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Posts Tagged 'home cooking'

Food notes

As I posted in a comment yesterday, no, I’m not an ex-blogger. What I am, and why there’s been something of an involuntary (or at least unintended) radio silence for the last month or so, I’ll hopefully be able to post about tomorrow. It’s actually a good thing I haven’t had as much time for blogging as I used to, but it’s still something I want to do, so I’m trying to figure out the balance at the moment.

For the moment, here are a handful of culinary discoveries made over the last few days —

  1. Homemade maple creme cookies are absolutely freaking awesome. Get the recipe here, get maple extract here, get the maple leaf cookie molds here, and buy one of the 750ml bottles of real maple syrup from Trader Joe’s. The result is a million times better than anything storebought could possibly be, and they are not all that difficult to make. I highly recommend using real maple extract and syrup. It’s somewhat more expensive, yes, but it will still be less expensive in the long run than the storebought cookies, which I guarantee you are made with artificial maple flavoring even if they are made with real syrup. I also would prefer to find an aluminum maple leaf mold, as I’m not sure how long these plastic ones are going to hold up (they’re already warped after one round, despite being marketed as oven-safe up to 375 degrees).
  2. If you’re an iPhone user and do any cooking whatsoever, the Whole Foods Market Recipes app is for you. It’s free, the recipes are great (so far), and there’s a terrific feature called “On Hand” where you can punch in what ingredients you have handy, and it will match recipes. The Savory Sausage and Cheddar Breakfast Casserole and the Red Lentils with Garlic and Onions (an “On Hand” match) have both been winners; also, it’s handy having a cookbook that doesn’t require room on the too-full shelf.
  3. Yesterday I had occasion to go to Trader Joe’s for the first time in about three years. There isn’t one in Bloomington and the nearest one is in Indianapolis, and I don’t typically go to Indianapolis without a reason (like, say going to see The Dark Knight in IMAX, but never mind that now). To be honest, I was less impressed than I remembered being three years ago; while I got certain things I can’t leave Trader Joe’s without (namely, real maple syrup that isn’t priced like gold, as well as port, to say nothing of some other necessities), on the whole, I found their inventory to be a lot more prepackaged than what I try to buy these days. Ah well.

OK, enough for now. Must… read… Greek… forensic… oratory…

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The ends justify the beans

As I mentioned earlier, my Christmas present from Megan consisted of the means with which to roast coffee at home. Pictured here is the product of the first batch, roasted Sunday night. More pictures can be found here. (For that matter, more pictures from Christmas and from goose-cooking can be found here.) We also roasted a batch last night. Thus far, we’ve used the stovetop popcorn popper method; we also want to try the stovetop cast-iron method.

What I can say is that it has not been appreciably difficult or time-consuming and the results have been quite drinkable. The flavor is different enough from your typical bag of *$$ (let me know if you don’t understand what I mean) that it’s definitely an adjustment, but so far it’s been an adjustment along the lines of “See, here’s how something you already like can do what it does better.” Perhaps it’s like being used to macaroni and cheese being made with Velveeta and then somebody comes along and makes a white sauce from scratch with Gruyère — and perhaps that’s an analogy that makes sense to me and me alone (like so much)… Anyway, the point is, flavor adjustment or no, I’m not sure there’s any going back.

One other observation: I’m pretty sure the caffeine content is greater this way.

How sure? Pretty sure. I think my wife has gotten to bed sometime around 4am every night since Sunday.

And now I have a friend with whom we’ve started to have hushed conversations about home brewing. This all sort of started four years ago when I decided I wanted to bake our own bread — does it ever end?

Wow, is it the last day of 2008 already? Couldn’t come soon enough. Retrospective to follow shortly.

Conquering a blender

So, a week ago, I was making hummus from scratch. I was using dried garbanzo beans to start with rather than canned — and by the way, two cups of dried garbanzo beans yields six cups of cooked; this means that if you want two cups of cooked, you should start out with 2/3 cup of dried — and I was relying upon the opinions of more qualified individuals than myself as to whether or not the garbanzo beans had been cooked enough.

“Sure, why not?” the more qualified individuals said after they’d been cooking for an hour, so I drained them and dumped them in the KitchenAid 5 speed blender we had been given as a wedding present almost eight years ago.

Perhaps this setup tells you all you need to know about what the above photo represents. Perhaps you even see the little black rubber clutch with its teeth all broken?

Well, anyway, we now know that the garbanzo beans were not, in fact, cooked enough.

Thankfully, we immediately discovered that replacement clutches were not hard to come by; it’s part #W916840 and can be ordered off of the Sears website. I bought two just for good measure, and they arrived on Wednesday.

The instructions which arrived with the part made it sound very simple; screw off the old coupler, screw on the new one.

Perhaps you have also noticed the abundance of tools in the photo above, including a second pair of needlenose pliers intended to brace the axle on which the clutch turns while we were attempting to get it to screw off (and telling it, constantly, to screw off). The wounded finger is Megan’s; she got nicked by a metal shaving from the base of the clutch (pictured above, having separated from the actual rubber portion).

After a couple of hours of trying this and that, we finally got it off with more or less brute force — using the large pair of pliers, I bent the metal base away from the axle and thus also away from the threads. It then just popped off.

We then tried to attach the new coupler, and in so doing made a fascinating discovery which explained immediately why we had been having so much trouble. You see, in the case of this particular part with these particular threads, what we had assumed to be the universal constant of “lefty-loosey, righty-tighty” simply did not apply. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. Not that the instructions which came with the part even gave so much of a hint regarding this, of course.

The good news is that a) the blender works again and b) nobody else ever has to lose the war for want of this particular horseshoe nail. If you can’t get the coupler off, try turning it the other way. It may change your life.

Hummus, anybody?

The final week of NaNoWriMo and so on

My gold coffee filter was soaking in soapy water all night; I rinsed it out before using it this morning, but the coffee still distinctly tasted of soap and had a decidedly viscous texture. My tongue still feels slimy. Blech.

I will definitely not reach 50,000 words by Sunday. However, there is no doubt in my mind that, save a natural disaster, I will finish the first draft of Pascha at the Singing School by then. I think it will end up around 20,000 words; right now, with Matthias having just confessed in the Saint Catherine Chapel and skipping off to the warmup for the Paschal liturgy, I’m just shy of 15,000 words with just the final plot point and dénouement to go, and depending on how carefully I choreograph the action in the finale, we’re probably talking 3,000-5,000 words. I think I can do this with relative ease over the Thanksgiving break. Then I will stick it in a drawer for two weeks and see what I’ve actually got afterwards. When I’m done crying, I’ll figure out what needs to be fixed and then see what I can do about having some pencil sketches done of some key moments. Maybe, just maybe, I can start trying to shop this thing around in January.

By the way, if you’re at all like me and annoyed that store-bought cereal appears to be increasingly expensive for what you get, I have found that this recipe yields absolutely wonderful results. I made a batch last night, using a cup of walnuts and a cup of pecans and following the suggestion to add hulled sunflower seeds, and tried it this morning; it’s tasty (particularly with raisins added), it’s healthy, and it’s easy to make. I’m not certain that it’s necessarily any less expensive than store-bought cereal, given what nuts cost, but I am certain that it’s more satisfying one way or the other, and likely to be a lot healthier.

How sweet the Saveur

My stepmother-in-law (gotta love the twenty-first century) got us a gift subscription to Saveur about a year ago. It’s really only been in the last few months that I’ve really started to appreciate it. The recipes are great, reasonably “cookable,” and the way they do theme issues means there will be at least one or two keepers among the recipes one way or the other.

Recent successes:

Stretch’s Chicken Savoy

Sausages with French Green Lentils

Eggs Benedict (with lots of great variations in the actual issue, although not online)

Man. I’m suddenly acutely aware that the Nativity Fast is all of two weeks away.


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