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

6Jun/070

Blast my impatient ways!

I made the prettiest dessert the other night when the cute boyfriend was coming over. And, as always, dived into it without thinking to grab the camera! *rolls eyes*

It was quite simple and could have even been healthy if I'd wanted it to. However, the cute boyfriend refuses to touch sugar free stuff as it gives him digestive discomfort. So, feel free to recreate this in a sugar free version.

To start off, I mixed up a package of Jello french vanilla instant pudding according to the package directions and then put it in the fridge to set up. In an hour or so I started assembly.

For each dessert, you need one 100 calorie pack of shortbread cookies and a martini glass. I had enough pudding that I could have easily made 4 of them.

In each martini glass, I spooned a tablespoon or so of sliced strawberries, then smoothed vanilla pudding over it. I arranged the shortbread cookies around the rim of the glass, sticking down into the pudding and then slightly up over the edge of the glass. Spooned in more strawberries and topped it off with more pudding. After arranging the cookies around each glass, there were a couple left in each packet, so I smashed them up and sprinkled them on top. Then I put the glasses in the fridge for a bit to let the pudding soak into the cookies.

Just before serving, I topped each one with a dollop of cool whip and a strawberry slice. Yumtastic!

3Jun/070

Southern Fried Indian Feast

My urge to cook came back hardcore. However, the effort that I threw into it yesterday may have served to completely kill that urge once more. I completely slaved on this dinner and it didn't turn out all that great. It was all ok, but mostly just ok.

I had decided that I wanted to make my tandoori marinated chicken breasts and set out to find some Indian inspired side dishes. I flipped through cookbooks late on friday night and had mostly decided on fiery lime corn and yogurt mashed potatoes. I decided to go all out and attempt naan as well as a couple of chutneys.

When I got to the farmer's market yesterday, I found that peas were in season. Joy! Rapture! Glee! I love fresh peas. And I'd seen a recipe in the book for peas with homemade cheese. Hrm, I wasn't quite feeling up to making and frying cheese, so I found some farmers cheese there at the market. Frying farmers cheese does not work, by the way. I brought my oil to 300F just like for the homemade cheese, and dropped in a couple of cubes and....

melt. burn. stick. YUK!

Instead I opted to drop half of the cheese cubes into the peas while still warm and the other half once it was nice and cool. This dish contained onion, ginger, tomatoes, cumin, coriander, peas, and the cheese. Decent but not really a keeper.

Instead of red onion chutney, I opted for using vidalia onions. That was a pretty tasty experiment.

Sadly, my naan was a failure. I don't know if it wasn't a good recipe or if my baking powder was old and had lost its oomph. It tasted ok, but didn't poof up like it should have. I'll give it another try some other time.

The big keeper recipe of the meal was the fiery lime corn. I grilled corn until it was all done and scrumptious. Then, quarter a lime and dip the wedges into a mixture of sea salt and cayenne pepper. Instead of slathering the corn in butter, you rub/squeeze a lime wedge over each ear. The taste was so terrific that I didn't even miss the butter at all.

3May/070

How to ruin a diet in under 30 minutes.

More fiddling with pictures. On this one I didn't use the flash and let pshop auto correct the levels. The color is a wee bit off - vanilla ice cream isn't quite that yellowy and the rim on the plate is green. Note on that - those pyrex plates are ones that I've been eating off of for my entire life. My pop rescued them from Nana's garbage can when he and mum were first married. Yes, he's always been "frugal".

Bananas foster cake was a raging success. Much much much tastier than the derby cake and didn't leave me feeling nauseated. Derby cake is going to need quite a bit more experimentation before I'm ready to serve it at a function.

So, I started with the rum cake that I made last night (single 9 inch round). Then I made bananas foster and poured them over the top. I gave it a few minutes to soak into the cake, then served it up with a scoop of ice cream.

Y'know, I had a recipe for bananas foster once, but I haven't seen it for ages. It's become one of those things that I just go all native on now. Rather like when you ask your grandma how to make biscuits (unless it was my nana, whose biscuit recipe began with "get the pillsbury can out of the fridge and whack it against the counter"). I've even found that I can wing it in a pinch.

Tonight I tossed half a stick of butter (yes, real butter) in a skillet with maybe 3/4 cup of brown sugar. Fired up the heat to raging and let it come to a simmer. Then I sliced up 3 super overripe bananas into the mix and let them cook a bit, dropping the heat. The point is to get the bananas nice and done and banana flavor all through the sugar mixture. When the bananas are falling apart, it's done. Then I added a sploosh of vanilla extract and let that cook in. Followed that with a small sploosh of meyer's rum.

For real bananas foster, you are supposed to flambe them. However, I honestly could not tell you when was the last time our stove hood was degreased and I have no desire to set the kitchen on fire. So, I don't.

I should also tell you that, for safety's sake, you should remove the pan from the heat before adding the rum. I never have and it hasn't burst into flames yet. Remind me of that dumbass behavior when I burn my eyebrows off.

So, once the alcohol had cooked off of the rum, I spooned the whole mixture over the rum cake. Holy Jesus H. Christ on a pink polka dotted mini-bike! (I read that in someone's comments recently and it made me giggle, I love the imagery) A wee bit of ice cream on the side and it was absolute cake perfection. I will have a tough time protecting a piece of it from dad long enough for Sparks to get here.

All in all, a definite keeper. I think it might be even better than just plain old bananas foster with ice cream.

2May/070

Fun with Cake!

I don't have the patience for lovely staging of food photos for my blog. I tend to just snap a quick shop before digging in. The flash always winds up washing everything out until it all looks white. Believe me, though, when I tell you that this cake tastes amazing and actually looks fairly pretty.

A few weeks ago, I heard something on TV about "Derby Cake". I've heard of Derby Pie (chocolate chip pecan pie) but never Derby Cake. So, I went to my old pal Google for the answer. Derby Cake was just created last year by Mert's Cakes in Louisville to be the official cake of the Kentucky Derby. It's described as "an amazing fusion of moist butter praline cake, dark chocolate and fine Kentucky bourbon." As we all know, I prefer attempting these things myself as opposed to just purchasing them. Especially when the price is $40. For a cake? Is it going to do tricks for me? Clean the house?

I was thinking of making this cake for my derby party on saturday, but I wanted to do a test run first. I hate to serve something without ever having tasted it. I've also been thinking of experimenting with a bananas foster cake. A test cake doesn't have to be a full sized cake, it can be just one layer. The flavor is all I really want anyway.

So, I started with a boxed cake mix since I was feeling kind of lazy about it. Just your standard run of the mill Duncan Hines yellow cake mix. I mixed it up per the package directions except that I left out 1/4 of the water. Then I split the batter into two bowls.

To the first bowl, I added enough dark rum to make up for the lessened water. Stirred it all up and baked it according to the directions. This will be my bananas foster cake, but for tonight was set aside after baking.

To the second bowl, I added enough bourbon to make up for the reduced water. Mixed and baked. Once it cooled, I evened it up and put it on a platter. I toasted some pecan halves while starting the frosting, then placed the halves on the top of the cake, trying to spread them out evenly.

For the frosting, I put 1 cup of brown sugar, 2 tbsp salted butter, and 1/4 cup of milk in a pan and cooked it over fairly high heat until it started boiling. Then I reduced the heat and let it come up to 236 degrees (soft ball stage). I removed it from the heat, added a bit of vanilla and stirred until it started to thicken. I spread/poured this over the single layer of cake and pecans. Then, I melted some dark chocolate and drizzled it around on top.

The bourbon taste, which seemed very minimal in the bite of just cake that I tasted (from evening it off) seemed to step up quite a bit with the addition of the frosting.

Notes for next time:

  • Don't let dad bully me into using the cheapass bourbon again. I'm 90% sure a better bourbon would make for a better cake.
  • 1/4 of the liquid is plenty of bourbon
  • Maybe try cooking the frosting slightly less next time so that it doesn't get as hard when it cools. Of course, it was the consistency of a praline and that's what I was after, so maybe not.
  • The cake didn't rise very well, maybe due to the fact that we've had those cake mixes for probably 5 years. Pop likes to catch things on sale and stock up to a stupid level. Buy a fresh mix for next time or make a cake from scratch.
  • Watch the pecans closer so that they don't burn when toasting! But they didn't burn so badly that they tasted burned, so I used them anyway.

Here's a horrid picture for you...

22Apr/070

A happy accident

Yesterday, I had to work. This is not normal for a Saturday, but it was a special case. Being that I had to be there super early and would not finish before the farmer's market closed, this means that I had to wake up super early to make it to the market before work. After work, I stopped by the garden center and picked up plants before coming home and working in the garden until it was dark last night.

All of this makes for one very tired Ysha. By the time I had showered and was ready to think about dinner, it was almost 10 pm. Obviously, I was too tired to cook the veggies I'd gotten at the market. So, I opted for a tuna sandwich.

I've been playing around a bit with the standard tuna salad that I grew up with - mayonnaise, sweet relish, and tuna. I've begun adding a bit of pepper relish to it and a smattering of herbs. For some reason, completely unclear to the rational side of my brain, I took the lid off of the dill seasoning mix and dumped it in to the bowl, right on top of the tuna.

I couldn't pick it all out, so I just mixed it in (maybe a tablespoon of it?). Truth be told, quite scrumptious. Spread on toast, this was a tasty and simple meal after my day of slaving.

I am now looking forward to many weeks of just sitting on the veranda, sipping lemonade and watching my garden grow. That's how this works, right?

15Apr/070

Joy! It is officially spring!

The weather is still horrible. It was raining all day yesterday and must have been about 40 degrees. I was freezing, but braved the ick for opening day of our local farmer's market. I nearly had the place to myself.

As I had expected, most of the produce was trucked in from much further south. However, I did manage to find a few local goodies. Shiitake mushrooms, baby green garlic, hydroponic tomatoes, and a basil plant. Put that all together with a few other items and you get my favorite homemade pizza.

Truth be told, I really don't like tomatoes. I don't hate them as much as I used to, but as a rule I won't eat them. However, mixed with a bit of olive oil, salt, garlic and basil, they become my favorite pizza sauce. And that stuff I could just stand there and eat with a spoon. But I don't because it's too durned tasty on the pizza.

For the last few weeks, I have been getting raw milk from a local source. It is wonderfully tasty and seems to be helping a bit with my weight loss. Today, however, I plan to take my fresh milk and make lovely lovely fresh mozzarella cheese from it. I will try my best to take some actual photos of the process.

In other news, I am attempting to plant a garden this year. I've been spending the last few weeks preparing the soil and hopefully will be able to set out my first plants in a week or two.

10Apr/070

I’ll never be a good food blogger

By the time I get finished cooking, I'm always too hungry to remember to get a picture. I tend to remember it when I am looking down at a half eaten dinner.

The menfolk have obviously decided that if they want anything other than a sandwich, they are going to have to start doing the cooking themselves. I'm hoping though that the opening of our local farmer's market this coming saturday will help to bring back my desire to cook and create.

The sweet boyfriend came over on saturday night and cooked for me. We tried out a recipe he'd seen on television that morning which had piqued his interest. Of course, we adjusted it slightly, but not much.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
1 pound of spaghetti
3 eggs
3/4 grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup half & half
12 oz. bacon*, cut into small pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt
pepper

Boil the spaghetti in salted water. While that is going on fry the bacon and garlic until the bacon is crispy, drain on paper towels. In a large bowl mix eggs, half & half, and parmesan. Scoop hot drained pasta into egg mixture and toss about. Toss in bacon/garlic bits and a goodly amount of pepper.

*the original recipe called for 8 oz, he said that they used a pound on the show. I bought a package of center cut and we used whatever was in the package, I didn't check the weight.

Served it up with a caesar salad and garlic toast. Scrumptious and simple.

27Jan/070

Peanut butter and jelly diet

I'm still dealing with the lack of interest in food. I don't watch food network as much as before, nor do I surf the food blogs as much. If something strikes my fancy in the little perusing I actually do, I'll throw myself into it with zeal. However, nothing has really struck my fancy for a couple of weeks now. Most evenings I eat a quick sandwich or a microwaved convenience meal of some sort.

However, this week was my mum's birthday. Normally, I plan for this for weeks and weeks. Actually, last march, when I first had shrimp and grits, I thought that'd be a lovely birthday meal for mum. Then I used that recipe for christmas, when I went over and cooked them dinner. She loved it and wouldn't have complained about the repeat, but it takes a bit too much effort for a tuesday night after working all day. Especially with the sort of days that I've been having.

I solicited my livejournal pals for advice, but then the wonderful boyfriend called me up with the idea that sparked a darn good dinner - why not grill some shrimp or chicken? Mum loves the shrimp, but only if it's deep fried, so I tossed that out and went with the chicken.

Last week was pop's birthday, and we'd gone out for his dinner - to Outback Steakhouse. The first thing that jumped out at me from their menu was the "grillers", beef and veggie kabob served with rice and grilled pineapple. The grilled pineapple was wonderful. I loved it so and was dying to use some myself. So, I tossed that into the menu for mum's dinner.

We wound up marinating boneless chicken breasts in pineapple juice all day, then placing them and pieces of fresh pineapple on the barbecue grill. While that started cooking, I threw together a simple salad with bagged greens, diced mango, and toasted almonds. Then I whipped up a fruity vinagrette with mango pulp, lime juice, pineapple juice, chardonnay, white wine vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper.

I went out to check on the chicken and they were cold! Oh no! Out of gas! We swapped out the tank for a fresh one and were back in business. But we weren't really. Something was wrong with the burner and the flame kept going out. So, I moved the chicken breasts (which did have a little color and grill markage on them) and pineapple to a pan and put them in the oven. 20 minutes later, the chicken still seemed incredibly underdone and the pineapple were juicing all over them. I extracted the pineapple and moved the chicken to the stovetop. In the time that it took for the pineapple juice to be absorbed/evaporated, the chicken finished cooking and actually carmelized slightly in the juice (only about 5 more minutes). I then sliced the chicken into small bits and put it atop the salad, with the pineapple on the side.

It turned out to be a lovely, healthy meal. Not at all the sort of fare that I usually make for mum (heavy and cheese filled), but we all enjoyed it greatly. I was thankful for my flexible nature, I've known folks who would've thrown the whole thing out when the grill died.

Next, we moved into dessert. My version of bananas foster. I had a recipe once, but over the years that I've made this, I've made it my own. As you may know, I rarely measure anything, a trait that I find endearing in myself and infuriating in others. I melted maybe half a stick of margarine in a pan (mum never has actual butter) and added what looked like way too much brown sugar (but really wasn't). When it came to a simmer, I added banana slices and stirred it around gently until the bananas started breaking up, telling me that they were done. At that point I added a small splash of vanilla extract and a goodly splash of dark rum (myers). Let the alcohol cook off and spooned it over vanilla ice cream.

In good keeping with my diet, I only ate a very small amount. My stepdad, who really isn't that much of a sweet eater, paid me the greatest compliment by having to have two large servings! I also found out that night that bananas foster is one of mum's favorite desserts. Perhaps sad that I didn't know that, but it has just become so in the last 5 years, in which time I haven't lived with her.

One very nice thing about the lack of interest in food is all of the free time that I find myself with in the evenings. No longer do I come home from work, cook something, clean up, and fall in a heap on the couch. Instead, I've been crafting like a mad woman. This week, I finished the organizational drawers that I've been painting, knitted a scarf, and knitted a sock. I will follow up later with pictures of some of my finished projects.

26Nov/061

If you deep fry it, they will come

I went to Gran's for turkey day, that means that my own turkey had to wait. We cooked it today, just a turkey breast.

Pop rigged us up a safe turkey frying contraption rather like Alton's. And of course, we did that thing that all people do when they deep fry a turkey - we started insanely searching for other things to deep fry. No, we didn't fry any dish towels or anything. We dropped little lumps of dressing into the oil, making the best hush puppies of all time. And then we made fries.

Aw yeah! Although I must say that this is the first time that I can ever recall having ketchup on the plate with my turkey.

We brined the turkey last night and it was wonderfully moist and tender.

20Nov/060

Slackersoup

Yeah, I've been slacking on the blog lately.  I haven't been cooking all that much lately due to some problems I've been having with my stomach.  Seems that my gall bladder has to come out, I've been passing stones as of late and I'm not enjoying it one little bit.  Food has been pretty minimalistic and functional.

Saturday, while spending the day shopping, we cruised into TGI Fridays for dinner.  It didn't even register until the food arrived at the table, but I ordered Betty's recipe from Top Chef.  I'm not the biggest fan of top chef, but there's not much that I like on tv on wednesdays and I've been working on a knitting project.  Knitting equals sitting in front of the tv for a couple of hours each night, so Top Chef was the thing I watched this past wednesday.

I liked the roasted red pepper and tomato soup so much that I have to find the recipe and make a big pot of it myself.  Luckily, the good folks at Bravo and putting the recipes online.  Tuscan Portobello Melt is what they are calling the combo.  The sandwich is good, but the soup is wonderful.  I toasted a couple of quick open faced cheese sandwiches and they were just fine with the soup.  Pop even liked it, didn't play it down as "so-so" like he usually does.

My bff Alton Brown almost scared me off of frying a turkey after I watched his "Fry Turkey Fry" episode.  But, I'm all paid up on my insurance, so I think I'll give it a shot anyway.