Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fish and Chips

Tonight I was reminded that there will inevitably be times when the recipe does NOT turn out the way you planned!

Case in point: I found a recipe online for Fish and Chips, and I thought "Great! This will be a good chance for me to make my debut in the fish-cooking world." (Tonight was my first attempt at making a fish meal) Well, an hour later, I discovered differently...

So this recipe calls for potatoes, salt, pepper, an egg, cornmeal, parsley, catfish, and lemon. The recipe itself was not difficult; it just wasn't executed correctly.

I started out by washing and peeling the potatoes. Then I cut them in to "julienned" strips and spread them in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Put that in the oven and then on to the fish.

So I dipped the fish in an egg bath, then in the cornmeal mixture, then onto its own foil-lined baking sheet (which is what the directions said to do) and added that to the oven. When I took the potatoes and fish out of the oven, the fiasco began.

The "fries" were not only soft and somewhat mushy, but they were stuck to the foil. The fish, on the other hand, seemed cooked through, but left the breading sticking to the foil. Even though I was far from thinking the food was tasty, my husband graciously ate everything on his plate, while I only nibbled at the fries (which I was able to peel off the foil, but not without smooshing them).

After consulting a better cook than myself, I learned that cooking fish on a grate of some kind is a better method because it allows the juices to cook off (and drop onto a baking sheet waiting below). Perhaps, after I have recovered from my major kitchen blunder, I will one day try this recipe again. We'll see how that goes.

In other news, I have started attending a cake decorating class. I have made 3 cakes so far (and I have pictures!) and when I get a chance, I will post them on here for your perusal. Please be kind though, as this is my first foire into cake decorating.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Basic Baking" Recipe 4


Wow! The first thing I must say is that I never expected it to take me so long to finally make these blondies, but the day has finally arrived! Today I made the Blondies recipe from Basic Baking by Lora Brody. I made them to be the dessert to the meal I made for dinner tonight.

Ok, so first things first... Ingredients list! Here it is: all-purpose flour, salt, butter, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract.

So... Blondies. Yeah, when I first saw a recipe in here for blondies, I totally thought "Yep, not gonna like these" but as it turns out, blondies are actually much better than I thought. I had never tried blondies before tonight, and I think I kind of thought they were something else. But now that I've actually had the joy of making and eating these blondies, I know that my ideas were way wrong before.

As for the creation of this wonderful dessert, it was one of the easiest recipes I've made from Basic Baking so far. First, I prepared a 9x9 baking dish by coating the bottom and sides with butter, putting aluminum foil on the bottom of the pan, and then coating that with butter. Then the pan was set aside.

I combined the butter and both brown sugars in a saucepan and stirred until the sugar dissolved and became smooth. I let it cool for about 10 minutes, then added the rest of the ingredients and mixed until well-blended. I poured the batter into the previously prepared baking dish, put it in the preheated oven, and baked it for about 30 minutes. After it was done, I put the baking dish on a wire rack to cool (and finished making dinner).

From start to finish, it took me about an hour and a half to complete this recipe (including 30 minutes of cooling time). We ate our dinner (Pork cutlet, garlic mashed potatoes, and a side salad) and then had the Blondies for dessert.

To illustrate how GOOD these blondies were... my husband and I are currently doing Weight Watchers (which REALLY works, by the way) and so after B had finished his dinner and eaten a blondie, he only had enough points left to eat one more thing without going over his daily limit. He debated whether he wanted a second piece of pork cutlet or another blondie, and was having quite a difficult time deciding, but in the end he couldn't decide at all and ended up going over his daily points allowance so he could have both!

So if I had to choose my favorite recipe from Basic Baking (from the 4 recipes I've already made) the Blondies recipe is DEFINITELY my favorite so far! It was SO good. I'm seriously tempted to eat a third(!) piece, but I will refrain myself.

Anyway, here's a picture of the final product:

Yum, yum, YUM! is all I have to say about this recipe!!!

Next up is Sticky Hands Caramel Bars. Check back later to read about the next recipe in Basic Baking.

Pork Cutlet, Mashed Potatoes, and Salad

Well, dinner today was interesting. I made an entire meal for us to eat. Parts of it were really good, other parts... not so much, but I'll get to that later. First, let's start off with a picture of the finished meal.

Ok, so the entire meal took me about 30-40 minutes to make. I started with the potatoes. Here's the ingredients list for them: red potatoes, garlic cloves, sour cream, milk, chives, salt and pepper.

First thing I did, of course, was to peel and cut the potatoes. Then I peeled the garlic cloves, put them and the potatoes in a saucepan, filled it with water and boiled the potatoes until they were soft. Then I drained the water, added all the other ingredients, and mashed the potatoes by hand. (I would have preferred mashing them with a hand mixer, but the mixing parts were in the sink from having been used previously, so I had to mash the potatoes by hand.)

So, the potatoes ended up being a bit lumpier than I prefer, but they still tasted good. (which is saying something cuz I normally like gravy on my mashed potatoes, but these were good without gravy.)

While the potatoes were boiling I started the pork cutlet. The ingredients for that recipe are as follows: cooking spray, boneless pork chops, flour, salt, pepper, an egg, milk, Dijon mustard, bread crumbs and a lemon.

To make these, I had to have 3 separate, shallow bowls. The first bowl has flour, salt and pepper mixed; the second bowl has the egg, milk and mustard mixed; and the third bowl has the bread crumbs. Then I dipped the pork chops into each bowl (in the order listed), making sure to coat each side. Now the recipe says to bake the pork chops, but the oven was already being used by a dessert, so I decided to cook them in a pan instead. So I just sprayed some cooking spray in the pan and cooked 3-4 pork chops at a time. It worked just fine and kept me from having to postpone the start of dinner.

The recipe also called for a lemon, but since I didn't have any lemons on hand, I just left that part out. They were only supposed to be used to sprinkle over the top of the pork anyway, so it wasn't super necessary. As for the taste of the pork cutlet, it was very good. Probably my favorite part of the meal (although the dessert was REALLY good, too). The pork has to be dipped in several things, but the recipe is by no means difficult. In fact, it's a very simple recipe to complete, which was nice since I had several parts of the meal to make.

The last portion of the meal was a small side salad that I made because I decided that the meal needed some sort of vegetable (a real vegetable and not something full of starch), so I thought a salad would go very nicely with it. The salad was a very simple salad. As for the actual salad part, I used lettuce, chow mein noodles, and sliced almonds. Then I made a raspberry vinaigrette dressing to go on top.

The dressing contains the following ingredients: raspberry vinegar, olive oil, coriander, salt and pepper. I just put all of those ingredients in a cup, covered the cup with a lid and shook it until the contents were well-blended. Then poured it over the salad. Now if I had to choose a part of the meal that was my least favorite, I'd have to admit that the salad was it. Well... not so much the salad, but the dressing.

I chose a raspberry vinaigrette dressing because I had tried it before in a restaurant and liked it, and because I thought the point value of the dressing (my hubbie and I are currently doing Weight Watchers) would be lower than my first instinct in dressings. I nearly ALWAYS have ranch dressing on my salads, which of course is not very good for you, but tastes great. Although, I have begun expanding my tastebuds in recent years.

But in this particular case, the dressing was just too sour for me, so I ended up not eating it, but my hubbie liked it, so that's proof that the dressing is good to some people (just not me!).

Before I end this posting, I must include one final note: my hubbie told me (as he was headed back for a second helping of the pork cutlet) that tonight's meal may very well be the best meal I've ever made. :o) So he REALLY liked it and practically begged me to make it again sometime.

And now on to dessert...

If you are interested in reading about what I made for dessert tonight, go to the "Basic Baking" portion of my blog. Happy reading!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Korean Chop Chae

I made chop-chae for lunch today! For those of you who don't know what that is, it's a Korean dish that includes noodles, vegetables and (in the case of the particular recipe I used) chicken. I'm going to be devoting an entire section of my blog to Korean dishes because I lived in Korea for a few years and now that I'm not there anymore, I miss the food. Plus, I've discovered in the past year or so that I not only enjoy baking, but also cooking as well.

When I first decided that I wanted to go to culinary school, I was mostly interested in the baking side of the culinary arts, but now, as I've been cooking more and more meals at home, I'm learning that I like cooking meals just as much as baking. It's actually got me thinking about widening my plans in regards to culinary school. I'm still mulling things over and deciding which way I want to go, so we'll see what happens.

Anyway, today's recipe is Korean Chop-Chae and, despite the numerous steps it entails, it's a fairly easy dish to make. The ingredients for this recipe are: soy sauce, sugar, garlic, sesame seeds, chicken, vegetable oil, an onion, carrots, bean sprouts, spinach, cellophane noodles, and sesame oil.

You start off by cutting the chicken into bite-size pieces. Then you combine soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and sesame seeds in a bowl, add the chicken, and let it marinate for a few minutes. Then heat up a large wok and cook the chicken. The chicken goes into a covered bowl, the pan gets washed, and then you start on cooking the vegetables.

Now here comes the slightly annoying part of the recipe; you have to cook each of the vegetables separately. In other words, heat oil in the wok, cook the onion, add the onion to the bowl containing the chicken. Then do it again: heat oil in the wok, cook the carrots, add the carrots to the chicken. And so on, for each of the vegetables. Eventually you get a big bowl full of chicken and vegetables, and even though it's somewhat annoying having to cook each one separately, it's not difficult or, really, all that time-consuming.

After all the veggies are cooked, you boil the noodles until they are done, add that to the chicken/veggie mixture, and you're nearly done. Top it with a little more soy sauce, sugar and sesame seeds, add a little sesame oil, mix and voila! You've got Chop-Chae!

All in all, it took me between 45 minutes to an hour to complete the recipe, including peeling and chopping all the veggies. So, not too bad. Below is a picture of the finished product. The picture also includes some chopsticks and Korean wedding ducks to carry out the theme of Korean food.

As for the taste of the dish, it was pretty good, considering it was my first attempt at making chop-chae. I think that maybe the carrots could have been cooked a little bit longer (as they were still a bit on the crunchy side) but overall it was very yummy and reminded me of my days in Korea, and my hubbie went back for a second helping so it obviously wasn't terrible.

The only thing about this recipe that I didn't like is... well, I guess there are two things. One, the recipe says to heat the oil on high and then cook the veggies, which of course made oil pop and splatter everywhere. If it hadn't been for me buying that mesh pan covering a while back, I would probably have several burn marks on my skin from all the oil!

The second thing I didn't like about the recipe is that it includes onions. I don't mind so much the fact that it has onions, but more the fact that I had to chop the onions. I think that my eyes have an over-sensitivity to onions. I mean, I know that onions make your eyes tear up, but seriously I even so much as look at an onion, and my eyes start watering. Ok, so maybe it's not THAT bad, but really, it's bad. My eyes were watering so much I had to just put the knife down and walk away for a minute there because I was afraid I'd cut myself.

I have heard that lighting a candle and setting it next to you while you're chopping an onion can help, but I'm not allowed to light candles in my apartment complex. Does anyone have any other good ideas for keeping your eyes from watering when chopping an onion? If you do, I'd REALLY like to know, cuz I'm at a loss for what I can do about it.

Anyway, that's all for today. To summarize, I made chop-chae, it was yummy, and onions make me sob. Good night, all!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Blog Organization

Ok, so I have been working on reorganizing my blog. I am looking to have this blog include a variety of my cooking/baking attempts, rather than ONLY being for recipes I've made from Basic Baking by Lora Brody. So, you may notice that posts I had previously published months ago now have a new date. This is because in my attempt to reorganize things, some of the posts were deleted so I had to re-post them.

So now, the way my blog will be organized is that every time I post something, I will label the post (i.e. "Basic Baking", Desserts, Mexican, etc), and the labels will be listed on the left-hand side of my blog. Each label will act as a "tab" which can take you to all of the posts for that particular section of my blog.

Basically, the reason I am doing this is because I want to expand my blog to include things that I cook/bake other than what's from that one book. My hope is that by doing it this way, I will actually be able to post stuff on a regular basis, instead of only when I get around to making something from that one book.

So hopefully you will enjoy reading about all the fun recipes I try at home. I am even considering working on creating some of my own recipes. We'll see how well those turn out. ;o) I have been cooking and baking a lot more lately; just not from Basic Baking, so now you might actually get to read new posts several times a week, instead of every couple of months!

I hope I didn't ramble too much in this post, but I'm really looking forward to introducing you to a broader range of my cooking and baking attempts. Happy reading!

"Basic Baking" Recipe 3

Birthday Cake Brownies

Wow, so it's been quite a while since the last time I posted on here. September was a busy, busy month for me, but I finally got to the next recipe yesterday! This recipe is called Birthday Cake Brownies and I'm assuming they get their name because they are brownies that have the texture and consistency of cake.

This recipe calls for: all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, unsweetened chocolate, unsalted butter, granulated sugar, light corn syrup, eggs, vanilla extract, and milk.

The recipe itself was easy enough to follow. I prepared the baking pan, sifted the first three ingredients together and set it aside, melted the chocolate and set it aside, mixed the other ingredients together, then added the previously set aside ingredients. Easy, right?

Well, apparently not, because the brownies did not turn out right. Perhaps I did something wrong, didn't follow the directions as correctly as I thought, but the brownies came out crumbly and just didn't look right. The picture below shows the final product.

It may not be a good enough picture for you to see the crumbliness of the brownies (although, now that I'm thinking about it, this might actually be a picture of the bottoms of the brownies and not the tops, which looked the most crumbly).

Now, you may be thinking... "Brownies are supposed to be crumbly". Well, that's true but these particular brownies were not the right kind of crumbly. I don't know how else to explain it other than it just didn't look right. Oh, well. At least I attempted the recipe, right?

In any case, as far as length of time goes, everything I did up until putting it in the oven took around 45 minutes. Then there was an additional time of 25 minutes to bake.

I will say this: even though the brownies don't look right to me, they still tasted good. The flavor of the chocolate is all there; it's just the presentation that failed for this particular recipe.

As for my next post, I promise I will not wait another month, but due to the cost of buying ingredients and the fact that there are usually only two of us to eat the food, there will probably be a week or so between posts from now on. But I hope you continue reading.

I will leave you with this: The next recipe is titled "Blondies". Brownies... without the chocolate. What a concept!

Until next time... Happy reading!

"Basic Baking" Recipe 2

Fantasy Brownies

I made brownies this morning! They are SOOOO good! (and that's saying something, because I'm not really a "brownie" person. I prefer cakes and/or ice cream for dessert)

This is the first recipe in Basic Baking and now, having tried them, I know WHY they are called "Fantasy Brownies": because they are like a fantasy in your mouth when you eat them. Yum!

But let me start at the beginning...

This recipe calls for: unsweetend chocolate, unsalted butter, eggs, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, all-purpose flour, and salt.

It was a very easy recipe to follow. All I had to do was melt the chocolate (which, granted can get tricky if you don't do it right, but I was fine with it) and butter, beat the eggs in a separate bowl, add in the other ingredients (in steps), and mix it all together. VERY simple, which I suppose is why it's the first recipe in the book.

When I started, the first thing I did was gather all my ingredients (adding and mixing things together is MUCH easier when everything is already lined up on the counter, ready to go). Then I simply followed the directions in the recipe, added everything as I was told, and poured in all into an already-greased baking pan. From the time I gathered the ingredients to the time the pan went into the oven was about 20-30 minutes. Once the brownies came out of the oven, I let them cool for a while before tasting them.

Ok, now how to describe them? Well, the first thing I noticed was that they were very moist and... light. What I mean by "light" is that the brownie didn't give me a heavy, lump feeling in my stomach after I ate it. It was light and fluffy, almost cake-like (but different), AND they ended up with these nice swirls of white in them. The author of the book, Lora Brody, has said that over-mixing can cause recipes not to come out right, so I was worried about mixing them too much and ended up with not mixing them quite long enough, but the up side was the slight swirl effect on the top of the brownies.

So... Below is a picture of my wonderful "Fantasy Brownies". Not sure if you'll be able to see the swirls very well, but trust me, they were there.

Well, now that the first recipe is complete, my next baking attempt will be another type of brownie. These are called "Birthday Cake Brownies" and I might try to make those sometime next week. I want to finish off the ones that I have before I make another dessert.