fall leaves.

But the Pumpkin Nutella Bread, ah, that may become a favorite. I tasted the batter a little. You wouldn't think anything chocolatey would go with pumpkin. But it does; it's the perfect marriage. The sweetened cocoa, skim milk and hazelnuts in the Nutella marry well with the nutty, creamy, cinnamony-ness of the pumpkin. Use real pumpkin, like I did. Makes all the difference.



Swirling two tablespoons into the batter is easy to do and results in a beautifully, complex marbled effect after baking. But the author of this recipe is wrong. The recipe given is only good for one good, substantial loaf, not two. I tried with an 8x to 9x, and it's not quite enough for both.



While I fell in love with this pumpkin bread, I still plan on testing out other recipes. Once I'm through with them all, I'll keep the Nutella one for sure and any other favorites for friends and family throughout the fall season. People who think they hate pumpkin (like me) may appreciate pumpkin more when it's a) not in a pie, and b) paired with Nutella, which everybody in the world seems to adore.

A lot of people don't bother doing anything with pumpkins other than decorate them. And even that is a chore. Maybe I'm talking about myself for the past 40 years. I hate carving pumpkins. It involves knives, knives are sharp, I am clumsy, I am scared to cut my fingers off. Plus we have critters who are into smashing pumpkins and eating them on our doorstep if we leave any outside as Halloween decorations.



Using an entire sugar pumpkin for food isn't such a hassle to me for some reason. I don't have to do a ton of carving. Just cutting the small pumpkin in half, placing them face down on a baking sheet, covering with foil, and roasting in the oven at 375 for about an hour (if it's a medium size). I recommend putting foil on the bottom to protect the baking sheet from burnt juices. You will smell when the pumpkin's done roasting before your time is up. Let cool out of the oven for a few minutes, then scrape out flesh with a spoon.

Fresh pumpkin stays in the fridge for three days. Any longer, into the freezer for six months. I like to thaw the pumpkin a day before use, then on the counter for a few minutes, then draining in a colander. Finally, I'll push any leftover liquid through the colander's holes with a wooden spoon just to be sure--before putting in pumpkin bread recipes.



If the recipe calls for canned pumpkin, and it usually does, use about a cup of fresh pumpkin. You can probably get away with a little extra too. Fresh pumpkin tastes cleaner, less gloppy than canned, in my opinion.

I bought another sugar pumpkin today. I have three to still roast when I need them.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds



Nothing beats pumpkin seeds in the fall. I wish my dad and paternal grandparents were alive to get a load of me, the Korean Martha Stewart using every bit of the pumpkin for something other than carving jack 'o lanterns! Beats me how I fell into the homemade kick but I'm here and ready to party. It's been about two, three years now since I've started to take pumpkin seriously.

I'm still not a pumpkin pie buff. But I'm willing and ready to test out a variety of the latest pumpkin bread recipes, using freshly roasted pumpkin flesh (instead of canned; way better), in addition to treating myself with roasted pumpkin seeds.

I could kick myself for not going to the trouble to do this before. So many wasted pumpkins in my oblivious wake. It's really not much trouble either. There's something very soothing about spreading the oil and salt all over the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet--with my hands--while the scent of roasting sugar pumpkins fills the air in my kitchen.



I can use the roasted pumpkin seeds to decorate the tops of the pumpkin loaves, as well as snack on. I'm the only one in the household who loves pumpkin seeds anyway.

When Thanksgiving rolls round, I bust out the Martha Stewart on the turkey, using every bit for creative leftovers and the essential homemade turkey soup. If I could only figure out how to reuse the stuffing to my satisfaction.

Till then, everybody's gonna be real sick of pumpkin...

Basic Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Clean pumpkin seeds of pulp, then dry with paper towel. Lay out on baking sheet. Oil and salt, spread with hands. Meditate on life. Roast in oven at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. Don't oversalt. Put in sealed container at room temp. Snack. Or top pumpkin breads before baking.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Grazie



Complimentary bread and olive oil-garlic dip...



...and calamari fritti at Grazie in Bothell's Canyon Park were all I needed to feel full and satisfied.

This listening to my body over my mind with regard to smaller portions is really paying off and blowing my mind at the same time. My husband looked across the table at me with incredulity when I announced I was too full, almost uncomfortable full to nauseous--after only having a few bites of the fried calamari appetizer and one and a half slices of complimentary bread with olive oil for dipping.

He and I are both used to plowing through several appetizers then main courses and full-on dessert.

I came to Grazie's starving. We'd come from our son's school fund run and a dismal pasta feed c/o Cactus Jack's. The spaghetti with tomato sauce tasted of vomit to me. If the person vomiting all over my noodles had just also ingested some fruit punch. We were desperate to find redemption in a superior Italian restaurant, one that would do pasta right.

We had a choice, depending on Friday night's crowds. When we saw the long line of cars waiting just to get off 525 to the mall and Macaroni Grill, we kept driving until we hit Bothell and Grazie, a place my husband has gigged at before. It was starting to crowd too, but by only five people and a 30-minute wait. The bigger crowd arrived after we did, thank God. Or we would've kept on starving for another two hours.

In hindsight, I could've done with just the appetizer. Maybe even just a salad and the free bread. Next time, I'll have to remember that my appetite, my true appetite, has changed for the better. It's just smaller. From now on, I guess I'll have to order just one small appetizer. See what happens.

My one appetizer tonight was the best it could be. I've been on quite a fried calamari kick lately. This one came with lemon garlic aioli and basil pesto aioli, which my husband was pile-driving too, much to my dismay (selfish me) and surprise. He hates calamari, what is he doing attacking mine??

That and steamed clams in wine. They had that too as a special. I wisely went with just one dish to start. I couldn't even finish the spaghetti with tomato sauce that came as my main course, much less look at the Death by Chocolate or Tiramisu that my husband and my son ordered.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Manhattan Clam Chowder



I think I'll welcome fall and winter with soups, make that a tradition of my very own. Tonight, it actually felt like fall with a crisp wind and a strange chill in the air. Nothing beats the cold better than something hot going down the throat and in the tummy. Besides, I tend to do better making soups than, say, roasted chicken, potato and artichoke hearts.

I don't think I've ever screwed up a soup. Okay, maybe that time a famous chef on TV convinced me her lentil soup was different. It wasn't. I threw it away. Lentils. Yuck.

October is also a good month for trying out pumpkin bread recipes, which I'll also be doing, as well as continuing my Halloween tradition of chili and hot dogs before and after trick or treating. I'll be inside watching a horror movie over a nice, piping spicy hot bowl of chili with all the fixings.



Even though I kind of started the soup thing several weeks ago with my chicken and basil dumplings, I'm officially starting it today with the Manhattan Clam Chowder I just finished whipping up, c/o For the Love of Cooking.

I didn't (couldn't) follow her recipe to the letter. For one thing, I forgot to read the part where I'm supposed to take the fried bacon slices out of the pan and keep them out until I add the crumbles in toward the end. For another, I didn't even use pork bacon. I used turkey bacon, so I don't even think it mattered. There wasn't any regular bacon fat to take out of the stock pot, so I just left everything in there, even added some olive oil. Some of the turkey bacon crumbled. But the rest I had to cut.

I added even more canned chicken broth than she says to, because those 14.5-oz. cans don't equal cups. Two cans of chicken broth is about three cups plus some change; doesn't equal four by a long shot, so you have to go over with three cans. Go over. It's better to have more soup than filling.



As far as I can see, there are no 15-oz. cans of chopped tomato. There are 14.5-oz. cans. I wound up using a 28-oz. can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes I'd already had on hand in the pantry, plus one 14.5-oz. can of chopped tomatoes--without pureeing them in any blender. I don't know about you, but I prefer my Manhattan clam chowder chunky, including the tomatoes. It's what I remember of my dad's, and he made the best, the spiciest, the most mouth-watering in his little crockpot.

The recipe doesn't say whether to peel the carrots and potatoes. So I went ahead and did it. I also threw in leftover Yukon Golds from the disastrous roast chicken, potato, artichoke bake. More potatoes than normal, but I like it that way too.



I also added onion and garlic powders, a combination of Kosher salt and regular table salt, and a bottle of extra clam juice. It didn't make sense to me to add the clams at the end until I was ready to serve, because soup is served every day for weeks until it's gone. You don't just make soup one time. But I put the clams in at the end.

Smells great, tastes even better. The chowder will really hit the spot after soccer practices when we're too tired to go pick up food or cook.

My husband's trying it out right now. He just came over and said it was the best Manhattan Clam Chowder he'd ever had, but just a tad too spicy. If you're a spice virgin like him, leave out the crushed red pepper.




Of course, if there are any leftovers, I may package some for friends to enjoy. They seemed to love my chicken noodle soups in the past. You want some, too? Come over.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Orange Blueberry Muffins



These orange blueberry muffins from the Playing House food blog turned out better than I expected. I'd made plenty of blueberry muffins before. They always turn out great, but never quite as golden as these did. Almost smells like cornbread.

I only -- heh heh -- ran into a few problems due to my own negligence. It doesn't matter if I reread a recipe 50 times. If I'm having an off day or am just off, I will mess up some part of the recipe. First off, I unthinkingly brought out the stand mixer ... only to find I didn't need one when I got to the second paragraph calling for me to merely whisk in the flour/baking powder/baking soda/salt.

Then, I went on ahead to the pouring liquids (in this case, the buttermilk and orange juice) in the dry mix part without including the eggs, honey and melted/cooled butter. So, I had to backtrack and add those in after I'd already mixed the dry ingredients with the buttermilk and orange juice. But, I figured since I still had to add the blueberries and stir those in, I'd be good to finish stirring in the liquid ingredients I'd forgotten then.

Got that? LOL.



I also meant to take a picture of the raw batter before putting the baking sheet pan (weird that it calls for a muffin tin on top of a sheet pan) in the oven. Forgot to do that. Went back and pulled the rack out to snap click click. Then, thought I'd forgotten to sprinkle Turbinado surgar on top before putting muffins in the oven, when I reread the recipe. Only after 10 minutes baking, whew.

I should've, in hindsight though, sprinkled the Turbinado before it went into the oven because the sugar crystals were falling all over the oven floor, as the muffin tops were puffed, golden and almost cooked already.

We'll know at tomorrow's Soteria Church service whether these muffins were any good. They smell and look awesome.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Roast Chicken Thighs with Potatoes, Artichokes and Lemon



Do. not. make. this. recipe. Unless you actually enjoy the stink and taste of artichoke hearts (think embalming fluid meets Raid pest control). I don't. I regretted making this from For the Love of Cooking. I was also surprised. Usually, I love everything this cook makes, and I've made a lot of food from her blog.

I couldn't find fingerling potatoes in the first and only store I went into. Just small Yukon Golds. But then I was pressed for time. I should've gone to Trader Joe's. There, they always have fingerlings, as well as bags of artichoke hearts not this frozen boxed crap. But the potatoes weren't the problem.

I supposed I could've roasted the dish in the 400-degree oven a little longer than the 15 minutes the recipe calls for. But again, pressed for time, planning to eat dinner now not later. I forced myself to eat a plate of this crap. Absolute crap.

The chicken wasn't golden enough for me. Not my fault either. Followed the recipe on that exactly. Maybe she should stick to soups and baked sweets.

And maybe I should give up cooking anything other than cookies. I'm starving to death now with nothing else to eat in this house. Now I remember why I always shy away from trying new recipes for dinner. They almost always turn out badly.