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


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.



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.


Pizza done right

As a general rule, I don't like tomatoes.  I like salsa, ketchup, spaghetti sauces, but not raw tomatoes.  I've tried to make myself endure them, and occasionally I can endure, but I really don't like them.  There is, of course, an exception to this.  Margherita pizza sauce.

A couple of years ago, I was watching Tyler's Ultimate and saw some cute little italian mama make this concoction.  I've adapted her sauce for my use.  As always, there's no set recipe and no amounts for anything.  However, the method is always the same.

For the sauce I mangle a couple of ripe tomatoes, sort of chopping, sort of mashing, being sure to squeeze the most of the juice/seeds out into the garbage.  I crush a couple of cloves of garlic, chiffonade some basil, add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt.  Then let it mingle for a little while, anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours, depending on how hungry I am.

This last time, I used prefab pizza crusts from Kroger, and I have to say that they were splendid!  Much better than anything I've ever made, and didn't get nearly as mushy as the packet mixes I've used in the past.  I fired the oven up to 450 and slid the pizza stone in there to warm with the oven.

While the oven was heating, I started to work on my toppings.  I chopped up some green and black olives, shallot, roasted red pepper, shiitake mushrooms, and fresh basil.  I started assembling the pizza, spreading the sauce and toppings around and then dropping a few dollops of ricotta cheese on it.  Next I tore up small bits of fresh mozzerrella and spread them around, and sprinkled the whole thing with a little parmesan.

One nice thing about those prefab crusts is that my peelless self could just pick it up carefully and plop it on the hot pizza stone.  10-12 minutes in the oven and it was gorgeous.  Even pop liked it, though he said "needs cayenne", however he says that about damned near everything so I refuse to take offense.

I am planning to experiment with beef burek this week.  Hopefully it'll turn out well.

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Coffee? Me? I’m a soda girl!

I am trying to find a coffee that I like. Even if I sugar a cup of coffee to the max, it won't have near the calories of a pepsi, but all of the caffeine kick which I need in the morning. I'd been eyeballing a bodum travel coffee press at kroger for a couple of weeks, and they put it on sale this week. I also picked up a sample size bag of millstone's foglifter coffee.

I have to say, the first drink was all "holy gawd, that's some kickass coffee" but once it cooled a little it also mellowed out. Or maybe that was due to the milk and sugar I put in it. Either way, it's tasting pretty good at this point. I'll have to keep experimenting with the sample size bags until I find a coffee that I love, I'm sure it's out there somewhere.

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First cooking lessons

Work is stressing me out hardcore and I have 84000 things to do, so of course I am blowing it off for blogging. I had lunch with my mum today and we were talking about her pantry. I housesat for her last week and of course had to peek in her cabinets and fridge, she has almost nothing but convenience foods. Toaster struedels, frozen pretzels, microwave meals, and ice cream novelties. She does that because my stepsister might get hungry during the day and is only allowed to use the microwave. I think that the girl is old enough to learn to cook, she's 16. She might be a bit challenged, but I think that everyone should be able to cook a few simple things. Mom'll never teach her, she never taught me, I just learned on my own. So, I've decided that it falls on her big sis to teach her to cook.

My question to you is this: what would you recommend as a good starting point for learning to cook?

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My tongue is on fire!

Obviously, I am the last human on earth to discover this, but last night I learned that if you roast a jalapeno it actually becomes HOTTER! I'm quite sure that there's some science involved here, which I will look into at a later date.

Last night I threw together a quick bean salad for my picnic date with my pal Kelly tonight. Which, by the way she has canceled out on. She's letting a little rain scare her away. The wonderful boyfriend and I will still have a picnic though. Manicdad will also be happy as this means that some of the bean salad will be coming home for him tonight.

Ysha's Black Bean Salad

1 Finely diced small onion
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 roasted jalapeno
Red wine vinegar
Kosher salt
Juice of 1 lime
2 cans black beans, rinsed
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed

Dice the onion first and allow it to "bloom" in a little red wine vinegar. This is the term I heard used for it on the Food Network, otherwise known as "let it sit for a minute" in Yshaspeak. Toss in the other ingredients and mix, adjust seasonings to taste. This salad is good if it has time for the flavors to "mingle".


Burps That Will Fell a Small City

Once again, this summer, I have fallen in love with the almighty Garlic Salad. In order to make an Yshastyle garlic salad, one starts with a bowl of leafy greens. (I use bagged salad, because I'm lazy like that.) Rough chop some mushrooms and toss on the top along with some diced onion. Red onion is especially good, but lately I've been using Vidalia because I have a huge bag of those. Mince a clove or two of garlic (per salad! awwww yeah!) and put that in the bowl. If you are Manicdad, then at this point you add a whole chopped tomato to your bowl, juice and all. Sprinkle with some seasoned salt, a little olive oil, and a healthy bit of lemon juice. "Waller it up" and enjoy. Don't forget to drink the juice in the bottom of the bowl, it'll make you shudder but it's great!

Ah, the burps that ensue after this. Raw garlic! RUN AWAY! I have found that it is superduper gross if you follow up your salad with a dessert of something chocolatey.

I will soon have to pare back my forays into the garlic salad, after too many of them, one starts to smell like a salami. Nice if you work in a deli, not so nice when you have an interview coming up. I've been doing my best to only have them once or twice a week though.

Garlic's healthy, right? Keeps away the cancerous vampire or something.


The Stuffed Peppers That Weren’t

I've been experimenting lately with Indian spices. Earlier in the week, I made tandoori marinated grilled chicken breasts that were great! Today I decided to play around a bit more with the spices that I bought at the Indian market.

I am trying to find more ways to enjoy chicken. It's much healthier than beef and I'm feeling the need to eat more healthy foods. At the suggestion of one of my livejournal buddies, I went looking for ground chicken. The idea in my head was some sort of Indian spiced stuffed peppers, as I had 3 lovely red bell peppers in my fridge. I went by Wal-Mart (yes, I know that it's the devil, but they have cereal much much cheaper than Kroger) and they did not have ground chicken. I didn't feel like making two stops, so I went with ground turkey.

I dug through the fridge and found most of an onion and a few mushrooms. Sadly, the salad I'd planned on having with dinner had already gone brownish, and I won't touch lettuce that is at all brown. I am picky, I admit it.

First, I dug in the cabinet for the last of the wild/brown rice and added a bit of basmati to round it off to a cup. This I put into a pan to cook with a can of beef broth and a wee bit of water.

I rough diced the onion, the mushrooms, one of the bell peppers, and 3 cloves of garlic. I preheated my largest everyday pan (gotta love that Calphalon!) with a little olive oil and tossed in the turkey and all of the veggies. To this I added 1 tablespoon of garam masala and a teaspoon of paprika, and sauted/fried/whatever until the meat was done. Turkey never seems to brown, but the spices gave it a browner color and most likely my dad would have never known that it wasn't hamburger if I hadn't told him.

While all of this cooked, I mixed up a tahini garlic sauce. I used 3 tablespoons of tahini, 1 clove of garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the juice of one lemon, 1 tablespoon of yogurt and a bit of water. It tasted rather bitter, so I tried adding a bit more yogurt and some paprika. It was still a bit on the bitter side, but I decided to let it be.

When the rice and meat were pretty much done, I dumped the rice in with the meat and veggies. To this I added an eight ounce can of tomato sauce and a bit of white wine. And plenty of salt.

Then I started the creamed corn. I cheated and started with a frozen log, but it's some really tasty corn. I added some rosemary and turmeric to the corn while it heated.

Meanwhile, back in the other pan, there's no way that all of this mixture is fitting into two lonely little peppers. So, I sliced them up into strips and arranged them on top of the filling mixture. Then I covered the pan and let the peppers steam while the corn warmed through.

When it was all done, it tasted wonderful. I spooned the meat and rice mixture onto a plate with some of the steamed pepper strips and drizzled it with a little of the tahini sauce. Beside that I put a spoonful of the creamed corn. It was so yummy that I could have eaten myself silly. No pictures, because it turned out looking like one of those pre-chewed dishes. Seems that most brownish colored dishes with rice included turn out like that.


In my mother’s kitchen

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about my mother, and most especially about her kitchen - the things I learned from her. Sometimes I think that I'm still a teenager at heart, rebelling against my mother, striking out on my own and testing the waters. In very few ways have I ever been able to escape her reign. Those of you who've known me for any time at all know how much those apron strings choke me but that no matter how hard I try I can't seem to free myself, she wields guilt like a weapon reigning me back in when I pull too far away. In the kitchen however, I am completely my own person.

When I was young, my mom actually cooked things. She made biscuits from scratch and real mashed potatoes and sit down dinners. But with every passing year her interest in cooking has dwindled. I truly expect her to declare it too much trouble to heat things up any day now and I will find her eating cold soup directly from the can. A woman who loves a shortcut, why make a cheesecake when Kroger will do it for you? I will admit to occasionally using those packaged shortcuts, especially on a work night. But when I set out to cook, I dive into it completely. However, my greatest kitchen shame is this - I can not make a macaroni and cheese that I like as well as what comes from the blue box, especially when made with butter and cream. I have tried repeatedly, but always wind up with a glompy mess that lurks in the back of the refrigerator until it is unrecognizable.

It's funny - my mom loves food, loves to try new things. However, she's rarely been able to bring herself to break away from the familiar in the kitchen. Myself, I love to branch out into uncharted territory and experiment in the kitchen. I'll bring home vegetables from the farmers' market just because they were "pretty", having no clue what I will do with them. Then I'll break out the stack of cookbooks and find some recipe to play with. And if it turns out badly? So what? That's why we keep peanut butter and bread around the house.

Dad and I are creatures of habit. It probably took us 7 years after mom left to rearrange anything in the kitchen, and most things are still kept exactly where they were when it was her kitchen. Some things may have shifted up or down a shelf, but I believe that everything is still in the same cabinet it was always in. It isn't her kitchen anymore though, it is mine. Sort of. It's mostly dad's, but he doesn't do much of the cooking anymore.

Someday I will have my own kitchen again. One where I can put all of my gadgets (instead of hiding them away in stuff jail) and where the precious kitchen aid stand mixer will once again have a permanent spot on the counter instead of having to be lugged up and down the hall and stored in a closet. That boy is durned heavy.

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if i thought it’d make you love me, i’d put soup on a stick

I know, not one peep in almost two months.

Have I stopped cooking? Nope. I've even made a couple of completely scrumptious things. I've just not taken pictures. I guess I'm too lazy to be a good foodblogger.

Did I stop crafting? Nope on that one too. I just haven't taken any pictures of anything. I've only finished a couple of things, but have lots of stuff in the works. Hopefully I'll post one big schmear of pictures later.

Work is sucking my will to live on a daily basis. I've spiraled into a good solid depression again. I go home and don't have energy for much, but I do lose myself in lots of hot baths, good books and the occasional project. I just don't have a thing to say.

Hopefully, I will soon start to pull back out of this.

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