29 April 2009

Back to bread baking

Since this last weekend may have been the last chilly/free weekend I had for some time, I thought I would finally tackle my goal of my first multigrain bread. I bought the ingredients about 6 weeks ago and haven't gotten around to making it. Bread baking is time consuming, but I manage to find time every other weekend. I think the idea of making the hot cereal and cooling it before I even got started on the actual kneading scared me off a bit. But this Sunday, I had more time than usual since I'm healing a small running injury and would be skipping my 9 mile run. (Hallelujah).

And while I was baking one loaf, why not just throw another one in there? That was my reasoning apparently, because I also made an effort to prepare a lovely parmesan focaccia for our pasta dinner on Monday. What was I thinking? I spent about 4 hours baking bread on Sunday, along with another hour making dinner. Good thing it was worth it.

Both loaves turned out very well. The multigrain is especially good. It's holding up well in the refrigerator, too, and makes wonderful toast.

25 April 2009

Attempting Asian food

Tonight I ventured into the great unknown called Asian cooking. I've made some chicken teriyaki before and not ruined it, along with some other pretty easy shortcut Asian recipes, but I've always been a little scared of Asian cuisine. Number one it requires the cook to use high heat and I have the tendency to shy away from anything involving oil and high heat. Back in my old apartment I used to practically give myself a heart attack anytime the smoke detector went off. I really did. I freaked out--totally unwarranted. After planning out our trip to New Seasons for our weekly grocery shopping, I decided that I would attempt Pad Thai. It's not necessarily the most difficult-sounding dish, but given my anxieties about Asian food overall, it was enough of a challenge.

First, my ingredients. The ingredients for the sauce are pretty simple: vegetable oil, lime juice, fish sauce (yes, I actually had it), and rice vinegar. I had already begun soaking my rice noodles and draining my tofu. I found the recipe in my forgotten Best 30 Minutes Recipes cookbook, by none other than the America's Test Kitchen. I swear I should rename this blog, "Carmel Cooks Everything from America's Test Kitchen." Because I do, but only because (almost) everything turns out perfectly. But I digress. The tofu preparation was very simple. No seasoning, just fried in vegetable oil. If this sounds gross, given the bland flavor of tofu, it was okay since the sauce was so rich. The recipe actually calls for shrimp, but tofu was on sale, so there. Money pretty much always trumps following the recipe in my world.

Twenty minutes later, the noodles were soft enough to get going on the rest of the dish. The recipe says to have all your ingredients prepped before the noodles are ready because everything comes together fast (another reason I shy away from cooking Asian food--my first try with a recipe is rarely fast as I practically memorize the recipe from reading it 30 times while cooking it). They weren't kidding. I threw the garlic and remaining oil together in a pan over medium heat for all of 30 seconds. Then threw the eggs in to scramble, turning the heat up to high, for another 20 seconds. Then it was go time for the noodles--mix those in with the eggs, then throw on the sauce. Now, it's finally at this time that I realize that I bought 14 oz. of noodles when the recipe called for 8. Didn't seem like a big deal when I bought them (who doesn't like a few extra noodles?), but it became a bigger deal when I realized that the noodles were going to be dry with nearly double the amount of noodles in the pan. I threw together a little more oil, lime juice, and fish sauce quickly and threw it in the pan. Then added my bean sprouts, scallions, some of the crushed peanuts, and tofu to mix up until the noodles were fully cooked.

To serve, more peanuts and scallions were added, and I threw on some shredded carrot, for color. Served with a wedge of lime, it turned out to be a quick and delicious dinner. Shawn and I barely talked for the 15 minutes it took to wolf down a whole plate.

I would call my first attempt at Pad Thai a triumph.

23 April 2009

Thursday night pizza

Tonight I made my first pizza all by myself. Okay, that's not totally true. I've made pizza before, but never with my own crust. Since I'm no longer afraid of yeast (maybe just a little), I decided it was time to stop buying one bag of crust from the store and just make my own. I made it on Tuesday night since I wasn't sure I'd have time last night and I knew I wouldn't have time tonight (Shawn gets hungry early). It wasn't until after I made it that I saw the note, "can be refrigerated up to 16 hours." Oops.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to announce that it can stay in the refrigerator for 48 hours. Ha, take that America's Test Kitchen.

The only downside is that my pizzas, much like my tortillas, are never round. I must be missing that gene. In the past when I've made pizzas, I tend to undercook the crust, basically because I didn't know what I was doing and that you have to preheat the baking stone for 30 minutes before sticking raw dough on it. Makes sense. I also have the tendency to overdo it on the toppings. This time I chose less cheese for an evenly cooked crust. Good decision. The crust turned out crisp everywhere and very chewy and airy in the middle. Success!

Cooking notes: I also made the pizza sauce, which is just garlic cooked in olive oil and then simmered with crushed tomatoes. I bought smoked mozzarella from New Seasons, since it was on sale last week, and a little finely grated parmigiano-reggiano. I skipped the freshly torn basil because we went grocery shopping last weekend and I wasn't sure how long it would last. It also costs $2.99 for a bag, which I wasn't willing to spend. To get some basil flavor, I opted for the crushed tomatoes with basil in my sauce.

Pizza on Foodista

20 April 2009

First BBQ of the year

Saturday was the first really beautiful day in Portland of the year. It was finally not only sunny, but warm, too. There's just nothing better than a summery Portland day.

Shawn and I did some record shopping first thing in the morning in honor of Record Store Day and in a great attempt to grab as many limited-edition records as possible. After shopping, a stop at the grocery store, and yard work, we deserved a relaxing evening of BBQ and doing nothing.

The first BBQ of the year. BBQ chicken breasts, potatoes, and homemade biscuits. Since all the good grilling vegetables are still pretty much out of season still, we made frozen green beans on the side.

Happy Spring!

09 April 2009

The sandwich...might it be the perfect food?

I've had a few small steaks sitting in my freezer since New Seasons' birthday party when everything went on a mad sale and we stocked up on pretty much every food category, a rare thing in our house. I had no idea what to do with it, until I thought to make steak sandwiches. Duh. I also had some leftover whole grain mustard pan sauce I made with steaks about a month ago in the freezer. So, I bought some ciabatta rolls and a little gorgonzola, threw it all together with caramelized onions. Here's my creation, complete with the quintessential tater tot.
I briefly considered calling this post, "Who needs Pause?" but then I realized that no matter how well I cook, I could never replace Pause.

Anyway, this brings me to the REAL title of this post...might the sandwich be the perfect food? I think so. You've got all major food groups represented. It's delicious, and versatile. Best of all, it comes in one, neat package. Perfection.

06 April 2009

Who needs Pillsbury?

Who needs to buy canned biscuits when it takes all of 15 minutes to whip a batch of homemade? The best part is that the ingredients are simple and most people usually have them on hand. I made these delicious biscuits (Test Kitchen, of course) to go with our dinner of oven-fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables.

Ah, comfort food. It was my first night back after house sitting for two weeks. It's good to be home.