Sunday, July 30, 2006


Inspired by Papas Fritas con Rajas, we had this with dinner tonight.

Sweet potato
New potato
(both sliced into 1/4 to 3/8" thick slices
1 poblano pepper, seeded and sliced
1 med-large onion, sliced
1 t garlic, minced (or two cloves, or to taste)

saute onions on med-high to high until a little soft, then add potatoes. cover, cook for about 20-30 min stirring every few minutes, until soft. The sweet potato may disintegrate into mash by the time the new potatoes are done. Add the peppers when the sweet potatoes are soft but the regular potatoes are not, so they'll have time to cook down a bit and spread their flavor around. When all potatoes are soft, add salt and pepper to taste, perhaps 1/4 of lime's worth of juice and chopped cilantro, and serve.

Steam is important to actually getting these potatoes cooked without developing a blackened outer shell. Cover early in the cooking process until cooked a bit, and then let them crisp up a little.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The titular Good Glop

My sister B says that the Good Glop this is named after is not the generic "pile of good stuff" cooking that I recalled it as being, but instead a specific dish. This is not a dish that I intend to cook (or eat), but here it is, for reference sake:

canned green beans
canned cream of mushroom soup
cooked ground beef

all above stirred together, then topped with tater tots and baked.

What I THOUGHT Good Glop referred to was the sort of cooking I once did, where I would chop and saute various vegetables, spices, perhaps chicken or fake meats, and dump the pile on some rice or pasta. "Pile cooking," as it were.

I suppose in some ways most pasta or stir frying is a form of pile cooking, but I prefer calling it by the base starch ingredient now, rather than "Good Glop" or pile cooking. For instance, onion, garlic, asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, herbs sauteed, the tomatoes yielding liquid to create sauce with some balsamic vinegar, all served over jasmine rice - this would now be called "Rice and Vegetables." An uninspired name, perhaps, but descriptive of what has occurred.

I often enjoy the meals we create from "whatever is in the refridgerator" as above, more than ones where we go purchase the items specifically for the dish, because stranger things must come together, and often do. It makes me feel ingenious.
Egg Casserole

We went to Houston for C's sister's wedding this weekend. The day after, C's mom had everyone over for breakfast. I made egg casserole and fruit salad, and she had bagels, lox and cream cheese as well. I wanted to make an asparagus frittata, but there was enough eggy stuff already to go around.

The egg casserole is, to me, traditional to Christmas breakfast, and there are few other opportunities to make it. If we ever have brunch we could do this dish, but I also just tried baked eggs and think they'd be a wonderful brunch dish also.

The recipe, this time:

8 eggs
1-2 c milk
multigrain bread - about 6 large pieces
two cans (7 oz) green chilis, chopped
butter spread
mild 2% milk cheddar, 2 c
sharp 2% milk cheddar, 1 c
dry mustard
garlic powder
white pepper

cover bottom of a 9x13 and a 8x10-11 glass dish with the bread. butter the bread on one side.
mix eggs, milk, chilis. IDEALLY should add spices to this - 1/4-1/2t mustard, 1/2 t oregano, 1/4 t white pepper, 1/4 t garlic powder (approximate measurements). Pour egg mixture over bread, sprinkle cheese on top, and cover. Refridgerate overnight (or 4-6 hours might do it).

Preheat oven to 400, bake for 45 minutes.

Issues to correct:
This made a nicely browned dish, but also some plasticky material on the bottom - a black bubbly layer (<1 mm) that didn't taste burned, exactly, but I think should be avoided if possible. Some people seemed to like it, though. I think the solution is to bake at 350 for an hour, and 10 minutes before the end if it's not browned, then up the heat to make it pretty.

Someday I will post a picture of this, should I ever make it again, but I neglected to at this time, due to lack of sleep.

The taste of the dish is nice, though I prefer the cheese sharper. The chilis give it a nice flavor but very very little heat. The eaters of the dish were from NY and FL, and I believe not accustomed to the spicy foods, and had no trouble with it at all.
The Butterfly Effect Meme - what influences here and there inspired me to cook

1. An ingredient
I hate peas. I have always hated them. Even the fresh ones that seem so appealing and green and cute, they taste like peas. You can't avoid the essential pea-ness of them, and I hate that. My mom and stepdad insisted on cooking canned peas with dinner every week or so, even though I despised them. I think this is because they wanted to include something green and vegetable in the meal, and misguidedly reached into the CANNED GOODS and not the crisper. Blech.

One day the peas were different. They tasted interesting, and almost OK. I was so excited! I thought there was now a magical ingredient that made peas OK, it was such exciting news. HOWEVER. The ingredient did not work next time, though I then found out that this ingredient could be found elsewhere, and was delicious. Garlic!

2. A dish, a recipe

I recall the first time I had really good cheese. We visited my stepfather's brother's house, and they had this swirl of creamy goat cheese with sundried tomatoes in the swirl. I had never tasted anything so good, ever. I thanked my aunt profusely for this, so much that it was embarassing to one or both of us how much I liked this cheese. I wouldn't say that this incident was the start of my interest in good food, but it was probably the first time I realized there was even better stuff out there, that I had never had.

This, however, did not convince me to eat the other novel dishes they served those days, including what they called "Tiger Meat" but was really just steak tartare. It looked like a gigantic raw hamburger, waiting to go on the grill, but the bun would've been the size of a pizza. And they just ate it and ate it. On crackers. So Gross. And my mom speculates that the indigestion they all felt after a big holiday meal might not be simple indigestion from eating a lot, but from eating a lot of RAW MEAT.

3. A meal (in a restaurant, a home, or elsewhere)

If you ask what my favorite restaurant is, I might say Castle Hill in Austin, though I have been there but twice or three times, and I don't even live in Austin anymore. They have a changing menu, every few months, I think, but their overall notion of what goes together appeals to me. Nice salads, salty and fruity and cheesy, but not too heavy. Entrees that are put together with great vegetables. My favorite meal there, believe it or not, was little beef medallions with glazed carrots and gorgonzola mashed potatoes. I wouldn't even say I Like steak or carrots, but perhaps that's because I am hypocritical when it comes to what I say I like vs. what I actually like. I like steak and bacon and chicken and butter and all that, but I don't want to like it or eat it. Castle Hill somehow convinced me that this was the right choice, though, and it was delicious. And finished off with a delicious pear and apple cobbler. So good.

One other memorable meal was in San Diego at some fish place - Charthouse maybe - right on the ocean. I had some sort of sweet soy-glazed firm white fish, some spinach or carrot accompaniment, with sesame perhaps, and the most delicious coconut rice I've ever eaten. Wow.

Another really great place - West Lynn Cafe in Austin, now defunct. The most delectable vegetarian place around, spinach lasagna that was creamy and soft and moist, and the best dessert ever, this vegan chocolate mocha torte from some local bakery that convinced me that while vegan food is not all that compelling for me, they sure can bake some delicious stuff. Like, to make up for the harsh strictures on every other food, including HONEY, they make the best indulgences. Hell, that cake might not even have had WHEAT in it, it might have been that kind of vegan, but it sure was good.

4. A cookbook or other written work

Cooking Light magazine, and Cooks Illustrated magazine.

Cooking Light suffers from some flaws - overemphasis on the lifestyle section, and sometimes really terrible recipes due to the "lightness" aspect. However, they have some really good ones, and good ideas on how to lighten up a dish. Good vegetables, good quick meals, good ideas, but not good enough to remember when I'm actually trying to figure out what's for dinner.

Cooks' Illustrated is a great magazine that scientifically tests products, tools, and recipes to create the ideal version of a given dish. They have some really good recipes, especially for desserts, but they emphasize some fairly meaty stuff, and I just don't do meaty that much. I appreciate that they tell you how to make great pot roast or roast chicken or pork tenderloin or whatever, but really I want a semi-vegetarian dish, with lots of fresh vegetables, and they just don't do that too much. However, their scientific approach really thrills me and makes me enjoy their magazine a great deal.

5. A food “personality” (chef, writer, etc.)

I think the Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith, was an influence, because he cooked so effortlessly and seemed so smart and fancy. Yan Can Cook, another PBS cooking show that we watched at lunch at my grandmother's house, was inspiring mainly because he was an entertaining cook, chopping vegetables so quickly I was sure he would cut his hands off.

Justin Wilson was amazing in that he didn't use measuring tools very often at all. And when he did, he would ignore the recipe anyway. Mainly when it came to wine, though - if the dish called for 4 cups of wine (and honestly, what the hell dish calls for 4 c of wine???), he'd add 5 or so, whatever he felt like. He didn't seem to measure spices or salt, either, though I seem to remember a time when he showed off that actually he WAS measuring, just didn't use the same tools as everyone else. He poured salt in his hand and said "this is 2 tablespoons" and poured it into real measuring spoons and he was exactly right. I think this may have been more influential on my cooking than I realized, because I don't have a recipe for half the normal stuff I make, and I don't measure the spices, just know the right relative amounts for how much food there is, how much of the other ingredients, etc. I don't think Justin Wilson deserves all the credit there, though, because my mom and grandma cook the same way, I think.

6. Another person in your life

My grandmother inspired confidence in the kitchen, showed us how stuff was done, supported our modest cooking efforts as children. They had a farm out in the country, an hour or more south of Ft. Worth, and grew tomatoes, potatoes, blackberries, peaches, green beans, blackeyed peas, hard little pears, okra, pecans, and corn sometimes. Their neighbors grew melons (watermelons, canteloupe/muskmelon, cranshaw melons) and occasionally other things too. My grandmother canned tons of this stuff, and still has canned pears and tomatoes from 10 years ago (don't worry, they don't eat it, they know it's bad, they just don't like to get rid of stuff, like, Ever).

My sister and I spent many summer weeks there as kids.
  • We picked the vegetables. I was terrified of picking the blackberries because the were pokey but also because supposedly they were a snake hangout, so I was always afraid to get too close or stay too long in one place, because I feared a snake would come out and get me. Combine this with the thorny obstacle course of vines that kept each berry safe from me, and it was not a good deal. I also disliked picking okra, because it too is prickly. Picking beans was fun, and peaches, and tomatoes. They had little "lightbulb tomatoes" in yellow and orange. Also bigger red ones.
  • We "helped" plant vegetables. Once, they say, we were planting potatoes. The trenches had been dug, and either B or my grandmother were placing the eyes in the furrows, and my job was to cover them with dirt after they had been placed. Somehow I got ahead of the sowers, and covered the nothing with dirt. Grows less potatoes like that. I wonder how this could've happened, though, and begin to question the authenticity of this story. However, I remember thinking it was very funny.
  • Once the produce was in the house, we helped process it: I shelled beans, and snapped beans, and sliced okra (which I hated, because it stung). I washed the lightbulb tomatoes and put them on my fingers. I tried to figure out a way to put fireflies inside the lightbulb tomatoes, so I could have a lightbulb tomato that actually lit up. I couldn't figure out a way to do this that didn't involve 1) touching bugs and 2) suffocating said bugs once they were IN the tomato, so it never happened. I also drew labels for the plum jelly.
  • The most exciting processing, though, was one time we had tons of tomatoes and were grinding them up into sauce using the food mill. The tomato juice shot everywhere, and grandma, B and I laughed and laughed. I think we wore old white t-shirts that were grandpa's undershirts, so that we didn't get filthy. I can still sort of remember B and I perched precariously on the stools by the end of the counter, rearing back from tomato squirts.
I think the most important thing I got out of all this farming is that fresher food tastes better, and farmed food is fresher and more interesting than what you see at the store. I try not to buy produce at the regular grocery store, and recently had this underscored for me by buying peaches that did NOT come from a farm within the state. I just picked up 3 peaches from Kroger and they were disgusting, and I regretted not taking the time to go to Central Market to get good ones from Henderson TX or wherever, because they were very good the week before.

One more influential person - my sister B who reminded me while I lived in a little blue house in Austin that I really did like bacon, and that we should eat some.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Breads today

From No Need to Knead, by Suzanne Dunaway. My mother loves this book, and I recently saw it at a time when I was considering starting to bake breads. On the one hand, nothing wrong with kneading, but on the other, this book promises to make quick bread. I have always thought bread took about 6 hours to make, and I am very busy, and knew that would be too long, so I thought the No Need to Knead would be a good starting point. My experience thus far is not that it takes six hours to make bread, or if it does, it's a very low-labor six hours, which I can handle.

I made two breads today, one wheat sourdough, and one focaccia-like bread shaped in a semi-pretzelloid fashion.

Wheat Sourdough (or Filoncino Integrale)

I started this one the night before, and the biga (sponge) oozed over the counter. I made it, it took a long time, and in the end, it looked like the wheat bread at Subway sandwich shop, and tasted worse than that shop's plain, boring bread. I will not make this one again.


Pretzelline breads (Fougasse de Colloiure)

These were delicious. I called them pretzelline because they look like a pretzel and have some of the chewiness of one. The book calls them the italian name above for their resemblance to a ladder. As the book suggested, they have a good buttery taste without adding much fat to the recipe. I think the problem with these will be that they are not good to make sandwiches of, and probably will not keep well, either, but they are so delicious and fun, that probably won't be a problem as they will get eaten quickly.

Will add recipe tomorrow when I make these again.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


I made pancakes last weekend, and they were good.

1/2 c + 1/8 c all purpose flour (unbleached)
1/2 c + 1/8 c white whole wheat flour
1 T sugar
1/4 t cardamom
1/4 t salt
4 t baking powder
2 eggs
1 c milk
1 t vanilla
4 t butter melted and cooled slightly

Bowl 1 - mix dry
Bowl 2 - mix eggs, milk, van and mix to smooth batter
Add butter and stir until thick and smooth.

I added cherries (pitted, chopped in 1/4s) to the cooking pancakes, and served with tons of the cherries on top, along with the rosemary-ginger syrup from one of the cakes mentioned below. I enjoyed it, C would've preferred regular syrup. The recipe called for powdered ginger (1/8 t) but I couldn't find mine. The basic recipe is from, modified to fit my cherry demands.

Yields about 12 4-6" pancakes. Finally a recipe that makes enough for 2 people, not 4.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


I made three chocolate cakes this week.

1. Chocolate pound cake with rosemary/ginger sauce, from Made in cathedral bundt pan with only minor incident. Dusted outside with cocoa. Was delicious, and a big hit at the 4th of July party.

Criticism (personal) - a bit dense and fatty due to the high chocolate (Callebaut) and butter content. I think I like a lighter cake. Perhaps that is the definition of a pound cake, however, or at very least a chocolate one. The syrup was good, a bit thin, but tasty. The ginger dominated the rosemary, perhaps due to heating - maybe ginger holds up to heat better than rosemary.

2. Chocolate cake from online recipe. Valhrona cocoa.

3/4 c cocoa
1 c boiling water
1/2 c + 2 T butter
2 c sugar
3 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 3/4 c all purpose flour (unbleached)
1 1/2 t baking soda
3/4 c milk, 1/4 c sour cream (I used 1 c buttermilk)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare 3 9" round pans (or 2 8" and 4 cupcakes was my yield). Mix cocoa and boiling water, set aside to cool. Beat butter and sugar in bowl until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating in between. Add vanilla. Add cocoa mixture gradually (if too hot, maybe cooks the eggs? mine got specky after this addition). Combine flour, soda and salt. Add alternately with milk mixture, beat. Fill pans, bake 30-35 minutes until pick test is clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans, and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.


Stuck to the stupid silicone cake pans, b/c I didn't oil or flour them at all. Thus very crumbly. Tasty cake, though. Sturdy, like it could handle cream filling or fruit or something. Used buttermilk instead of milk and sour cream. Tastes a little fruity? like berry-flavor in wine?

Tried to make frosting with remaining callebaut chocolate and prob. would've been delicious, but the night making the cake I was stricken with food poisoning from an unknown source. Was it the turkey sausage from the pasta casserole? Or was it the yogurt and sour cream that were in the frosting? Or even the cake (#2) itself? (yes, yogurt, due to lack of enough sour cream). Lacking a strong sense of smell leads me to these disasters I think. I can't tell if it's bad dairy or not. And suspected it. Thus tossed the lot, sadly, b/c it was probably fine but did not want to be sick again.

The frosting recipe:

1 c chocolate pieces
1/4 c butter
1/2 c sour cream
1 t vanilla
2 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted.
1/8 t salt

Melt chocolate with butter, cool 10 minutes. Stir in sour cream, vanilla, salt. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating by hand until desired consistency. Yield 4 cups.

3. Box chocolate cake with whipped tub frosting. The best surface appearance of all. Very fragrant, nice appearance, but lacked depth of flavor. The frosting was so gross in the tub, but pretty and smelly (good) on the cake, though again pretty simple in profile. It was whipped chocolate frosting, and the tub was like 7" tall, but the frosting slumped and looked so oily and nasty in the tub. Never again. I've been converted to just making frosting in the future.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Jealous of the many foodblogs I've been reading, I want to make my own record of the stuff I've been trying. I need to remember what I've done, what worked, what didn't, what the spousal response was, what I thought could be improved. I'm hypercritical of my cooking, and every time I cook a particular item, I think "but this could be better with x, y, z." If I write those things down, perhaps it will help.

Things I cook by:
  • Recipes - some foods, like the Carrot Cake, require following the recipe pretty much exactly.
  • Semi-recipes - saw an item in a book or magazine, made something in the spirit of that item. Macaroni Casserole was last night's version.
  • Non-recipes - a pot of beans or chili - no written recipe. Changes from time to time. Means that the beans from last month might be better than this month's, but I have no idea what was in them, how they are different. Salads are in the same camp.
Hopefully I will learn to take nice pictures of the foods, too. I wonder how you do that when the foods are sort of ugly and brown by nature. Garnish? Pretty dishes? Backgrounds? So much to find out.