05 February 2011

Jane Austen is spinning in her grave.

Enough said.*

* Thank you MotH! 
John Kovalic at www.dorktower.com

04 February 2011

Recipe Wrap up - 4 February 2011

Yikes - this was one of those weeks where I had to filter out lots of recipes -- Sunday is the Super Bowl (Packers vs. Steelers) and the recipes for "party" food are abundant. That said, since I'm not into wings and reluctant to try too many strange dips, I may be surprisingly bereft of new items for this week. Well, Valentine's - the next food "holiday" -  is just around the corner. Let's see how we do. 
Peach Glazed Meatballs - From Coconut & Lime - These look interesting, but I might use apricot instead of peach. I like the sweet/savory aspect and as I have to make everything ahead of time (thank you crochet class), this should work well in the slow cooker (which I rarely use). 
Stuffed Jalapenos
Baked Stuffed Jalapenos - From Simply Recipes - I've never felt like making jalapeno poppers, but this recipe -- the one w/the cream cheese and jack cheese has gotten me over my hesitation and I know the MotH will like these -- perhaps the Boy will try as well. I can have them prepped and ready to bake when I get home.

Goat Cheese Mozzarella and Fresh Herb Foccacia - I've looked a foccacia after foccacia recipe, but this is the most inspiring thing I've ever seen in the bread world. I will have to get past my ridiculous fear of yeast and make this. Bakingobsession.com is wonderful.

Apple Pate de Fruit This site is so unbelievable beautiful, I'm not sure
Pate de Fruit
 what to do. I have always wanted to try to make Pate de Fruit, but ... it's rather daunting. That said, it's going on my list of things to do. Okay, beating this to death, so beautiful. 
Pork & Lemon Polpettine Meatballs - What's up w/me and meatballs? Serious Eats is a favorite site for food reading. They keep me up on the new and what's happening in the food world, but I am finding more and more often that they have astounding recipes -- like this one - can't wait.
Potato Skins - Finally a recipe that looks great. Thank you Kitchen Daily for a great idea. I may make a few adjustments - esp. since tomatoes are not ready yet, but what about sun-dried tomatoes in this recipe. I'll also make a note to make this in the summer when my own tomatoes are ready. 

So.over.wings. Bring on the game - I just want the commercials. 

03 February 2011

Glazed Meatloaf - Cook's Country TV recipe

I am not a huge fan of meatloaf. The MotH does like it and has been suggesting for weeks (months) that I make it for dinner sometime. I tend to ignore him. That said, I like meatloaf sandwiches made from the leftovers so this is likely to be a win win. Watching an episode of Cook's Country lately inspired me to make their recipe (w/only a few modifications). The one thing I think is most important is not to bake meatloaf in a loaf pan - yuck, it's just, by definition, sitting in grease. That's a lesson learned from Alton Brown years ago, but it is well worth repeating. Cook's Country (and America's Test Kitchen et al) often uses a panade when making meatballs and other things involving ground meat to help it keep its moisture and be tender - that's employed here as well. I like the fact that there aren't a gillion vegetables in this --- it's meat loaf - not veg loaf - onions, garlic, and the only green added is the parsley - basically just aromatics. It was funny watching Bridget at this part of the show (episode: Family Supper) - she doesn't seem to be a fan of too much veg in meatloaf either. Works for me. 

1 c. ketchup
1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 T. cider vinegar
1/2 t. hot sauce (I used original Tabasco)
Whisk all ingredients in a sauce pan until sugar dissolves. Reserve 1/4 c. glaze mixture, then simmer regaining glaze over medium heat utnil slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cover and keep warm. 

2 t. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced (used 4 cloves because the were, in my estimation, small)
2/3 c. Saltine crackers (c. 17 crackers)
1/3 c. whole milk (I used 2% because it's what I had)
1 pound 90% lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk (I used 1 egg and 1 yolk)
2 t. Dijon mustard
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/3 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped

Line rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat lightly with cooking spray. Heat oil in nonstick skilled over medium heat until shimmering. Cook onions until golden (8-12 minutes). Add garlic, stir and cook until fragrant (30 seconds). Transfer to large bowl. 
Process saltines and milk in food processors until smooth. Add beef and pork and pulse until well combined, about 10 1-second pules. Transfer meat mixture to bowl with cooled onion mixtures. Add eggs and yolk, mustard, Worcestershire, thyme, parsley, salt (1 t.) and pepper (3/4 t.) and mix with hands (fun fun) until combined. 
Adjust oven racks to upper about 4" away from broiler. Transfer meat mixture to  prepared baking sheet and shape into 9" x 5" loaf (or in my case, 8" x 6" loaf). Broil on upper rack until well browned, about 5 minutes (8 more like). Brush two T. of reserved glaze over tops and sides of meatloaf and return to oven and broil until glaze begins to brown (2 minutes).
Transfer meatloaf to middle rack and brush with remaining reserved glaze. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake until meatloaf registers 160 degrees - 40-45 minutes. Transfer to carving surface, tent w/foil, let rest 20 minutes. Slice and serve with cooked glaze.
ATK = damn good! 

Downton Abbey Episode IV (The Change Edition)

Downton Abbey
Summary: Change is in the air as the politically awakened Sybil rallies for the women's vote, in direct violation of her father's rules. But when Sybil is swept up in the violence surrounding the reading of the election results, Matthew wins a heart by defending the girl and bringing her to safety. Meanwhile, back at Downton Abbey, persistent rumors about a family member cause a rift between Cora and Violet. And, a surprise announcement from Cora complicates the larger issue of Downton's fate.
In London, Mary gains a shocking insight, and her Aunt Rosamund — displaying a more than passing resemblance to her mother, Violet — freely dispenses dubious advice to Mary. Meanwhile, Thomas and O'Brien enlist the reluctant, smitten Daisy to bring about Bates' downfall, but Bates seems determined to do it himself, much to the distress of Anna, who finds an opportunity to delve into Bates' past. Concerned about the security of her position, O'Brien sets her spite on a new target, and a misunderstanding provokes a dangerous act of sabotage.
Again, Downton is to be hobbled by the entail. At a resplendent garden party, actions and betrayals come home to roost, and important news arrives that dwarfs the issue of inheritance. Summary: PBS
Lord Grantham, sigh. He's such a good man. 
Comments (total spoilers): I didn't watch Downton Abbey on Sunday night which means I have had to avoid many blogs for the past couple of days to avoid ruining it. But sometimes I have to be in the mood for a show and I certainly wasn't Sunday night. That said, show watched, and here are my thoughts. I don't want this to end because it will be a long wait until it starts again, but at least it will start again. Too bad we have to wait for next season so long and World War I*, but at least there is a next season and we'll hopefully be rewarded with more of this wonderful story.
I'm going to try and concentrate on themes this time, not specific lines, but specific lines are indicative of character and characters moves themes.
Not sure why this is so exciting.
Sybil is certainly, to Robert's consternation, stretching her limits into politics (at least for 1914). Obviously, Robert is also worried about her being somewhere unsafe and blames Branson, but it's not his fault. Sybil plays the youngest daughter role... a spoiled child and
Mary defends her by saying, " Sybil is entitled to her opinion," to which Violet replies,"No. Not until she's married and her husband will tell her what her opinions are." Infurating and hysterical at the same time.
Carson, being the good person that he is, informs Mary that he received intel from the Turkish Ambassador's servants and her name is being bandied about. Mary's reputation is circling the drain.
Robert's opposition to Sybil's plans gives Cora one of the best comments of the evening.  After remarking in favor of what Sybil was doing, since she knew Sybil had gone to hear the speech, Cora quips, "Of course, it [the disagreement] gave your mother the best evening since Christmas." Sir Anthony is still following around and seems to have settled his mind on Edith. Blech, I don't like her, but even I think this is a bad idea. She will be married, to be sure, but she will not be happy - Rolls Royce or no.
Lady Mary
Matthew & Mary - yes or no? Matthew's comment "If you really like an arguement, we should see more of each other," is interesting because it seems to me they don't really argue like they did when they first met, but still disagree on things. Perhaps Mary does not want to argue with him any more. Could she really like him?
Violet finds out about Mary's situation and Sybil gets caught in a disagreeable situation at yet another political rally, but Matthew is there to protect her - lucky girl. It's interesting the use of common thugs to cause problems at a political rally. They claim they are there to "wipe the smile off their Tory faces." There has been little mention of who belongs to what party and what they stand for until now and even so, there is still more that could be explained. Obviously, women's sufferage is an important part of the story esp. regarding Sybil. Matthew takes a good deal of care of Sybil and this seems to catch the notice of Mary - perhaps that's the game - he might do better if Mary doesn't think she's got the contest all sewed up.
Will Daisy do the right thing?
Branson's funny, "I may be a socialist, but I'm not a lunatic." 
Servant Wars are heating up - this could be a modern day reality show - Will Daisy do the right thing and tell the truth? Will Mr. Bates try to resign for taking the blame for something his former wife did?

Mary and Matthew
Matthew proposed to Mary? Really? WTF? Mary needs to THINK about it. Okay, he's charming, intelligent, funny, seems to be the gentleman - what's not to like? He also will inherit your family home, family title and family money. Considering Mary's reputation, does she have options? Really? Mary confesses she loves him and has "longer than I
knew," but feels the need to tell him about Mr. Pamuk - Why?
Mary helps William when he needs it - she is nice in fits and starts, like she has to think about it. Poor William, who could not help him. 
Violet and Cora seem to settle in together again after the rift caused by the news of Mary's reputation and Cora's role in helping get rid of the evidence. Once again, Violet gets the best lines. Violet and Cora recognize that Mary needs to get married, for her own good and that of her reputation, Violet comments, "In these moments you can find an Italian who's not too picky."
The Archduke has been murdered - so it all begins. It's so interesting, knowing as we do, what will happen in the Great War. It's also so very sad to consider.
We meet Aunt Rosamund who Mary visits in London - I suppose this will help her think or something - jeez.
Dead Pamuk
Shocker: Cora is pregnant - this really mixes up the story for everyone, esp. Matthew and Mary. I think this has made Isobel peevish - she seems rude for the first time in the series. The doctor says Cora's pregnancy is unusual, Robert counters with "Biblical." Evelyn Napier meets Mary in London and his wedding plans are not going well - hmmm. Oh, and by the by, he's not the one spreading gossip about Mary and Mr. Pamuk - No, the identity of the tattle tale is... wait for it... Edith. She wrote the ambassador and Napier says it was hard for him to believe, "harder for you, than me," stated Mary.
Matthew is kind and generous and his mother seems put out by him not hearing from Mary.
Why want a phone? Oh, the 20th century is rearing its ugly head. Poor Carson - practicing to use the phone - so cute. "Cry of a banshee." 
With war looming, why do I feel like William is already wearing a red shirt?** 
Robert's concern for his staff is just lovely. He takes care of Mrs. Patmore and makes sure William can get home to his family. Mrs. Patmore is replaced by Mrs. Bird of Matthew Crawley's staff - I think I don't like her, but in the end I do -- she's an example of character with, so far, little screen time, that is so well crafted and provides you with insight into her character in a brief situation and other characters as well. Daisy's sad attempt to ruin her reputation as a cook actually endears her as Mrs. Bird recognizes it as what it is - loyalty to Mrs. Patmore.
O'Brien, hateful thing that she is, believes she's being sacked by Cora and exacts her revenge by allowing the Countess to slip and fall getting out of the bath -- and also causes a miscarriage of an heir - a baby boy. For the first time, O'Brien seems human - she feels palpable guilt for what she's done, esp. when she finds out there was no plan to sack her and the Lady's maid that's being mentioned is for Violet.
Anna goes to see Mr. Bates mother after getting her details from the military office. Mrs. Bates explains to Anna that Bates took the wrap for his wife's theft. Thomas spends his time trying to get in the good graces of the physician who is there to attend Cora. He's all for what he can get. He is planning to join the Territorial Force Hospital - lucky them. When Mrs. Patmore returns she and Mrs. Bird get along swimmingly and manage to take care of the garden party needs.
Lady Sybil and Gwen 
Sybil, with the help of Mr. Borage, the phone guy, gets Gwen an interview and ... a job as a secretary! I hope we will be continuing to follow her story even if she's not in service. This is just the sort of grass roots thing that makes Sybil happy - group hug - Sybil, Gwen and ... Branson. What have we here?
Mary finally exacts her revenge on Edith - just as Edith thinks Sir Anthony will propose (oh, and yes, he was going to), Mary ruins it all with just a comment. Can't blame Mary for this one, but I'm not sure I could have waited that long to give Edith a good smack.
Cheers to Mary

Mr. Molesly appears interested in Anna, does Bates have a rival?
"Experiment is over."
Matthew and Mary break it off - for now, I suppose, and as Carson comforts her - he's so avuncular - she simple states, "You know me, Carson, I'm never down for long."
Dramatically, Robert announces, to close season one, "England is at war with Germany."

"England is at war with Germany."
* Obviously that World War I wasn't called that until World War II. Sad, but true. 
**Thinly veiled Star Trek reference. 

Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley (sigh)
This (Dan Stevens) is the image we need to be left with to last until next season (although Hugh is a very close second). 

02 February 2011

Baked Ziti - doesn't sound that interesting, but it is, if the recipe is from ATK.

Baked Ziti
Serves 8 to 10
Baked Ziti - damn good
America's Test Kitchen is great and joining up is easy - it's a sort of cult experience - you just keep joining, but in a good way. This recipe was wonderful! We saw this Baked Ziti on the TV show and I just had to make it. By the way - it's so much better the second day - no duh -- it's a pasta dish. America's Test Kitchen is an amazing resource!

1 pound whole milk cottage cheese or 1 percent cottage cheese 
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
Table salt
1 pound ziti or other short, tubular pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 5 teaspoons)
1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
Ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream - you could use milk, but why?
8 ounces low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella cheese , cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 8 oz)
Cottage Cheese Mixture
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in colander (do not wash Dutch oven).

Meanwhile, heat oil and garlic in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in ½ cup basil and sugar, then season with salt and pepper.
Cream Sauce w/Tomato Sauce
Stir cornstarch into heavy cream in small bowl; transfer mixture to now-empty Dutch oven set over medium heat. Bring to simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce, and ¾ cup mozzarella, then stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.
Transfer pasta mixture to 13- by 9-inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle remaining ¾ cup mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan over top. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.
Comments: Lots of this recipe can be prepped ahead. I cubed the mozzarella, grated the parmesan and minced the garlic. I could also have cooked the pasta and made the sauce. It's also highly likely the entire dish could be made ahead and baked the next day.
I used dried basil since it's not the time of year for fresh and I didn't move any into the house from the garden last fall - it had all gone to seed. Unfortunate.
It's difficult for me to under cook pasta - it makes me nervous that it won't be fully cooked in the dish (shouldn't have worried - it was fine).
Next time I might just make a bechamel, need to research. Use cooking spray on the pan and the foil so the cheese won't stick. Used heavy cream, did not use milk. Next time, use petite diced tomatoes. House smells like garlic, but that is a good thing.

Perhaps not as pretty as ATK, but amazingly good!

01 February 2011

February Challenge - 1 Feb 2011 (Tuesday)

For the Boy
The February Challenge is this

February |ˈfeb(y)oōˌerē; ˈfebroō-|noun ( pl. -aries)the second month of the year, in the northern hemisphere usually considered the last month of winter even in February the place is busy [asadj. a freezing February morning.

What's up with the first r in February? Feb-u-ary. Where did the r go? 

First of the Month - February edition

Oak - 1 February 2011
It is a dark and stormy night, no really, it is. Photos were taken at 5:30pm and it was almost dark then  with temperature of 66 and humidity of 68% and a tornado watch until 8:00pm tonight. There is a line of thunderstorms moving through the area. This is the same storm that is dumping snow everywhere else in the US. The winds have been up as high as 64 knots with a couple gusts higher than that. By 6:30pm the rain was in torrents, sheets of rain, cascades of the last hanging on leaves oh, and thunder and lightening and an power outage. I should know - I was out in it for an afterwork meeting.  So, now -- on with the extremely wet 1st of February 2011 pictures.
Bald Cypress - 1 February 2011
River Birch #1 - 1 February 2011

River Birch #2 - 1 February 2011
Wisteria - 2 February 2011

Camellia - 2 February 2011
How did I forget you in January?
7:08pm Weather Update - Line of storms has moved through. Just rain now with occasionally lightening and thunder. Temperature is dropping now - is supposed to be colder tomorrow with more wind. Ah, winter in the Gulf Coast.
11:22pm Weather Update - 4,200 people out of power. Not surprising - though this is no fault of Gulf Power, they do an amazing job, but this was a heck of a storm.

31 January 2011

Oreo Cookies & Cream Cheesecakes

Oreo Cookies & Cream Cheesecakes
(Adapted from Martha Stewart via gimmesomeoven.com)
42 Oreos, 30 left whole and 12 coarsely chopped
2 pounds (4 blocks) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
pinch of salt
whipped cream, (optional)
Method: Preheat oven to 275° F. On the bottom shelf, place an oven-proof pan (a half sheet pan will work) and fill with 2 cups of water. This will heat and make the bain marie or  "water bath" so that the cupcakes do not crack when baking (but who cares when it comes to eating cheesecake really?)
Cupcake pan ready
Line standard muffin tins with liners (prefer metallic liners). Place 1 whole Oreo cookie in the bottom of each lined muffin cup. 
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Gradually add the sugar, and beat until combined. Beat in the vanilla.
Drizzle in eggs, a little at a time, beating to combine and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add sour cream and salt, beat to combine. Using a large spatula, fold in the chopped Oreo cookies.
Divide batter evenly among the cookie-filled muffin cups, fill each cup almost to the top. Bake, rotating muffin tins halfway through, until the filling is set, about 22 to 28 minutes. If you are like me and have only one muffin pan then you will need to reuse muffin pans and place batter in the fridge between refills and check the water in the half pan at the bottom of the oven. This worked for me, but I didn't realize I'd be making so many cheesecakes.   Transfer the muffins tins to a wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate (in the muffin tins) at least 4 hours (or overnight). Remove from tins just before serving. Top with whipped cream if you'd like. Or just serve like cupcakes. 
Finished Cheesecakes
Comments: Not many photos of these while making them because who, really, wants to look a lot of photos of white/beige stuff - boring. However, the results are lovely. Seems to be driven by number of cookies in a pack, but certainly not by a standard cupcake/muffin pan.
My numbers aren't working with this - 12 cookies seems too little for the filling (oops - it wasn't) and I have batter left after 30 mini cheesecakes... What to do? What to do? So the fix is to use vanilla wafers in case one runs out of Oreo cookies.
Difficult to tell when they are done. I finally decided that 25 minutes seem to work well and no one has died from them yet - the Boy has eaten at least six or so (probably more, but I won't ask). I have had one request for the recipe and the office loved them, so ... they seem to be popular.  Hope the office is not trying to humor me ... 

I need to work on better photos - these mini cheesecakes really deserve better. 

February Challenge - get rid of stuff

I go on fits and starts when it comes to getting rid of things I don't need/want, but I think I will make a conscious effort to rid myself of one thing per day for the month of February. If I do even more, all the better, but there has to be at least one thing a day that I look at and go, um. no, not necessary or it just needs to go and perhaps it can help someone else. That said, I plan to rid myself of a few useful pots/pans, but they will go into a box for the Boy when he's ready to leave home which is going to be much sooner than I would like for certain. Countdown to start of Get rid of Crap Stuff - 1 day.