Cooking Club

March 16, 2012 By: Jenna Category: Cooking

Cooking club has been really fun, but it hasn’t really been growing, and the past few months interest in attending has been so low that I’ve cancelled. I find this embarrassing, yes, but I’ve decided that I’m not going to let fear of failure hold me back. And really, is it failing if there are 3-4 women in my life who I spend a few hours with once a month and have a fantastic time with?

I admit, I hope that things go better in San Francisco though.

Back in November, my friend taught us how to make sushi. It was so easy! I then tried to make it myself, using brown rice, which left me with very loose rolls and not-quite-right rice, but I know it would have taken me a lot longer to try it if she hadn’t shown me how easy it is. Similar instructions to what she provided can be found here.

She also took some time to show how how to make dumplings. A bit time intensive with all of the folding (and making them look as pretty as she does is definitely an art) but worth the effort. A great tutorial similar to the one she gave us can be found here.


And that’s what we do at cooking club! Does it sound like what you were expecting when I introduced the idea a few months ago?

Coconut Carrot and Ginger Soup

February 28, 2012 By: Jenna Category: Cooking

I love step-by-step cooking tutorial posts, but I tend to avoid them due to our current windowless kitchen situation (the resulting photos depress me a little bit). Because I love this soup so much though, I am willing to put up with the awful lighting and hope that you will give it a try.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Chop up about 1 lb of carrots. I use this mandoline and it makes the process go so much faster.  I then use my olive-oil mister to cover the carrots with a light coat of olive oil. Sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper on top.

After an amount of time that I haven’t recorded, your carrots will look a bit shriveled and blackened on the edges like this. Take the black ones, bite off the good parts (try it, they’re kind of like carrot chips) and set the rest aside.

Chop up some onions and throw them in a big pot with some olive oil, stir until translucent and a bit browned. Add in your ginger and stir that around a bit as well.

Add a container of vegetable broth, salt, and coriander. Simmer until the carrots are tender.

Pour in a half can of coconut milk (or a whole can if you’re indulgent like me).

Blend it up (I also highly recommend getting a hand blender if you’re going to make soup a lot. Dumping boiling ingredients into a food processer/blender can be so hazardous (and means cleaning up yet another dish).

I reserved a carrot as a garnish, but I like blending them all up.

This is one of my favorite soups ever, and so easy. Roasting the carrots is extra work, but it brings out a richness that you wouldn’t get if you boiled the carrots raw.

A little behind-the-scenes glimpse into what it’s like for me to get pictures like this. :)

Coconut Carrot and Ginger Soup

Inspired by Eat Live Run’s Carrot and Ginger Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced

2 T minced fresh ginger

1 T olive oil

1 onion (preferably sweet) chopped

3-4 cups vegetable broth

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp coriander

1 can coconut milk

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spread the carrots out on a baking sheet, spray with olive oil, and put in the oven until the carrot slices on the edges start to blacken. Remove from the oven.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent and starting to brown. Add the ginger.

Add the roasted carrots, broth, coriander and salt and bring to a boil.

Boil until carrots are completely tender and the broth is looking opaque. Add in the coconut milk. Blend.

Brussels Sprouts You’ll Want To Eat

December 21, 2011 By: Jenna Category: Food

Brussels sprouts have a bad rap, and I really don’t know why. Don’t let the movies  and television shows trick you like they tricked me.  Is it because everyone else is making them without butter? Here is what I think. The first time you make them, use a lot of butter. Next time, cut back a little, and next time cut back a little more. There are some things in life that you need to warm up too, and brussels sprouts might be one of them.

Also it was during the writing of this post that I realized it is brussels sprouts, not brussel sprouts like I always thought.

Brussels Sprouts

About 20 small brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons of butter
Splash of vegetable stock
Salt

Wash the sprouts. I dunk them in a bowl of water and kind of swish them around (oh let’s be honest, sometimes I don’t even wash them at all if they look mostly clean). Cut off the ends, and then quarter them (or halve them if they’re really small). I like to loosen the outer leaves because loose outer leaves turn crispy and brown as they soak up the butter and I think that’s the most delicious part of the dish.

On medium heat melt the butter in a skillet (any old pan could work, but I think a cast iron skillet gives the best flavor) and add a splash of stock. Toss in the brussels sprouts and give the pan a good shake to try to get as many sitting flat side down as possible. You also want them to be in a single layer, because that means more of them come in contact with the butter+pan and get all sorts of carmelized and delicious. Spinkle salt over the top, and cover with a lid.

Let the sprouts sit in the pan undisturbed for as long as possible without burning them, about 5 minutes. I like to let them get really brown, although TH doesn’t like this. Give the pan a good shake to shift the sprouts a bit and brown the other sides.

Serve immediately, they’re best when warm.

 

Review: Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

December 06, 2011 By: Jenna Category: reviews

My friend Janssen loves this book. I loved her description of it so much, that I even started telling people about it before I had cracked it open myself. She mentioned in her review that she contacted the publisher directly to ask for a review copy, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt for me to do the same. They agreed to send one my way in exchange for this review.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter is written by Jennifer Reese of the blog The Tipsy Baker. Jennifer is on a mission to cook her way through the 1000 cookbooks she owns, and somewhow in the middle of that she found the time to write a book as well. Not just any book, one of my favorite books ever (yes, a cookbook just made my top 10 list). I took it on the plane to Dallas with me and read the first half on the way there, and the second half on the way back. The kind of all-consuming speed reading where you don’t even look up when the waitress walks by offering drinks. This isn’t just a cookbook, it’s a memoir. A memoir cookbook. Jennifer describes the birth of her book like this:

[A] question lodged in the forefront of my mind. Where is that sweet spot between buying and making? What does the market do cheaper and better? And where are we being deceived, our tastes and habits and standards corrupted? Could I answer this once and for all? I didn’t want an answer rooted in ideology, or politics, or tradition, or received wisdom. I wanted to see the question answered empirically, taking into account the competing demands–time and meaning, quality and conscience, budget and health–of everyday American life.

So she sets out to figure out which is worth it. Homemade bread of a store bought loaf? Buttermilk? Mustard? Pizza? If you make dumplings, is it worth your time and money to make the wrappers?

Eventually, she gets really hard-core. Buying her own chickens (which she loves), raising turkeys (which she doesn’t love as much), and even getting a goat (I agree Jennifer, why aren’t goats allowed as pets wherever dogs are?).  Most recipes are accompanied by a story (I most enjoyed the anecdotes that include her children), and all of the targeted items have the question “Make it or buy it?” next to them. Most items get the “Make it” stamp, but some of them are accompanied by the caveat that you should really only make it if you actually want to take on the challenge of making said rather difficult item. She also provides a description of how difficult each item is, as well as a cost comparison between the store bought variation.

The best part about this book though, is how funny Jennifer is. Who would have thought that a memoir cookbook would have me crouched over in my airplane seat laughing uncontrollably? The night she spends outside sleeping with her goat is my favorite. I kept turning to That Husband to read things out loud to him (this didn’t last long), and after the third or fourth excerpt he stopped me.

“This lady is you, in 10 years. You are going to be her. Right now you are obsessed with making absolutely everything from scratch [this is true] but eventually you will figure out what is worth making and what is worth buying. And I can seee us having chickens.”

So thank you to Jennifer, as you have brought me one step closer to where I’m going to be in 10 years (meaning relaxing a little bit and not being so obsessive). Like you, I’ll be making my own bread and collecting my own eggs, and making cheese on the weekends. Hot dogs and Thomas Keller’s chicken and beekeeping? I’ll leave those things to someone else from now on.

When I started reading I turned down the corners of the pages that featured items I wanted to make. About 50 pages in I realized I had bookmarked every single recipe thus far. So I gave up on that system and decided eventually I’d take a page from Jennifer’s systemand eventually cook my way through the entire thing. I’ve already tried out two recipes, both eaten over Thanksgiving, and Jennifer let me know it would be okay for me to share the recipe below so you can try it out for yourself.

You know how recipes sometimes call for a spice/oil/condiment, and you buy it, use it, and realize you not only didn’t like the recipe, but will never be able to use that $8 jar of spice again? Vadouvan is not like that at all. Next time around, I want to buy it in bulk. She prices this out at $2.40/cup. Souffer’s frozen mac n’ cheese is $1.50/cup. Kraft in the blue box is $0.69/cup.

Vadouvan Mac n’ Cheese

from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

Kosher salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the casserole dish
6 slices fresh bread (about 6 ounces), homemade or store-bought, crumbled [I used whole wheat]
5 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour [whole wheat again]
3 tablespoons vadouvan spice blend
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
4 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar (about 18 ounces)
2 cups grated Gruyere (about 8 ounces)
1 pound elbow macaroni [surprise, I used whole wheat here too]

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Butter a large casserole.
2. In a skillet melt 6 tablespoons of the butter and toss with the bread crumbs.
3. In a medium saucepan, gently heat the milk.
4. In a large pot or Dutch oven melt the remaining butter. When it begins to bubble, add the flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
5. Slowly pour the hot milk into the flour-butter mixture and whisk well. Continue cooking, whisking constantly until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 teaspoons salt, the vadouvan, pepper, chili powder, 3 cups of the cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups of the Gruyere. Set the cheese sauce aside.
6. When the water is boiling, add the macaroni. Cook until it is just tender; the inside should still be somewhat firm. Drain the macaroni in a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well again. Stir the macaroni into the cheese sauce.
7. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle over it the remaining cheddar and Gruyere. Scatter the breadcrumbs over top. Bake until browned, about 30 minutes.
8. Transfer to a cooling rack for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 14 cups, to serve 12

Applesauce

November 30, 2011 By: Jenna Category: Cooking

Up until a few weeks ago, I had never made my own applesauce. I think I placed it on a pedestal next to canning. Lots of work, lots of dishes, not worth it. Then my favorite blogger, Skip, mentioned that Martha Stewart has his recipe on her website. I clicked over, and it has two steps. Two? That doesn’t sound anything like canning in terms of difficulty. In fact, the most difficult thing about applesauce is peeling the apples, but I tell myself it’s manual labor (which equals more calories burned) and don’t mind the work. If you have the space you can always get one of these apple peelers my mom used when I was a kid.

In case you didn’t believe me, I took some step-by-step picture to show you how easy this is.

1. Gather up your apples. No need to wash them because you are peeling them anyway. Or if you are my mom you will wash them because you are crazy about germs and such. (Love you mom!)

2. Peel your apples.

3. Core your apples and but them into chunks. (As you can see above, I used the apple corer to do this in one genius move.)

4. Dump in a pot of boiling water. When they are fork-tender, drain.

5. Juice several oranges. I used 4 the first time, but only had two the second time. The amount of orange juice will determine both how runny it is, and how sweet it is (without sugar).

6. Next, dump in your brown sugar and your apple pie spice. Or you can just use cinnamon, but I like using apple pie spice because it feels more like I’m eating dessert.

7. Mash with a potato masher.

8. Store in the fridge.

Applesauce with Orange Juice

Adapted from Skip’s Homemade Applesauce

About 10 apples
Juice from 2-4 oranges
1/4 cup brown sugar, add more as desired
2 teaspoons apple pie spice or cinnamon

Start a pot of water to boil, while that is working peel, core, and cut up your apples (quartering them is fine).

Boil until fork goes right through. Drain. Dump into a bowl and mash together with orange juice, sugar, and apple pie spice. Add more sugar to reach the amount of sweetness you desire.

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This recipe is crazy flexible. In fact, you can vary every single ingredient to figure out the kind of taste you want. More apples, less sugar, more spices, make it runnier with more orange juice. You can also make this with skins on, and feed it through the food processor until it’s smooth (which would increase the fiber), but I like the slight chunkiness that comes from gently mashing peel-free boiled apples.

      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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