Monday, January 31, 2011

go. make. this. now.

Aaahhh...I am so behind!  There has been so much cooking happening and I have said NOTHING about it.
First things first - I am very proud to say I have conquered buffalo chicken soup.  OMG.  SO.  GOOD.  GO.  GO NOW AND MAKE THIS!!!  Seriously  it was that good.  I pretty much love buffalo anything, and in the winter, I am totally a soup fiend so this was a match made in heaven for me.

Buffalo Chicken Soup
-4 cups chicken stock
-1/2 to 1 cup buffalo sauce (I used 3/4 of a cup of Franks - what else is there, really?)
-two bunches of scallions
-1 really big potato peeled and cut
-4 to 6 stalks of celery chopped
-3/4 of a bag of chunky carrot shreds (because I am lazy), or probably 3 to 5 carrots chopped
-1 heaping tablespoon of basil pesto mustard (regular mustard would probably work too, and it's not necessary but definitely adds a great flavor dimension)
-2 tablespoons of cream cheese (optional)
-1 1/2 cups of chopped chicken
-3/4 stick of butter

Ok, for starters, I totally cheated.  I didn't use chicken.  I used my leftover turkey.  What?  Something needed to be done with it.  I am so not a food waster.
First throw all the veggies in the pot with the butter and cook it for about 10-15 minutes so the veggies can soften.
Then add chicken stock, buffalo sauce, chicken.  Cook another 10-15 minutes.
Add mustard and cream cheese.  Whisk soup so that cream cheese dissolves properly and cook another 15-20 minutes.
Soup is done!  I topped mine with blue cheese crumbles.  Also while thinking other things that could be good in this soup - orzo, peas, is a versatile soup to say nothing else of it.
But seriously, go make this now!  It is so yummy, can be made as spicy or unspicy as you want it to be and would be great on Superbowl Sunday.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

thanksgiving redux

So, so,  The aforementioned cranapana bread has come and gone.  I actually made it about a week ago.  Not Monday night like the post suggested.  But now I have MORE over ripe bananas.  So something else will have to come of that.  But that is TBD at the mo'.  But the night that I posted about the cranapana bread I actually did make something else.  It was partially awesome and partially ho-hum.  Slow cooked turkey breast roast, home made cranberry sauce, and roasted asparagus.  The asparagus was the simplest thing of all and the most awesome.  The cranberry sauce was fairly pleasing, but maybe a little too sweet.  The turkey was....turkey.  Soon to be turned into buffalo chicken (turkey) soup.  It was bad turkey, but I've certainly had better.

Roasted Asparagus
-1 bunch asparagus

Oven at 450 (yes, really that high).  Remove woody ends from asparagus.  Lay out on baking sheet, drizzle with EVOO sprinkle with salt and pepper.  In this case I used some of the roommate's fancy myer lemon EVOO and worcestershire pepper.  Stick in the oven for no more than 10 minutes.  This will be awesome.

Cranberry Sauce
-1 pound fresh cranberries
-1 3/4 cup sugar
-2/3 cup water
-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
-1/4 tsp allspice
-zest and juice of 1 orange

Bring water, sugar, and cranberries to a boil.  After reaching boil reduce heat and add cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and zest/juice of the orange.  Reduce for about 15 minutes.  Actually is better after allowing to cool.

-Turkey breast roast
-1 cup dry white wine
-1 stick butter
-1/2 yellow onion
-salt, pepper, garlic powder

-Place turkey in slow cooker with wine, butter, onion, and seasonings.  Place on low for six hours.

-More cooking adventures to take place tonight and updates on other things in my life to follow.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cranapana Bread

So, a multitude of things are happening simultaneously in my life.  One of my roommates was hospitalized for gallstones and had surgery.  So there's been that to take care of, or at least check in on and do what can be done for.  Also, my car.  My father has very recently promised to help me obtain a car.  Of course roughly three days after this my muffler falls off.  AWESOME!  And the car he is procuring is, of course, a station wagon.  The car of all of my nightmares.  Sigh.  Not only that, but this car needs something to be replaced before I can have it.  And that something is expensive according to my mechanic.  So the guy selling the car happens to work at a vocational school and brought the car there to be fixed for the cost of parts.  Cheaper = yay!  However, it will take up to two weeks to obtain this thing.  Oy.
Anyway, to the food!
The cranapana bread did indeed get made and my feelings on it are mixed.  I feel like it doesn't have enough of anything.  It's apple-y but not apple-y enough.  It only has one banana so it's not banana-y enough.  The cranberries are a nice addition, but I would want more.  And I felt like it wasn't quite sweet enough.  Maybe more sugar?  I'm not sure.  It was kind of hilarious because I started mixing it all together and felt like it still looked really dry.  Oh that's right, I forgot the milk.

Cranapana Bread
2 1/2 cups self rising flour*
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons veg oil
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup chopped cranberries
1 apple peeled, cored, chopped
1 banana, mashed

Start with your dry (flour and sugar) and slowly add in the the wet.  I mixed this by hand because I know quick breads can get tough if over mixed.  Bake in a 9x5 loaf pan at 350 for 70 minutes.  Voila.  You too can have mixed feelings about this bread.  Maybe you'll like it, but for me, it just needed more of something else.

*Note: using self rising flour is important for quick breads, otherwise they won't get fluffy and consequently won't cook all the way through and will get over cooked on the outside.  Basically, a big mess.  If you don't have or keep self rising flour around (I don't), you can substitute all purpose flour with the addition of 1 1/4 tablespoon of baking powder for every cup of flour (this will make it fluffy and cook - yay!).

I happen to use metal baking pans for breads simply because I've had VERY poor results with glass ones.  But, it works for some people (case in point, right after I made this bread, my roommate made regular banana bread in a glass pan and it came out fine).

Friday, January 14, 2011

.flip to page 96.

Work has been incredibly slow lately, which isn't surprising, but it leaves me with ample time on my hands.  Now I can either work myself up into all of my neuroses related to my romantical life and my uncertain future, or I can take adventures and get creative.  Seeing as how I finally unearthed my car this morning from the foot of snow encasing it in a hope that I would have to work today I choose adventures (much like the classic series of my youth Choose Your Own Adventure ®).  These adventures include the craft store, as I've decided to start making my own jewelry and the grocery store to procure cranberries to make some Cranapana Muffins.  And yes, every time I see the word Cranapana my mind wants to see "Crap-ana" which sounds intriguing enough to make.  Today might also potentially be a double recipe day, but I'm not sure what that second one will be yet.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

.not safe for human habitation.

My head is so very much a place I wouldn't wish ANYONE to live.  Really.  Yesterday after a long day of cozy snuggles and watching episode after episode of Merlin online (shut it, yes I have my nerdy streak) and making what was ultimately a seriously amazing pulled pork I began mulling over my romantical life as I am often wont to do these days.

That was not a smart move.
Because then began the classic April style over-analyzing in which I work myself up into such a frenzy of unwarranted disappointment and negativity.  I blame myself for this, well myself and the unfortunate interactions I have had with men up until recently.  I consider myself such a champ for being able to continue to put myself out there and meet men and date.  I mean theoretically I could totally shut myself off from love and dating, but because I don't, I figure I'm so advanced I can just let go of what has happened in the past (pretty much standard  liars, cheaters, users, and then one very seriously heart-wrenching blow of a broken engagement and the ensuing messed up co-dependency that lasted for almost a year afterward even though we were four states apart and he, in his bipolar induced mania, moved in with and married another woman).  Maybe I'm not really over it?  I mean, I am certainly over it in the 'I-would-never-take-you-back-if-you-were-the-last-man-on-earth' sense, but I don't know.  How do you get over, as in truly get over, someone else's actions?  I mean, I'm no longer emotionally hurting from what happened, but these individuals' actions have certainly left me with some issues.  And while I try very hard and feel that I generally succeed at not projecting these issues onto other men that I date, I do have my moments where these issues are kind of all consuming.  And then there are a very select few friends that I unload them all onto, which I hate to do, but sometimes I really need to.  Generally I kind of feel that no one should have to listen to my nonsense except me.  And here is the kicker, when I'm in the middle of one of these neurotic spirals and I'm either on my own or talking to a friend I am so fully aware of how I sound.  And I hate it.  Which makes it all the worse I feel.  I know exactly how I sound and know exactly how ridiculous I am being and I just can't stop.  It's like a train with no brakes.  I either run out of steam on my own or there is usually one person that can talk me down and stop the train Superman style.  Either way you slice it though, it is EXHAUSTING.  By the end of the night yesterday I was wiped.  I felt like I had run a marathon.  And emotionally, I probably had.

Ugh.  In the realm of positive things (well I mean, it IS positive that I'm not dumping my neuroses on the guys I date...there would be not even a glimmer of hope for me if I did) there is a new(er) car in my future and I'm on to bigger and better cooking projects.  Well maybe not better or even bigger for that matter.  But they are out there, waiting to be conquered.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

.things you should probably not eat in bed.

I'm pretty sure at the top of that list is pulled pork sandwiches smothered in Carolina style BBQ sauce.  Especially if you have a white comforter like I do.  But I'm doing it anyway.  Why?  Well the living room is up a very narrow flight of stairs that isn't always easy to maneuver with a plate in hand.  Also, my electric blanket is not upstairs, and it becomes cumbersome to take electric blanket and plate of food upstairs.  And then, oh wait, where is the remote?  Exactly.  I knew you'd understand.  This is why pulled pork is being consumed sitting up in bed.
This is comfort food at its best - tangy, spicy, meaty (porky?).  On a pillowy soft roll.  Now I will admit to not producing the roll rather than procuring it.  But anyway the pork.  Mind bogglingly good.  I haven't been this proud of something to come out of my kitchen in quite some time (although my jam cookies were a big hit, but my Mom made them first).  To make it all that much more cozy I have spent the majority of the day in bed while it is blizzarding outside.  Seriously.  There is probably about a foot of snow on the ground.  I started the pork around 9:30 this morning which was completely by chance.  Knowing me, I probably wouldn't have done it until around noon, but I'm glad I started it early because it really got a good chance to break down.  I owe my early morning to a text message from a good friend of mine checking in on me after promising fourth date last night.  Suffice it to say things are going very well with him, at least from my perspective.  Anyway, back to the pork and all the porky deliciousness that sits before me and permeates the kitchen here.

Spicy, Tangy Crock Pot Carolina Pulled Pork

1 boneless pork butt, 3-5lbs.
1/2 T mustard powder
1/2 T salt
1/2 T Worcestershire pepper
1/2 T garlic powder
1/2 T red pepper flakes
1/2 T chili powder
4 T brown sugar
2 T hot sauce of choice (I like Frank's buffalo sauce)
5 T bbq sauce of choice (I like Jack Daniel's Spicy Original)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

Mix all ingredients, dry and wet, together in a bowl with a wire whisk to create your Carolina bbq sauce.
Place pork butt into slow cooker and pour sauce mixture over it.
Set slow cooker to low to be ready in about 8 hours.  Set slow cooker to high to be ready in 4 to 5 hours.

Note: I did flip the pork half way through cooking.

After it is cooked all the way through, remove the pork and leave the liquid in the slow cooker.  Using two forks remove any fat and shred the pork.  This should happen fairly easily.  Replace the shredded pork into the cooking liquid for another half hour to an hour.  The pork is then ready to serve at any time or can be kept warm as long as necessary.

There are many variations to this recipe - some call for rubbing the pork with a dry rub first and marinading it with the dry rub for several hours before placing in the slow cooker.  Some call for searing the pork before placing it in the slow cooker.  Some create a more BBQ/tomato heavy sauce.  Personally I LOVE the tang of good Carolina BBQ and am not so much a fan of BBQ sauce/flavor in general (I seriously dislike BBQ chips).  Also, I wanted something that wasn't labor intensive and could be repeated quickly and easily on mornings that I'm running out to work and don't have time to rub and wrap a roast.  However, these are my personal preferences; there are many ways to make pulled pork - this just happens to be the one that floats my boat.