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


the quest for the perfect pizza crust

A couple of weeks ago, while watching The Worst Cooks In America, I saw them make pizza dough from scratch. Surely the recipe they gave them was foolproof, right? I decided to try it out myself.

I tried for the first time last week. My crust was rock hard. I think that is due to rolling it out.

I tried that same recipe this week, adding a bit more moisture (I had trouble getting all of the flour mixed in last week) and not rolling it, just forming it by hand. I decided to forgo the pre-bake this week, thinking that may have contributed to the hardness. This time the crust was a bit doughy in the middle, but overall much better. I probably should have given it a pre-bake this time. *laughs*

My facebook friends have been full of suggestions and links to recipes. This morning, my pal Charley showed up at my desk with his wife's pizza crust recipe. I'll definitely give it a shot next. It doesn't even require rise time! It does, however require "pizza yeast". I didn't know such a thing existed.

Last week, post rock hard pizza, I wanted something chocolatey. Really, I wanted a chocolate souffle, but that was just way too much effort for 9pm on a tuesday when I'd already spent the last 4 hours cleaning the kitchen. Plus, I didn't want to make something huge that would hang around for days. I ended up settling on a recipe for chocolate lava cakes that made exactly two. I used this recipe. It took all of about 3 minutes to mix up and was great. While it was baking, I threw some freezerburned raspberries into a pot with some sugar and turned them into a nice sauce (they were only a little freezer burned) and whooped up some sweetened cream. The recipe was so awesome that I repeated it the next night. I need to repeat it once more, I've got just enough raspberry sauce left for about one more round.

If next week's pizza crust is a winner, I'll post the recipe. Until then, here's the text of the recipe for those fine lava cakes.

Chocolate molten lava cakes for two

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 TBSP butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus extra for garnish
1 egg
3 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBSP Nutella (optional)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease 2 ramekins with non-stick cooking spray. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and set aside.

In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips and butter in the microwave for about 1 and 1/2 minutes. Stir every 30 seconds until smooth.

Add the powdered sugar and mix until incorporated. Then add the egg and whisk until smooth.

Stir in flour and vanilla extract and mix until no lumps remain.

Evenly distribute the batter into the two prepared ramekins and put the baking pan into oven.

Bake the cakes for 12 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let them rest for 1 minute before inverting onto a plate.

Dust with powdered sugar and a dollop of Nutella if desired. You can also garnish with berries, ice cream or chocolate sauce for a super indulgent treat!

Yield: Two servings

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The wire core bracelet tutorial

A livejournal friend asked me how I go about spinning wire. I took photos of the whole process from wire to bracelet. There are a million pics under the cut.



the spun wire bracelet

A few weeks ago, I saw a very lovely bracelet in one of the fiber/spinning communities on facebook.  I loved it and thought that surely I could replicate it.  I watched a couple of videos on youtube about spinning fiber onto a wire core.  That was my project for the last Second Saturday Spin-In.  Spinning onto a wire core isn't really as tough as I thought.  The only snag is getting the fiber to catch as you start spinning.  But once it's started, it goes pretty easily.  I used a "demented batt" from my local yarn seller/dyer, Lunabud Knits.    It has lots of colors and sparkles in it so it makes for a crazy yarn.

Then, I went to my local bead shop, Dandelion Bead Connection, and asked the owner of the shop for some help on what to use as a core and how to attach my hardware.  He helped me out immensely.  I sat down on Sunday and attacked the project.  It was surprisingly simple!

For starters, I created my "core".  The guy at the bead shop had given me a giant black rubber o-ring, like 8 mm diameter and 4 feet long.  I cut off enough to go around my wrist.  Then, I used the dremel to drill some tiny holes though the rubber about 1/4 inch from each end.  I secured my wire into these holes and created small rings on each end.  it didn't matter that they were ugly, the fiber wire covers them up!  Once each end had a loop, I started wrapping the bracelet with the fiber covered wire.  This process is a bit tedious and gives me a cramp in my hand but isn't difficult.  I just had to be sure to wrap it tightly.  As you can probably see, my "yarn" was a bit thicker in some spots than others.  That just adds to the beauty, I think.  Once the bracelet was wrapped, I put a wee bit of glue on each end just to keep it from unraveling.  Then I used split rings to attach a clasp.  I like the toggle clasps best for bracelets.  I find them easier to connect one handed than the others.

My only regret(?) about this bracelet is that the o-ring is a bit more rigid than I would like.  It is kind of stiff feeling on my wrist.  I think that once I've used up all of my o-ring supply (I have enough to make a half dozen or so bracelets) then I will try flexible tubing.

I enjoyed this project so much that I may make a handful of these in the coming weeks.

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lettuce wraps

I totally and completely adore PF Chang. I could eat there weekly. I don't think that I've had anything there that I didn't like. The local one went through a phase for a while where the spring rolls were overly greasy, but the last couple of times I've been there they'd corrected that.

It wasn't until recently that I tried their lettuce wraps. I'd had them other places and didn't care for them, but theirs were terrific.

Last night, I was hungry (skipped lunch, I do that a lot) and decided to stop by the Kroger and just let inspiration hit. I walked directly in to the produce section and looked around. I was kind of having an urge for a vegetable of some sort. I've been eating a lot of crap this week. There was a lovely little head of bibb lettuce and it told me that it wanted to be a lettuce wrap. I tend to like leafy lettuces more than iceberg. So, I popped on the intertubes and found this recipe. I liked the face that I had all of the ingredients for the sauce, so all I had to pick up were the chicken, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. I used ground chicken instead of chicken breasts and doubled the veggies since I had what I thought was double the meat. I also fried up a few rice noodles, those are scrumdiddlyumptious! Our lettuce wraps were great, Sparks says maybe even better than the ones at PF Chang. We have quite a bit left over, so I'm thinking that I may make some rice this afternoon and have it with the leftover chicken mixture for dinner.

Yesterday, I spent the whole time at work knitting and watching vidoes on the YouTubes since I've figured out how to get there through the fire wall. I finished the first of the January projects. I started the next one while watching The Hobbit (first part) with Sparks last night.

We slept in today until about 12:30 and I've cleaned the kitchen. I'm feelilng pretty good about that. Of course, maybe I shouldn't since I had left all of those dishes sitting for a week. For the rest of the day, maybe I'll play some WoW, I haven't gotten to do that in almost 2 weeks! I was so busy with party prep, the giftmas prep, then giftmas itself and knitting and such that I haven't played since before they connected our realm to another.

There's nothing amazing going on in Yshaville today, I just wanted to share that recipe with you guys. *grins*

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40 garlic chicken

I've got a chicken in the crockpot, it's been going for a couple of hours, still needs a couple. For the first time I am trying it without adding a lot of liquid to it. My friend Mari is the one who told me that I could do a whole chicken in the crockpot. We just didn't use one when I was a kid. But a few years ago, just after she'd told me about cooking a whole chicken in one I was at Meijer and they had this crockpot on sale for $10 and whole chickens were on sale that week too! Kismet!

Anyhow, whenever I make chicken in the crockpot, I will throw in a few cloves of sliced garlic. We love garlic around here! Today, I was reminded of the first time I made "garlic chicken".

I was either 18 or 19. Mom and Dad hadn't been split up for too long, so I hadn't been the chief cook for very long. I was still feeling my way through things and learning. Heck, I'm STILL learning, I always will be. I like learning new stuff, especially about food.

It was Christmas day and it had snowed something like 12 inches overnight. The roads were a nightmare. So, instead of making the traditional trip to my Gran's house (90 minutes each way over very curvy mountain roads) I decided to stay home. This was an unheard of luxury for me. It might have been the very first time I'd ever missed Christmas with the whole famn-damily.

I looked through the cookbook for something that I could do with a couple of chicken breasts for dinner since I had a bag full in the freezer. I found a recipe for something along the lines of "40 garlic chicken". In those days I had not yet discovered fresh garlic. The only garlic I'd ever used was the dried/powdered kind. You see where this is going, don't you?

I read on the bottle that blah blah teaspoons equals a clove of garlic. I used enough of the dried crap to be 40 cloves worth and covered the chicken with it and put in the oven. I have to say, that was pretty gross. We didn't eat very much of it, that's for sure. *laughs*

I've come pretty far since then. Now I'm almost never without a bulb or three of fresh garlic in the house and I only use powdered garlic when I'm making a seasoned flour for coating something. I don't even keep the pre-chopped stuff in the fridge anymore. (it has a slightly pickled flavor that I don't care for)

My chicken smells great, I am looking forward to it being done.


comfort food

Often, when I have an awful, no good, terribly bad day I want comfort food. For me that means snooty cheeses. Sometimes with a little fruit on the side, sometimes not. If I'd remembered that I had grapes in the fridge last night I totally would have eaten those, but I forgot.

Our Kroger is in the midst of expanding into a Super-Mega-Kroger that can be seen from space. They've finished the first section of the renovations and have added a Murray's cheese shop. Last night, I finally gave them a proper perusal instead of just glancing as I walked past.

The first thing I found that caught my eye was a Fromager d'Affinois. While I was reading the sign, the fromagiere (ok, I might have made that word up, like a sommelier but for cheese) offered to give me a sample. It was a Prima Donna gouda with a tiny bit of strawberry basil jelly. I was immediately in love!

Prima Donna gouda is drier and sharper than a regular gouda. It's reminiscent of a parmesan, only not quite that sharp. I got a wedge of that and a wedge of the fromager d'Affinois and a jar of that strawberry basil jelly and headed home.

I think that a good cheese plate will always have three cheeses. Any more and you start getting confused, any less and you don't have enough variety. Each cheese should be of a different type, too. One needs to be creamy, one stinky, and one somewhere in the middle. So, I dug in the bottom of the fridge and found a chunk of stilton that had been there for at least a year. No worries, it was still vacuum packed, so it hadn't even molded. Well, it had no more mold than stilton usually does. I added these rosemary crackers from Kroger that I've been grooving on for quite a while.

Lo' back in the stone ages, when I was but a girl, I loved a TV show called Twin Peaks. If you haven't seen it, check it out. In one of the very first episodes, Jerry (who has been overseas) introduces his brother Ben to a butter and brie sandwich on a baguette. It sounded so good at the time, that I just had to try it. I'd never even had brie at that point. It was the most amazing thing I'd ever put in my plebeian mouth. I still love that combination and it's another of my comfort foods.

Fromager d'Affinois is like butter and brie already mixed together. It's creamy and mild and buttery and scrumptious. It is absolutely wonderful. This will definitely become one of my favorite cheeses, and I do lurves me some cheese.

After partaking of my cheese plate and a couple of cans of the "house wine" (otherwise known as Pepsi for me or Mountain Dew for Sparks) I felt a lot less frazzled. I went to bed and read for the next few hours until it was time for sleep. A very relaxing evening indeed!

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constant craving

I find myself craving Mexican food very often. Sometimes though, I really just want margaritas, the food is secondary. Yesterday was one of those cases. I had talked to the boyfriend about going out for tacos and when he asked me why I wanted to go I had to admit that I really just wanted a margarita. So, we decided to cook at home.

I love pinterest, especially since I have it on my phone. I can pin two or three recipes and pull them up on my phone much more quickly than if I'd had to bookmark or remember all the sites. I decided that I wanted to make steak tacos with Mexican street corn and grilled pineapple.

I started with a flat iron steak. I knew I was going to make chimichurri sauce to go with, so I wanted something that would complement that. I marinated the steak in lime juice, garlic, onion, salt, olive oil, cilantro stems (they have as much flavor and save the leaves for the chimichurri) and a little vinegar. I sort of based my marinade on the carne asada recipe on this page. I let that marinate for an hour before the boyfriend threw it on the grill. I made a chimichurri sauce based on this recipe and set that to the side.

If someone had told me 5 years ago that I would ever eat mayonnaise on corn, I would have told them that they were crazy. I credit my best friend for introducing this wonderful thing to me. I found a recipe for street corn on the same page as the carne asada. I was also eyeballing the crema de chipotle recipe on that page but decided that I didn't need two sauces for my beef. Instead, I took that idea and mixed it with the street corn idea. I mixed chipotles in adobo with lime juice and mayo. It was very tasty and had a sneaky afterburn. This we not only smeared on the grilled corn, but also a little on the steak tacos.

Finally, I sliced some fresh pineapple and the boyfriend grilled that, too.

So, we had carne asada tacos with chimichurri, grilled pineapple and Mexican street corn. Also a large pitcher of margaritas. I made the margaritas from scratch, I juiced so many limes that I got a cramp in my elbow! I think I'll stick to the margarita mix in the future - we like it more.

Tonight, we're having an almost repeat of last night. This time will be chicken though. I had leftover tortillas, pineapple, chimichurri, chipotles in adobo, and corn. I'm looking forward to it after last night's raging success.


A week of good eating!

I've cooked three times since Saturday and everything has turned out great! There's been a lot of happy belly rubbing in our house. On Saturday, I made chicken fajitas with Pioneer Woman's Pico de Gallo and guacamole. On Tuesday, I tried a pasta dish I found linked on Facebook and on Wednesday I made the Mexican Jambalaya my bff texted to me. I thought I'd share those recipes.


Fresh Garden Pasta

Most every work day I browse Pinterest. On the days that I skip lunch, I spend all afternoon obsessively looking at recipes. Yesterday was just such a day. I got it in my head that I was going to go home and make old school spaghetti with red meat sauce (Ragu and hamburger) but then this recipe jumped out at me.

I could very easily eat vegetarian meals half of each week. I'd still need bacon and the occasional bit of meat, but I'm fine not having meat with every meal. However, whenever I make some meatless pasta dish, Sparks is all "this would be great with some chicken in it!"

Yesterday being tuesday, I expected him to be shooting pool. However, they had the night off. So, he got stuck eating my meatless dinner. He didn't complain though, not about the meat. His only complaint was that there weren't enough veggies. This is because I looked at the amount of veggies on the pan and decided that I should cook the whole pound of pasta. Bad idea. It still tasted good, but it would have been a lot better had the ratio of veggies to pasta been a bit higher. So, don't do as I did, follow the recipe. At least sort of.

1 cup olive oil, divided
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
5 large plum tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large zucchini, cut into ½-inch chunks
2 summer squash, cut into ½-inch chunks
1 small onion, cut into ½-inch chunks
8 ounces whole grain angel hair pasta
¼ cup slivered fresh basil
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine 3/4 cup olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper; mix well. Stir in tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and onion until evenly coated. Place in a single layer on rimmed baking sheets.

Bake 30 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and place in a large serving bowl. Add roasted vegetables and juices from pan; add basil and toss gently until evenly blended. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Notes: I changed up the veggies a little. I used a zucchini, a package of button mushrooms quartered, a vidalia onion, and yellow cherry tomatoes halved. It was a very tasty combo!

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Fried cabbage

Sometimes when we discuss food that we grew up eating, Sparks laughs and asks how I managed to make it through childhood. There's all sorts of stuff that I didn't have growing up. I didn't eat hamburger helper until I was in my 20s. I didn't have manwich until I started dating Sparks. We just didn't eat that stuff, but I swear I can't remember what we did eat. I remember a lot of soup and burgers but I don't remember much else.

My mom hates to cook, maybe she always did. Now she seems to eat a goodly amount of canned soup. Other than the battles of the peas and lima beans, I can't tell you what I ate as a child. However, I was a fat kid as well as a fat adult, so obviously I was eating something.

Another thing I don't recall eating before (maybe I just blacked out all of the things I didn't like) was fried cabbage. I remember having cabbage rolls a few times, and I just ate the filling and left the cabbage. We also ate sauerkraut with hot dogs, so I guess it's kind of close.

A friend posted this recipe on facebook this week. It sounded good so I gave it a try. I liked it so much that I ate until I was stuffed to the gills.

FRIED CABBAGE WITH polish sausage

This is a quick and easy dish and makes a meal served with cornbread.
3 tablespoons bacon grease
1 small head of cabbage, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 of red pepper if you wanna
1 pound polish sausage, sliced into round pieces (I use smoked sausage)
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
few drops of hot sauce (optional)

Put bacon grease in large skillet. Add cabbage, onion, and red pepper if you use the red pepper and cook on medium high for about 5 minutes stirring to keep from sticking to pan. Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes.
Makes about 8 servings.

The cabbage picked up a lovely bacony flavor, how can you go wrong with that? It was also super easy, the only change I would make is to use the mandolin on the cabbage next time, it was it pretty big chunks. I also left out the red pepper - both because Sparks hates it and Wal-Mart didn't have any other than in 3 packs when I stopped to pick up the cabbage and sausage. This is definitely budget friendly, I got the cabbage and sausage for less than $5 and I already had everything else.