Monday, March 5, 2012

I Got Crafty

So, I can't sew (except to replace a button), I hate scrapbooking, and those "easy" crafts I see on Pinterest make me chuckle incredulously. I'm not very crafty, unless you count my cooking. But I wanted to make my friends, and Cookie Monster, something a little special for Valentine's Day. 

Yes, I think it's a stupid Hallmark holiday, but part of me still thinks it's fun. And so what if it's an excuse to do something nice for your sweetie? But it's not just my sweetie I wanted to let know I care about them; I also wanted to tell my good friends. 

So Valentine's Day this year was a way to tell my friends I care about them. Hallmark don't make a card for that (actually, they probably do. But damned if I'm gonna spend 3 or 4 bucks on something like that that they'll just throw away), so I made my own. Made my own cards, and made my own treats.

Here are the cookies I made. I totally plagiarized the idea from last year's Valentine's Day, but you know what? I don't care. They're still fucking adorable. And, to increase the theme and adorable factor, these cookies are cranberry-white chocolate chip ... so that makes them red and white. I used the chocolate chip cookie recipe from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and instead of chocolate chips, just used dried cranberries and white chocolate chips. I spread the prepared cookie dough out onto a baking sheet and made one giant, flat cookie. Then I cut out heart shapes with my cookie cutter.

Now here's where the crafty part comes in. I simply took some brown paper lunch sacks and got out some Magic Markers. Then I just drew Valentine-y things, like hearts, on the bags. I put some red tissue paper in each one, making sure some stuck out of the top. Then I put in some cookies, folded down the tops, punched a hole and tied up the bags with red curly ribbon.

I made my own cards with red card stock and wrote cheesy messages on each one, like "I LOVE having you as a friend," or "I HEART that we're friends."

I had fun working on this little project. Maybe it was super cheesy, but I don't care. If someone's upset about getting free cookies, well, then, they're communists.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Southern Skillet Cornbread

To go with my veggie chili, cornbread is requisite. I think chili without cornbread is like peanut butter without jelly. Each is just better with its accompaniment. Since baking is not really my forte (I'm a rebel and like to change things up ... you'll see in a minute), I went with a recipe from my old standby cookbook, Better Homes and Gardens 75th anniversary edition. Like my mom's old, tattered, literally falling-apart Betty Crocker cookbook, this cookbook has served me well, and will likely one day be in the same state as hers. 
Grandma says: In the skillet is always better.
I started by gathering all the ingredients: sugar, cornmeal, flour, milk, baking powder, eggs, creamed corn and butter for the skillet.

So, like I said, I have trouble actually following a recipe. Both the creamed corn and coconut milk (in that random plastic container) were substitutions. Instead of oil, I used the corn. Normally I would've used applesauce or Greek yogurt, but it so happened I had some creamed corn already open. It worked out quite nicely, being that, you know, I was making cornbread. Instead of regular ol' milk, I used the coconut milk, simply because I had already opened the can and needed to use it up.

So first I combined all the dry ingredients.

And then added wet to dry.

Next I melted about a tablespoon of butter in the cooking vessel, my cast iron skillet inherited from my Texan grandmother. Since the last time I made cornbread, I inherited three skillets from Grandma, and the size I used this time was more appropriate for one recipe of cornbread.

I'm sure there's a way to photograph this well, but I sure don't know it.
I then dumped all the mixture into the skillet and into the oven it went.

Then out came this glorious, chewy cornbread.

Mmm Mmm!

from Better Homes and Gardens 7th anniversary edition
1 cup flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 Tbls sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbls butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk (I used lowfat coconut milk)
1/4 cup oil or melted butter (I used creamed corn)

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Add the 1 Tbls butter to cast iron skillet. Place in 400* oven about 3 minutes or until butter melts. Remove pan from oven; swirl butter in pan to coat bottom and sides of pan.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine eggs, milk and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Pour batter into hot skillet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

(Almost) Veggie Chili

As the days have been cooling off, the kitchen's been heating up. When it's drizzly and icky outside, comfort food comes to the rescue. So, recently I made some chili. With the exception of some bacon grease, it's completely vegetarian. 

Here we go. Start by sauteeing two strips of bacon. They'll be consumed by Cookie Monster later.

After it's crisp, drain all but about a tablespoon of the grease. Chop a carrot into bite-sized pieces ...

... Then add to the pan, along with chopped onion. (You could use whatever kind of onion you have. I happened to have a red one that needed to be used up.)

Once the carrot/onion mixture has softened, add chopped green bell pepper.

And saute for about five minutes, 'til the pepper is softened. Meanwhile, get your canned goods together. 

I used cannellini beans, kidney beans, tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. When vegetables are done, add them, plus all above canned goods, to your Crockpot. I also added some frozen corn but forgot to get its closeup.

Oh yeah. Add in two of these guys for spice and smokiness.

Next, toss in your spices. You'll obviously need chili powder, as well as cumin, black pepper, spicy paprika and salt.

As well as some cilantro.

Also, I added some Worcestershire, but forgot to set it out with the rest of the ingredients. Stir the chili mixture well, then Set it and Forget it in your Crockpot on high, until the whole house smells like chili. Mine went for about five hours. I came back periodically to stir and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Garnish with sour cream (or in this case, nonfat Greek yogurt) and more fresh cilantro, and then take a shitty photo. 

Voila! You have made chili!

Stay tuned for my cornbread recipe. Chili without cornbread is like peanut butter without chocolate: totally fine, but missing that je ne sais quoi it could have.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to Make Bread Hockey Pucks

To go with my tzatziki, I thought I'd make bread hockey pucks. It's the newest thing in bread, you know. Those sandwich thins ain't got nothin' on these. I've had better success making homemade bread in recent times, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Start by gathering all your ingredients.

Then add the warm water to the yeast. When it looks all foggy like this, you know it's woken up and is doing its thing.

Next, combine the flour, sugar, oil and yeast mixture. Be sure to use part whole wheat flour, even though the recipe does not call for it, since you know it will be fine and won't affect the texture at all. Also, use idiot's logic that having a baked good in the house that's all white flour is probably a directive from Satan himself.

Since you know that salt is a natural retardant for yeast, plan to add it after you dump the yeast/water mixture into the flour. Then forget to add the salt at all.

Stir until it all comes together, until it forms a misshapen (if I was going for a foodie description, I might call it "craggy") ball.

Then commence with the kneading. Usually, a fancy-pants Kitchenaid will do this for you with the dough hook, but if you're feeling especially ambitious as I was, hand knead your dough. It will take a lot of time, but if you're listening to music and working out your frustrations on the dough, it can be quite cathartic. Knead until it's smooth and no longer sticky. I went about 15 minutes, I would guess. 

Then cut the dough into halves and then into eight equal-ish pieces. Use this moment, while you're lovingly admiring your cute little dough balls, to realize that you forgot to add salt, noting the bread will now likely taste like newspaper paste. Curse silently. Or aloud, like someone* did.

Roll into balls. Place on a baking sheet, cover with a towel and let them rise.

They should double in size. Smile to yourself, thinking that, despite the salt mishap, you have succeeded with yeast again, bringing the total number of times to a grand total of three.

Press them down into discs (or "hockey pucks") and coat with olive oil. Add salt in an abysmal last-ditch effort to impart some flavor.

Bake until golden brown on top. They should puff up in the middle, creating a pocket. These will not. Instead, they'll stay flat and cracked on the top, and each weigh in at approximately three pounds. This is likely due to the errant whole wheat flour that some idiot knew wouldn't affect the texture at all.

Sigh. Note that your success with yeast has regressed back to two times.

But wait! Note the silver lining that your husband, bless his heart, will spread copious amounts of jam on these cute little hockey pucks as a snack, thus making them edible. He's quite the guy, that Cookie Monster.

And that, my friends, is how to make your own hockey pucks at home.

Captain Obvious says: These were supposed to be pita bread. The author just royally fucked them up.

*It was me. I cursed audibly. If you know me, this will not be a surprise.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Say What? Tzatziki

Here we have a recipe for tzatziki, a Mediterranean cucumber-yogurt sauce. I recently was given an entire bunch of fresh dill, which I love, but is a strong flavor, so a little goes a long way. I've made gouda dill scones and roasted potatoes with dill, but I wanted a way to use up some more. Enter: this flavorful (low cal!) dip/sauce.

Here we have our ingredients:

Greek yogurt (I used nonfat)
Lemon juice
Fresh dill
Diced red onion

Simply chop the cucumber into small pieces (you can also grate it on a box grater, but this makes the dip a little soupier), chop the garlic with a little salt until it makes a paste, and then add the rest of the ingredients. It's good just as it is, but after it sits in the fridge for a few hours, it's even better. 

I like to make Greek salads with olives, pepperoncini  and feta, and use this as a sort of dressing. It's also good with chips, or spooned into pita with vegetables and chickpeas.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Howdy, folks. Here I am again, back to blog another day.
So, here's the deal: I read a lot of food blogs. Some of them are great, some not so great, but the point is that I read them every day. I find myself wondering about these random people, whom I've never met, thinking about their daily lives. Ain't the Internet grand?
Damn. I just realized I have no photo above the fold for your viewing enjoyment. Welp, Internet to the rescue!

Why yes, I am the most adorable thing you've ever seen!
Several of these food bloggers have enough readers and earn enough money that blogging is their full-time job. What with the current suckage factor of my blog, I'm not expecting any miracles, nor do I think I would want to have blogging as my full-time job. I'm a pretty private person (hence the anonymity here), and I wonder sometimes how these bloggers are able to just put all those details of their lives out there for everyone to see. Perhaps I'm a bit paranoid, but there are a lot of creepers out there, far smarter than I am about how to do creepy things, so I like to keep as much as my life off the 'Net as possible.
But hey, if I want to at least run behind this bandwagon, frantically waving for them to wait up, then I gotta at least show up, right?

So, in that vein, I took pictures of food today. For now, I have something simple. But I have chili in the Crockpot right now, and some tzatziki chilling in the fridge, so I've got some more on the way.
And now may I present to you: My lunch. Da da da daaah! (In case you couldn't tell, those were trumpets.)

Here we have a salad with:
red leaf and romaine lettuce
baked cubed tofu from Trader Joe's 
crumbled turkey bacon
Dressed with a little drizzle of low-fat ranch

And to accompany said salad, a sandwich with:
yellow squash
turkey bacon 
on a honey wheat sandwich thin. 
One side is spread with cream cheese, the other with roasted red pepper hummus.

And here it is in its entirety:

I actually didn't end up finishing the salad; it was a little too much.

So here we are. Let's see where we can go from here.