September 26, 2010

nerdiness exposed

So I've been thinking about this for awhile now...

but tonight I finally ordered Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. Soooo excited. SO excited.

While downtown perusing today, I went into a bookstore and flipped through it for the first time. It's literally a thousand pages and I am going to gush over every one of them. Not only does the book have the basic way to cook a dish, it also suggests variations you can add. It does more than just give you the recipe - in a way, it teaches you how to cook in a manner where you can improvise and add your own ideas. I

How to Cook Everything was on our wedding registry but not purchased so I used one of our gift cards to order it online. I'm so psyched to start cooking from it. I made Andrew's birthday dinner of Chicken Parmesan from one of Bittman's recipes. All right, time to stop geeking out now.

Now a 60 book update... I made it past 60 books already! Goal completed! Since there's still a few months left in 2010, I'm altering my goal to 80 books. Right now I've read 64 so it's very do-able.

Here's the last few I finished. Bold are ones I particularly enjoyed:
51. Black is the New White, Paul Mooney
52. Where Men Win Glory, Jon Krakauer
53. So Sexy, So Soon, Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne
54. Sherlock Holmes and the Rune Stone Mystery, Millett
55. Picking Cotton, Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton
56. What Einstein Told His Cook, Robert Wolke
57. Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman
58. Denial, Jessica Stern
59. What Einstein Told His Cook 2, Robert Wolke
60. The Commitment, Dan Savage
61. The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver
62. Remarkable Creatures, Tracy Chevalier
63. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
64. Opening Skinner’s Box, Lauren Slater

Right now I'm on Paul Tough's Whatever It Takes about Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone, with Mary Karr's Lit and a book titled Lincoln's Melancholy checked out. Not to mention I still have 27 books on my library request list. Who else is psyched about Mark Twain's autobiography finally being released after 100 years? Or The Ghost Map on the discovery of the spread of cholera and germ theory? Or Meghan McCain's and Tim Gunn's new books?

God, I'm a nerd.

But I am serious about Mark Twain's autobiography. I bet it's going to be awesome.

adventures in cooking: failures

I like cooking and baking. It's true. Contrary to popular opinion (or what I like to think is a popular opinion), I do not always succeed all of the time. Don't be shocked - it's true. Three examples for you:

Jucy Lucys

I have been trying on and off for over a year to make successful Jucy Lucys. Restaurant worthy Jucy Lucys. I've cooked them too long so all the cheese has already oozed out and then used a George Foreman grill that puts pressure on the burger so that the cheese oozes out. So I've been convinced that a grill pan will change the way I attempt to bungle a Jucy Lucy.

A grill pan! Jucy Lucys! Let's watch and see how I mess it up this time...

Aw, they come apart in the middle! I need to find some better strategy of putting the burgers together. I'll figure it out one of these days.

Next up: Homemade pizza.

But don't I make homemade pizza all the time? Yes. Yes, I do. One of Andrew's friends has coincidentally come over two nights in the last two weeks when I've made pizza and he's convinced it's the only thing we eat.

However, we received a pizza stone as a wedding present (remember all that packaging?) and went out and picked up a pizza peel with which to cook pizza. Friday we made a pizza on the peel, ready to put it in the oven on our new pizza stone and make some delicious pizza...

And it bombed. Bombed terribly. The pizza wouldn't slide off the peel but some of the toppings fell off into the oven. We had to move the pizza onto a pan, a pan I forgot to oil, making it difficult to serve the pizza. Disaster all around.

My Jackson Pollock pizza stone, stained for all eternity with the marks of my failure. I'm going to bake some bread today in an attempt to figure out the best way to work the pizza peel before trying pizza again.

And finally: Pumpkin bread.

The picture doesn't look terrible, but baking it was an ordeal. I mixed the ingredients together in the wrong order (I skimmed the recipe poorly, but in my defense I feel specific things could have been worded differently. Like when you say "mix together dry ingredients" but don't mean sugar, don't write "dry ingredients." Name them if you're not going to include all the dry ingredients listed at the top. But I digress). The cream cheese on the inside wasn't the right softness, making it difficult to spread on top of the batter. The recipe was for 3 mini-loaves and I only have one regular size bread pan so it overflowed on one side. I anticipated this though, and put a pan underneath the bread pan in the oven. It caught the overflow so I didn't have to clean out the oven afterwords - just pick up some of the pizza toppings that fell off that damn peel.

Oh well. I'm going to make granola today and I know that can redeem this weekend of horrible cooking and baking. We also have an acorn squash that's taunting me from the counter. That pumpkin bread recipe used up the last of the brown sugar so I wanted to buy more before eating it. If you're going to do it, might as well do it right.

So... new job: I am the corporate volunteer liaison for the reading program I served at last year. I'm digging it. I spent all Friday morning adapting a powerpoint to use with community volunteers and I felt like a champion. Technically my job is to coordinate volunteer opportunities for the various corporate donors of my program as well as support the current volunteer coordinators at our various sites around the state. I've only been doing it for two weeks, but I enjoy it so far. I miss the kids I worked with at the YWCA, but I'm going to volunteer there once a week - remind myself why I'm doing what I'm doing.

All right, time to go. I'm going for a walk and perusing some of the shops downtown - just looking for now until our finances aren't so touch and go. Picking up some flour and brown sugar for this afternoon's baking - things I know I can't mess up like hummus, salsa and granola. Maybe some Italian bread in an attempt to make the pizza peel love me.

Bacher out.

September 14, 2010

real adult

Ok, so I like taking pictures of my food and posting it on here, but some of the blogs I read get a little extreme with the pictures. Seriously, I don't need to see 8 pictures of lettuce. And then washing lettuce. And then the lettuce in a bowl. You get my drift. Anyway.

I feel like a real adult today. I went to work, drank coffee, came home, went for a run and made dinner. Ok, dinner is still in the process since we made homemade pizza and that usually takes some time. Andrew just took it out of the oven and we're probably going to watch some TV on DVD - I'd tell you what it is but it's pretty nerdy and I'm not sure if I want to own up to it.

I'll fill you in on the new job near the end of the week - I've been training and first-day-ing so it's not really representative of the work I'm going to be doing. Don't you just love training meetings?!? Yes? No? Yes?

Pizza! Bacher out.

September 11, 2010


More pictures!

Some homemade granola. I haven't done the math to figure out if making the granola at home saves money compared to the store-bought bulk granola.

We made stir-fry the other night. Here are all the ingredients pre-cooking.

In the pan.

And the final product. I made sure to keep the soy sauce light because I've been accused of dousing prior stir-fries in too much soy. I added my own after plating though.

A wedding present came in the mail the other day and I thought the level of packaging was ridiculous. Here's the first box it came in (paper towels for comparison):

And the second box inside the big box, filled with styrofoam peanuts:

And finally the present itself, a pizza stone (Thanks Sarah and Jean!). True, pizza stones are heavy but that biggest box was just overkill. Talk about unnecessary packaging, Amazon.

I start my new job on Monday - woo!

September 4, 2010

adventures in cooking: scones, english muffins, pesto and homemade pizza

Yesterday I spent the afternoon baking and cooking all sorts of things. It was pretty relaxing; not to mention tasting all of my food was delicious.

First up: Lemon blueberry scones!

Andrew made me that latte with our new espresso machine. The scones turned out pretty delicious with one exception: they've got a bit of a salty aftertaste. Why? Oh, maybe because I put in two tsps instead of 1/2 tsp. Way to misread the recipe, me. After I realized what happened, I tried to dig some of the salt out and counteract it with sugar, but there's only so much you can do without starting all over again. All in all, pretty good with the exception of a bit of saltiness.

Next: English muffins!

I had made some of these last week and they turned out really well so I thought I'd try it again. Made for a yummy breakfast sandwich this morning. My only difficulty is transferring the muffin from the pan to the skillet without completely deflating the muffin. I'm trying to get better at that, but I can be clumsy.

Next: Pesto!

Used a bunch of our window sill basil for pesto, but substituted walnuts for pine nuts. You could definitely taste the difference. Jury's still out on if I like the walnuts better than pine nuts. One thing I did before putting everything in the food processor was bruise the basil leaves.

I put the basil leaves in a plastic bag and rolled/crunched over it with a glass (I don't have a rolling pin... sad). It's supposed to bring out the flavor and juices more than just cutting it up with food processor blades.

Finally: Homemade pizza!

We used the pesto as sauce on the pizza. It definitely added an extra zing! We also put Italian sausage, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes and more basil leaves on as toppings. The pizza recipe is an old family one and usually it's just Italian sausage with a chunked tomato/basil sauce mix. We've been experimenting with extra toppings the more we make it.

See our new espresso machine and magnetic knife strip in the background? Woo! Love the knife strip.

Also, you should be proud that I was hands-off with assembling the pizza and let Andrew do it. I believe at one point someone got angry that I was making frequent suggestions and hovering and just let me do it. But she's in Honduras now. So there.

So good! We ate pizza and watched season 8 of Scrubs. I haven't seen too many of the episodes and as usual, I was laughing my ass off. It's by far one of my favorite TV shows. Always a solid choice, in my opinion. Anyway, there's leftovers so I know what I'm having for lunch - pizza!

Now time to go tackle that sink full of dishes. Pizza mess, you know.