Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cherry Amaretto

Last year, I went a little crazy during cherry season, and so when faced with one last, large bag of cherries I did the only rational thing and soaked them in amaretto in a jar in the fridge.

A few months after that, I strained out the cherries, and put the now bright red liqueur back in the jar in the fridge.

A year later, I am still taking the occasional sips of bright red, incredibly sweet, intensely flavored cherry infused amaretto on those times when I can't decide if I want candy or I want alcohol.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

On Deciding Whether I Should Cook with Coke

The other day, we got some fast food, which included what seemed to be unusually large fountain drinks.  So large that we didn't come close to finishing it.  And because I sometimes have these irrational hoarder tendencies, I saved the leftover Coke.   It was almost a quart!

Of course, one doesn't drink leftover flat Coke.  So I wondered if if I could cook with it.  And the Internet said I could!

The Coke website, as it turns out, has a whole section of recipes that uses Coke or other soft drinks.  And there's this Cooking with Coke site. I had no idea you could incorporate soft drinks into your appetizers, side dishes, AND main courses!  Not to mention desserts!  

I had almost settled on the Coca-Cola cherry salad (it also calls for a tub of whipped topping!) when I started to ask myself some questions. 

Do I even like the taste of Coke?  
  •  Answer:  Actually, not really.  I like cold Coke on a hot day, but I kind of like anything cold and fizzy and sweet on a hot day.
Do I need anything contained in Coke?
  • Answer: No, it is loaded with high fructose corn syrup, caffeine, and a whole lot of other chemicals that are not only nutritionally empty but potentially harmful.
But the question that really made a difference to me:

Didn't the Coke come with ice?  
  • Answer: Yes, it did, and fast food ice machines are notoriously filthy.  FILTHY.  Those ice machines and soda fountain nozzles are rarely cleaned correctly. 
I decided that this was going down the path of madness, and so I dumped the leftover Coke and didn't cook anything with it.  And just thinking about Coke so much made me wish I didn't drink it in the first place.  

But  I'm bookmarking that Coca-Cola Rice recipe, for future reference. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My First Potato Crop

This year, I decided to grow potatoes.  I got myself some organic German Butterball seed potatoes, a Smart Pot, and a big bag of soil, and crossed my fingers.

It grew well, until I went on vacation in July, and came home to a potato plant that looked like it had been trampled by the deer. It was still alive, but never quite recovered the thriving look it once had.  

So last week we just dug it all up to see if there was anything there.  

There was, but so tiny!  The entire crop fit into one bowl, and all the potatoes were the size of cherry tomatoes. 

I was so disappointed.

But then Foodgoat decided to make mashed potatoes out of them. 

We tasted the potatoes just after boiling them, and my friends, it was the BEST POTATO I HAVE EVER TASTED.

It was incredibly flavorful.  I don't normally think of potatoes as having a pronounced flavor - I usually think of them, frankly, as a carrier for other flavors, like sour cream or cheese or bacon - but this potato was truly delicious.  I had no idea potatoes could taste like that. 

And when Foodgoat finished turning them into mashed potatoes, it was the best mashed potatoes I've ever had. 

So yes, next year, I'll be growing potatoes again.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Corn Stock

We finished up the last of the corn from our CSA.  Last year, there was so much I ended up freezing a lot of it; this year, we just ate it all.  All except the ones that had caterpillars inside.  2013 was the year I learned to always check the corn for caterpillars.

I did, however, freeze some of the corn cobs after the corn had been cut off.   Why?  To make corn stock!  

This is the part where Foodgoat rolls his eyes, because no vegetable stock can hold a candle to homemade chicken stock, and because I am taking up limited freezer space with something he would thrown away.

But corn stock is so easy it seems a shame not to get that extra use out of corn cobs. 

All you do is put corn cobs in a pot of water and simmer it for an hour or so along with whatever you have on hand, like carrots or celery or parsley or peppercorns or bay leaves.  You can use the mild, light stock for corn dished like corn chowder to get that extra corny flavor, or wherever you might use vegetable broth, like soup or rice, or you can make corn cob jelly.

And now that you've eked out two uses from the corn cobs, you can throw them out.  Or you can compost them.  Or you save them for next year's garden, to see if an old corn cob really does act like a sponge when placed underneath a tomato plant to help it grow.  Hmmmm.

Only in Cleveland

... would the grocery store have an aisle dedicated to pierogies.

I never even heard of pierogies when I lived in California.  

Of course, trying to find wonton wrappers in a Cleveland grocery store is a whole other thing.  

Lessons in Root Beer

Here's what we learned from making root beer a few weeks ago:

Lesson #1:  Pony bottles are adorable.  (Yes, I knew that already, but it's worth repeating and putting in bold.)

Lesson #2:  If you are going to replace the white sugar in the recipe with brown sugar, please measure brown sugar correctly.  The correct way to measure brown sugar is to pack it.  What happens when you don't pack it?  You end up with less sugar, and a root beer that is not nearly sweet enough.

Lesson #3.  Don't use champagne yeast.  Yes, the old-timey root beer recipes often call for champagne yeast to create the carbonation.  The problem with champagne yeast is that it can live at very high pressures and your root beer can continue carbonating far more, and far more quickly than you need it too.  Even after refrigerating, our root beer continued to carbonate, to the point where we wanted to finish up the batch sooner rather than later, or risk another terrifying episode of exploding glass bottles.  Next time, ale yeast. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How Much I Spend on Alcohol & Bars

I got this analysis of my spending today:
Historically I have spent $3 a month on alcohol and bars, but the program helpfully suggested that I budget $10 a month. 

I presume that Foodgoat is more than making up the difference between my spending and the U.S. average of about $90 a month.

Fortunately there was no analysis of my monthly expenditure on juice boxes, because I suspect that would be mortifying.  

Football Started!

Football season has started! 

The dish of the season is nachos, and so far one big bag of tortilla chips from Costco has lasted three games.  But I have yet to try and make the cheese sauce from scratch.  So yes, I bought canned cheese sauce.  Because that is exactly what they serve at the stadium.   I was trying to be authentic, you see. 

The four year old did not believe me, though, and insisted that we had to go buy, you know, real cheese.  When I didn't listen she yelled, "Daddy, Mommy thinks cheese comes from a can!"

Well, kid, you are not going to like this, but Mommy also thinks corned beef, ham, and tiny sausages from a can. 

The canned cheese sauce turned out to be fine.  Although yesterday we went with jarred cheese sauce instead.  So real homemade cheese sauce may be coming up soon.  Especially since we are still working on that one bag of tortilla chips.

By the way, DJroomba made Game of Thrones sigils for all the NFL teams, and I have to say, I love the ones for the Browns and the 49ers:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

One of My Favorite Thing to Freeze: Bananas

Sometimes there is just one last banana is left, rapidly approaching over ripeness. Sometimes your kid says she wants a banana, then changes her mind after you've already peeled it. Or she changes her mind after one bite, leaving you with an impulse to talk to your toddler about the lifelong importance of FOLLOW THROUGH as well as an almost whole banana.  A banana that seems too much to throw away, but not enough to make banana bread out of.

I like to eat bananas, but I do not like to eat them under duress.  I do not want to feel forced to eat a banana just to avoid fruit flies and wasting $0.59 a pound.

Add caption

So it was a revelation to find out you can freeze bananas.  You can freeze them sliced (like if you use them for smoothies), but I just like to freeze them whole so you know exactly how many bananas I have.  You can freeze them with the peel still on, but I found it gross and slimy to try to peel it once it starts to thaw, so I freeze it peeled.  I don't even label it in the freezer bag, because it's pretty obvious that it's a frozen banana.  

Then when two or three have accumulated, I make banana muffins.  I take them out, leave them out for a few minutes, then mash them out.  When they thaw, they get mushy all by themselves, so the longer you let them thaw, the easier it is.  They also turn a weird and unappetizing brown, but it doesn't seem to make any difference in the muffins, taste-wise.

And so now, bananas are not wasted nearly as much as before, so I can buy bananas with abandon.  

I will still have that talk about follow-through with the kids though.  

Richard Simmons

I saved this screenshot of last week's New York Times so that any time I want to look at Richond Simmons in drag wearing a Medusa wig, I can.

I started to look up recipes by Richard Simmons, since he has had a few cookbooks out, but food isn't really his thing, and besides, in the recent Grantland profile I found this quote:

Winifred Morice, a nutritionist who worked for Simmons for 16 years, said, "The first cookbook I gave to Richard to look at just before it went to press, and he made one change. I'd written, 'Recipes developed by Winifred Morice.' He put, 'Recipes developed by Richard Simmons and Winifred Morice.'"

As Morice admits, Simmons made up for it with unrestrained benevolence.
In any case, let's all be thankful that Richard Simmons does not have a show on the Food Network.  That would just be too much. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How Kids Eat Lucky Charms

I realize now that sometimes you just shouldn't ask kids for their opinion.  For example, "What cereal do you want?" is a poorly constructed question.  Because the answer I got was "This one!  It has RAINBOWS!!"
I love sweet cereal but Lucky Charms has always seemed completely unappealing because marshmallows should not be shaped and colored to look like anything.  Marshmallows exists only to be melted with butter and used to bind Rice Krispies together.  Oh, and that Lucky Charms leprechaun guy was super annoying in the commercials.  But having offered to get them the cereal of their choice, I was bound to the Lucky Charms.

And here is what happened:

They ate ONLY the fake colored marshmallow rainbows.  The part that actually looked like cereal is the part they left behind.