Demented Ramblings life is too short to refrain from eating jam out of the jar

31Mar/190

Sticky Toffee Goodness

So, I've heard of Sticky Toffee Pudding, but I'd never had it. I'd only ever been to one restaurant that had it on the menu and we didn't have time to stay for dessert. Le sad. I've been curious to try it.

This week, the shrink doubled my Wellbutrin. I have a lot more energy all of a sudden.

So, I made one for myself. And it was delicious! I'm going to copy the recipe here so I can keep it on hand.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake
Yield: 6-9 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients
Cake:

6 ounces dates, pitted and finely chopped (about 8-10 medjool dates)
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (5.5 ounces) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup (6.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Sauce:

3/4 cup (5.75 ounces) packed light or dark brown sugar
1 stick (4 ounces, 8 tablespoons) butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Pinch of coarse, kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Additional heavy whipping cream for drizzling (optional)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 6 to 8 ramekins (about 6 ounces each) with butter or cooking spray or lightly grease an 8X8- or 9X9-inch pan.
For the cake, in a medium bowl, stir together the dates, boiling water, baking soda and vanilla extract (see note for alternate method). Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.
In a separate medium bowl, cream together the granulated sugar and butter with an electric mixer (handheld or stand mixer) until well-combined and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
Add the eggs and mix.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined.
Fold in the date mixture (no need to drain) until combined; don't overmix.
Fill the ramekins evenly with the batter, about 2/3 full, or spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.
Bake the ramekins for 18-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top springs back to the touch (if using a square baking pan, bake for 22-25 minutes). Don't overbake or the cake may be dry.
Let the cakes cool completely in the pan(s) - although the cake can be served slightly warm also.
For the sauce, combine the sugar, butter, cream, and salt in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves and the sauce is smooth and combined, 5-7 minutes.
If the cake was baked in ramekins, turn out onto individual plates (if baked in a pan, cut the cake into squares). Pour the warm sauce over the individual servings, and sprinkle with pecans, if using; drizzle with a teaspoon or so of heavy cream, also optional but terribly delicious.

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23Feb/190

a tiny light in the darkness

I don't want to jinx anything, but I may be ascending from the depression. At least slightly. At least, I made a craft project and have cooked a couple of good meals. I am putting in some effort!

Let's do this in chronological order, shall we?

Valentine's Day marked mine and Sparks' 13th dating anniversary. I know we have a wedding anniversary, and we celebrate that too, but we still celebrate the first anniversary. I decided that I wanted to make scallops for dinner. Fresh Market complied by having some gorgeous sea scallops. I seared those and made a beurre blanc. I sort of lazied out on the beurre blanc though and didn't strain it. We both like shallots though, so I didn't see it being a big deal. And it wasn't. I also roasted some asparagus and made a quick couscous. At least this time I didn't brown the butter while making the sauce. While I was making dinner, Sparks cleaned off the end of the table so that we could eat at the table "like fucking adults" (my words, not his). The beurre blanc was so good that I just ladled it over the whole plate. It's good with seafood, it's good with asparagus, and couscous always benefits from a sauce. Scrumptious! Followed it up with tiramisu from the bakery counter of Fresh Market. I love Fresh Market!

Then, while the table was still mostly cleaned off, I decided to finally start on the quilt I'd been wanting to work on for a while. My cousin was about to become a grandma! If she wasn't already older than me, this would seal the deal. It's been a while since I was excited about a craft project, but cousin's daughter is a barrel racing cowgirl and was about to have a little cowgirl of her own. I wanted to do a cowgirl themed quilt. I found some fabric on Etsy that fit the bill. So, this past weekend, I threw together a Trip Around The World quilt. Here's the photos over on instagram! I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. I dropped it at the post office on Tuesday and it arrived right after baby girl did!

I moved the sewing machine and stuff so that we could eat at the table like adults again. Last night, I was feeling steaks. That always means another trip to Fresh Market, their butcher counter is lovely! I got a couple of chateaubriand cut filet mignons. Filet is my steak of choice, I won't eat fat and get grossed out if any of it touches my tongue, so I just avoid it as much as possible by doing filet. I cook them simply, just sear both sides and slide them in the oven with a meat thermometer. It seems that if I cook them to 135, they carry over just enough to be a good medium. That would gross out my mom (she likes hers well done) but it's perfect for Sparks and me. While the steaks were in the oven, I made balsamic mushrooms. I'll copy the recipe below, I definitely don't want to lose this one like I have some others on the intarwebs. And kismet! TFM had organic baby bellas for $1 a package! While the steaks were resting, I made a cognac cream sauce to go over them. It was good, but made way too much. I think next time I'll just add enough cream to the pan to make sauce, not the whole carton. It also wouldn't take as long to cook down that way. Add to all this a couple of bakers with butter and sour cream. The steaks were so good that Sparks threatened to weep. *laughs* No fancy dessert this time, but we had some Entemann's chocolate doughnuts in the kitchen.

I woke up this morning excited to come update my blog. Maybe I'm not dead, after all.

Balsamic Mushrooms and Onions

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound white button mushrooms halved
1 onion sliced
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Instructions

- In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and onion; sprinkle with salt and stir to combine.
- Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook until liquid is released from mushrooms, about 5 – 7 minutes. Remove cover and continue to cook until liquid has evaporated and mushrooms and onions are softened and browned, about 3 -5 minutes.
- Add balsamic vinegar and stir until mushrooms and onions are coated evenly and the vinegar is heated through.

25Jan/190

dead from lack of interest

I think the depression has a serious hold on me. It seems that no matter how much wellbutrin I take, it keeps it's hold. Today though, I feel a bit perky. Probably because for the first time in months things at work are going my way.

Life on the homefront is quiet. I'm too quiet, mom says. I just don't seem to have an interest in anything. No craft project has called to me since the wedding flowers, which I think I didn't even bother posting. I made gorgeous paper flowers which I turned into a bouquet with some brooches. But since then, not much of anything. I've even given up knit night. But a big part of that is this newfound driving anxiety that plagues me. Plus, I don't see so well after dark these days. My eyes are getting old.

Man, I'm just a bucket of sunshine.

But last night I was struck with dinner inspiration. I love when I get inspired to use up leftovers. Back over the weekend, I made a standing rib roast. It was delicious but pricey and we only ate about half of it. I thought about making a stew with it, but last night got an inspiration to make beef stroganoff. It's one of the husband's favorite things. Let me tell you, prime rib stroganoff is where it's at! I turned that leftover meat which probably would have been left to rot into another meal, that's awesome.

No recipe, I just sort of winged it. That's my favorite way to cook anyway.

13Mar/170

sweet chili burning

Ok, the burning only occurs when one adds Sriracha, aka Hipster Ketchup. Otherwise it's just sweet and garlicky and yum.

I found this recipe via pinterest and have been eyeballing it for a couple of weeks. I finally decided that it was time to make it and Kroger had just the amount of precleaned shrimp that I needed. Kismet! Sparks and I both went back for seconds! Then, a couple of days later, I repeated the recipe with chicken.

I made some changes, adding vegetation. Here's my final recipe:

  • 1 pounds uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon butter (stovetop version only)
  • julienned sweet bell pepper
  • sliced green onion (4)
  • snow peas, trimmed
  • Asian Sweet Chili Marinade

  • 1/4 cup Asian sweet chili sauce (like Mae Ploy)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Glaze:

  • Reserved marinade (in directions)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • Garnish

  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • sriracha to taste
  • sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the Asian Sweet Chili Marinade Ingredients. Measure out 1/4 cup and add this to a large freezer bag along with shrimp (the remaining Marinade will become your Glaze). Marinate 30-60 minutes.
  2. STOVETOP DIRECTIONS: Stir-fry veggies until tender in a tablespoon of butter. Remove to a plate.
  3. Melt butter in a large wok over medium high heat. Add shrimp and cook just until opaque, about 3 minutes. Remove shrimp to a plate.
  4. Whisk 1/4 cup water and 2 teaspoons cornstarch to the reserved Marinade/Glaze. Add to wok and simmer until thickened. Add shrimp and veggies and toss to combine.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in sriracha for more heat if desired. Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro (optional).
14Feb/170

beurre brown

Someone recently left a comment here on one of my old entries, the stuffed bread one. If you search for Enza's, I come up on the first page. Or maybe it was "Enza's stuffed bread". Whatever, I didn't expect that.

Anyway, this prompted me to go back and read through all of my entries here. I guess that's one nice thing about posting so sporadically, it doesn't take long to go through all of the entries.

I realized that I just don't cook like I used to. Is it the meds I'm on? I know I used to have a lot more energy than I do now. Most nights, I'm doing good to make a grilled cheese. Usually I don't even put that much effort into food for myself.

I miss cooking. Add to this the fact that we've gotten disgusted by Friday night dinners out. We don't like to wait and being told it's 90 minutes for a table someplace that has mediocre food just annoys us. So, I'm going to try to make more of an effort to cook. At least on friday nights I can take my time making dinner and it won't matter if we eat at 8pm. Though I'll say that this past Friday's dinner came together very quickly.

Friday afternoon, I had scallops on the brain. While picking up some scallops at the market, I googled a sauce to go with them. I used this recipe for a tarragon beurre blanc. Only I didn't read the directions very well and added the butter too early. This meant that the butter browned and my sauce ended up rather dark colored. However, it was fracking delicious! One other substitution was that I used tarragon vinegar instead of white wine vinegar and fresh tarragon.

I paired the seared scallops with couscous and asparagus. The sauce went well drizzled over the couscous also.

I really don't care for standard couscous. I don't mind the pearl couscous, but I add a lot of butter to it as well. Only with regular couscous it doesn't seem to matter how much extra stuff I add to it, it's always dry. However, the husband likes it, so I make it sometimes. To my tongue though couscous is the most bland food around. I even used a flavored version from a box this time thinking it would be better. I might as well have used the plain stuff for all the difference that it made.

But hey, the scallops and sauce were excellent!

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5Jul/160

Motif #1

A few years back, Sparks and I took a vacation in Rockport, MA. I don't remember exactly why I chose Rockport. I think I wanted to hit the area because I'd never been anywhere in the Northeastern US. Rockport was nice though, we stayed in a lovely little B&B which was just a short walk from the beach. It was August, but the water was frigid. Mostly, we wanted to eat our weight in seafood.

The first night there, we arrived a bit late and were hungry. The innkeeper recommended a place down the street and we walked down. I don't remember the name of the restaurant but it sat right on the docks and outside was a little red building referred to as Motif #1. We were informed that it was the most painted/photographed scene in all of the Northeast. I can't tell you much about the restaurant other than the fact that it had the best lobster roll ever (and the first one I ever had!) and this really tasty mixed drink named after the scene outside the window.

We returned from that trip with some serious food inspiration. This was the same trip where I discovered Spiced Tomato Jam and recreated it as soon as I got home. We also worked to recreate the drink that we liked so much while on our trip.

Sadly, I couldn't find the recipe, though I did still remember the ingredients. Lucky for me, which visiting friends this weekend, it turned out that my friend had it written down in her recipe book! I'd better notate it here so that I don't lose it again.

Motif#1

1.5 oz spiced rum
1.5 oz coconut rum
3 oz pineapple juice
.75 oz pomegranate juice

If you really want a kick, float a little 151 on the top. But even without that this is a sneaky drink. It's a smooth fruity thing going down, but packs a wallop.

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30Jun/160

Fried Chicken: Demystified

When my parents were first married, way back before they'd even thought about me, my mom tried to make fried chicken. She bought a whole chicken, because that was cheaper than buying on already broken down and money was of course an issue being newlyweds, and cut it up. She'd never done this before. Cut ahead to dinnertime and my dad ridiculed her chicken pieces for being naked (the breading fell off) and unrecognizable. She never attempted fried chicken again. Growing up, my chicken always came in a bucket. I occasionally got some made by my Granny, but I preferred the deep fried commercial stuff.

Recently, I had some fried chicken from my aunt who is the master of all home cooking. She's taken to using boneless chicken breast strips for frying. I don't know why I never thought that I could fry chicken that wasn't a whole chicken that I had to cut up. But this week, I decided that it was time. I planned to make a chocolate cake later in the week and it calls for buttermilk. So does most of the fried chicken recipes I've seen. Kismet!

So, I put my chicken strips in a ziploc bag with enough buttermilk to cover them and left them in the fridge to hang out until the next night. Most recipes just call for soaking the chicken for a couple of hours, but if I do that after work then I'm cooking dinner at 9pm. One thing I didn't do and should have, I should have salted the chicken before it went in the buttermilk. Or added some salt to the mixture. My chicken needed a bit of salt when all was said and done.

Fast forward to the next evening. I mixed up flour and seasonings. I just added some random spice blends (cajun, greek) and other spices that I thought would work (salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne) and stirred it up. Without wiping off the buttermilk, I flopped each chicken strip around in the flour, trying to pack it on. Then I set each one aside on a rack. Once all of the pieces had been breaded, I ran each one through the flour again, once again letting them sit on the rack for a few minutes. This is supposed to help the crust to adhere.

I brought some oil in a wok to 350ish degrees (F), someone in a book told me to toss in a bit of bread, the oil is hot enough when the bread fries. Then I gently placed each chicken strip in the hot oil. Now, the most important part - walk away! Go make your side dishes or wash up your flouring dishes. If you have to touch it, just give your pan a light shimmy to make sure that nothing is sticking. The more you fiddle with the chicken, the more you knock the crust loose. So, I waited until it got pretty brown on the first side (the oil was deep enough that most of the chicken was covered) before gently rolling the pieces over. Once the chicken is nice and GBD all the way around, move it to a paper towel lined plate. I stuck a thermometer in the thickest piece to make sure that it was 180F. If it isn't, you can bake it for a few minutes, but mine was perfectly done. I think that's probably due to not having any bones and all of the pieces being roughly the same size.

My chicken wound up being delicious! I feel so accomplished. It only took me 40 some years to get over my fear of frying.

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21Mar/160

A blast from the past

This weekend, while watching Pioneer Woman, I got fruit cocktail on the brain (she made some). More specifically, I got fruit cocktail CAKE on the brain. My mom used to make it all the time when I was a kid. Suddenly, on saturday, I was obsessing about it. Of course, the internet has 1000 recipes for it, but I couldn't be sure which one was the "right" one. Mom didn't have it, and it took Dad a while to find it but at least he did. It wasn't so much a recipe as just a list of ingredients.

Fruit Cocktail Cake

1.5 C sugar
2 C flour (I assumed self rising, that's what Mom always kept around)
1 t baking soda
1 egg
1 t vanilla
2 cups fruit cocktail (in heavy syrup, one 16 oz can)

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

Glaze

1 sm can cream (I assumed this meant evaporated milk, that's the only cream I know of in a can and it tasted right)
1 C sugar
1 t vanilla
1 stick butter

Cook 20 minutes.

It took more like 45 minutes to bake in my oven, and it fell. But I seem to remember this cake always being sunken in the middle. It's dense and a bit gooey. As for the glaze, it's a bit grainy, but the texture seems to jive with my memory. It's so tasty, I've eaten a lot of it this weekend.

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19Feb/160

not pretty, but pretty tasty

I swear, I'm not dead. I post almost daily on livejournal and multiple times per day on facebook, but I've just never gotten into the habit of blogging here.

But the other night I threw something together that I just had to record, it was scrumptious!

This is a sort of recipe, I didn't measure anything.

Braised Sausage with Vegetable Ragu

1/2 medium eggplant, diced and salted. Allow to drain for 15 minutes before using.
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
2 sm/med yellow onions, sliced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
minced garlic (I dunno, enough)
italian seasoning
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
balsamic vinegar

Cook all of this until the veggies are done enough to suit. You could leave out the eggplant, but it sucks up the flavors from everything else and you don't even notice it.

In a skillet, cook 2 sausages (I used roasted red pepper this time, but I think any would work) in a bit of olive oil. Add balsamic vinegar and braise while vinegar/oil thickens to a sauce consistency.

Serve with some pasta.

Super yummy, it was surprising how good it was.

In other food news, The Boyfriend has been making scrambled eggs a la Gordon Ramsay's method and they are amazing. Very good served over toasted rosemary sea salt bread.

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9Mar/150

little A artist

I'm jealous of those people who know what they want to be when they grow up. Even more so if they've always known. At age 6, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was "a horse." By the time I finished high school, I wasn't much better prepared for the world.

I took the scenic route through college, so it took me a bit longer than most to graduate. I was 25 when I graduated with a BS in Physics, and still I had zero idea what I wanted to do with my life. I sort of fell into a job as a network administrator for a small security company. I stayed there for a couple of years and then started working for local government. Over the years, my responsibilities here have changed.

During my tenure here, I've had some times when I detested my job so much that it made me depressed. As part of our employee assistance program, I was able to see a career counselor. She gave me a litany of tests in order to determine what field might be proper for me.

After several weeks of tests and exercises, the results came back. According to my personality and temperament, I should be an artist. I do like to make things. I've always considered myself more of a "crafter" than an "artist". I didn't make anything that I considered "art". I knitted a bit, sewed, and did other general "crafty" things. I believed that there was no way that I could support myself as an artist. I declared that I was entirely too addicted to eating and having a roof over my head to consider a career as an artist.

My counselor told me something that has come to be my motto. If I couldn't be an artist as my career, I needed to create things in my spare time to feed that need or else I would forever be unhappy. It's absolutely true. When I get super depressed, I can look back at the last few weeks and will realize that I've not made anything. All I have to do is pick up a project and make a little progress on it and my happiness returns. Or I can take an art class. I just have to give my brain something creative to work on.

These days, I call myself "craftmaster" of my own tiny label. I still dabble with many different mediums, expert at none, but I am beginning to see myself as an artist. I am not an "Artist", but definitely an "artist".

I still don't know what I want to be "when I grow up". But I know more about myself and what it takes to make me happy. That matters more than what I do to pay the bills.

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