Recent Recipes

A Non-Foodish Update

Comments (0) | Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Belated Xmas, Happy Boxing Day, Happy Kwanzaa, etc. I am pro holidays in pretty much every regard (except for National Puppy Kicking Day...that one I can do without).
Because of my AmeriCorps job, I can't really talk about my religious affiliation or lack of religious affiliation. That suits me fine. In regards to December, I believe that it should be a month long party in which everyone celebrates everything.
Anyway, good news for Anne Can Cook. I know this blog is pretty pedestrian. It's pretty much my own trials and errors and stuff. However, my pedestrian blog will now be fortified with PICTURES courtesy of my totally rad new camera.
My other plans (or you can call them New Year's Resolutions) have to do with content as well. Especially when I'm visiting my parents, I feel very confined. No one wants to eat balsamic glazed carrots or flan here. So I end up eating way too much junk food and processed food etc. The point is that I plan to branch out more once I get back to my apartment. I look at the amazing things being made on other food blogs and I immediately think, "I could never make that." I'm starting to ask myself, "Why?" Why don't I think I can make complicated things? What's holding me back? The answer is: myself. There is no real reason that I can't attempt some of the wonderful things out there (and you all should too)! Therefore Resolution Number One is to branch out and cook whatever I think looks awesome, regardless of the process.
My other content issue is more specific. I have a kitchen phobia and it's embarrassing to admit. Ok. Here goes: I'm afraid of bone in chicken. It intimidates me! It's not the cooking it. I'm sure cooking it is no problem. In stews, I'm assured, everything just slides off the bone. The issue is eating it. I'm intimidated by eating meat off the bone (unless it's pork ribs or crown roast or something simple). Resolution Number Two, therefore, is to conquer my fear of bone-in poultry. Maybe by the end of the year I will even roast a Cornish game hen, something I've always wanted to try but have been too frightened to. (So many bones! And innards! Ew)!
I have offered to cook dinner while I stay here at my parents' for the holidays. If I actually do, I'll post about it. Otherwise, I'll be back in 2010 with my favorite curry recipe.
So Happy Everything! Love, Anne.

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Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Almond Bark

Comments (0) | Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My good friend Carolyne came across this recipe last year, and it is has already become a winter time staple amongst my friends and family. I believe the original calls for whole, smoke-flavored almonds. I actually prefer it with sliced almonds. It's incredibly easy and incredibly delicious. I've given this as a holiday gift to many a person this year.

1 package of dark chocolate chips (I recommend Hershey's Special Dark if you can find them)
1 small package (about 1 cup) of sliced almonds
sea salt

In a microwaveable bowl, melt the chocolate in intervals. I usually do a 1 minute interval to start with, and follow it with 20-30 second intervals. Stir the chocolate between each interval until smooth.
Once the chocolate is completely melted, stir in about half of the almonds. Pour the mixture into some sort of baking dish. I usually use an 8" x 8" glass pan lined with parchment paper.
Shake the dish to settle the bark evenly. Sprinkle the top with the remaining almonds and the sea salt. Just eyeball the sea salt amount. You want the grains to be visible, but you don't want it to be too salty. You'll know when it's right.
Place the dish in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Once the bark has hardened, you can break off pieces as you go or you can take a sharp knife and break the bark into chunks.
If I'm giving this as a present, I usually lay the bark between layers of parchment paper in a tin.

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K-new Apartment and Knishes

Comments (0) | Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A lot has happened since I updated last. I was camping out in my coworker's living room for about a month and a half. While we did some cooking together (mostly the mock Alfredo and some stir fries and things), I haven't really added anything new to my repertoire.
Last Friday, I moved into a new and massive apartment by myself. I love it. I even love it's imperfections (uneven floors). Most of all, I love the kitchen. It's huge, there is a ton of counter space and storage, and the oven works! What more could I ask for.
I broke in my new kitchen by eating a take and bake pizza from the local grocery store. That thing fed me for two whole days. By the end of the weekend, I was ready to start cooking again. As luck would have it, the glory that is StumbleUpon and the brilliance that is my friend Carolyne sent me a recipe for Cheddar-Thyme Potato Knishes. I have already declared my love for mashed potatoes, and so putting them in a pastry seemed like an excellent idea to me. The recipe is from BrokeAss Gourmet :

  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten, divided
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling and dusting
  • 2 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and diced with peel intact
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme (about 2 twigs)
  • 1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the over to 325F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil, set aside. Combine 2 beaten eggs, 1/2 tsp salt, baking powder, vegetable oil and flour in a mixing bowl. Stir together until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 8-10 times, until dough becomes slightly elastic. Cover dough and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes.

While dough rests, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add diced potatoes and cook until very soft, 12-15 minutes. While potatoes cook, heat butter in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and thyme and cook for 5-6 minutes until onions are lightly browned and very fragrant. Remove from heat and scrape into a mixing bowl. Once potatoes have cooked, drain them and add them to the bowl with the onions and thyme. Add cheese and mash with a fork or potato masher until potatoes have very few lumps. Add remaining 1/2 tsp salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and set aside.

Once dough has finished resting turn it out onto a floured surface. Knead a few times and form dough into a cylinder, about 8” long. Cut dough into 8 equal pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece into a 4-5” circle. Scoop 3-4 tbsp of the potato mixture into the center of of each circle and pinch the ends together, so it looks like a little bundle.

Beat remaining egg together with 1 tbsp water. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the tops of the knishes with the egg wash.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until knishes are golden brown.

Serve hot, with sour cream if desired.

When I made this recipe, it called for two tsp. of vegetable oil for the dough. So my dough never got elastic. It was flavorful to be sure, but it was also heavy and awkward. Anyway, I commented on the recipe at BrokeAss Gourmet and they have since changed it to the proper proportion. Good job, folks.

The knish filling is marvelous. Cheddar-y, thyme-y mashed potatoes. Yum. I added about a tsp. of garlic powder and used Penzeys Shallot Pepper instead of freshly ground. I also added about a tsp. of Penzeys Bouquet Garni to the onions while they were cooking. More herbs, more better in my opinion.

Would I make these knishes again? Yes. Definitely with the update to the dough and maybe with a little cream cheese added to the potatoes. They are very comforting and kept pretty well. I had two for dinner the night I made them and two leftovers last night, plus leftover mash.

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Mock Alfredo of Ultimate Win

Comments (0) | Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Well, things have been pretty crazy here in Podunkville...or rather, Slightly Less Podunkville. I moved rather abruptly last weekend and am resided with my coworker on campus. Luckily, she also likes to cook and has a decent sized kitchen.
Last night we made Mock Alfredo, a recipe we adapted from Going Solo in the Kitchen. Here is what we did:
A little olive oil for cooking
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup of fresh spinach (approximately)
Several ounces of thin spaghetti (enough for the two of us plus a little leftover)
2 ounces of cream cheese
6 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
Pepper to taste
Grated Fontina to taste
A little milk for texture

In a small pan, sweat down the onions and garlic in a little olive oil. Meanwhile, bring water to boil for the pasta. Boil pasta until done to your liking and drain. Return to heat and stir in the cream cheese. Add milk if it gets too thick. Stir in the Parmesan, one tbsp. at a time.
Add the spinach to the onions and garlic and wilt them down. Once everything is cooked to your liking, add the onions, garlic, and spinach to the pasta. Stir until incorporated. Pepper to your liking. Grate some Fontina on top (if you want).

Serve and enjoy! It is filling and surprisingly flavorful. It's also sooo easy to make, and easy to adapt. The original recipe doesn't include the garlic, onions, and spinach. We just like those things a lot.

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Comments (0) | Saturday, October 24, 2009

I like hummus. It's one of those things I never thought I'd like because I don't like beans or bean dip, really. Since hummus doesn't bring either of those things immediately to mind, I find I like it quite a bit.
I've made my own hummus a few times. Well, maybe "chickpea puree" is more appropriate, since I don't use tahini. I don't have anything against tahini, I just don't happen to have any in my pantry. So. Here is my hummus recipe. It should be pretty easy to alter if you want to add tahini or season it differently.

1 can of chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), drained
a splash of chicken broth
2 Tbsp. lime juice
Several cloves of garlic (I like garlic a lot, so 4-6 is modest for me)
Salt and pepper to taste
Approximately 1 Tbsp. chili powder (I used Chili 3000 from Penzeys)

Dump everything into a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Eat.
Adjust flavors and texture as desired.

I find, too, that it's better after being refrigerated overnight. The flavors marry yadda yadda it's tastier.

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Thai Spiced Chicken Bake with Herbed Rice

Comments (0) | Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The last few weeks have been kind of insane. I haven't spent much time in my apartment and even less time cooking.
I've been ogling the turkey in the latest Penzeys Catalogue (http://www.penzeys.com). I love turkey and chicken a lot, and I happen to have the Bangkok Blend that they recommend as a turkey rub.

It is equally good as a chicken rub. This is what I did:

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 Tbsp olive oil (approximate)
Penzeys Bangkok Blend (or similar Thai-style seasoning)
I washed the chicken breast and cut off anything that looked questionable (fat, etc). Preheat the oven to about 400F. In a small baking pan, place the chicken (Note: I did not grease the pan because the excessive olive oil was sufficient. It probably wouldn't hurt to grease your pan, however). Pour 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil on the chicken, rub in, sprinkle with seasoning until coated, rub in, flip chicken, and repeat.
I baked the chicken for nearly an hour, flipping about midway through. Use your best judgment. I am a little paranoid about chicken, so I almost always cook it longer than necessary. Regardless, this chicken is flavorful and juicy. The Bangkok Blend is just a little spicy and very tasty.

I also made up some jasmine basmati rice with basil, garlic chives, and a little bit of Thai red curry sauce.

Fabulous dinner and TONS of leftovers. I have missed cooking, but I'm back with a vengeance!

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Mashed Potato Soup

Comments (0) | Friday, October 2, 2009

My favorite food in the entire universe is mashed potatoes. I love them even more if they are garlic-y, and I love them most when I make them from scratch. The problem with mashed potatoes is that they are time consuming to make, so I cheat a lot and buy instant. Not a terrible substitute in my estimation, but they really do not compare to the ones I make from scratch.

I had poached chicken again this week (with lemon thyme, rosemary, and lots of smashed garlic), and I did some quick instant mashed potatoes to go with it. Those packets of instant mashed, though, provide enough potato to feed a small army (aka a family of four). I always end up with leftovers that I'm never entirely sure what to do with, as they get sort of stale tasting when I leave them in the fridge.

I am of the opinion that you can make soup out of anything. All you need is some liquid (stock of some kind is preferably, but in a pinch you can season some water or do a bouillon cube), and some other stuff. Voila! Soup! It's also been getting colder here, and so soup weather is upon us.

I had never thought about mashed potato soup until one Thanksgiving, when my grandma said something about turning the leftover mashed potatoes into mashed potato soup (although I find it incredulous now to even think there were leftover potatoes). It seemed like this really brilliant idea, and I kept it filed away in the back of my brain until this week.

This is a really informal recipe. As I said, you can make soup out of anything and you can make it in any proportion. I made enough soup for two bowls full, which was perfect for hungry me. Here are the rough estimations:

1 cup (or more) organic chicken stock
1/2 cup frozen broccoli
5 or 6 roughly chopped cloves of garlic
A dash of soy sauce
A dash or two of hot sauce
1 cup (or more) leftover instant mashed potatoes
Pepper to taste
Paprika for garnish

Boiling the chicken stock. Toss in the broccoli and garlic, until they're cooked through. Season with soy sauce. Add the potatoes and stir until incorporated. I found this took a little while, since my potatoes were stored in the fridge. Let the soup bubble and thicken. Season with hot sauce and pepper. Grate on a little cheese (I used a marbled jack). Garnish with paprika--do other families do this? At holidays, my family always garnishes potato anything with paprika.

Turn burner down to low, ladle your soup in a bowl, and enjoy. I think I made some garlic toast to dip in the soup as well.

It turned out souper (haha) well. It was flavorful and potato-y and seemed to obliterate that stale flavor instant mashed taters get when left in the fridge.

I love mashed potatoes. I love soup season. I love the marriage of the two.

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Bad Updater Strikes Again

Comments (0) | Sunday, September 27, 2009

I have been bad about updating again, but with reason this time--I haven't really done any cooking! For shame!
I have been too lazy/tired/absorbed by the internet to really put forth an effort. Therefore, I've had copious amounts of Pasta-Roni lately.

I'm going to try and get back into the groove. It's so easy to fall out of it.

I did make a decent stir fry last week. I say decent because it had good components and bad components. The good: The chicken. I don't know what I did to make it so tender and flavorful, but it rocked hard. The broccoli was also good, but broccoli is always good in a stir fry.
My biggest issue was the noodles I tried to pan fry. I didn't boil them long enough, and so they got crusty and weird and hard and awful. I also burned the zucchini waiting for the noodles to boil, so they were mostly bitter.

You would think, after making so many stir fries, one would cease to screw them up. Apparently that isn't true.

I also (and you can laugh here since there's no technical skill involved) made some kickass spaghetti recently. I used the suggestion off the back of Penzeys pasta sprinkle. I boiled the spaghetti, drained it, and tossed it with a little olive oil, pasta sprinkle, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar! I love balsamic vinegar! I also gave it a good sprinkle of parmesan cheese, because that's how I roll. It was some of the best spaghetti I've had.

Anyway, I promise I'll do some legitimate cooking this week and not eat just pasta-roni.

And a note on the Nutella cookies--I think they may need a little more flour than the recipe calls for. They got a little sticky as they sat.

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Pumpkin Pasta

Comments (1) | Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday is always a strange day. It's the weekend, but I never feel like comitting to much because tomorrow is a work day. I generally end up watching the Bridezilla marathon and doing my laundry. Ho hum.
The leaves are starting to change here. I like Fall--it's not too hot, not too cold, it's aesthetically pleasing, and there is always a surplus of pumpkin...unless you're shopping at my local grocery store. Allow me to 'splain. No wait. Let me sum up:
Rachel Ray has this excellent pumpkin pasta recipe. I made said recipe last year with great success. Today I was thinking about pumpkins, and decided that pumpkin pasta would be excellent for supper. Here is the recipe:

1 lb. penne (I've never used penne for this recipe, nor have I ever used an entire pound of pasta. Last year I think I used wheat spaghetti, and this time I used about a half pound of fettuccine. It's really your call).
2 Tbsp. olive oil (EVOO if you're familiar with RR speak).
3 shallots, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, grated (or 6-7 cloves of garlic, pressed if you're me).
2 c. chicken stock
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1/2 c. cream
1 tsp. hot sauce to taste
Nutmeg to taste (I've always used mace)
2 pinches ground cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste

Cook the pasta.

Heat oil over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic, saute for 3 minutes. Stir in chicken stock. Add pumpkin and cream. Season with hot sauce, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt & pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5-6 minutes while the sauce thickens. Toss with pasta and cheese.

I also added about a teaspoon of garlic powder and a few heavy dashes of Penzeys pasta sprinkle. RR calls for fresh sage as a garnish, but the pasta sprinkle was a nice substitute.

Anyway. In order to make this recipe, I needed to pick up a few things-
Ok. Not too crazy of a shopping list, right? Maybe I'd have to use onions instead of shallot, but that's not a big deal.
I drove to the grocery store, on a Sunday at about 4:30 PM. I'm a genius. Of course the place was packed. Lucky for me, I found the shallots right away. Cream, no problem. Pumpkin?



No such luck. No pumpkin in the canned veggie aisle. No pumpkin in the canned fruit aisle. Pumpkin pie mix, sure. However, there was no pureed pumpkin to be found. I even asked one of the employees, who looked at me like I was crazy and told me it was probably in the canned veggie aisle. When I told him I did not see it there, he said, "Well, that's where it should be," and walked away.

A shining example of excellent customer service. Oh well.

I did eventually find pumpkin on my own in the organic food section. I rolled my eyes, checked out, drove home, and made delicious pasta. I have plenty for lunch tomorrow, too. Bonus!

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Crunchy Mustard Chicken

Comments (0) | Saturday, September 12, 2009

The picture doesn't do it much justice, but this chicken is flavorful and juicy. I got the recipe from Going Solo in the Kitchen by Jane Doerfer. The mustard is a modification of the original dish. I used a vidalia onion mustard, but any sort of mustard would do.

2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp. breadcrumbs (I used Panko)
1 egg
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. water
1 1/2 tsp. mustard
1 boneless skinless chicken breast (I cut mine in thirds)
1-2 tsp. butter

Preheat oven to 450F. In a shallow bowl, mix together the cheese and bread crumbs (I also added pepper, garlic powder, and a little Fox Point seasoning from Penzeys, all to taste). In another bowl, beat together egg, soy sauce, water, and mustard. Spread flour on a plate. Dip the chicken breast first in the flour, then in the egg mixture. Finally, coat the chicken in the breadcrumbs.
In a small to medium baking dish, melt the butter in the oven. Remove and tilt dish to coat the inside with butter. Place chicken in dish. Bake for about 20 minutes until the coating browns and the chicken is cooked through.

Other than the mustard, the Parmesan was the most dominant flavor.

It has been a hopping day in my kitchen. Of course, I finished dinner with a Nutella cookie...

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Nutella Honey Cookies

Comments (0) |

I love Nutella and recently bought a jar. I got to thinking that Nutella cookies would be completely delicious. They are. Here is the recipe I used:

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. Nutella
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. honey
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 2/3 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and Nutella. Add sugar, honey, baking soda, and baking powder. Beat until incorporated. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until incorporated. Gradually beat in the flour until it is all mixed in evenly.

On a cookie sheet, spoon dough into quarter-sized drops, two inches apart. The dough is mousse-y and spreads out quite a bit while baking. Therefore, I found it more effective to bake the cookies in half dozen batches instead of dozen batches. Bake for 7-9 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 1-2 minutes on baking sheet before moving to a cooling rack.

The cookies are thin, rich, and addictive. The Nutella translates to cookies very nicely.

ETA 12/26: Added more flour. The original recipe didn't call for enough and the cookies got sticky as they sat.

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Reasons I Rarely Blog and Thoughts on Thai Food

Comments (0) | Thursday, September 10, 2009

If I were Jane Austen, I would probably say something like, "I have failed you, gentle reader" in regards to my posting absence of late.

Luckily for all of us, I am not Jane Austen.

I have cooked and not cooked on and off for the past few weeks. I heated up a small pan of my mother's enchiladas, which I cannot claim as my own because I did none of the preparation and all of the oven work.

I helped make several stir-fries and curries at my coworker's house. Those all turned out splendidly. It is strange and wonderful to cook in a team.

I made myself a Thai curry experiment that yielded a 50 percent success rate.
I have always been mildly curious about Panko bread crumbs, since they are so frequently flouted on FoodNetwork. I used Panko to bread the chicken in my thai curry. After throwing out the first quarter of the breast due to severe burns (a skilled FoodNetwork chef I am not), the end result was satisfyingly crunching, albeit a bit bland. I had seasoned the Panko with Penzeys Bangkok Blend, though apparently not enough.

The curry overall was just okay. It started out as a stir-fry (the Panko chicken, squash, onions, zucchini, garlic, pan-fried rice noodles) that I ended by simmering in a Thai red curry sauce from Trader Joe's. The sauce dominated the dish. Fresh out of the pan, the flavor of ginger and coconut milk was very strong and not unpleasant. There was a nice after-burn that built steadily as I ate the dish.

I saved half for lunch the next day, which was a mistake. Reheating the curry brought out all the bitterness the sauce had hidden the night before. I burned much more of that stir-fry than I would readily admit.

Otherwise, not much is new in my culinary life. I poached another chicken breast last night for a quick chicken and rice dish that I also ate for lunch today. It reheated much better than the curry.

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The Poached Chicken Revelation

Comments (0) | Sunday, August 16, 2009

The other day I discovered the greatest chicken secret of all time.
Poached Chicken.
I cannot believe I have never tried poached chicken before. I feel like the universe has been hiding something from me.
It is so incredibly easy. The recipe in Going Solo In The Kitchen calls for 2 cups chicken stock, some tarragon, celery, salt and pepper, and 1 whole chicken breast (skin on, bone in).
I did not have tarragon or celery, and the only chicken in my refrigerator is boneless, skinless breast. I decided to go for it anyway and I am so happy I did. Here is what I did:
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 cups chicken stock
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup of onions
Garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste

Place chicken and stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Add thyme and onions. Simmer until cooked through. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper at your leisure. Remove from heat and let chicken cool while still immursed in the broth.

I probably simmered the chicken for 15-20 minutes. One of the nice things about this is that it's pretty much impossible to burn it.

I cheated and made instant mashed potatoes to go with this. They were the perfect side dish, but it would also be good with a different starch and maybe something like broccoli.

I served the chicken (to myself, ha ha) sliced. The cook book recommended spooning some of the broth over the chicken. I did that, but I think it would have been better if the broth was thicker. Luckily I had the potatoes to soak up all the wayward broth.

I also gave the whole meal a healthy dash of Shallot Pepper from Penzeys Spices, something I highly recommend.

This was so easy to make and very tasty. I intended to do this again with the thought that I can use leftovers as lunch meat.

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Several Failures Concerning Scones and Custard

Comments (0) | Thursday, August 13, 2009

I was on a brief scone kick at the end of last week. I made two batches and neither turned out quite right. I used the classic Better Homes & Gardens recipe, but I substituted milk instead of cream. This was an epic mistake. It changed the texture of the scone from awesomely dense to weirdly muffinish. Oh well. The strawberry scones turned out slightly better than the chocolate chip ones.
I have learned two very valuable lessons from the scone debacle: 1. Never substitute milk for heavy cream. 2. Honey butter makes everything extremely delicious.

I also decided to make an Onion and Spinach Custard from Going Solo In The Kitchen, my new single-living cookbook. I'm not really sure what I expected, because I hate eggs and egg dishes. Here is the recipe:

1/3 cup raw rice (or 2/3 cup cooked)
2 tsp. olive oil
2/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup scallion greens (optional)
1 1/3 cups chopped raw spinach
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (I used basil, thyme, and garlic chives)
1/3 cup cottage or ricotta cheese
2 medium eggs
1/2 cup milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used Fontina).

In a large pot of boiling water, boil the rice for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy enameled or stainless steel frying pan. Add the onion, scallion greens, and spinach. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes, or until the vegetables are slight wilted. Stir in the herbs.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the cottage/ricotta cheese, eggs, and milk. Add the vegetable mixture and rice. Season with pepper and stir in the cheese. Spoon into an oiled 6-cup dish (I used a small Corelle baking dish). Cover loosely with a piece of foil. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 1 hour. The custard should be cooked through. Remove cover and bake another 5 minutes to brown the top. Let sit for 1 minute before unmolding. Serve warm.

It wasn't bad, exactly. It just wasn't my thing. It was too egg-y for one, and it was also sort of bland. In my opinion, it would have greatly benefited from a hearty dash of garlic powder and perhaps some salt.

Tonight, I am going to poach some chicken breasts in the hopes that the leftovers will make good lunch meat.

On less cooking related notes, I am still getting strange visitors after moving out of my parents' attic. Yesterday morning I found a small frog in the middle of my room. It was clear that he had come through the window air conditioner because he was covered in lint. I have no idea how he got from the window to the middle of the floor, though. I felt bad for the little guy, so I scooped him up and set him outside near the downspout. As far as I know he made it, even dehydrated as he was.

I am actually looking forward to winter so that nothing else invades my space via the window air conditioner.

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The end of the Pesto era (plus burns and baking)!

Comments (0) | Thursday, August 6, 2009

I have legitimately cooked quite a bit since the last time I wrote. I made myself a very tasty pizza with pesto, pepperoni, fontina cheese, mozzerella cheese, red onions, and garlic. It looked so good that I took a picture of it:

I love assembling my own pizza. I don't like tomatoes or tomato sauce, so I substitute anything else when I make pizzas myself. Pesto was a very delicious substitute, and one I'll likely use again in the future.

I actually followed a recipe this week, too. Monday night, I made Pesto Baked Chicken from the cookbook I got for Christmas. I had to reduce the recipe to suit one person, but it turned out very well:

1 chicken breast
4 Tbsp. Basil Pesto
3/4 tsp. sour cream
3/4 tsp. mayo
Parmesan cheese
Pine nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 450F. Lay the chicken in a shallow baking dish (I used a pie plate). Mix together pesto, mayo, and sour cream. Spread mixture evenly over chicken. Sprinkle with Parmesan and pine nuts. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

I did the whole thing over a bed of red onions, seasoned with any leftover pesto mixture. It was very good. I cooked it for more like 12 minutes so that the onions would caramelize more, and I actually could have left it in for a few more. The pesto effectively flavored the chicken throughout, even though it was just spread on top. This was very easy, pretty tasty, and worth the extreme burn I got on my right hand middle finger.

Yes, I burned myself taking this dish out of the oven. It was completely my own fault. I didn't put the oven door down all the way, and hit my finger on the inside of the door. It looks awesome. Kind of like I got into a fight with just my finger.

Anyway, between the pizza and the chicken, I finally used up all of the prepared pesto. I'll probably stay pesto-less for awhile. A week, at least.

I also did some baking over the past couple days. My fellow VISTA and her friend came over to my hovel to help bake some standard Peanut Butter Cookies (recipe from Better Homes and Gardens).
The cookies turned out well, especially well considering we used organic peanut butter (unsweetened!), organic sugar, and a farm fresh egg. They were the most environmentally conscious cookies I've ever baked.

Last night I tried my hand at short bread. Short bread is insanely easy to mix up. It consists of flour, sugar, and butter. That's it. You can get fancy like I did and add cinnamon, but it is still crazy easy. The hard part was the baking. I tried to get my dough into a nice circle like the picture in Better Homes and Gardens, but what I got instead was a questionable looking mound. Oh well. The edges got a little too brown, but the rest of the shortbread is pretty tasty. Note to self-invest in a rolling pin.

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Epic Vegetable Stir Fry

Comments (0) | Friday, July 31, 2009

The only other VISTA on this campus right now is working on green initiative and sustainability. She spends Thursday mornings working at her advisor's farm and comes home with arm loads of fresh vegetables. We decided to do a stir fry last night. She provided the veggies and the wheat spaghetti for pan fried noodles, I provided my box of spices and my sub par knife skills.

It was delicious.

In soy oil, we simmered garlic and carrots with ginger powder and other spices. Then we gradually added in other veggies in accordance to cooking time. Broccoli was next, following by small onions, and finally zucchini and yellow squash. We seasoned liberally with soy sauce, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and an herb blend called Bouquet Garni. The final touches were the wheat spaghetti and some fresh basil (she also has a basil plant).

It was so good, although maybe a touch too spicy. We ate with chopsticks and congratulated ourselves on a job well done. I promised I'd have actually cooked something by the next time I posted and I have...with help, of course.

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Lunch Time Basil Concoctions

Comments (0) | Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Part of the deal with this year of service is that I live at the poverty level. The results of that, so far, is that I live where the rent is cheap and the grocery stores are non existent. I buy my groceries in the next town over. The trouble is, if I run out of something I'm basically out of luck. Or, to look at it in a more positive light, I have to result to my wits and creativity to replace it. Such is the case with the epic lunch time sandwich I made myself yesterday.
I don't currently have any deli meat, but I do have heat and eat bacon. A guilty pleasure, I know, but the bacon is delicious regardless. I decided to make myself a version of a BLT and take it to work with me. I had bacon, I had bread, and I had baby romaine lettuce. I really hate tomatoes, so I usually substitute cheese. In typical Anne fashion, I had plenty of cheese.
Unfortunately for me, my baby romaine met an untimely end at the mercy of my too cold refrigerator. It froze, turning it into a bitter, mushy, wilted mess.
I decided to proceed with the plan anyway. I cut the bread, laid out the cheese and bacon, and searched for a green. What I found was basil. I have quite a bit of basil from my mom's herb garden. I plucked a few leaves from the stem I keep in my vegetable keeper, rolled them up, sliced them, and sprinkled them on my sandwich. The BBC was born. It was a successful experiment. The basil complemented the bacon perfectly. For the record, I used fontina cheese which I believe was the perfect choice. A nice mozzerella would suffice in a pinch, though.
After my pesto disaster last week, I caved and bought pre-made pesto from the store. So far this has been a wise choice. I'm finding the pesto to be an extremely flexible sauce. I've used it on pasta (obviously), on garlic bread, and on today's lunch.
I can't claim any cooking prowess for either of my lunches, but I am very proud of the assembly and outcome of both. Today was an Italian/Southwestern Chicken Fusion Wrap. Pesto on the Range, if you will. I used a jalapeno cheddar tortilla, the pesto (of course), Southwestern seasoned chicken, and mozzerella cheese. It was delicious--spicy and basil-y. I'm finding that I'm really enjoying making myself lunch to bring to work.
Hopefully the next time I write, I'll have actually cooked something. I just ordered a new (to me) cook book this afternoon that's all about cooking for one.

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Literacy and the Pesto Disaster

Comments (0) | Friday, July 24, 2009

I am currently 5 miles away from my new apartment at what I can only assume is the nearest location with free wireless internet. What have I gotten myself into?
My name is Anne. I'm 22 and a recent college graduate. I've just embarked on a year of service with the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
There isn't a short answer for my job specifics. I work for the local private college and serve as a liaison between that institute and the local middle school. Most of my time, however, will be spent at the middle school teaching 8th grade students in their new capstone program. My "areas of expertise" are literacy and 21st century skills. This is in keeping with the relatively new state Core Curriculum.
This blog is to document that experience. It is also to document my experiences in the kitchen. I love to cook, but that doesn't mean I'm good at it. I'm still a relative novice, as today's Pesto Disaster proves.

It didn't start out so badly. Pesto, in theory, is not hard. 10 basil leaves from my mother's award winning herb garden? Check. 2 Tbsp. pine nuts? Check. 2 Tbsp. olive oil? Check. Several cloves of garlic and some Parmesan cheese? Check, check, check, and blend. My major error occurred when I went to heat my sauce. I microwaved it for too long. Instead of a paste like consistency, I had grainy chunks that were not willing to be broken apart. What did crumble was at least tasty. My recipe for Pesto Rocks, however, does not seem to be a hit. Back to the pesto drawing board.

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