Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Align CenterIf I caught the devil I would stick a pear apple in her mouth and bake her in the oven

It's been a long Monday, but here are my favorite things on this sweet fall day:

Kim Kardashian's divorce from Kris Humphries (we didn't want you in mpls anyway, kimberly!)
Cinnamon Spice Tea from Caribou
Shorewood Bar and Grill in Fridley.
My Amnesty International tote bag. It's half the size of a regular tote bag which is nice. I find others too bulky. (make a donation and maybe you'll get one!)
And lastly, my thrifted leather jacket with a sharp shoulder.

Things I don't like so much today include the brussel sprouts that I made for lunch. They seem like they would be better steamed versus on the skillet. Good thing my portobello mushroom saved the day with the accompaniment of some some feta and tomato sauce.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Things That I've Done With Eggplant

I apologize if I am missing sentences or words in this post, I've been entirely distracted by Angelina Jolie's lips in The Tourist. Pause at 31:56 when she is shmoozing Johnny Depp in Venice and try not to freak out about her face.

I went to the Farmer's Market two Sundays ago and came home with a mother load of mini eggplants and small yukon gold potatoes. I wasn't thinking clearly, considering I had just gotten off of the night shift so when I woke up at 6 P.M. that evening I was surprised to see a half eaten raw potato in bed with me. That's not Ambien folks, that's just plain crazy sleep deprived.

Everywhere the public looks there is Eggplant Parmesan. By everywhere I am referring to Olive Garden, so eggparm was not an option for my eggplants. I looked to my copy of Joy for advice. I learned two things, eggplant changes moods like an angsty teen, and it soaks up liquid like a Bounty paper towel. If you keep it for too long it gets bitter and needs to be immersed in sea salt for 1-3 hours to extract the bad taste, but if you use it right away it will take up all of your olive oil and butter and water and the juice from your chicken and the moisture in the air of your kitchen. I found the best way to beat the system is to score the surface deeply with a knife and then stuff the cracks with garlic and onion powder before steaming in the microwave for 5-8 minutes (depending on the size). Excess liquid will seep out of the cracks during steaming and the garlic/onion combination will cover any bitter taste. I did this with the clean yukon potatoes and mashed both veggies together with some pepper and olive oil. Add some feta cheese to the top and you have an amazing remake of the mashed potato.

That's not feta cheese stuck to the side of the bowl. That's a dog. She was dying for some eggplant.

In another bout of insanity I decided to use up the terrible olive oil that was brought to me when I sent a college male out to fetch me groceries during a frantic day in the kitchen. I dumped some EVOO into a bowl, squeezed in half a lemon, spooned in some honey, and added some chopped walnuts and a shake of pepper. While the olive oil was fermenting my walnuts, I sliced some eggplants and tossed them in a colander with sea salt. Since my patience is about the size of a Ken Barbie doll, I immediately covered a baking sheet with tin foil and doused it with more olive oil. Before the EVOO could eat through to the pan I threw down the eggplants and spooned my cocktail over the top. I sprinkled everything with feta cheese in hopes that it could thwart the molotov of heavy flavors and popped it into the oven at 350 degrees. After the eggplant had sizzled and browned slightly, I pulled it out and set to curling some prosciutto for the tops.

I folded one slice over, stuck it into my mouth and immediately felt my lips crack. It seems that eggplant can also absorb salt crystals. I suggest never immersing them in a salt bath and just compensating for the bitter taste with a different flavor. Other than that, my improvisation turned out fairly well, although I'll probably just stick to mashed eggplant next time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's 5 O'clock in the Morning

Listening to: 5 O'clock by T-Pain ft. Lily Allen and Wiz Khalifa.

After I mastered the Banana Brown Betty from Joy, I got gutsy and started dreaming about muffins. I had read somewhere recently that sometimes things that are marketed as muffins don't always have real fruit in them (fake, man-made blueberries... really guys?) and it disgusted me. This was the same nonsense stumble that told me orange juice can sit in vacuum sealed vats for years... ew. Google it real fast to see what I'm talking about.

These muffin and orange juice revelations have given me severe breakfast separation anxiety, so I've had to start making my own muffins. Orange juice I simply replaced with chocolate milk. Easy enough, but being creative with muffins is seemingly difficult for me (see previous post about hating to bake).

I typically spend the first 10 minutes of my morning lying in bed and thinking about what will get me through the day, and for 3 days my thoughts were all about muffin filling. On the third day she rose again and went to Trader Joe's. There, I found Trader Joe's Honey Apple Butter and some terrible chile spiced mangos.
I fed the mangos to my sister and decided to use the butter as the filling in my muffins!

I took the recipe for basic muffins out of Joy and adapted it to my own use, which is apparently super easy to do with muffins according to The Book. Here goes!

Basic Muffins with Milk or Cream

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Grease a standard muffin pan.

Stir together in a small bowl and set aside:
1 1/2 cups vanilla wafers, crushed
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 stick butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Whisk together in a large bowl:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Whisk together in another bowl:
2 large eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup of sugar
1 stick of melted butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and incorporate carefully without over mixing. The batter is not supposed to be smooth. Spoon in enough batter to fill half of each well. WITH CLEAN HANDS, make an imprint in the batter and spoon in a small amount of the Trader Joe's Honey Apple Butter. Use the rest of the batter to cover the butter. Press the vanilla wafer crumb mixture into the top and dust with ground cinnamon. Put in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes! Remember, it's easier to give time then to taketh away. :)

I would make this recipe again, but most likely I would sub nutmeg with cinnamon, the nutmeg taste was overwhelming with the Honey Apple Butter. Also, don't make the mistake of overheating the stick of butter because it will scramble the eggs! Happy Baking, I know it was for me.

Stay tuned for next week! I'm going to master cookies.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why You Can Never Mess Up a Recipe When Ol' Blue Eyes is Singing

I got my very own copy of the Joy of Cooking for the first time about a year ago. Since then, I've made the one same recipe over and over again without ever thinking about making anything else.

I give you, ladies and gentleman my famed "stick to every crevice of your duodenum" Mushroom Veloute Sauce
Honestly, it's amazing. Stir in some extra heavy cream or a half a stick of butter when you take it off the heat, and it's called "Sauce Supreme".

So, because I posess Jesus of cooking I decided that it's fine time for me to move on to other sections of The Book. Sections that make my tears leak just thinking about them. I really don't even have to add salt to any of my baked goods because I cry all over the dough and my tears produce the exact equivalent of 1 tsp iodized sodium. I clogged my tear ducts with wax, put on Frank Sinatra duets for comfort and plunged forward.

I finally settled on an easy thing called a "Banana Brown Betty". No one knows who the heck Brown Betty is supposed to be, but I 'm sure she is Betty Crocker's dead alcoholic aunt. I picked banana because I haven't been able to get the tempura dessert out of my mind that Kayla and I received at Wasabi Fusion in Minneapolis. It made us anything short of crazy. Slightly crunchy outside, but all banana goo on the inside.

I swear they just smash a slice of banana down with a fork and flip it in
some burning hot oil for 10 seconds, but it is delicious.

Banana Brown Betty (Adapted from Joy of Cooking, but modified to my own liking)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Get a pie plate ready for crust and custard distribution.

Combine in a bowl and set aside:
1 1/2 cups crushed Nilla Wafers or any off brand*
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 stick of unsalted butter, melted (While butter is melting quick change to No. 8 of Duets. The song is New York, New York with Tony Bennett. Do a slow dance with the refrigerator door for 30 seconds and high kick your way to the microwave when the butter is completely melted)

Peel and cut into even slices:
4 firm, ripe bananas**

In a medium sauce pan simmer 1 1/2 cups of milk

While milk is heating beat into a bowl:
1 Lg. Egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 tblspn all purpose flour
1 tblspn cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt (or tears, in my case)

Whisk half of the hot milk into the egg mixture, proceed to mix this mixture gradually into the rest of the milk in the pan. Return to medium heat whisking constantly and scraping down sides until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat, still whisking, for 1 minute. Add 1/2 tsp of Vanilla extract. Fold bananas into saucepan and set aside.

Press half of Nilla Wafer crumbs into the bottom of pie plate. Spoon banana mixture over crumbs, and dust with ground cinnamon. Cover with the rest of the wafer crumbs. Bake until the top is brown and filling is warm. Allow to cool before serving.
Perfecto! No incessant sobbing necessary!

Joy recommends eating all of this in one sitting with a strawberry sauce on one side and Frank Sinatra on the other. The sauce is shown in the lead photo, but I wouldn't make it again. This dish would be better served hot with ice cream. It doesn't reheat well, but it makes a good breakfast meal served cold!

*Crush Nilla Wafers by putting them them in a Ziplock bag and crushing them with whatever is handy, i.e. bottle, rolling pin, fist, head.
**This sh*t is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S