Foody Fridays

December 14, 2007

Okay, so, I know this is a knitting blog, but my food creation and my knitting life seem to be becoming more and more intertwined, and I’ve been itching to post about my cooking adventures the way I have been about my knitting ones.

I used to cook a lot, and then I fell out of the practice for the past few years. Mostly because I hate our kitchen. Hate is actually a bit of an understatement. I’ve tried to make it nice, put up curtains, little decorative touches, but nothing made it better. It’s still a dinky, dark little cave of a place with the only window looking out directly to a… wall. So, eventually I stopped trying, and stopped really cooking. But recently a series of things happened that seemed to be pushing me towards cooking again. First, I had commented to my aunt while cooking on Thanksgiving that she could toss me any measuring spoon she had handy, since I was used to having a set missing pieces. So, my aunt, being the incredibly caring person she is, sent me a really wonderful measuring spoon and cup set. Then, earlier this week Shawn bought us a stand mixer (lots of employee discounts involved). But there is no room in our kitchen for it, and it’s just too heavy to do what we do with the food processor (hiding it in a cabinet when not in use). So we, well… we put it on the coffee table.

It’s a bit crazy, I know, but it works really well. I have tons of light, our great view out of our back door, ducks to amuse me, and plenty of room to arrange stuff on. It’s like having an extra counter. The only downside is having to pull out the vacuum to clean up after, but I’ll just have to talk Shawn into a new dustbuster. If only I had so perfect a place to knit!

So now I am cooking again. I started out with some homemade whole grain sandwich bread that didn’t come out great (it was fine, but nothing exciting), and moved on to pretzels, which I’ll be making again tomorrow to try to get them better.

Yesterday I was making some french bread to go with lasanga (something I make often enough that it’s unremarkable) and I took time during the rising time to whip up a batch of ranch dressing.

I originally pilfered this recipe from the copykat site, but don’t see it there anymore. Outback has my favorite ranch for dipping (though I prefer T. Marzetti’s Organic Parm for salads). I’ve adjusted it a bit, mostly because it’s easier to just use the whole spice packet at once, and also to make it more to my taste, so it might not taste quite the same anymore (it’s been ages since I’ve been to Outback, so I can’t really compare). One day maybe I’ll be able to elimate the packet altogether. I’m putting down brands in instances where I think it makes a difference. For example, he spice packet is not replaceable by Simply Organic’s ranch packet, at least in my experience, but it’s possible it might be with some other mix I don’t know about.

1 30oz jar of Hellmann’s Mayo
1.5 cups buttermilk
1 packet Hidden Valley buttermilk ranch dressing mix
.75 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
.25 teaspoon salt
.5 teaspoon paprika
.5 teaspoon garlic powder

Just mix everything, then chill for 30 minutes or so. I sometimes add more paprika, mostly for color, and an equal amount of garlic powder to balance it. If you’re using a stand mixer make sure to put the mayo in first, or all the spices clump at the bottom. As a recycling measure, I put the finished ranch back in the mayo jar, since they’re so simple to clean (pop the cardboard out of the lid with a knife, fill 1/4 full with soapy water, put the lid on, shake, then rinse).

I don’t have a funnel so I’ve found if I just hold the bowl a few inches above the jar mouth it falls smoothly enough that I don’t drip out. There’s always extra, which I put in a Ziploc, as you can just snip off one of the bottom corners of those and pipe the rest back into the jar.

The only problem I have with reusing the jar is that you have to spoon out the ranch or be careful with pouring so you don’t end up with a giant glob on your plate. I tend to use little ramekins so it’s not usually an issue, but if you think it might be, you might want to opt for a squeeze bottle of some sort instead.

When I was done with that, the Italian bread went in the oven. And came out perfect.

When it was out and cooled it was coated in butter, garlic salt, and oregano then put in the fridge until toasting time.

In the meantime I finished off the lasagna, and started some chocolate pound cake for desert. The recipe makes enough for two loaves, which is good as I completely burned the first. No matter what I’m baking, it always takes about 3/4 of the time any recipe says, but when I checked it, it hadn’t pulled away from the edges in the way I was expecting, so I let it keep going the full time. Big mistake. The inside was yummy tasting, but a bit dry. The outside was, well, burned.

Oh, well. I “fixed” it by cutting off the edges and squishing the hell out of it and then using my old metal 1/4 cup measuring cup to make a little circle, then topped it with ice cream and dried strawberries. It was passable, though it would’ve been good, I think, if I’d had fresh strawberries and some chocolate syrup.

The second came out fine but I only left it in for an hour and only let it sit in the pan for five minutes instead of 15, and even then, it was skirting the edge of too done, so next time (whenever that is), probably 55 minutes instead. I tried to get Shawn to take that one to work with him, but he didn’t (he doesn’t like cake, so his taste test is useless), so I’ll have to find someone to pawn it off on since I’ll be eating the burned one by myself. Hopefully it’ll keep for a while in the fridge.

With every break in cooking, I made a little progress on the stole. I’m almost done with 3 out of 34 repeats, and each one goes a little faster and makes a little more sense, though I’m still having to tink more than I’d like. And whenever the mixer isn’t running, I’ve been listening to podcasts. I’m new to podcasts, and I’m really a bit nuts about doing things in order. I started out with Lion Brand’s YarnCraft first episode, so no catching up there, and now I’ve finally gotten through all the backlog of the KnitPicks podcast, though episode 30 is downloading as I type this.

But during all this cooking this week I’ve been listening to Cast On. I’m really enjoying the incorporation of music and finding new music through Brenda’s podcast. One that I’ve been particularly enjoying is In a Long Time by 46bliss which can be downloaded from their myspace page.

Tonight I’m making Shawn some chicken ceasar tetrazzini and mashed potatoes, and probably me some tuna casserole since mushrooms aren’t my thing. It’ll be my first time ever not hand mashing potatoes, so we’ll see if I even like them whipped. Saturday I have empanadas planned since Shawn will be home to fry them (I don’t deep fry — ever) and I already have some pie crusts I made and ended up not using from a week ago. And I have more italian bread to make since it disappeared very quickly.

For now, back to knitting.


One Response to “Foody Fridays”

  1. A. Sue Says:

    What beautiful bread! And pictures!
    You will have that mixer forever and you will always love it.
    Poundcake freezes really well. It will keep for 3 or 4 months and you can just slice off a couple pieces when you need them. It sounds like the oven temp is out of whack, cooking too hot. Have Shawny bring you a little oven thermometer you can hang inside to check it. They, ovens, fluctuate 50 degrees, but shouldn’t go any higher than that. Adjust the oven temperature to match the gauge inside. I will be gone 12/30 to 1/7, but I’m looking forward to a good, long visit in the new year.

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