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Archive for the ‘Kung faux pas’ Category

It was a bacon smokin’ Saturday yesterday so I decided I wanted something simple for dinner – tacos. As usual, my simple dinner grew and expanded into a monster. Before the pork sides were even snugly in the smoker, the menu had become grande.

Frit-No Lay Bean Dip

I started off with bean dip. Test Subject Bill loves Frito’s bean dip. Since I’m not crazy about him eating out of cans, I found this taste-alike recipe and decided to give it a try. It was ridiculously simple. If you buy that canned crap, please try this and you’ll save not only money but score one for your health too! Bill said it was very close to the canned version (I wouldn’t know) but I had used smoked paprika instead of regular and it threw it off a bit. Lesson for next time…

I tossed together some guacamole and got my taco seasoning ready for the Nature’s Harmony ground beef. Finally, it was time for the big deal: I was going to make tortillas.

I carefully selected this recipe from Allrecipes. It was simple and had good reviews. And it calls for LARD. Not freaking Crisco or “shortening” or some other mystery sludge that will make your arteries harden up like the statue of liberty in the Day After Tomorrow. Ok, so the author’s insistence on lard is what really turned me on to this recipe.

Tortilla in pan, rolled and waiting, and ball of tortilla to-be

Anyway, I mixed up my flour and baking powder and salt. When it came to the lard, it calls for two tablespoons. Two…for four cups of flour? No way. I used four tablespoons of lard. That made me happy. The water went it and I mixed it all up, then split it up into 24 little balls. Things were getting exciting. I was ready to roll out and fry ’em up. I heated my Lodge cast iron skillet and rolled out my first tortilla.

It was reasonably round, although it took a lot of flour to keep it from sticking to the counter. I tossed it in the hot skillet and got to work on the next, and the next. Each tortilla got flipped shortly after it bubbled up. Brown is good, black is bad. Simple enough, right? All was well until Test Subject Bill came down stairs and started looking around the kitchen.

“What are you burning?” he asked.

Husbands have lost body parts for asking that question.

Non-Smoking Tortilla

“It’s pretty smoky in here,” he continued after I completely ignored him. I looked around. He was right. Crap. The excess flour on my tortillas was falling off into the pan and…well…burning. Double crap. “You’re going to set off the smoke detector.”

At that very second the damn thing began WAILING. I understand a smoke alarm is either on or off but it was acting like it was Dante’s Inferno. Panic entered the Kung Fu Kitchen. I screamed at Bill to shut it off (which he can’t) and dashed to start opening windows. After we opened four windows and I turned the heat off the alarm shut up. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a KKF first. I have never before set off the smoke alarm. And Bill is the first spouse to survive asking that question.

All limbs in tact, Test Subject Bill snags a tortilla.

Older and wiser, and with windows open, I got back to my tortillas. This time I made sure to shake off ALL excess flour and rolled them out super thin. I discovered that it was actually a good thing for them to stick to the countertop – it held them in place to get rolled out thin, and they were elastic enough to pull off without tearing. KKF is good, KKF is wise.

It took a good hour for me to make it through my 24 tortillas. I had some that were sort of round, some that were quite amoeba-like, and one that looked suspiciously like Australia. They were ugly as sin…but they tasted great! I have to agree that they really are so much better homemade than store-bought, plus you can be assured that they are made with healthful pastured lard when you do it yourself!

KKF tortilla topped with guac, bean dip, salsa and cheese!

Test Subject Bill and I enjoyed our Mexican fiesta while watching The Guild: Seasons 1 & 2
on Netflix streaming through the Blu-Ray. Well…we were able to get through most of Season 2 before Netflix started crapping out and we had to call it. However, with a yummy taco with guac and salsa I canned last summer and bean dip and a homemade flour tortilla…I was able to survive many technical difficulties!

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Well ok, I didn’t actually get canned myself, but a bunch of other stuff in my house did. So what if it’s been more than twenty years since I helped my mom do canning back home? Heck yeah, let’s fly by the seat of our pants like always and do some canning.

 It all started innocently enough. I was hanging out at the farmer’s market Saturday morning, minding my own business. It was a dreary, drizzly, generally unappealing morning. So bad, in fact, that many of the vendors didn’t even show up. Neither did the customers. I felt like I had the whole six stands to myself.

 I chatted up a few of the vendors, discussing scones and herbs before finally making the rounds to the rest of the tables. When customers are sparse and the morning is wearing on, the vendors are ready to wheel and deal. I ended up getting a killer deal on about nine pounds of tomatoes (not to mention some already cleaned and cut pole beans…nice).

 And that, your honor, is how the great tomato massacre began.

 I’d been contemplating canning for a while, but was pretty scared of the whole prospect. I mean, making something shelf stable is no laughing matter. But I’d invested in a nice waterbath canner and wanted to try my hand. After reading about waterbath canners, pressure canners and canned botulism, I decided to stick with tried and true waterbath recipes. I’ll pass on the canned botulism, thanks.

The Great Tomato Massacre

The Great Tomato Massacre

 I found a good looking recipe for canned tomato sauce here. I was excited and got to work hacking away at the tomatoes. It was a veritable saucy bloodbath. It also took forever. I suppose I’ll have to have a kid, since it would have been nice to have an extra pair of hands to peel, seed and chop. Maybe I could borrow a neighbor’s kid next time…

 I got my tomato sauce together and put it on to simmer for several hours. I then turned my attention to the glut of apples I had somehow accumulated on my kitchen counter due to my CSA box and too much time at the farmer’s market. It just so happened that I also had a canned apple recipe. I could do the apples while the sauce was simmering. That’s called multitasking! (Or time management, I’m not sure which…)

Canning Station: Jars and lids in hot water, simmering tomato sauce, boiling water and simmering apples

Canning Station: Jars and lids in hot water, simmering tomato sauce, boiling water and simmering apples

 My simple syrup was simmering, my waterbath was boiling. The apples went into the syrup to boil for a few minutes, then into my hot jars they went. It was a bit messy since I couldn’t find a stupid wide mouth funnel anywhere that morning, but I think I managed. Jarred, topped and banded, into the boiling bath the jars went.

 I was so proud when I pulled them out. They were beautiful! Then I heard the pop, pop, pop of the lids sealing and marveled at my own greatness. Well, pride comes before a fall.

Canned apples!

Canned apples!

 The tomato sauce was ready. I jarred it up in pints in the same manner (I halved the recipe but didn’t get anywhere near half the yield the recipe stated…maybe I simmered too long and now have tomato sauce concentrate…anyway, I digress.) and dunked them in the water. About fifteen minutes into the processing time, I opened the refrigerator and saw the lemon juice (that I specifically sent test subject Bill to the store to buy because I was short) that was supposed to go into the sauce before it went into the jars. (For pH

They sure look nice...

They sure look nice...

reasons, the lemon juice is added to better stabilize the sauce.)

 My heart fell out and hit the floor with a thud. After all that work, to screw it up at the very end…I deserve three kung faux pas for that one. Derrr!

 Anyway, I let the jars finish processing and did what any normal person would do. I went crying to my mom and finished off the rest of the bottle of wine that didn’t go into the sauce.

You know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself...

You know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself...

 Mom kindly assured me that my sauce would be ok without the lemon juice, that she had done it before and it turned out just fine. She then shared with me a very sad story about a time when she had to throw out 24 jars of green beans because she misread the processing time. Thanks, Mom.

 I also sent the following email to the webmaster of the site that I got the recipe from:

 “What would happen, hypothetically, if you forgot to put the lemon juice in before canning the tomato sauce? Not that I did that or anything.”

 The friendly response indicated I could recan with the lemon juice and reprocess. I figured I’d screwed it up enough for one time around so I decided to just refrigerate my jars. I’ve got the space in between my yogurt and my pickles. [Note: I tried the tomato sauce one week later and it is the bomb. I had it with some mozzarella sticks and it is super yummy!]

Dilled and rather pickled green beans

Dilled and rather pickled green beans

 Undaunted (or insane) I tried my hand again the next day with some Dilled Green Beans. This was a fairly simple recipe. Trim the beans, pack them and the other ingredients into hot jars and pour a boiling salt/water/vinegar solution over them. Top, band and boil. This went much better than the day before (experience is a great teacher). Only issue was that even though I halved the recipe, half the liquid wasn’t enough so I had to quick boil some more while my beans waited.

 It was a success, as all my lids were sucked down 24 hours later. And darned if they don’t look totally cool. I love opening up my pantry and seeing my canned apples and canned pickled green beans. I did it. I preserved!

 Here’s what I took away from this experience: 

  • Read all your directions and make sure you have everything on hand.
  • Make a checklist and go through it before you lid your jars.
  • Check for bubbles and make sure you get them all pushed out before lidding.
  • A wide mouth funnel is your friend. Get one.
  • A jar lifter for pulling hot jars out of boiling water will save your fingers. Note to self: get jar lifter.
  • Don’t use a wet potholder to pull something out of a 400 degree oven. Not that I did that or anything.
  • A water bath canner will steam for a long time after you turn the heat off.
  • Sticking your hand into the water where you’ve been heating your jars and lids may not be advisable. Also not something that I did.
  • Resist the urge to play with your jars after you pull them out of the canner.
  • Popping is a good thing.
  • Canned botulism = bad. If it smells funny or you’re not sure about something, don’t eat it. This is actually serious this time. Public service announcement. Don’t kill yourself.
  • There is something inherently satisfying about making something shelf stable. Independence!

With a few successes and a few kung faux pas under my belt, I can safely say that I will try canning again. It is a lot of work, but what else are you going to do over the weekend that you can enjoy for months to come?

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A few weeks ago a friend of ours went deep sea fishing. It sounds interesting, but not sure if I could do it (physically or mentally). However, when he offered us some of his haul, I was more than happy to take it off his hands. We scored some red snapper, amberjack and mackerel.

Snappah

Snappah

A few days ago I made the red snapper. I did almost nothing to it. Squeezed lemon juice over it and stuck it in the oven. When it was done and ready to plate, I had a hard time getting it to come off in one piece, so I ended up just pulling chunks off with a fork and placing them on top of a pile of arugula from my CSA box. Even before adding just a little salt and pepper, it was the best red snapper I ever tasted. Amazing! I served it up with some steamed green beans and squash I got in my CSA box. (I think the beans got a little discolored from the lemons I dropped in there…or did I just cook them too long? Hmmm.)

Today was a day of ups and downs, kitchen kung fu yo-yoing. I haven’t made bread for a while, ever since my sorrowfully neglected starter began growing something orange in it (ack) and I had to toss it. But a few days ago I mixed up a new batch of starter and left it on the counter to work its magic. Ok, kung faux pas – I can’t believe I did it again. I forgot how it turns into frankenstarter and grows into a massive blob. I put it in a container that was too small and ended up with starter all over the counter. Grrr.

Anyway, I left it on the counter (in a bigger container) for about two and a half days this time (last time only about 24 hours). I think that concentrated the yeasties because it was very flat when I scooped out my 1 1/2 cups of starter to make my bread, but when it was rising it was out of control. Also, it was suuuuper sticky. When I was dividing the dough between the two loaf pans I couldn’t get it off of my fingers. It was nasty. However, it seemed to bake up ok, not too bad looking, but when I cut a slice and tasted it…I realized I’d forgotten to add the SALT when I made the dough. Major kung faux pas. I’m so embarrassed. The good news is that this did not stop test subject Bill from plowing his way through half the loaf at dinner. We both enjoyed the very light, porous texture of the bread, which I think is a result of the starter’s long rest.

I got a pint of blueberries in my CSA box so I’ve been thinking muffins like crazy. Using the blueberry muffin recipe in How to Cook Everything, I whipped up a batch. Unfortunately I realized that my baking powder was expired. So I added a little extra in case it was losing its lift. I don’t think that was a good idea. I also think I over-stirred and let my batter get too dry. The muffins were dry, marginally edible and a disappointing waste of good blueberries. Poop.

Apparently I was in the mood to cut vegetables today (or just wanted to cut the heck out of something) because I ended up making two salads for dinner. First is one I’ve made often, an insalata with heirloom tomatoes (from North Carolina via Whole Foods), fresh mozzerella, red onion, basil (Georgia grown, via Whole Foods), olive oil salt and pepper. Sometimes I add balsamic vinegar to this, but with how delicious the tomatoes were I didn’t want to detract from that. It was super yum, and Bill had two servings.

Second is something I came up with to use some zucchini and yellow squash (from South Carolina via Whole Foods). I sliced up the veggies, salted and peppered, chopped up some chives from my CSA box, then added fresh parsley from my back deck. Drizzled with olive oil and red wine vinegar. I had red onion left so I tossed some in for good measure. This concoction marinated in the fridge for about six hours. It was so good even Bill, with his hatred of onions, ate it! Wonders never cease.

Summer salad plate

Summer salad plate

Here’s the plate I put together for dinner, from the top: smoked salmon, leiden cheese (from my CSA box), marinated squash stuff, insalata, fresh bread and in the center is some garlic I roasted up. It was all very good and I felt redeemed from my day of DUHs.

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A few weeks back I decided I wanted to try to make granola at home.  It sounded easy enough. It’s just oats and stuff, mixed up and toasted, right? Who could screw this up?

Well, it is easy enough. If you read the directions. Not like yours truely, who read through the recipe once and a few days later went into the kitchen and started throwing things together. *sigh*

I used this Great Granola recipe.  Mostly. I wasn’t crazy about the different variations so I kind of created my own. Apparently I wanted to create my own everything else too, since I couldn’t seem to follow the instructions for one second. I decided to do the basic recipe and add almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and vanilla flavoring. Oh, yes. And replace all the maple syrup with molasses, you know, cause molasses is high in iron and I can make a healthy thing more healthy. Right?

Oops

Oops

First, I failed to combine all the ingredients. I don’t know why. I just left the nuts out. Then I dumped the molasses right over the oat mix, only to realize yes…the recipe says to bring the liquids to a SIMMER in a saucepan before pouring over the dry ingredients. (Oh yes. And the molasses thing? You can sub half the maple syrup with molasses. Not the whole freaking thing!) This is the most embarrasing kung faux pas in recent memory.

To the left you can see the resulting charred mess. The molasses burned before the oats toasted. (I think. It looked really dark and nasty before it went into the oven.) And it tasted like burnt newspaper. Not exactly something I want to put over my yogurt in the morning.

Undaunted, and chalking up the above monstrosity as a “learning experience” (aka, you only learned because you jacked it up so bad), I was determined to try again. I ran out and bought some more rolled oats and walnuts and tried again, this time paying much more careful attention to the DIRECTIONS!

My Great Granola with homemade plain yogurt and a dab of blueberry preserves. Mmmm!
My Great Granola with homemade plain yogurt and a dab of blueberry preserves. Mmmm!

It’s amazing the difference between following the directions and flying by the seat of your pants. In this case the difference was between burnt newspaper and crunchy deliciousness.  This granola is so good I’ll never look back at the who-knows-how-old-it-is stuff in the store. And now that I know the trick to perfect granola, I’ll be making it a lot more often!

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As I was perusing some recipes, trying to decide what to concoct today, I came across a recipe on the Sons of Norway website for Almond or Nut Cake. Since I’m still trying to rediscover my culinary heritage or whatever I figured this would be a point in my favor. I was intrigued by the ingredients list: eggs, baking powder, sugar and almonds. That’s it. I’d never seen a cake recipe that looked like that before so I had to see if this would really work. What do they say about curosity and the cat?

The first problem was that I didn’t have enough almonds. I only had half the almond called for in the recipe. But I still wanted to try it so I halved the recipe. Maybe not always a good option. Second, I don’t have a springform pan so I figured this small casserole dish I have would do the trick. I began beating together the eggs and sugar, going after the elusive “until light” consistency called for by the recipe.

Light? Exactly what does light mean? I know what stiff peaks are. But light? Maybe one person’s light is different from anothers. Hmm. So I beat the eggs and sugar until my arm felt like it was going to fall off, folded in the pulverized almonds and dumped it in the pan.

A few minutes into the cooking time I had a bad feeling. The bad feeling got worse when I started to smell scrambled eggs. Ack! When I pulled that “cake” out of the oven and turned it out onto a plate, this is what it looked like:

This is your brain on drugs.

This is your brain on drugs.

 

Clearly, I had not beaten the eggs enough. Maybe halfing the recipe wasn’t such a hot idea, either. The egg had settled to the bottom and made itself into a nice, sugary omelet. The nuts rose to the top. This is the grossest thing I’ve produced in a long time. 

On the plus side, I made thyme bread today based on Mom’s suggestion and it is every bit as good as the rosemary bread. Maybe even better. I spread some cream cheese on it and was in afternoon coffee break heaven!

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I love crackers and bread. If it can hold cheese, I’m on it. So I was excited to find this recipe for Norwegian Flatbread. Yey! It’s bread, it’s in my heritage quest, and the recipe says it’s good with mild cheeses. How can this be bad? The recipe was straight forward: make a dough, roll it out very flat, crisp over high heat and enjoy.

Cattle Feed

Cattle Feed

There were a few ingredients in this recipe I’d never worked with before. First, pureed potato. The recipe didn’t say what kind, so I used Russett. Coming out of the food processor was something that was reminiscent of stuff I sprayed off of old dinner trays when I was the dishwasher at a rest home.

Second, rye flour. I did manage to track down rye flour at my local megamart. Maybe that was where I went wrong. Within the bag was a product that looked exactly like the grain we used to feed the cows to lure them into the barn to get milked.

Alien Crap Patties

Alien Crap Patties

Undaunted, I scraped the potato puree into a bowl, added the rye flour, salt and water. It didn’t really want to come together, but I forced it to. Grr. The recipe didn’t specify what kind of flour to roll the dough out with, so I used AP flour. Maybe i should have used rye flour. I don’t know, but they didn’t want to roll out. They either stuck to the rolling pin or they absorbed a cup of flour. I ended up with a bunch of something flat, foreign, and rather poo-looking.

By this point I was irritated, but determined. I fired up my skillet and went to town crisping the alien crap patties. I waited and waited. And waited. Aged a little bit. Got a gray hair. And still the “flatbread” barely browned, barely crisped and wouldn’t even burn.

Norwegian Crap-kers

Norwegian Crap-kers

This is what I ended up with. Woody, floury, rye cardboard. Good with mild cheese? Whatevah. Good with Friday trash pickup. If I had a dog that I hated, I would feed him this flatbread.
So what can we learn from this culinary disaster? I wish I knew. Maybe rye flour is different in Norway than it is in Georgia? Maybe I had too much moisture? Not enough? The wrong rolling pin? The planets were not in line? Of course, for all I know this recipe was posted by some cheeky yahoo as a joke, and he’s sitting somewhere laughing his keister off thinking about all the suckers trying to make this flatbread! I guess this makes kung faux pas #4.

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There’s something special about a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s crunchy, gooey comfort that is difficult to match. However, I made a something of a grilled chese sandwich today that would make the Waffle House imposters hang their heads in shame.

I got some asian eggplants and sweet red peppers in my last CSA bag and was looking for a way to use them. Typically I’d harvest some basil from my lame-o plant on the back deck, grab the chili oil and do a spicy basil eggplant dish. But I stumbled upon the recipe for Eggplant and Pepper Parmesan Sandwiches and since I had some goat cheese on hand, decided to go for it.

Eggplant? Oh yeah, baby.

Eggplant? Oh yeah, baby.

Not having any baguettes on hand – but did have freshly baked bread – I used my own bread for the recipe. No tapenade, no problem. I diced up kalamata olives, hit them with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar and was pretty proud of myself. I subbed gruyere for the parmesan just because I love gruyere.

This one was a 10 out of 10! I probably made some obscene sounds while I was eating it.

Unfortunately, not every dish can be a success. I had planned some Baked Sweet Potato Sticks to accompany my gourmet sandwich. I pretty much followed the recipe, which was probably the problem. Instead of paying attention to my sweet potatoes I was screwing around on the internet. Instead of watching my time and temperature I was picking out a wine for the meal. Kids, you might want to look away.

the PC term for BURNT.

Overbrowned: the PC term for BURNT.

Kung faux pas #3: do not blindly follow time and temperature guidelines on a recipe. Don’t let this happen to you!

As an interesting side note, this dish set is older than I am.

So the sweet potato sticks got a little “overbrowned.” But they actually still tasted ok…if you’re into charred cardboard.

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