Monday, June 27, 2011

Epic Fail

I cannot fail.  It’s true.  Ask anyone.
A couple years ago, the word fail became a complete sentence.  And I cannot for the life of me figure out how to use it properly.  I tried and tried.  I guess I was a little too old, a little too English major, a little too…
Tonight, I learned.  Big time. 
Zucchini and Nutella loaf. 
Today is my roommate’s birthday.  I had an amazing plan.  I was going to bake her a pie.  She wants a pie.  She has been talking about a pie since I made one for my dad one for Father’s Day.  A chocolate strawberry pie would be great for her birthday! 
I googled chocolate strawberry pie and found a good recipe.  I also found some other things I want to cook.  One thing, though, I couldn’t wait on.  Zucchini and Nutella muffins.  It just sounded amazing.  I will make it while the strawberries are cooling for two hours.  (Yes, that’s right, two hours.)
I’m a little nervous about muffins, they just seem so, I don’t know, small.  Too much room for error, for a mess.  The recipe said that it can be made as a loaf, as well.  My mom makes zucchini loaf.  Add a little Nutella, it could be heavenly!
So I made it.  Everything was going swimmingly!  (Maybe the fact that I can use swimmingly in a sentence is why I can’t use fail?)  I even swirled the Nutella beautifully!  I put it in the oven and began the clean up. 
The timer went off (I tend to start at the lowest recommended time and work up so it doesn’t burn) and I grabbed the toothpick.  Exciting! 
This is a mess...
Crisis.  It was dripping over the edge.  So much for the muffins being too small…  Not that big of deal, I’ll just put a cookie sheet under it. 
Five minutes later, it was all over the cookie sheet. 
Three minutes later, it had imploded! 
Zucchini Nutella Implosion
I called my mom, and she instructed me on how to clean the oven.  Salt.  Let it set.  Scrape it off when it’s cool.  No problem, right?
I pulled the racks out and started cleaning them.  I turned around to set them on the top of the oven, and there was a flame in the oven!  FIRE!
Happy birthday to Kelly…I’m burning your house down…
Epic fail.
The house smells horrible.
But, on a good note, her pie came out beautiful.  Except for the crust, no oven involved.

The pie.  So pretty!

Zucchini Muffins with Nutella Swirl
Yield: 12 muffins
(Attempted June 26, 2011.  Ended up on the oven, not in my belly.  Will try again.)

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 extra large egg
1 cup grated zucchini
Zest of one lemon
½ cup Nutella

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine the flour salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Whisk well.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl and add the egg; beat in.
Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture until just combined.
Stir in the zucchini and lemon zest.
Use a ¼ cup scoop to evenly distribute the batter between the muffin liners. They should be 2/3 full.
Dollop 1 teaspoon of Nutella on top of each scoop of batter and swirl with a toothpick.
Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes. Check the centers with a toothpick. The toothpick should come out clean before removing the muffins from the oven.

VariationsThis recipe can be made in two loaf pans. Bake for 35-50 minutes.
IF you do this...follow the part that says SPLIT...

(I got this recipe from A Spicy Perspective)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bacon Caramel Deliciousness

Google is a powerful tool.  For everything.  For anything.  For the new-to-cooking with no ideas…it is the most powerful thing out there. 

Usually, I do a Google search, find something I think is interesting, and then head to the opinions of my foodie friends.  But sometimes, I go out on my own with my new-found-recipe idea and run with it.  This week was one of those times. 

Oh, glorious bacon.
I googled bacon.

Wait, I’ll back up a second.

In case you haven’t noticed, I love bacon.  I say love…but obsess is possibly a better word.  I didn’t eat bacon for years.  I went in for a physical for sports in middle school, and was immediately put on a crazy-strict cholesterol diet.  Apparently, I was moments from heart attack.  Or something.  I developed all kinds of weirdness around food, how to eat, how to read labels, and what to eat.  Or not to eat, as the case may be.  Over time, I found that it was easier to tell people I didn’t like something rather than to explain my near-coronary status.  Over time, I began to believe said status.

Bacon was at the top of that list.  I made myself believe that I really didn’t like it, because it there was no other way to stay away from it.

But the day came when I would relapse.  And relapse, I did.  I am back on the bacon.
So in this quest to cook, I tend to cook a lot of bacon.  And will not stop.
So, I googled bacon.
I found something yummy-sounding.  Bacon Caramel.  Wow.  That. Sounds. Awesome.  I love caramel.  And, as you’ve heard, I kinda like bacon…
I set out on this adventure at about 10 last night.  It had to be late, because the final step of the recipe is to let it sit for three hours before cutting.  I do not have that kind of willpower, I had to do it just before bed.
Making caramel was surprisingly easy.  It is something I never thought to make, something that is just bought.  It’s a lot of stirring and temperature-taking.  But other than that, it is pretty easy.  However, knowing how easy it is, I may make it from now on, foregoing the store bought, unless I want a Snickers bar, of course…
Almost to burnt-lip temperature...
Once the caramel is ready, stir in bacon and let sit.  That’s it!  (Oh, and go to bed.  So you don’t have to pace the hall for three hours…)
However, I learned a very important lesson while making this delight.  A 34-year old woman sometimes has the mental capacity of an eight year old.  As I was waiting for the caramel to reach its final temperature of 245F, the house was filled with the undeniable scent of both bacon and caramel.  I stared at the thermometer, wondering if the guy who coined that phrase about watching a boiling pot ever watched a thermometer in caramel.  As it hit the 245F mark, I suddenly and without thought of consequence, put the wooden spoon to my mouth. 


So I have a welt on my lip.  It’s pretty gross.
Luckily, the bacon and the caramel were left unharmed. 
This morning, they were delicious.  And this afternoon.  And this evening…
Sweet yummy bacon caramel
Bacon Caramel
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream, divided
1/4 cup maple syrup

Bacon fried to a crisp. The amount is up to you. I used 8-12 strips of thick-cut bacon. I REALLY love bacon.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the heavy cream.
Combine all the other ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Stir to combine.
Set on medium high heat. Stir occasionally and cook until 240*. The candy is now at firm-ball stage.

Remove from the stove and carefully stir in the remaining 1/2 cup cream.
Place back on the heat and continue to cook to 245*. Immediately remove from heat and stir in a portion of the crispy bacon. (Do NOT put in mouth!!!)
Pour the caramel into a buttered dish (the size depends on how thick you want your caramels. 8×8 = thick caramels 9×13 = thin caramels. You can also use a cookie sheet).
Scatter the remaining bacon on top.
Let set for at least 3 hours before cutting.

(I got this recipe from the blog Not Without Salt.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Blissful Jam

This is the only time I wrote about food in my other blog.  I would like to share it with you, possibly as an introduction mark, or possibly because I haven't cooked since I started the layout for this cooking blog.  (But probably a little of both...)  Either or both ways, it will serve as a good starting point, giving you an idea who I am and where I'm coming from.  I wrote it in September, 2010, just over one month after this cooking thing started.  It was for a food-related blogfest.
My first dinner! Caribbean Chicken

I recently moved into a new place. And for some reason, got all excited about cooking.  At 33, I have never really cooked before, or had any interest. I made my first meal, a Caribbean style chicken thing I found online with spinach and fruit. It turned out pretty good, and I was greatly surprised, and encouraged to move forward.  My goal is to learn to cook food that is good, but also nutritious.

This has been an interesting journey.  I am a bit of a germaphobe (as noted in Gym Germs).  And raw meat is OHMYGAWDDISGUSTING.  But I have a box of sugical gloves.  And yes, I wear them when touching raw meat.  Because raw meat is OHMYGAWDDISGUSTING.

Notice the surgical gloves?

However, I could not decide what to make next. I was the proverbial stand-still. Then came the dilemma of my life. (Not my WHOLE LIFE, just of that moment. But sometimes, those moments feel like lifetimes!)

My grandma makes homemade jelly. It is delicious! I crave, I mean crave her blueberry-rhubarb jelly so much that just typing those words right now made my mouth water. There is nothing better in my world that this jelly with peanut butter, butter, or just bread. Even just on a spoon, really. It's that good.

Recently, my parents' stockpiles dried up. They ran out of said jelly. I was devastated.

Off to the grocery I went. (How did I know I wouldn't find it there?)  I have never bought a jar of jelly in my life, I didn't even know where the jelly was! I had to wander up and down isles. Once I found it, I stood in front of the mass jelly jar collection for at least ten minutes. (I probably looked a bit foolish.) I didn't know what to do, which one to pick, what the brand differences were. I examined prices, to see if maybe there would be an obvious difference, surely leading me to the best jelly available. No help.

I left with no jelly.

I went to the health food store, hoping for something, anything, that would resemble homemade.

No dice.

Jelly!  From MY kitchen!

On a whim, as I do many things, I decided I would make jelly. With one successful meal under my belt, why couldn't I make jelly? I bought rhubarb and blueberries at the farmer's market and got a big stew pot, sugar, sure-jell, and jelly jars.

Suddenly, I have the vision of enterprise in my head. I will sell my amazing jelly! I will market it and be as famous as Smuckers (the brand I saw the most of in the store)! I shall call it Blissful Jam and it will be an instant hit. I designed a logo and a sticker on the computer and printed them out on stickers to put on the jars of my amazing jelly.  Meanwhile, I hadn't even started making it yet...)

I made it. It was good.

Little runny, but good.

Maybe not instant-hit-good, but certainly good.

My first PBJ!
So I put the labels on. (Cuteness!) I posted pictures of my jelly on Facebook. I gave jars to my parents, sister, roommate's parents, friends, anyone who would take one. I sent two jars to my grandma and two more to a friend in Tennessee.

Jessica's son getting the mailed jelly.
The feedback I got was that my jelly is good. My grandma even used the words, "GREAT JOB!"  I am encouraged by this. I continue to cook meals. I have been collecting recipes from friends and have several adventures to take on. If you have a recipe that you particularly like, please send it over.

Also, I have made a roast, some homemade soup, a chicken rub, and a chicken-spinach thing.  Also, I am learning to make small things, like bbq chicken.  Cooking nutritionally is fun and a learning process.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How I Got to this Point

I am a tomboy.  I always have been.  I never had any interest in anything domestic.  Had my child-brain had known the word oppressive, I probably would have used it.  A lot.  I wanted nothing to do with anything women did, if it wasn’t something men didn’t do on a regular basis as well. 
That includes cooking, cleaning, and sewing.  The cleaning came with time, a little maturity, and out of necessity.  The sewing will probably never come.
Cooking, on the other hand, did come.  It came late, but it did show up.  Three months shy of turning 34, I found myself with this itch to learn to cook.  And it was an itch I could not get rid of.
I set off on this adventure as I do with most all the unknowns in my life – on the computer.  I have to research everything.  I researched every imaginable cooking supply and instrument I could think of.  My research took me to products I had neve imagined existed.  I needed everything, as I had nothing.  Reviews, from professionals and consumers, were read, analyzed, and saved in a word document for cross-referencing later.  Lists were made of potential items for purchase.
I finally decided on what to buy, what was necessary now, what could come later, and what I would probably never need.  Those decisions have changed and grown over time.  I have realized that I did not need that item and that I definitely do need this one.  I also have found that the items on the never list are usually the ones that are needed the most.  Oh well, it’s all in the learning and growing.
I had this vision of tupperware from my childhood.  Luckily, ebay is an amazing resource.  I have found a lot of tupperware that is vintage, and I happily and regularly add to my collection as if I am that housewife in the late 70s and early 80s that I wanted so badly to be the antithesis of.
Next I needed to decide what and how I wanted to cook.  And why.  The purpose of cooking is to feed. 
Did I want to feed just myself? 
Did I want to feed my roommate and myself? 
The masses?
No, definitely not the masses.
I wanted to cook for my health.  I wanted to remain healthy. 
How do I do this, with my limited budget? 
There are ways.  Sales.  Coupons.  Shopping responsibly.  I have never bought into the myth that it costs too much to eat in a healthy way.  Now it was time to test my uneducated, untested theory.
I also wanted to learn to cook for occasions.  Dinner parties, potlucks, birthdays, and the like. 
Here the greatness of the times.  The computer is a vast and amazing resource for anything and everything.  I found recipes and more recipes, articles and more articles.  I also utilized facebook, soliciting my friends for their suggestions and recipes, as well as their knowledge.  I talked insistently to friends, family, friends’ parents, anyone who would listen.  The end result was a growing list of recipes, tips and tricks, and  more information than I could possibly have asked for.
Off I went.  This blog is to document my work.  In the ten short months I have been cooking, it has become one of my greatest joys, a source of therapy and pure obsession.  I do crave it. 
I have set up a pictures page where I will document my progress in photo format, sharing my food as well as the items I have purchased, and new ones as they come to me.  I also have set up a page just for recipes, where I will type them out in a format that is easy to copy and paste to print, without all the other blog-gy stuff in the middle.  The upcoming edibles page is a place for me to put in recipes I hope to conquer in the near future, and maybe entice you to come back and check out to see how they turn out.  But, really, it's just a spot for me to keep my goals in line.  If you see something on there you would like me to cook, please speak up.  Or, if you have made it, let me know how you did. 
I hope to blend two of my biggest passions here – writing and cooking. 
And show some progress.
First meal :)

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