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“Don’t tell my wife these are Sloppy Joes or she’ll hate them.”

I overheard this line coming from the kitchen after I’d thrown together what I thought was a brilliant new concept for dinner.

Seriously? How did I not catch on?

It was one of those nights where we had nothing planned for dinner, and no fresh ingredients. You know those nights? Where it would just be easier to go out to dinner because you’re starving and you couldn’t possibly go to the grocery store and then come home and cook dinner? (I’m the queen of the run-on sentence, by the way.)

Except we had company. And my husband and said company were in the process of making home brew, so they couldn’t leave.

What to do? What to do?
I got it! I’ll make biscuits. Those are fast and easy.
Not Sloppy Joes
Maybe I could even follow in my Aunt Patsy’s footsteps and make chocolate sauce! (True story. I’ll never forget that dinner as long as I live. I thought she was the coolest mom in the world.)

No, I can’t very well serve three grown men and a growing 6 year old chocolate covered biscuits. I don’t have her recipe for chocolate sauce ;)

Ok, what else? Tomato sauce! Perfect! Oh my gosh, we have ground beef! This is going to be so awesome!
Not Sloppy Joes

I get it now. Seriously, how did I not pick up on that?
Not Sloppy Joes

But they were delicious! And gourmet…or something.

Not Sloppy Joes
Serves 6

For the biscuits:
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup milk
Preheat oven to 425F
Sift dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl until well combined. Add oil and milk, and mix until all the ingredients are just incorporated. Don’t over mix.
Turn the dough out on a floured surface, and roll out to about 1/4 inch thick–you don’t want it to be too thin. Using a round cutter (mason jar rings work really well), cut out circles and place onto a stone ware pan or lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until tops and bottoms are golden brown.

For the *ahem* gourmet and totally fancy meat sauce:
1 pound ground beef
1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce (here’s mine)
Brown the meat in a skillet, draining the juices periodically. Add the sauce and heat through completely.

Serve the biscuits warm, covered in the meat sauce.
And don’t tell anyone I made Sloppy Joes. It would ruin my street cred…or something.

Brain.

I pulled this dinner out of my brain.

I completely made it up on the fly, and pretended to know what I was doing.

I’ve heard of people making roux, and figured I could pretend to know how to do it too.
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This is flour and beef broth. Not a roux. Close enough?

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This is onion and some unidentified orange thing that could possibly be bell pepper. I told you this was done on the fly.

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Beef sounded like a good idea, so I threw some in.

And I didn’t want to over cook the beef just yet*, so I pulled it out of the pan to rest.
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*I frequently-accidentally overcook beef, so now I kinda plan for it.

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And what goes better with beef than potatoes? Carrots? Both.
At least the mysterious orange thing is explained.

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And then I thought, “Shoot! I should have added herbs and spices!” I proceeded to madly throw around spice bottles until finding this one. Then I thought, “Oh sweet, savory.”
What exactly is “Savory” made from? I didn’t have time to care. Stuff was cooking. I threw it on the meat and stirred it around.

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And then I added more beef broth, because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
And it was.

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All together, resting comfortably.

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So, naturally, I tucked everything in.

I happened to have an extra pie crust, because earlier in the day I figured that if you’re making one pie crust, you might as well make two.

It’s solid logic.

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And then I had some time on my hands, and decided that I should at least attempt to give this dinner the appearance of forethought. So I made it look pretty.

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And there you have dinner!

Surprisingly, this was excellent. It got approval from all the men in the house. I was told that I could make it again. Should make it again, even!

Crap.

At least I have pictures to guide me?
Recipes are for chumps!
I guess it’s back to the kitchen for me.
Darn ;)

If I can figure out how I made this, I’ll post a recipe that includes actual quantities of ingredients.

Apple Pie

More specifically, how about some pie?

Apple? With caramel sauce and ice cream?

Yeah, let’s do it!

I used local Fuji apples, and they were so juicy and delicious! I’m going to do this again, because this was seriously the best apple pie, but I’m going to use Granny Smith, cause that’s what I’ve got. It’s gonna work, don’t worry.
Apple Pie

I also didn’t follow a recipe. It was probably the wildest thing I’ve ever done.
Apple Pie
Don’t make fun of me. There’s no feeling like the pounding in your heart when you have no guarantee that the pie you’re making could be epic or awful.

I also used cinnamon chips, and I think I need to have them permanently stocked in my pantry. You should too. What can’t you use them for?
Apple Pie

Apple Pie

I ALSO LEARNED THE COOLEST TRICK!!

Sorry for yelling, but this tip changed my life. For real.

Instead of crying over flour and mangled pie crust, roll it between two sheets of plastic wrap.
Apple Pie

Apple Pie

Then all you have to do is gently peel off the top layer,
Apple Pie

flip it over onto a pie plate, and peel off the other layer!
Apple Pie

I know!! Amazing!
Apple Pie

Apple Pie

I took the decadence an extra step this time and brushed the top crust with butter, and then sprinkled it with cinnamon sugar.
Apple Pie

Apple Pie
Clearly I’ve made no New Year’s Resolutions.

Apple Pie

No big deal.
Apple Pie

Cinnamon Sugar Pie Crust
Makes two crusts

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut in cubes
4 tbsp ice water, plus more if needed

Cut butter into small cubes and freeze for 15 minutes. Combine flour, salt, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl, then add the very cold butter and combine with a pastry cutter until it looks like coarse sand. Sprinkle ice water over the mixture and press the dough together with a rubber spatula. Eventually you will be able to pinch the dough together and have it stick to itself.
Divide the dough in half, press into round disks and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour, and up to a day.

Cinnamon Apple Pie

3-4 medium apples
Juice from half of a lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup cinnamon chips

Preheat the oven to 375F.
Slice the apples very thinly, and then add the apple slices and lemon juice together in a large bowl. Make sure all the apple slices get covered in the lemon juice.
In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar, brown sugar, nutmeg and cornstarch together. Add the cinnamon chips and stir them in.
Add the sugar mixture to the apple slices, and make sure the apples get coated in the sugar mixture.
Roll out the first pie crust (see above for rolling instructions, or use a well floured surface), and gently put it in a pie pan. Pour the apple filling into it, and then roll out the next crust. Lay the second crust over the apple mixture, and pinch together and trim the edges. Cut vents in the top of the pie, and brush with butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if desired.
Bake for 45-50 minutes. If the edges look like they’re starting to burn, wrap them with foil. Allow the pie to cool for 1-2 hours before serving. If you’re very very hungry for pie, you can put it in the refrigerator for half an hour before serving. Just don’t melt your refrigerator shelf.

I’m not a crafty person. I could reiterate, but it’s ok, you can take my word for it.

Lately I’ve had the urge to make stuff. Not food stuff, though I’ve been doing plenty of that, too.

It started with some alterations to a dress.  Yeah, it’s still sitting next to my bed waiting to get finished.

Then I made a camera strap out of Nick’s old tie.  It was fun, and it’s cute, though admittedly not the greatest sewing job I’ve ever done.

And then *I* went all out!

*I* made labels for my jars!!

**It was my idea, but I made Nick do it since he actually is skilled at making things look awesome.

(It’s exciting! I’ll show you)

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I’ve had these gallon-sized glass jars for a few months now, and I’ve been using them for my flours and sugar.

I’ve had no problem identifying what is in each jar, but apparently I’m just extremely gifted. Fortunately we’ve had no sugar/flour switcharoo incidents. I’ve been meaning to label them, but I wanted cute/artistic labels, so I’ve been holding off until I could find some.
Admittedly, they’d be a lot easier to find if I actually looked. Ah well.

But this weekend, it totally hit me–chalkboard paint!!
Did you know they even make such a thing? I did, and I’ve always wanted to use it for something cool. A trip to Home Depot later, and we had chalkboard spray paint and some wide painter’s tape.

I have four jars total, so we played around with the first jar to see how big/where the label should go.
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Then more tape was added to prevent the paint from spreading onto the rest of the jar.
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After that, it was just a matter of following the directions on the can of paint.
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I’d recommend putting some cardboard or a paint cloth under the jars to catch the paint. We were excited and in a hurry though.

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Once the area was fully covered, we left it in the sun to dry.
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In the meantime, we taped and painted the rest of the jars, removing the tape when the paint had dried for a few minutes.
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Some of the lids had been written on with sharpie markers, and no amount of scrubbing and washing could get it off, so we decided to paint those too.
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Again, a drop cloth or cardboard would have been a good idea. Fortunately, watering the grass with the sprinkler got a lot of the paint out, and mowing the lawn will take the rest of it out.

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Hey look, we found some cardboard!

I’m so pleased at how well they turned out!
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And for less than $5 per can of paint, I think I can find a lot more projects *I* can do around the house. Wouldn’t these be awesome Christmas presents? If you’re a member of my family, pretend you didn’t see how easy this was!

What did you do over your long weekend?

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I know, I know. I’m not supposed to like pork.

Here’s the thing–I can admit when I’m wrong.  About food.  I can totally admit when I’m wrong about food.

This was one of those recipes that I’ve never tried before, and hadn’t really put much thought into, and didn’t exactly involve a recipe.

But really, how can you go wrong with freshly squeezed orange juice, soy sauce and ginger?  You can’t, really.  It’s pretty much a sure thing.  Little of this, splash of that, shake here and there.  Voila, dinner.

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Start with some orange juice. Toss it into a bag. Add some splashes of low sodium soy sauce. Put some pork chops into the bag. Put the bag into the refrigerator. Go to work. Dream of dinner.

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Get home. Put some more fresh orange juice into a pan. Add brown sugar.

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Add corn starch. Whisk like crazy because you’re not familiar with how corn starch works.

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Remember that ginger would be absolutely perfect in here. Remember that you have no fresh ginger to grate on your new microplane. Remember that you have the next best thing.

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Whisk like crazy and try not to add 8 teaspoons of cornstarch to thicken it up instantly. Cornstarch takes a minute to work its magic.

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Get really excited when your sauce starts to visibly thicken.

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Pour it into a bowl and let it cool. Dip the tip of a finger into the bowl. Lick the sauce off of your finger and resist the urge to go at the sauce with a spoon.

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Admire the sauce and wonder what else it would be good with. Steak? Pancakes? More sauce?

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Gather your grilled pork and some quinoa or white rice.

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Start the drizzling.

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Keep drizzling.

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Drizzle with wild abandon.

Enjoy.

Grilled Pork with Citrus Glaze
Serves 4

4 pork chops
3 oranges
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp ginger powder

Combine the pork chops, soy sauce, and the juice of one orange in a container. Allow the pork to marinate at least two hours (all day is best).
Grill the pork, occasionally adding the leftover marinade to keep things juicy.
Meanwhile, squeeze the juice of the remaining two oranges into a pan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, corn starch and ginger, whisk to combine. (This is when you should also cook the quinoa or rice, according to package directions)
Allow the sauce to thicken, stirring regularly. When it reaches the desired consistency, remove from heat and let it cool.
When the pork is cooked completely, drizzle the sauce over it and serve.

This is a great mix of sweet and savory. If you want to spice things up a bit, add some red pepper flakes to the sauce.

PS: Pretty soon I’ll have progress shots of the new kitchen!  w00t w00t!

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We all know I suck at presentation. It’s something I’ve learned to deal with, because for the most part, I can make it taste good.

I’ve made cheesecake without the top cracking.  I’ve made creme brulee the perfect shade of golden, caramel brown.  I’ve even made chicken pot pie without a pie dish!

But there was one thing that I’ve just never been able to achieve. I’m not talking “It didn’t look pretty, but it was edible” or “I made some mistakes but ended up with something almost as good.”

No, since I started this fun, laughable, delicious culinary journey, I have always wanted to poach an egg. Folks, it’s harder than it looks.

I’ve seen the tutorials. I’ve watched Julie & Julia more times than I’ll admit.

And I’ve wasted so. many. eggs. It saddened me. So I tucked it away in the back of my mind, in that place where I store things that nag me. Things I can’t admit to anyone else for fear of ridicule. What self respecting food blogger can’t even poach an egg?

Me.

Months after I had given up on my poached egg dreams, I got a call from my mother in law. She was visiting family, and someone brought up how delicious but difficult poached eggs are. In her sweetness, her blind faith, she said, “I know someone who can do it for sure!” And then she proceeded to call me.

I had to admit–out loud, no less–that I had never successfully poached an egg. The shame! It was too much. I knew I had to do it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I did it. On my very next try. I freaking did it!!

Start with hot water. Put it on the stove over medium/high heat.
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Crack an egg into a bowl. Cracking it right into the water isn’t going to cut it. You don’t want it hitting the bottom and then spreading out everywhere. Putting the egg into a bowl allows you to gently tip it in right at the surface of the water.
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When bubbles just start to form:
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Place the bowl right at the surface of the water and tip the egg in.
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And then leave it be!
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You don’t want to move the water around and break up the egg. After about 30 seconds, you can gently ever so gently start to lift the edges from the bottom of the pan.
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After awhile, you can gently ever so gently start to move the egg around.
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Then, after about 7-10ish minutes in the water, you can lift it out with a slotted spoon.
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I was so excited to try making a poached egg that I hadn’t really thought about how I’d serve it. Fortunately, I had some feta and an English muffin. Perfecto!
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I feel it is my duty to inform you that runny yolks can pose health risks. You’ll notice that my yolk wasn’t runny at all, but I didn’t know that until I had bitten into it. To be on the safe side, make sure you err on the side of more done, probably at least a 10 minute cooking time, depending on how hot your water stays. (It felt like it took foooooreverrrrrrrrrrrrr to cook, but I was really hungry at the time.)

Poached Eggs

Add about an inch and a half to two inches of hot water to a deep skillet, place on the stove over medium high heat. Crack each egg into its own bowl.
When the water starts to form bubbles on the bottom of the pan, turn the heat down slightly.
Place the edge of the bowl right at the surface of the water and let the egg slide into the water.
After about 30 seconds, use a wooden spoon to gently nudge the edge of the egg to loosen it from the bottom. If you get too overzealous with your nudging, the egg will separate and you’ll have a pan full of nastiness.
The more done the egg, the easier it will be to move around. Eventually it will “solidify” and you can take it out of the water.
***It’s important that you never actually allow the water to fully boil. Especially when the egg is in the water. You just want it right on the verge of bubbles.

Try this soon, and if it doesn’t work, give it a few months. Don’t give up!
Poached egg victory tastes so sweet.

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Remember awhile ago when I made bagels?

Yeah, those were delicious. I noticed something, though. They had the perfect hard on the outside, soft on the inside texture for the first few days, and then after that they became…chewy. And not in a good way.  They were rubbery! There’s no way these could be eaten without toasting them first, because you’d literally have to tear them apart with your teeth like a dog tearing a shoe apart. Even after toasting them by the end, they were a bit rough on the jaw.

I’ve made them a few times since then, but I wasn’t brave enough to swap out bread flour for whole wheat flour. I didn’t know how it would change the texture, and I was worried about making them any more dense.

I’ve been super lazy lately, too.  I think it’s the lingering cloudy/rainy/snowy/crappy weather around here. I know that seems like the perfect time to bake, but it’s supposed to be SPRING, and I’m just ready for some sunshine. Maybe I was just feeling a bit SAD.

But then last week, the sun came out, and it was glorious!  We played outside, we went for bike rides, I went running (outside!!), we sat on a patio and drank iced coffee.  I was suddenly inspired to try whole wheat bagels.

Oh my, these are good.  I mean, really, really good.  I love the texture of whole wheat baked goods, and the flavor was delicate enough that the blueberries really came through.  The texture didn’t change at all from the first day to the last day.  (Although I have to admit that these didn’t exactly last long.)

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I followed the same recipe as before, but swapped out two cups of bread flour for whole wheat. I’m never going back again! The only thing to try now is taking out all of the bread flour and using only whole wheat. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Bagels
Makes 8 bagels

1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup frozen (or fresh) blueberries

Combine all ingredients in a bread machine and turn on to the “Dough” setting. Once the machine is done, divide the dough into 8 equally sized sections. Gently roll them in your hands, and then push your thumbs through the middle to make a hole. Allow the bagels to rise for 30 minutes, covered, and in a warm spot.

After 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 400F and bring a large pot of water and 2 tbsp of sugar to a gentle boil. Add the bagels to the water, one or two at a time. Boil for 30 seconds on one side and then turn them over in the water to cook for another 30 seconds. Place the boiled bagels on a rack to dry off, and then place them on a baking stone.

When all the bagels have been boiled, bake them on a stone (or cookie sheet w/parchment paper) for about 25 minutes.
I didn’t use the egg wash and topping method for the blueberry bagels, but if you want to see what that’s all about, you can read the first epically long bagel tutorial.  Go ahead and just scroll to the bottom.  I won’t cry if you don’t want to look at my bruised toenail again.

My son adores bagels with cream cheese and honey.  But he actually adores anything with honey, so eat your bagels however you want.
Until next time, friends!
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No, I’m not technically single.
But Nick has been gone for over a week, so it’s kinda like being single.

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It seems like when Nick is home, there’s all kinds of things I want to try that he’s just not that into. But as soon as he left, I couldn’t think of a single one.
Go figure.

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I think the truth is that both of our tastes are evolving to be a bit more similar. I’ll have to see what he thinks about that.

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I was also sick for part of the week, and then the kid was sick for part of the week, so big to-do dinners just weren’t in the cards.

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This recipe was perfect because it was simple, relatively quick, and super easy to clean up after.

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Sweet Potato Wraps
Serves about one and a half

1 large sweet potato, diced as evenly as possible
1/2 cup black beans
1/3 cup feta cheese (I had roasted tomato and basil feta. It was fancy)
several cabbage leaves, shredded (I just tore them apart)
2 flat breads

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, and spray or brush with olive oil. Spread the sweet potato out on the baking sheet, then bake for 10 minutes.
After the ten minutes, add a little bit of hot water to the baking sheet and return it to the oven. Not so much water that the potato is drowning, but enough to give it a nice steam. Repeat this process one or two more times, until the sweet potato is very tender.
Warm up the black beans, and then the flat bread. Combine all the ingredients and wrap in foil.

This is probably one of those meals that Nick wouldn’t be wild about, but I guess I’ll have to make it again this week to find out.

Darn ;)

I got some amazing feedback from you guys about my white asparagus debacle.  There are tons and tons of great recipes out there, but the overwhelming consensus has been to peel it first!

Who knew?  I mean, besides all of you.  And Google.  And Food Network.  And eHow.com.  And Chow Hound.

Ok, so everyone knew but me.  I guess next time I’ll do my research first.  Seriously though, I had no idea it would be so different from green asparagus.  It was fun hearing from all of you though, so let’s just pretend that this was a pop quiz.

Congratulations!  You passed!  Can I come eat white asparagus at your house?

Ok, for once, I had a kitchen disaster that wasn’t my fault. At least, I don’t think it was my fault…

Passing through the produce section of Costco, something strange caught my eye. Something unique.

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What on earth could that be?
How can asparagus be white?
Is this just asparagus that hasn’t ripened yet?
What does it taste like?
Is the texture the same?

With so many questions, we had to buy it. It was significantly cheaper than green asparagus (which should have been clue number one), but sometimes when Costco gets a new product they drastically reduce the price to get people interested in the product.

The next day at work (we didn’t have time to make it that same day), I was telling a co-worker about our mysterious find. She told me that she’d had it before, and it wasn’t very good. (Clue number two) However, she had steamed her asparagus, and when I said we always grill ours, she thought it might make it work.

Normally, I do at least one Google search on things I’m not intimately familiar with, but I thought “What the heck? How different could it be?”

It was different.

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We prepared it like normal (threw it into a bag with olive oil, fresh lemon juice and salt. Marinated for about 15 minutes and then grilled). And then? And then.

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It looked normal (with the exception of being white). It smelled normal. But it had the worst texture!

It was soft on the outside and mushy on the inside. Like, so mushy I couldn’t bite it. So mushy I couldn’t cut it with a fork. So mushy, I couldn’t even cut it with a knife!

We had to have undercooked them, right? So we threw them back on the grill.

Five minutes passed. Then ten. After fifteen minutes, we figured they couldn’t possibly be mushy anymore. They had to have crisped, right?

Nope.

Not even a little.

So, we need help!

Did we overcook them? Undercook them? Is there some rule that says you shouldn’t marinate white asparagus? Or is the rule to just eat the lovely green asparagus and leave the white alone? Anyone?

I have a few thoughts to add:
1. The bag of asparagus did sit in our fridge for about 3 days. Could have been a factor.
2. The stalks were very thick. As a normal rule, we go for the thinner-to-medium stalks. Could have been a factor.

I’m at a loss. How could asparagus go so wrong?

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