Monday, January 31, 2011

Danielle's The Once and Future Beans

These were really good! Max said he doesn't like beans and he really liked these.

I replaced the bacon with smoked ham, and instead of tomato paste (cause I forgot to buy some) I threw in a can of fire roasted tomatoes. We cooked ours in the oven for about five hours, but they were done to our liking after four or four and a half hours. This was really easy to throw together and made a ton. It's a good thing to make at the beginning of the week and have for lunch for the next few days.

I would definitely make these again.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Art of Darkness I

I chose for this week's recipes to come from the episode "The Art of Darkness I" which can be found on page 68 of the book or online HERE. You can choose between the chocolate lava muffins or the chocolate mousse.

In my last post about my puff pastry experience, I said I'd rather save my calories for something containing chocolate. Well, both these recipes are all chocolate, so bring on the calories! And, as a side story, I have to have a cavity filled this week and when talking to my dental hygienist about how I was surprised because I brush and floss all the time, I don't usually drink soda or sports drinks, etc., but I do like chocolate, she said "but chocolate doesn't cause cavities!" She did fail to mention that sugar does lead to cavities and most chocolate we consume contains sugar, but for now I don't have any reservations about consuming chocolate!

I've never made any sort of chocolate lava cake or muffins and have wanted to for a long time now (like, two or three years!). I'm excited to try. I plan to make mine at the end of this week. I've also never made a mousse because it just seems so difficult. Maybe I'll go chocolate crazy and try both recipes.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Black Bean Salad

I made the black bean salad and actually used it for filling in burritos.  The beans turned out soft, but I did cook them for about 3 1/2 hours in addition to the first 30 minutes.  They were very easy to make just took cooking time, but a couple of the ingredients were difficult to find.  For some reason I could not find the butcher's twine, and I kept having flash backs to the movie "Bridget Jone's Diary" when Bridget made the blue soup so I figured I better get the right item.  I eventually found it in the fresh meat area of the grocery store.  Also, I could not find a dried arbol chile so I settled for dried anaheim chiles.  After some research I realized that an arbol chile is really hot it is used in cayenne pepper, and the anaheim chile is mild so I used 3 when I made the beans.  I like a little kick, and these did not have  any so in the future I will add extra chiles or cayenne pepper. 

Overall, the beans were good, but I think I would like a little more flavor like I said more spice and maybe a little garlic.  I do not normally have these ingredients on hand, and I have a black bean recipe that I like so I will probably use that one more often. Also, I think adding flavor to canned beans is a bit easier than the dry beans.

Also, I will not be making the hummus recipe on the website because it calls for peanut butter, and I have made hummus with peanut butter before and it is not good. Stick to recipes that call for tahini.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Melanie's Puff Pastry Dessert

This was my first time ever using puff pastry. I didn't let it thaw long enough before I put it in the oven, so I had to bake it for more than twice as long. It still turned out ok, despite a few burnt spots around the edges, but those just flaked off. 

This was very easy to make. I had a difficult time slicing the apples with my peeler like Alton suggests, so I just used the slicer side of my cheese grater and I got nice thin and smooth slices. I didn't make two small tarts, I opted to make one large tart to make things easier.

I thought this was good. The light and airy texture is nice, but since it doesn't fill you up quick I found myself eating 3/4 of this! (my husband ate the other 1/4 or I'm sure I would have eaten that too.) The fruit and lightness of this is deceiving as to how calorie-dense this really is though! According to my puff pastry box, each sheet has 36 grams of saturated fat and 66 grams total fat. Since I ate 3/4, that means I consumed 27 grams of saturated fat!! And nearly 50 grams of total fat!!!!

Ok, this shouldn't be surprising for a pastry, and sure I should have controlled my portion size better. But, I was quite shocked to see how easily I consumed way more than my recommended daily allowance of fat in one simple dessert! And maybe this just bothers me since I'm still trying to shed some baby pounds. But, I figure if I'm going to eat that much fat calories, I'd rather save it for something that contains chocolate. :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Danielle's "The Chewy"

I never much liked the Tollhouse cookie recipe growing up, although we often made it for lack of a better recipe. I always thought they were too cakey. But when Alton Brown said it's the only recipe he uses for chocolate chip cookies, I thought it was worth another shot -- especially with his adjustments.

I followed "The Chewy" recipe, with the exception that I used two whole eggs instead of replacing one of the whites with milk. All I had was skim milk and I didn't know how that would turn out. I also don't really like cookies that spread a lot, so I thought I might prefer it with the whole eggs.

I have to say that after making these, I remembered why I didn't like them growing up. Although these were a little less cakey and puffy than what we made growing up, I just don't like the texture of these cookies. I like my cookies to be more dense. I have another recipe that I got from my grandma called "Mrs. Fields Cookies" -- I have no idea if it's really the Mrs. Fields recipe -- but I like it a lot more than these. They are dense and chewy and just a little crunchy on the outside. I haven't found a recipe to beat it yet.

I made one pan of these, and I've just been eating the rest as cookie dough. Cookie dough is always delicious!

Maren's Salmon Turnovers

I have never tried puff pastry before and I thought I'd give the salmon turnovers a go. I've never bought canned salmon before, either. I went for the "wild caught" like Danielle did and got a 5-oz. can, but I had better luck in that there was only fish flesh in mine--no bones or skin. It seemed quite a lot like tuna, actually, but that may have been just the canned taste I was getting.

The turnovers themselves came out quite well. We had to eat two each to get full enough so it was only a two-person recipe. (This, despite my having really stuffed them. I was a little too liberal with some of the ingredients and had probably two turnovers' worth of filling leftover.) My husband and I liked the idea of it a lot; they reminded us of the pierogi we've had in Seattle. I thought the filling was a little dry and would like to try again with other filling variations. All in all it was a very satisfactory experiment!

Pantry Raid III: Cool Beans

This week's recipe comes from Episode 38, Pantry Raid III: Cool Beans (page 182 in the book, and here). My house we are bean lovers.  Lucas has loved beans since he started eating solids, and my husband lived off of beans while he lived in Brazil.  I generally use canned beans, but a while back I bought some bags of dried beans in hopes of saving money.  Well, I soaked one bag and cooked them and they turned out bad.  I thought if anyone could help me figure this out Alton could.  I have sick kids so I don't have the ingredients, but I am planning on making Black Bean Salad and probably the hummus that is on the website later this week.

Danielle's not-really-salmon turnovers

Well, I fully intended to make the salmon turnovers in the puff pastry episode. I bought the puff pastry and a can of salmon. However, I made the mistake of buying the can of "wild caught Alaskan salmon". I keep hearing that wild caught salmon is so much better, so I thought I should go with that.

It turns out the wild caught Alaskan salmon was neither boneless nor skinless. What am I supposed to do with a can of fish with a whole fish spine in it?? Bleh. So then I had a defrosted sheet of puff pastry and no salmon. So we made turnovers but threw in what we had on hand -- red pepper hummus and cilantro. I topped mine with sharp cheddar cheese.

I was disappointed that we weren't able to try the salmon turnovers, but our hummus turnovers tasted really good. I imagine just about anything would taste good in crunchy, puffy, buttery pastry! We're going to try some dessert turnovers at some point, and I still want to try salmon turnovers eventually.

Cami's Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made a huge mess of these cookies but it all came out in the end. For some reason when I was measuring the dry ingredients I accidentally measured twice as many as the recipe calls for. So I had way too much sugar, flour etc. I didn't realize this until I was adding the flour at the end and thinking "Wow, this is not wet at all". Thanks to Maren for having wet dough so I knew mine was wrong. I quickly added more wet ingredients in hopes it would all work out in the end. It did! When I baked them that night I didn't love them. The dough was good though. The next day though, the cookies were great. I was surprised they could have such a change overnight. 

The picture is what the balls look like right now. They are in my freezer setting up so I can move them to a baggie. That's how I store dough. We only bake 6-12 and then leave the rest in the freezer until we need more.

I used white whole wheat flour and Jason couldn't tell! If I would have told him he probably would have found something wrong with them but he said they were great. I've replaced all of my regular white flour with white whole wheat. It really is very similar in taste but just better. I get it at Trader Joe's for pretty cheap.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Melanie's Puffy Cookies

I like my cookies big and soft, so I decided to make the Puffy version.

To start off, I'll say that they turned out puffy but not quite as soft as I like them. I know my first batch was slightly overcooked, so I turned the cooking time down to about 10 1/2 or 11 minutes. The rest were a little better.

I'm not opposed to baking with shortening, but real butter definitely would have been better. Real butter just tastes SO much better! Cookies just need butter. And maybe the shortening added to the crispiness?

Despite these cookies not being my favorite, I thought this episode was very educational! (I watched the episode on youtube and took notes). Now I feel like I better understand what elements give cookies their texture.

I would like to make another batch of cookies and try to do a combination of the puffy and the chewy...using real butter, maybe melting the butter, using more brown sugar, excluding 1 egg white, only using baking powder. I'm not sure what type of flour I'd use. For these I used cake flour, but I'd like to try the bread flour and see how different it turns out. I usually only keep all-purpose flour on hand, but I'd like to learn the properties of different flours.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Danielle's Mac N Cheese

We wanted to make baked macaroni and cheese, but based on the reviews of Alton's baked mac & cheese (here and online), we decided to switch things up a bit. So we made a hybrid of AB's stove top and baked mac & cheese. We basically followed the stove top recipe, added ham, stuck it in a pan, and topped it with the panko crumbs.

Our hybrid version turned out great! It was delicious, and tasted just about as good the next day as leftovers (reheated in the oven) -- although the leftovers were a bit dry. Oh, one other change we made was that we used a mix of smoked cheddar and sharp cheddar. I loved the smokey flavor, especially with the ham.

Growing up, I never had baked macaroni and cheese. In fact, it's possible that the first time I ever had it was in the last year or so. So I'd never had mac & cheese with bread crumbs on top, but I love the crunchiness added to it! I'm a big fan of baked mac & cheese now. I think we will definitely make this again (the hybrid version) -- although not often for the sake of our arteries. :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Three Chips Transcript

This is one episode I highly recommend reading (or at least skimming) the transcript. I saw this episode last year and, no joke, I got out a notepad and vigorously took notes. This was the kind of baking chemistry stuff that I have no idea about.

Alton Brown talks about how the different ingredients change the type of cookie you end up with -- thin, crunchy, chewy, puffy, etc. This is the kind of info you can take and tweak any cookie recipe to make it more to your liking.

You can find the episode transcript HERE.

Here are some of the basic takeaway concepts:

- More baking soda makes a thinner cookie
- More baking powder makes a puffier cookie
- Butter makes cookies spread, use chilled butter for a cookie that spreads less
- Brown sugar makes chewier cookies
- Cake flour produces more steam which creates more lift and results in puffier cookies
- Bread flour produces more gluten and results in chewier cookies
- Substituting milk for some of the egg makes a cookie that spreads more

Hope that helps!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Three Chips for Sister Marsha

Above: Post-refrigerator but pre-oven. Below: The slightly over-finished product.

I chose this chocolate chip cookie recipe (found on p. 166 in the book) not because I need another one but because of Alton's claim that it would help me understand how to change other cookie recipes. I'm not quite sure I learned that because I'm still deciding on how this went, but anyway, here goes:

I followed his recipe with these exceptions: I didn't use bread flour, I had 1% milk and used that instead of whole milk.

I came up with the gloopiest, wettest cookie dough I have ever seen--there will be no skipping the step of a one-hour refrigeration, I'm afraid. I refrigerated mine probably double that. Even so, the last cookie I popped into the oven should have gone back into the fridge first. It was too gooey and came out as flat as a pancake and didn't look appealing at all.

Since Alton recommends against doing half-batches, I decided to take his advice to make a full batch and freeze a bunch of dough instead. I plan to pop those straight from the freezer into the oven later this week and see how they turn out. (If I haven't eaten all the dough straight out of the freezer yet, that is!)

But back to the batch at hand: I overcooked them a bit. Alton says 15 minutes for two sheets in the oven at a time. I only put in one and forgot to adjust the baking time. We ate them warm and I didn't think they were that great and pronounced myself disappointed. I wouldn't have guessed I was eating a cookie called "The Chewy." However, the next day I ate one and I liked it very much! I shouldn't have been surprised because I usually like cookies better the next day, after the chocolate is hard again (am I the only one??) and it was the case with these too. The leftover ones were chewy, just like Alton claimed they should be--and this in spite of my having overcooked them!

Overall I'd say I had a successful cookie experience, but I don't know yet if I'll be making these again.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cami's Puff Pastry Dessert

Holy cow this is good. I followed the recipe exactly and it turned out great. I love that it feels light because it doesn't have much sugar. I used sugar free apricot jam as well and thought it was just the right sweetness. 

With the extra pastry I made a blueberry version. I just added frozen blueberries before putting it in the oven. It could not be easier. I still used some apricot jam on the blueberry and it was really good. I think it would be great with pears, assorted berries or cherries.

It's a good thing I weren't serving this to anyone but my family because as I was doing the pastry part I looked over and found this: 

Yep, he ate 3-4 bites in my apple. Oh and then he tried to drink the lemon water. After I took the apples out I let him have a taste. He loves it. Crazy kid.

On Christmas eve I made this Floret Cheese Strudel using puff pastry. Prior to that I haven't ever used it. I think I will probably try the salmon recipe in Good Eats. I'm curious about his manwich filling version but probably not enough to make it. I do like that about Alton Brown though. He isn't a pretentious chef. He doesn't assume you're only using whole, organic foods. I'm not saying you shouldn't it's just he isn't listing ridiculous ingredients that the average home cook doesn't have access to. And he seems to understand my desire for quick food.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Puff the Magic Pastry

This week's recipes come from Episode 53, Puff the Magic Pastry (page 244 in the book, here online). I chose to make the fruit tarts, as Alton Brown called them "the best easy dessert I know." I love easy. These days, I only cook if it's easy. And this really was easy. I followed the recipe exactly, and they turned out beautifully. The recipe makes two 6" tarts, and I also made two 2" tarts with the leftover pastry. The small tarts cooked exactly the same as the big ones, and tasted just as great, which I liked because a 6" tart is a little too much for me. These were fancy, easy, light, and tasty, and I definitely will make them for company some time. I just won't mention how easy they were.

The crust looks a little burned, but it really wasn't. The tarts are crunchy and not very sweet. Perfect! However, if you like them sweeter, add more sugar or use a sweeter jam (I couldn't find any apricot jam, so I used apricot Simply Fruit, which isn't very sweet).

Cami's Waldorf Salad

I don't remember having Waldorf salad in the past but I've definitely heard the name before. I was excited to try it though because I love salad. Jason teases me a lot because we eat salad for 2-3 dinners a week. It's easy, fast and can sit in the fridge until he gets home without being gross. 

I used pecans because that is what I had and I didn't toast them because I'm lazy like that. I don't think it hindered the flavor. I decreased the amount of mayonnaise because 1 cup seemed like a lot. I used 3/4 cup and felt like it was plenty moist. I served mine on spinach because that is what I had. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly. (I know I just said I changed half of the ingredients but whatever)

We ate the leftovers for lunch today and it tasted just as good as yesterday. This is definitely a win and I will be putting it in my regular rotation. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Melanie's Applesauce

The only time I've ever made applesauce was when I used to make my oldest child's baby food. Since it was baby food it contained only apples and water. I would never have thought to add butter and honey to applesauce! They were nice additions. I only used 2 Tbsp. of honey due to Maren's comments, but I think it would have been good with 3 or more Tbsps. Mine turned out a bit more tart than I prefer. Using different types of apples might help this also. I couldn't even tell that the butter was in it, so I think next time I'd leave it out just to cut out the calories. Since I didn't have apple juice on hand and had to go to the store, I splurged and got the unfiltered stuff. Really, I don't see why it really makes a difference if you use that over filtered juice. Next time I'd probably use regular apple juice since it's typically less expensive.

I liked Alton Brown's suggestion of using a melon baller to scoop the core out. Very easy! I only cooked the apples for the 10 minutes called for, then tried to use my stick blender to blend it up. I'm not sure if the apples weren't soft enough or if my stick blender just isn't very good (I did buy it used), but it wouldn't blend it up all the way, so I ended up putting it all in my regular blender which quickly made it nice and smooth. If you prefer your applesauce chunckier then you should use a potato masher or a food processor.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Early Years Episodes

I figured I'd repost this for everyone's benefit. Good Eats: The Early Years covers Season 1 through just over half of Season 6 (up through the episode called "Casserole Over").

You can find episode lists either here on the Food Network or here on Wikipedia.

Also, at the top of the blog is a page called "Good Eats Resources". You can find a link to the episode list on the Food Network there as well as a link to a Good Eats fan site that has transcripts for all Good Eats episodes.

New Year New Round Rotation

Here is the schedule for the next round. If you don't see your name listed below and want to participate, just let me know.

January 2: Danielle
January 9: Catherine
January 16: Maren
January 23: Melissa
January 30: Melanie W.
February 6: Cami
February 13: Jen

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Maren's Applesauce

I chose to make the applesauce. I followed the recipe except that I didn't have unfiltered apple juice--just the regular stuff--and substituted 2 extra tablespoons of that for the alcohol.

Although I was a little skeptical, I used his microwave method. I put the apples in a big Corelle salad bowl and overturned a dinner plate on top of that for the lid and it worked out pretty well. The apples just fit. I tried blending them after the recommended 10 minutes but they weren't soft enough yet so I put them back in for another 5 and they were just right. I don't think they need a quarter-turn every 2 minutes like Alton says; every 4 or 5 should be fine. All in all it worked fine but using the stove seems like it might actually be less fussy. I do have to note that the smell of the apples cooking was downright heavenly!

And the applesauce was delicious. My kids loved it and even my husband had a serving!
I really liked it myself--the only thing I'd change when I do it again is to take the honey to 2 Tbsp.; I thought 3 was a bit too sweet. I like my applesauce on the tangy side. I could probably try some other apple varieties to get more tang, too.

I'd never made my own applesauce before today, but now I know how good it can be I think I will have to do it again!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Danielle's Waldorf Hysteria

This salad was really delicious. I've only had Waldorf salad maybe a couple other times, so I don't have much to compare to. But Max and I both really enjoyed this.

I didn't follow the recipe exactly, but I was able to make this with stuff I already had. And I was excited to be able to use some of the things that are growing in my front "yard" (lettuce and mint).

Here are the changes I made:
  • I used craisins instead of raisins
  • I left out the celery (I'm not a fan)
  • I used only Fuji apples
  • I decreased the amount of onion and sliced them really thin
  • I used pecans instead of walnuts (cause that's what I had)

We put this on lettuce, but I thought the lettuce was unnecessary. I would've rather left it out. Max liked it with the lettuce though, so it's a toss up. I really loved the combination of the curry with the mint and apples. It's a great flavor combination. This was really easy to put together, and it tasted great. Since I keep these ingredients on hand, I can see myself throwing this together often when I don't feel like cooking.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Apple Family Values

I'm sure a lot of you, like me, are not in the mood for anything really heavy this week. I wanted to pick something light and easy. I almost got sidetracked into picking Crust Never Sleeps (that galette sounds really really good), but I didn't want to make or buy a pound cake. And I think it's for the better that I settled on this episode instead.

I'm going to make The Waldorf Hysteria sometime this week, so I'll post about it later after I've made it. You can find this episode on pages 86 through 89 in the book. You can find the recipes for this episode on the Food Network's website here.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year, New Round

Hi Ladies!

I hope you all had a peaceful, happy Christmas and are enjoying the new year! I also hope you are ready to start cooking with delish again. We're going to keep going with Good Eats, The Early Years as our book. Danielle is going to start the rotation tomorrow and I'm sure it will be something yummy! 

I would like to get the rest of the rotation organized so please either leave a comment on this post or email me if you're ready to go with this round. I hope you are! It is a lot of fun! In your comment, please let me know if there is any week your would prefer to choose a recipe or any time that doesn't work for your schedule.