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

31Aug/060

Life is too short to refrain from eating jam out of the jar.

When I was a wee little girl, my dad used to bring home jellyrolls and share them with me. Cellophane wrapped sponge cake with raspberry jelly peeking out. I believe that they were from Kern's bakery. I don't know if Kern's has closed up or isn't as readily available around here or if they just stopped making jelly rolls, but I haven't had one in years.

Sunday, when Mimi and I were checking out Jungle Jim's, I saw a lovely jelly roll in the bakery there, all oozing with jelly. If I'd been in my right mind, I probably would have bought it. Instead I'd just been traumatized by a big dead eyeball staring up at me from the meatcase and my brain was all agoggle. In retrospect, I guess that's much better than a live eyeball staring up at me from the meatcase, but that isn't the point. The point is the cake.

Sunday night, I dreamed of cake. Not just any cake, multiple layers of golden yellow cake with raspberry jam between them. Rather like the jellyrolls of my youth, but not rolled. I saw a tower of thin layers and red jam.

Tonight I finally had enough energy after work to dive into this project. I used the 1-2-3-4 Yellow Cake recipe from The Joy of Cooking, making 3 layers. I sliced each of these layers in half, spreading raspberry preserves between each layer. Then I mixed a little Chambord with the remaining preserves and drizzled them over the top.

What we have here are six layers of love.

26Aug/061

Not quite PB&J

Several years ago, pop and I went through a summer of canning. We made a lot of jams that year: strawberry, blackberry, peach, apple butter. We also experimented with canning fruits (only the cherries didn't turn out so well) and making our own mincemeat.

It's just the two of us and we really don't eat that many biscuits. Or, at least, I don't. And he's barely gone through half in the 5 years since we made it. These things don't keep until the end of time, so I've been trying to think of ways to use up some of it.

I started googling for cake recipes using strawberry jam. Sparks' birthday is coming up and I'm trying to find a nice cake to make for him. I found a recipe that practically screamed his name: peanut butter and strawberry jam cake with white chocolate peanut butter ganache. Sparks doesn't really like nuts, except peanuts (a legume, I know) and loves peanut butter cookies more than any other cookie. So, this morning I set out to give this recipe a try.

20Aug/061

Harvest time

I don't know if I've mentioned it here or not, but I hate tomatoes. Ok, so maybe "hate" is a bit too strong of a word these days. I am slowly acclimating myself to a tolerance of them, most especially if disguised. I love salsa after all.

Although Pop's tomato plants have some sort of weird fungus (it makes the plants start dying from the ground up) we have a plethora of tomatoes. My auntie's tomato plants have no such blight, so she keeps sending dad home with them. Way more than one man, no matter how much he likes them, has been able to keep up with.

So, today I put a rather large dent in his stash of tomatoes. I made pizza with homemade sauce (I make the best pizza ever) and gazpacho. The boyfriend even helped out with the gazpacho since he'd actually eaten it before and I had not.

My pizza sauce is made in the style of margerhita pizza, only then I throw lots of toppings on the pizza. Start with a few tomatoes, squeeze out some of the juice and seeds and chop them up. Then add a couple of crushed cloves of garlic, a generous pinch of kosher salt, and a splash of olive oil. Chiffonade some fresh basil and allow the whole thing to mingle for a bit before using.

I can barely stand to get pizza out anymore, I've ruined myself for it. I spread this sauce on a prepared pizza crust (like a Boboli crust, only I buy the Kroger brand), top it with lots of yummy things (shallots, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, olives, more basil) and several kinds of cheese. This is when I quite often clean out small leftover amounts of things from the fridge, like some kalamata olives that I'd bought a few weeks ago and a couple of feta stuffed hot peppers, just chop them up fine and spread them about. Yum yum yum.

As for the gazpacho, it won't be truly ready until tomorrow. I used this recipe as a starting point. Of course, I never measure much of anything, and I left out the celery because I don't care for it much. I did, however, add a bit of celery seed to the soup. Pop and I tasted it and agreed it was quite tasty, that will be tomorrow night's dinner, along with a bit of garlic toast. Almost a healthy meal, if not for the garlic toast.

Best of all, I reduced the number of tomatoes rotting away on the windowsill and found one more way in which I will endure a tomato.

2Aug/060

Shrimp and NOT Grits

A couple of weeks ago, the birthday girl made us dinner. She served Shrimp and Grits, which was quite tasty, but made the boyfriend say "gack" because he refuses to let a grit get near him. Hates them with the fire of a hundred burning suns or some such very large amount. I decided that I must learn to make this dish, yet change it to accommodate him. The sweet girl never has remembered to send me the recipe, which I can't fault since I am more than a little bit of a procrastinator myself. So, I took what I remembered from her dish and several recipes that I found online and combined them all together.

There is nothing healthy about this dish, but it tastes terrific. I will give you the recipe as close as possible, since I sort of made it up as I went along. Besides, I need to remember this as much as possible so that I can do it again.

Shrimp and Not Grits

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 14 oz shrimp (that's the size bag I found, you could go with a little more or less)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • fresh thyme
  • white wine
  • cornstarch
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • chives
  • risotto
  • vegetable stock
  • salt
  • pepper
  • parmesan cheese (1/2 cup?)
  • white cheddar cheese (4 oz?)

Start off by chopping the bacon into pieces and frying it until crispy. Drain it, saving the grease, and place on a paper towel

Melt 2 T butter and 2 T olive oil in a pan, add 1 cup risotto and allow to saute/toast. Add 1 cup of veggie broth at a time, stirring constantly and allowing all broth to soak in before adding the next cup. Repeat until you've added 3 cups of broth total. When risotto is finished, add another T of butter, shredded white cheddar cheese, and parmesan. Add a bit more broth if necessary, salt and pepper to taste. Top with chives.

While the risotto is cooking, in bacon pan melt 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil. Saute red pepper, onion, garlic, and mushrooms. Add a few sprigs of thyme and a pinch of herbs de provence. Cook until veggies are tender. Add shrimp and continue to saute until shrimp is done. Mix reserved bacon grease with about a cup of white wine and add to mixture. When it comes to a boil, add cornstarch/water mixture to thicken. When it is almost done, stir in chopped tomatoes, green onions, and bacon.

Serve the shrimp mixture over the risotto. This kicks ass.

As a side dish I sauted up some yellow squash, zucchini, and onion with a bit of rosemary. Very tasty.

The boyfriend says that mine was better than the original, but that's only because I didn't use grits. I thought the original was better, but that was mainly because someone else cooked it for me. Either way, it's a wonderful dish. If I don't forget before then, this might be mum's next birthday dinner.

23Jul/060

Big family dinner

We never eat at the kitchen table.  Dad and I tend to take our meals in front of the TV.  Or sometimes just one of us will eat at the table while the other watches TV.  I'm thinking that we may have eaten dinner at the table together once this year.

Last night, Sparks came over and we not only ate at the table, all of the food was on it instead of sitting on the counters/stove.  It was very nice.

I started making dad's chicken marsala, but he decided to elbow me out of the way and take over.  He does that from time to time, I just laughed and went on.  Besides, it freed me up to work on the rest of dinner.  Mostly, it freed me up to get creative with my salad.

I didn't go to the store yesterday, everything that was in the fridge had been there since my grocery trip last weekend.  I had a bag of mixed spinach and red leaf lettuce, but not much else in the way of salad veggies.  I toasted up some pine nuts, which I always try to keep on hand, but what else to put in the salad?  Hmmmm...

I opted to get a bit sweet with it.  I'd bought a mango last week and it was at the peak of ripeness.  Actually, it was probably closer to the "eat me now before I rot" stage, but whatever.  So, I diced it up and threw it on top of the lettuce.  What sort of dressing for a mango salad?  I squeezed the pulp that was still sticking to the pit (seed?) and skin into a cup, added the juice from half a lime, and a few frozen raspberries.  I put the whole thing in the microwave on defrost until I could mash the raspberries up, then added a little balsamic vinegar.  I gave it a little salt, but the whole thing was still a bit too POW with the vinegar, so I poured in a bit of the reisling that I was drinking.  Then whisked in some olive oil.  A nice complement for the salad.  Dad refused to touch the salad, too weird for him, but Sparks and I rather liked it.  Perhaps, if I make it again, I'll add some more crunch with some carrots or something.  Overall, I thought the salad was a good contrast to the heavy richness of the rest of the meal.

What have we learned here?  Durn near anything can go in a salad, as long as you combine it with the right dressing.

17Jul/060

Twice in one day!

A lovely creation, if I do say so myself...

Ever since I stumbled across this cake, I've known that I just had to make it. Add to that the fact that we've had a basket of hazelnuts sitting on the table for ages. Sadly, they taste a little old, and this bothers me, but I'm hoping that the whole package makes up for it. I'd never toffeed nuts before and wound up with something more like brittle, maybe I overcooked the sugar? So, pop ground them down a bit with the meat mallet, breaking them into small, not too jagged pieces.

Tomorrow night I am going to a birthday dinner for friends, and I won't have time to come home after work. This means that this cake must travel to work with me tomorrow. I might need a thermonuclear device to protect it from the snack vultures in my department.

I hope I don't wind up waking up at 4 am with the tummy ache from eating the cinnamon rolls and then tasting bits of this as I went along.

17Jul/060

Alton’s Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

This morning my back hurt and I stayed home. Luckily, some aleve kicked that pain's ass by late this afternoon. I had some cinnamon rolls to bake and they couldn't wait, they were put together last night.

Soooooooooooo, tasty. They're a bit of a pain since they have to be put together the day before and have to rise and be rolled out and all of that, but completely worth it.

I thought they might last until morning, when I could take one to Sparks, but that's questionable at this point...

Hey! Come back with those!

To come later, pics of the Nutella cake that's baking in the oven right now.

16Jul/060

Here fishy fishy

In the past, I have always turned my nose up at fish.  Except for the wiley stick fish, very rare in the wild.  Yup, I'm an uncultured cretin when it comes to fish.  Sometime in the last year or so, I've been trying to change that.  I was always afraid to cook fish before, but not so much anymore.  I am overcoming my fear and expanding my dinner possibilities.  No longer does my fish come from Mrs. Paul (except for when I'm feeling really lazy and craving them), now I buy it either flash frozen or already defrosted for me from the seafood counter.  I know that stuff was previously frozen, this state is way too far from the sea for it to be anything else.

Tonight's adventure into the unknown was tilapia.  Never had it, had no clue what to expect, but it looked enough flounder-like to be ok in my book.  I know that I like mild white fillets.  So, I broiled those fillets with a little olive oil and old bay seasoning.  Served it with some *gasp* instant mashed potatoes and gingered spaghetti squash.

The spaghetti squash was another new one on me.  I'd tasted it once before at a restaurant, but never cooked it.  While I was out this afternoon, I assigned dad the task of finding me a recipe for it.  He went straight to the food network website.  The recipe left a lot to be desired as far as methodology, and we wound up not following it exactly after researching some other sites.  The recipe told me to split the squash, put it in a pan with 2 T of butter, 1 T of honey and 1.5 T of grated ginger, salt and pepper to taste and bake it for an hour at 375.  What I did not expect was how rock hard the durned thing would be.  After a little research we opted to add some water to the pan and to cover it.  The original sauce had cooked in a bit and very lightly flavored the squash.  It needed salt, but once it got it tasted delicious.  That recipe was definitely a keeper.

Also in the works currently are a batch of Alton's overnight cinnamon rolls and a nutella cake.  I'd been looking for any excuse to make the nutella cake from the first time that I saw its gorgeous self on some food blog or other.  Tuesday night I am going to a birthday dinner for some friends and that sounds like the best excuse ever.  Dad even volunteered to shell my hazelnuts while I was making dinner.  Sometimes he's right handy.

11Jul/060

fun with leftovers

Tonight's food experiment: tiramisu! I can't wait to try it, it is currently setting up.

On saturday, I made a pound cake to eat with my yummy fresh blackberries. As of last night, the berries were gone but half the cake remained, and it was quickly getting a bit dry. So, I started thinking about making a trifle. I've never made one, but the idea seemed straightforward enough - cake, custard, and some kind of fruit. So, I started looking through the "How To Cook Everything" (my favorite) for custard recipes. Lo and behold, just past the custards, a recipe for tiramisu calling for leftover sponge cake.

Sponge cake, pound cake, whatever! Tiramisu! So, this evening I assembled it, and dad is prancing back and forth impatiently awaiting it's hour of chill time to pass.

I hope it's tasty.

edited to add:  MUST NOT GO FACE DOWN IN TIRAMISU, NO MATTER HOW GOOD IT TASTES!!!!  *swoon*

10Jul/061

Beef Blahrek

Tonight was the night that I finally attempted beef burek, after talking about it for the past week or so. None of the recipes really looked like the thing that I saw on $40 a day that looked so tasty, so I improvised. I fried up a pound of lean hamburger with a diced onion and a little sliced shiitake mushroom (leftover, needed to use them up). I added salt and paprika but it still tasted very flat, so I threw in a splash of marsala and let it cook off. I layered this with phyllo dough, buttering each sheet lightly, and ricotta (dad doesn't like feta). I baked it at 350 for 30 minutes, until the crust was golden brown. I served it with a little salad and some leftover green beans.

It wasn't bad with the beans and salad, as the beans were rather too salty in the first place, but alone it was very blah. We experimented slightly with a horseradish sauce (dad's idea) and a dilled yogurt sauce (my idea) but neither gave it the ooomph it needed. It wasn't bad with ranch dressing on it, but everything is better with ranch.

It served its purpose, I'm not hungry anymore, but that definitely wasn't a keeper recipe. Next time I'll just grill out burgers, much tastier.

Tomorrow night's dinner will be a tried and true favorite which I can assign dad to cook before I get home - cinci style chili. I've got all of the stuff that I like to dress it up with and it'll be a simple dinner for a couple of nights, since this is looking like it might be another week filled with long days.