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


Not just once, but twice

Twice this week (and it's only Wednesday!) I've cooked and it's turned out well. Even better than that, I even remembered to take pictures. I might turn into a foodblogger yet!

There was nothing terribly groundbreaking about Monday night's dinner. These were rehashed recipes, but thrown together in a new combination.

Here we have grilled tuna steak which was marinated in lime juice, olive oil, and Old Bay. Corn on the cob done in my new favorite way - grilled with lime, salt, and cayenne. And a quick bean salad consisting of canned (rinsed) beans, minced onion, jalapeno, lime juice, garlic, olive oil and cilantro.

Tonight I got a bit more adventurous.

Mustard crusted grilled pork tenderloin with mustard dill sauce, honey glazed sweet potato, and grilled asparagus. I found the recipe for the pork online somewhere and really liked it for its simplicity. Coat a pork tenderloin with a jar of stone ground mustard and 2-3 tsps of kosher salt. I only used half a jar of mustard since I only used one of the tenderloins in the package. Place the tenderloin on the grill (lowest setting) for 20 minutes on the first side, then flip and cook for another 15-20 minutes, until it reaches 165 F.

The asparagus has become a standby around here. We love it! If you've never grilled asparagus, I recommend getting to it. Toss trimmed asparagus spears with olive oil and kosher salt and place on the grill. I leave them there until they get a little blackened in spots.

Finally, the sweet potatoes. I had no recipe for these, just pulled something out of my head. It was mildly based on the fried sweet potatoes that my gran used to make for Pop. I peeled a sweet potato and sliced it into large slabs. These were placed on the grill for 10 or so minutes, until they looked ready to flip. After flipping them, I brushed warmed honey onto the top side. Once I thought the other side was about done, I flipped them again and brushed honey on the other side, giving it a few more minutes on the grill for the honey to sort of carmelize.

While everything else was cooking (believe me when I say I was running back and forth like crazy) I made a mustard dill sauce in the kitchen. I got the recipe from Get Saucy, a cookbook I have on hand. I had feared that the pork would be dry, as I tend to cook the daylights out of either pork or chicked because I seem to have some deep seated fear of undercooked meat (except beef, which I prefer medium). However, by cooking the pork slowly over very low heat, it was quite moist. The sauce was a great complement for it though.


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!


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.


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.


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...


Still no time for veranda sitting, but I swear it’s coming!

Tonight I cooked a most excellent dinner. I cooked up my latest farmer's market haul. Green beans, yellow squash, corn - all trucked in of course, it's too early for that stuff to be in season here. I also sliced up a locally grown tomato that Pop said was really good.

In addition to the veggie feast, I made this recipe that I found while cruising the food blogs early sunday morning. So tasty! I'm betting that they'll be excellent cold too, but I'm not positive that they will last long enough to find out.

Then I topped it all off with fresh homemade vanilla ice cream and strawberries.

Normally, I wouldn't buy strawberries that had been shipped in. They usually don't have any flavor. However, as I walked through the farmer's market saturday morning, I caught a whiff of these and decided that I must investigate. I asked the adorable little grandma working the booth if she'd been spraying strawberry perfume in the air to bring me in, she just laughed and said that they tasted every bit as good as they smelled. Boy howdy, was she ever right!

I'm really looking forward to later in the summer when some of my veggies can come from my very own garden.

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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?


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.


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

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.


Hoo Hah! and other such exclamations of glee!

I believe that I mentioned here a while back that my diet pill was causing complete disinterest in food.  I was no longer obsessively surfing food blogs and watching food network to find new recipes.  I've spent most of the last 2 months just eating whatever was easiest and fit within my calorie range.

I've been feeling rather like I was stuck on a plateau.  I'm keeping a spreadsheet of daily calorie intake and weight.  Up a pound, down a pound, up, down, up, up, down, down, down.  I wasn't gaining back the 15 pounds I'd lost the first month, but also didn't seem to be going anywhere.

Mum and I went to lunch this week and I realized that the salad I had that day was the first one I'd had in a week or more.  I thought a bit more about it and realized that I was basically going through my days cramming 1600 calories worth of junk food down my gullet.  Not complete junk, but a high carb, low protein, low veggie, low fiber diet.  Starting about thursday, I started making a conscientious effort to add more vegetation to my diet.

Also in the last week, I've found myself becoming interested in cooking again.  I blame/credit Ree for this.  Just before valentine's day, she posted her cooking lessons on lasagna and chocolate cake.  I found myself thinking more and more about these recipes until I knew that I would have to make them this weekend.  I invited the boyfriend over to share in this gluttony.

My mom used to make lasagna when I was a kid.  When she and dad split up, the relatives expected me to start providing them with this dish.  I refused, probably one of the first times I ever stood up for myself with the relatives, but definitely not the last.  I'd make manicotti (which is fairly close, but different enough to make me happy) and eventually I started experimenting with lasagnas that were vastly different than mom's.  Ree's lasagna is almost identical to my mom's.  I hadn't realized how much I missed that flavor until it hit my tongue tonight.  I also sauted/broiled some zucchini and garlic in just a bit of olive oil (must have a veggie!), warmed up a loaf of whole clove garlic bread, and whipped up a quick ranch dressing for a bagged salad.  I told pop not to completely hog out, as I'd be making cake in a bit, but it just couldn't be stopped.  I think he'd missed that flavor too.

After letting dinner settle a bit, I headed back to the kitchen to get started on the chocolate cake.  Pop hollered at me that it seemed like an awful lot of work for cake, you can fling together a boxed mix in 10 minutes.  After I let him taste the batter, he shut right up about any old box mix.  While the cake was baking, I made the frosting.  I think I might have done something wrong, as my frosting was very very runny, but it tasted damned good, so I didn't care.  Plus, with it being so thin, when I poured it over the warm cake it ran off the edges of the pan.  I just scooped a bit of it off and put it into a bowl, it'll make damned good ice cream topping.

If this cake were human, I'd marry it.  Super moist and the most delicious cake I've ever had.  Caused a foodgasm, it was so tasty.  Altogether, an amazing dinner, start to finish.  Everyone go visit Ree and try these for yourself, then go back and tell her that she's a goddess.

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