Friday, November 19, 2010

2010.11.18 - Fake Thanksgiving - Turkey Roulade, Cranberry Conserve, Chard Salad, Pumpkin Pie Pudding, Pumpkin Fudge Cookies

Most people are spending Thanksgiving with their families, so I wanted to have a mini-Thanksgiving early for my friends.  Thanksgiving food is my absolute favorite, so two Thanksgiving dinners gives me the chance to try out double the recipes!  I wanted to make things that weren't standards so people wouldn't be eating the same exact thing a week from now.  As always, I turned to the Barefoot Contessa.

Turkey Roulade with Gravy

This was great!  The stuffing was delicious - I would make that again even if I wasn't making roulade.  I omitted the pine nuts and they weren't missed.  Rolling and tying the turkey wasn't too difficult and the end result was beautiful.  Hilarious fact: Food Network has a video segment from the show for making the roulade -- but they heavily edited the part where Ina is trussing the roulade!!  That is easily the most complicated and visual part of the recipe - why omit it, Food Network?  I did have some trouble slicing the roulade -- need a sharper knife or more arm strength or something.  I loved the flavor of the gravy and didn't mind the lumpiness caused by the onion bits, although you could use an immersion blender to get it more smooth. 

Cranberry Conserve

It has the disadvantage of not being shaped like a can, but is still delicious :)  It was *very* citrus-y from the orange and lemon juice and zest and not too sweet.

Chard Salad with a balsamic dressing

Since we were having stuffing, I wanted to pick a vegetable that wasn't too starchy.  I also wanted something that didn't require the oven or stove top, so salad fit the bill.  I substituted the dressing mentioned in the chard salad recipe for the balsamic dressing because I thought the flavors of that one sounded more interesting.  I always love raisins and walnuts in a salad.

Pumpkin Pie Pudding with Pumpkin Fudge Cookies

I have never liked pumpkin pie, but I have slowly been growing to like pumpkin-flavored things.  This pudding was enjoyed by other pumpkin pie haters, while the pumpkin pie lovers tolerated it (but wished they were having pie) :)  I was lazy, so I left off the sugared walnuts mentioned in the recipe -- next time I'd like to make it with sugared pepitas.  The pumpkin fudge cookies are a variation on one of my all-time favorite cookies -- I like the originals better, but this did taste very seasonal.  It was a really good combination with the pumpkin pudding.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2010.11.11 - Mint Overload - Spiced Pork with Apples, Carrot Fries, Mint Limeade, Mint Gelato, Strawberry Tarragon Sorbet

The mint plant on my balcony was growing out of control, so this week's mission was to use it up!  I also managed to use up some of my other surpluses: apples picked at Jones Creek Farm, strawberries picked at Remlinger Farm, egg yolks hanging out in the fridge, and tarragon out on the balcony.

Spiced Pork with Apples

I thought this was pretty good.  I keep forgetting that I really detest pan cooking meat.  It makes a splattery mess, I'm always worried that the meat won't cook through before the outside burns, you have to monitor and flip, and I usually need to have two pans going to cook enough meat at once (more dishes to wash!).  Next time, I would use the rub for a pork tenderloin cooked in the oven - much easier.  I used pork loin instead of pork tenderloin since that was on sale, so I think my pork medallions were not as juicy as they could have been, but still good.  The spices really did work well with the meat.  The apples were a good way to use up excess apples, but nothing special.

Carrot Fries with Mint

I've made these before, I like them a lot.  Simple and delicious.

Mint Limeade

Juicing enough limes to get 1.5 cups of lime juice without a juicer is time consuming and difficult!  This drink was good though.  Instead of muddling mint in the glass, I infused the simple syrup with mint instead.  Next time, I would use club soda in this since I prefer fizzy drinks.

Mint Gelato

I love mint chocolate chip ice cream -- this is nothing like that.  Fresh mint ice cream has a much different flavor than ice cream made with peppermint extract.  This flavor is more palate cleansing and "adult", although I think I prefer the fake green ice cream of my childhood :)  Next time I would try adding chocolate chips to this, a suggestion from D!

Strawberry Tarragon Sorbet

I had a lot of frozen strawberries to use up, so I made this even though it didn't really go with my other ice cream.  Good texture, still not sure if I like tarragon in desserts, though.  Very refreshing and used up a lot of strawberries :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

2010.11.04 - Ribollita, Spiced Applesauce Cake

I planned this menu figuring it would combat the typical rainy cold of a Seattle day in November.  Typically, Thursday ended up being one of the warmest and nicest days in recent memory.  Oh well :)


I thought this was bland, bland, bland unfortunately.  I added way more salt than the recipe called for, which helped, but it still felt there was a certain depth missing.  The recipe also didn't seem to call for nearly enough liquid - I had to add a lot more water to make it resemble soup.  I did not enjoy the "grainy" texture of the broth caused by the mashed up beans and didn't think the bread held up well (tasted like soggy sponges, basically).  Ideas for improvement: add all beans in original form (no mashing), use chicken stock instead of water, two cups less cabbage, more salt, more seasoning of some other kind, keep the bread out of the soup and serve on top with cheese like a french onion soup.

Spiced Applesauce Cake

Deb never steers me wrong.  The cake was delicious and very "fall".  Next time I think I would omit the cream cheese frosting and try a salted caramel drizzle instead (personal preference).  I also really enjoy Deb's applesauce recipe -- it is very smooth and has a good texture.

We also had a tahini-dressed kale salad (delicious!), a watercress salad, and some bagel chips and dip courtesy of C's Whole Foods trip.  Yummy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

2010.10.28 - A Halloween Feast - Tentacle Pot Pie, Decomposed Salad, "Boo-tiful" Cake

This week's menu was a celebration of Halloween. I wanted to go all out and make everything with a Halloween theme and flavor. It was fun researching all of the Halloween ideas out there on Real Simple, Martha Stewart,, and Food Network, and I have a ton of ideas for next year.  A full collection of pictures from the dinner can be found here.

Tentacle Pot Pie

It's difficult to find a main dish idea for Halloween that looks spooky but does not involve a specialty mold.  There are some great meatloaf rats, hands, and skulls out there, but I did not want to buy specialty equipment.  I narrowed it down to two choices: the tentacle pot pie and the mummy meatloaf.  The tentacle pot pie ultimately won out because I had made turkey burgers the previous week and though meatloaf would be too similar.  There is always next year :)

I love the NotMartha website because Megan covers a lot of creative and cute crafts, cooking projects, and holiday ideas, and she lives in Seattle so I can get some local ideas too!  Megan particularly goes nuts for Halloween and has come up with some great ideas over the years (I made her junk food spiders back in 2006).  This year, she devised the tentacle pot pie, a pot pie with a crust that looks like a creepy spider-like creature.

I adapted Megan's idea to produce one large dish instead of individual servings because I didn't have enough oven-proof dishware for making single serving creatures.  Since my base was a pie dish instead of a flat plate, this actually allowed for some extra curling of the tentacles, making mine look more like an octopus than a spider.  Since it was large scale, I thought that olives as eyes would get lost, so I ended up using parsley leaves.  It ended up not looking like a face unfortunately, but I was still happy with the final product.

I used Simply Recipes' chicken pot pie recipe as recommended in Megan's instructions, subbing white wine for sherry.  A delicious and basic pot pie (I didn't make my own stock and used boneless skinless chicken breasts that I had roasted in the oven).  I wanted to use crescent roll dough instead of puff pastry dough because I prefer the flavor of the former, but totally spaced on the fact that Megan called for seamless crescent roll dough.  I'll need to check if my local grocery even carries such a thing.  I got pre-perforated dough and ended up sticking it together and rolling it out a bit so I could cut it in the dimensions I needed.  It ended up working fairly well, so the day was saved!

Decomposed Salad

This salad is a bit of a stretch (using a gross name to make a typical fall salad more Halloween-y), but I liked it nonetheless!  Since I have an strange skin reaction when peeling butternut squash, I cheated and got it pre-cut.  What a time saver!  The sugary/spicy pepitas were delicious (although I could have used twice as many seeds with the amount of coating the recipe specified) and I always love the combination of roasted squash, crisp lettuce, and a tangy balsamic dressing.  This one is a nice alternative to the all-time greatest squash salad (Ina's recipe of course).

Mexican Pumpkin Punch

I don't often make beverages, but wanted to make things extra festive.  This punch was very good, although I have a couple of quibbles with the recipe.  First, it seems very wasteful to throw away all the pumpkin pulp that is left over.  I saved it and am still trying to figure out what to do with it (mixing with yogurts or oats?).  Second, the suggested garnishes are pineapple and pecans, but I'm not really sure how to drink something with chunks of pineapple and nuts in it.  I ended up using my fork to eat the pineapple from the glass.  Maybe a splash of pineapple juice would provide the same effect.

My cake was a Frankenstein-esque melding of two different cakes -- I used the outside frosting and decoration of Martha's "Boo-tiful Cake" with the inside layers of this orange and black cake.

I love making project cakes and really want to get better at making professional-looking cakes.  This one was far from professional-looking, but was fun to make!  I loved the look of the black and orange cake, but wanted an outer decoration that was a bit more simple.  Martha's ghost cake looked great, so I decided to combine the two.  I made ten 6" round layers (I have 3 pans, so this took a bit!) and stacked them with the chocolate filling (delicious).  I then did a crumb coat and full ice with the cream cheese frosting from the ghost cake and make the marshmallow ghosts for the top.  I added my own flair by putting pumpkin peeps around the bottom :)

I could not get my marshmallow ghosts to look anything like Martha's - it was a bit frustrating.  I don't think they turned out all that great.  I was not a huge fan of the orange flavor of the orange cake layers, but others seemed to like it.  It wasn't the greatest cake texture or flavor-wise -- I should learn to make these cakes with time-tested cake recipes!  Overall, it was a fun and impressive cake, though!

Blood and Bones

I loved these meringue bones, but wow what a pain to make.  I was elbow deep in meringue trying to get it into the piping bag.  The final product turned out well though :)  I was not a fan of the hot chocolate - I couldn't get it red enough with the simple liquid food dye I have and it was pretty grainy.  Lesson learned that I need to use better quality chocolate than Trader Joe's for melting.